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What is a Bad Beat in Sports Betting?

by January 14, 2022
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A “bad beat” in sports betting is when you have a wager that looks like It will hit and then something unlucky happens to cost you the bet. I will walk through some examples of bad beats across different sports below to illustrate what this means.

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Say you bet on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson to have over 55.5 rushing yards against the Colts. Lamar has a good game and has 57 rushing yards by the late 4th quarter. The Colts turn the ball over with a minute left and no timeouts remaining down by 14 points. Lamar trots back on the field to lead his team in victory formation and has to kneel the ball twice to take the clock down to zero. Lamar loses two rushing yards on each kneel down, bringing his rushing total to 53 yards, costing you the wager that you thought was a winner – that is a bad beat.


Buzzer beaters lead to the majority of bad beats in sports betting. Say you bet on the Celtics -8.5 against the Bulls. The Celtics dominate the majority of the game and are up by 11 with four seconds left. Bulls SG Zach LaVine throws up a half-court shot at the buzzer and banks It in, resulting in the Celtics winning by eight. Your -8.5 bet is now a loser because of a half-court buzzer-beater that had no actual impact on the outcome of the game – that is a bad beat.


Injuries can also lead to bad beats. Say you bet on Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane to have over 3.5 shots against the Coyotes. Patrick Kane finishes the first period with three shots, meaning he only needs one more shot on net for the rest of the game for the wager to hit. However, at intermission Kane starts to feel discomfort in his knee and the coach benches him for the rest of the game as a precaution. The over 3.5 shots bet which looked like a sure winner after the first period is now a losing wager – that is a bad beat.

While bad beats usually get the most attention, for every bad beat there is a “backdoor cover”. A backdoor cover is just the other side of a bad beat, the winning side. Going back to the examples above, the bettors who took Lamar Jackson under 55.5 rushing yards, Bulls +8.5, and Patrick Kane under 3.5 shots would win their wagers due to the backdoor covers.

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Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our Sports Betting Strategy and Advice page is for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.

Tony Sartori is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Tony, check out his archive and follow him@tony_sartori.

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