A betting “bad beat” occurs when there is an extremely high likelihood of a (previously placed) wager succeeding during an event, then suddenly failing. It typically takes part towards the end of a game and possibly accompanied by a large payout. Simply put, after riding the high that is a likely betting win, you get “unlucky,” and a rare event keeps you from winning. You’ve probably seen bad beats watching late-night poker on ESPN, usually followed by some tirade from a man-child claiming “if luck weren’t involved, he’d win every hand.”
Sports betting “bad beats” meet all factors above but also tend to include bad/odd decisions made by coaches (who have no incentive to hit your ATS or O/U number and fairly only cares about winning), interference from a “third party” like a bad call from a referee or something just downright weird. Given the volume of betting on the sport, especially during the Super Bowl, the game’s history is filled with “bad beats.” Here is our list of the 5 Worst Beats in Super Bowl History.
5. Super Bowl XLIX: Seahawks (+1) vs. Patriots
This one doesn’t need much analysis. Down 4, at the one-yard line on second down with 26 seconds to play, Pete Carroll calls a pass play instead of giving the ball to the league’s best power runner, Marshawn Lynch, leading to a game-clinching interception.
We don’t rank this any higher because, yes, it’s a bad beat, but it really was just a dumb play call, which led to the bad beat.
4. Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos vs. Falcons Under 52.5
Two teams with potent offenses combined to bring sportsbooks to one of the highest totals of all-time. Since the number was abnormally large, many sharp bettors saw the value in taking the under, especially with the hook over a significant number (52.5 vs. 52, 52 being a “common number”).
- Going INTO the 4th quarter, it was 17-6, a total of 23 points, on pace for roughly 31 total points (Under ticket holders are likely feeling great).
- Early in the 4th quarter, the Broncos took a 24-6 lead, which may be an even BETTER spot than 23 points at the start since this ensures one team is likely to take the foot off the gas and try to run out the clock.
- The ONLY type of plays to even slightly worry the “under-holders” at this point (outside of a crazy comeback, which will happen at #1) would be some series of quick/non-offensive scores and/or short fields…both of which happen.
- An interception return and failed onside kick leading to short fields, one kick return for a touchdown, and another meaningless TD led to the over hitting at the final whistle.
3. Super Bowl XLI: Colts vs. Bears Over 47
I believe this, somewhat less publicized “bad beat,” to be the most underrated of them all. It really combines so many different aspects of the “bad-beat-ness” that many forget:
- A Peyton Manning-led team already is a good bet on the over.
- Although there was some rain in the forecast, no one saw the non-stop drenching that occurred from start to end, lending to a lower-scoring game.
- For an over ticket holder, the game literally could not have started any better with the Bears, the underdog, returning the opening kickoff for a TD (interestingly in the same season, the College Championship started the same way, with Ohio State and Ted Ginn returning the opening kickoff for a TD, before losing to Florida…fun trivia).
- At the height of his career, Adam Vinatieri missed an extra point (PRE RULE CHANGE, the chip-shot one) AND a 32-yard FG, leaving 4 points on the board right there.
- Even with all that, late in the 4 quarter needing only a point needed to hit the over, Tony Dungy elects NOT to kick a FG on a 4th and 6 and just run a dive up the middle.
The Over missed by a point.
2. Super Bowl XLIII: Cardinals (+3 1H) vs. Steelers
Had it not been for the 1.5 quarters worth of crazy that gives our #1 its rank, this bad beat would take the cake. Particularly, if you look at bad beats as a function of one, acute play/instance/etc. that caused your “for-sure ticket” to not cash within an instant, the Cardinals +3 1H is truly a remarkably bad beat.
Down 10-7, with the ball, 2 yards from the Steelers’ end zone, and 18 seconds left, at +3 1H you are thinking:
- If somehow NOTHING happens, we push, no worries.
- We’re most likely going to get AT LEAST a FG and cash (if not a TD).
- If something INSANE like a fumble or pick happens, there’s no way the Steelers will have enough time to turn it into points, and heck, no way that…
- The turnover will happen, and the Steelers will be able to get 98 yards down the field to score.
- To top it all off, a replay was needed to confirm James Harrison actually scored, leaving lots of 1H ticket holders waiting in agony for minutes (that felt like eons).
All of this to say, it wasn’t even a fleet-footed corner playing tight coverage picking off an errant throw to the flat with no Cardinal in front of him. It was 243 lb. James Harrison picking off a slant pass and making his way through traffic for a 100-yard miracle return, crushing the +3 Cardinal 1H ticket.
1. Super Bowl LI: Falcons (+3) vs. Patriots
We all should have seen this coming. The Patriots historically fought back from a 3rd quarter 25-point deficit, winning the Super Bowl in OT by 6 points.
Even ignoring the insane details about all the things that needed to happen WITHIN the upset itself, there is so much to support this taking our top spot as the worst beat for those holding a Falcons +3 ticket.
- Atlanta had a 99.5% chance of winning (outright) with 9 minutes left in the game and likely close to 99.9% of NOT losing by 4 or more points.
- After seeing your massive lead, as an underdog, mind you, disappear going into overtime, +3 Falcons ticket holders probably felt pretty confident. Given its semi-sudden death format, clearly, the outcome was going to stay within 6 points either way. This meant any Falcons FG, Falcons TD, and even Patriots FG would all win/push. But the Patriots just had to score a TD vs. kick the FG.
- Shortly before that Patriots OT TD, the Falcons lost the 50/50 coin toss. Think about what that means to the above bullet: IF the Falcons had just WON THE COIN TOSS, that ticket was probably a winner. Why? Because if the Falcons won the toss, they would have either scored (won the bet) or at worst punted/gave the ball away, which would have all but forced the Patriots to ONLY kick a FG (in any ensuing scoring drive) since they no longer had any incentive to score a TD in the (now) sudden-death format of OT
Poor Falcons, the +3 didn’t cash.
As I finish this article, I remember I’m a “glass-half-full” kinda guy, and maybe we should all see the flip-side here: for every bad beat, there was a super lucky bet on the other side. Well, here’s to you being among the latter this Sunday!
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