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Baddest of the Bad

Just about every gambler has been there: smiling and ready to cash a ticket when somehow a certain win turns into a soul-crushing defeat. Here are some of the worst beats

What’s changed in the three years since the Supreme Court granted all 50 states the right to legalize sports betting? Everything. By the end of 2021, online or in-person wagering will be sanctioned in more than half the country. Revenue is skyrocketing. Leagues are evangelizing. And booming business means big changes for anyone who operates, plays, covers—or bets on—the games we love. Welcome to the Gambling Issue.

Browns-Texans, 2021 
With Cleveland up three and the clock winding down, Nick Chubb broke free for what looked like a TD run, which would have covered the 4.5-point spread. Instead he stepped out at the 1-yard line so the Browns could run out the clock. Upward of 90% of the action was on Cleveland, making for a lot of salty gamblers.

Gonzaga-USF, 2020
The undefeated Zags were leading San Francisco, 68–54, with 3.9 seconds left and the ball out of bounds. Instead of running out the clock, Gonzaga ran a play for Corey Kispert, who drained a fadeaway three for a 17-point win—covering the 16.5-point spread.

Mets-Braves, 1999
Game 5 of the NLCS had an over/under of 7.5. With the score 3–3, New York had the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning, leaving gamblers assuming the worst, since just a single run would end the game. But then Robin Ventura hit a grand slam, which meant four runs would score. Except the Mets mobbed Ventura before he could get to second base, and only one run counted.

Gulfstream Park, 2017
After hitting the first five races in a Pick 6, an unnamed bettor needed Cryogenic to win the final race to cash a $571,744 ticket. The 2-year-old colt, who went off at 8–1, was comfortably ahead 20 yards from the finish line—when he lost his jockey and finished last.

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Astros-A’s, 2015
Bettors who take the under love pitchers’ duels, and that’s what they got when Dallas Keuchel and Scott Kazmir squared off. Unless the duel is too even. With an over/under of 7, neither team scored a run through nine innings. Then both bullpens imploded, and Houston won 5–4 in 11.

Manchester United, 1998
Finally, a bad beat for a bookmaker. Fred Done of British firm Betfred decided that with his beloved Man United holding a 12-point lead late in the Premier League season, he would pay out to bettors who had taken the team to win the title. Arsenal proceeded to overtake United, so Done ended up having to pay those punters as well. His bravado cost him about $800,000. 

More From the Gambling Issue:

How the League Went On Defense
Do Today's Fans Blame Athletes More For Betting Misfires?
A Pizza Joint in Jersey: The Place To Place Your Bets