Mike Powers
News-Bulletin Sports Writer

It was time to join 50 million plus of my closest friends. That’s how many people placed a bet on this year’s Super Bowl, with an estimated total of $16 billion in legal wagers.

This comes with some trepidation. I have never “legally” bet on a professional sport. For most of my life, sports gambling was looked down upon and basically illegal, outside of Las Vegas.

By chance, an acquaintance of mine in South Dakota in the 1980s turned out to be a bookie so, from time to time, a wager was made under the table. My wife, Pat, could always tell when a bet was placed because during the game I would just stare at the television, hands gripped to the arm rest.

My “Powers Paranoia” also kicked in, envisioning getting busted for this illegal activity. The headline in the local paper might scream, “Powers to the pokey,” or “Bunco squad busts minor local celebrity.”

These days, sports gambling is a legitimate business with Draft Kings, FanDuel and others. Major professional leagues endorse it.

So, what the heck? Let’s roll the dice.

On Friday, after raiding the office “swear” jar of $50 (don’t worry, Julia will have it replenished in no time,) it was off to the Isleta Casino & Resort Sportsbook. This was a scouting mission to see what the Sportsbook was all about, checking the different possibilities to see if anything seemed like a sure thing.

The attendants worked behind a counter, with several dozen screens above them highlighting wagering details. The monitors covered football, soccer, basketball, golf and other betting options. My neck hurt staring overhead, my head spinning with all the information.

One of the Isleta experts got me started, explaining the teaser, parlays, futures and proposition bets. I just nodded politely.

Photo courtesy of Isleta Resort & Casino
Isleta Resort & Casino Sports Book took many bets on the Super Bowl.

Bets are capped at $3,000. Whew. There was a lengthy sheet of wagers called “Pro Football Championship 57.” There are tight restrictions on who can use the copyrighted “Super Bowl.”

A man to my left was asked if he was ready for Sunday. He shrugged, “I’m not even nervous. I put a little on the Chiefs for a backup,” apparently playing both sides. Something to think about.

As I left, without placing a bet, I suddenly got very nervous. Was it a flashback to those bookie days? Was it throwing away $50 of my own money? (Full disclosure: it was NOT from the swear jar.) Will I somehow get hooked? Will I even go through with it?

It was back to Isleta Casino Saturday morning. You can’t beat gambling while on the clock. Upon arrival, I noticed a business acquaintance. My blood pressure went up. How do I react? I was embarrassed but I’m not sure why. Rudely, I ignored him and went about the task at hand.

I decided to lay two traditional bets, ignoring options like the length of the national anthem, who will win the coin toss, and the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach. No skill needed there.

Instead, half the cash was placed on the “money-line” with the Eagles to win outright, without a point-spread. It’s risky to bet against Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but Philly seems to have overall better players.

The other $25 went on the “over-under.” I chose the “under,” meaning the teams’ combined score must be less than a predetermined total, in this case 51 points.

In truth, I did not really have a good feel for how the game would go. A crapshoot.

Sunday didn’t really seem like game day. Much of the chatter this week has been about Lebron James and Tom Brady. Enough already.

Finally, kickoff and I quickly realized my two bets were in conflict. The more points the Eagles score the better chance of winning outright but the less chance of nailing the under.

With the Eagles leading 24-14 at halftime, I was in decent shape with one but not the other. Soon, I was in trouble.

By now you have figured out I lost both bets with Mahomes rallying the Chiefs for the victory.

What did I learn from the experience?  Don’t bet against Mahomes, for sure. Don’t bet if you are not passionate about the options.

It was fun going through the process at the sports book, but just like decades ago, I was tense the entire game. Didn’t enjoy it a lick.

So, it appears my sports betting days are over. However, I will continue to buy Powerball tickets. Momma needs a new kitchen!

(If you or someone you know has a gambling problem you can reach out to the National Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700)

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.