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A sports bettor's top-10 nightmares

11 June 2012

It was a roller coaster weekend for sports bettors. Between the Belmont Stakes, which Didn't Have Another, and the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley boxing match, a lot of money changed hands.

Both stories were a bit of a nightmare for some sports bettors, however.

Most fight watchers thought Pacquiao dominated the fight, and when the judges announced a split decision in favor of Bradley, people with money on the line must have been shocked.

In the Belmont, horse bettors had the opportunity to take advantage of lots of public money flowing in on I'll Have Another, giving other horses a lot of extra value. But when the horse dropped out of the race, the amount of public money flowing in plummeted, and so did the value on other horses.

In honor of those bettors who said goodbye to their wagers in the fight and at the track, here are the sports bettor's top-10 nightmares.

10. Overtime
If you've ever bet the under in an NBA game, you know exactly how bad overtime can be for you. A game that you can count on hitting the under with two or three minutes left to play gets a lot more tense when it's close. You don't care which team ends up winning, as long as it doesn't go into overtime and put five more minutes on the clock.

9. Injury
Nothing is worse than having money on a team and seeing its quarterback go down with a knee injury in the first drive of the game. Pinning your hopes on a backup to cover the spread is tough. The same can go for baseball with starting pitching, or in the NBA with star players. Had the sportsbooks known that the player wouldn't be available for most of the game, the line would have been different. And had you known, you may have bet differently. But once the game starts, it's out of your hands. You just have to watch and hope for the best.

8. Weather
Many sports bettors take weather into account when they pick their sides. If a football team has a strong passing attack but it's going to be a mudfest, they might pick the other side. But weather isn't always predictable. A rain storm that wasn't due to come through until the next morning may speed up and arrive in the fifth inning of a baseball game, before the team you bet on was able to grind down the pitching staff and get into the other team's weak bullpen. If the game is called and your team is down, you're out of luck.

7. Starters are pulled
College football favorites can have a big number to cover, and if you pick one to cover, you may find that you care a whole lot more about the margin of victory than the coach does. If the team you're backing is up big with almost zero chance of losing, but hasn't covered the spread yet, the coach might pull all his best players to give them a chance to rest and reduce the chance of injury. While that may be great for the team, it's not always good for a sports bettor's bottom line.

6. Coach gives up
Sometimes when you pick an underdog and the game is out of reach, the coach packs it in and lets the clock run out (this is true in basketball more than football). This can cause sports bettors to scream at the TV: "But you only need two more points to cover!" Backing a team that has given up, instead of fouling and jacking up threes, leads to early gray hair in sports bettors.

5. Late score for backdoor cover
Maybe even worse than a losing team giving up and not trying to score is a winning team that gives up. As a game gets down to its final few seconds, players may leave an opponent wide open instead of playing defense. Up by 10 but needing to cover an eight-point spread, the sports bettor is more interested than anyone else in what will happen on that open three-point shot, and many a bet has been won and lost on the result of that type of shot.

4. Bad officiating
Instant replay has helped many sports get calls right that were initially called wrong by their officials. However, not all plays can be overturned, even if the video evidence makes it perfectly clear that the official got it wrong. One critical play can be the difference between a win and a loss, and more importantly, whether or not the team you're backing covers.

3. Unnecessary extra-innings home run
Imagine you've bet the under in a baseball game where the line was set at 9.5. The game is tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. There's a man on third with one out. All you need is a ground ball through the drawn-in infield, or a fly ball that can score the runner on a sacrifice fly and the game is over and you win your bet. The batter hits the ball and it's going to be deep enough, but is it going to be too deep? If he hits a home run, the game ends 6-4 and you lose your bet. Why did he have to hit it so far?

2. Judges get it wrong
The Pacquiao-Bradley fight is going to leave a bitter taste in boxing bettors' mouths for a long time, at least the ones who bet on Pacquiao. Nearly every boxing expert says that Pacquiao was the better fighter. But the only people whose opinions matter are the three judges, and two of them said that Bradley won. If you bet on Pacquiao, you feel like you should have won, but you didn't. And that's tough to swallow.

1. The game is fixed
This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's the sports bettor's worst nightmare. If an official or a player in the game is working to make sure that one side ends up covering and you're not aware of it, there's no way that you can reliably pick which team is going to win. And if you pick the team that's destined to lose the bet and find out about it after the fact, you're going to feel cheated and duped, but there's nothing you can do about it. And that's why fixed games are the sports bettor's worst nightmare.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.