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Notable bets: How a $1.4 million bet to win $11,200 sparked debate

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

One of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history attracted one of the craziest bets ever reported: $1.4 million to win just $11,200.

The bet lost, went viral and then sparked debate in the sports betting community.

The money-line wager in question was placed with DraftKings on Saturday after the Los Angeles Chargers jumped out to a 27-0 lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half of the wild-card nightcap. At that point, DraftKings was offering the Chargers’ odds to win the game at -12,500. A bettor would need to risk $12,500 on the Chargers to win $100. An unidentified bettor took it a few steps further.

At 7:31 p.m., Saturday, according to a screenshot of the wager (first reported by Bleacher Report and confirmed by ESPN), the bettor placed a $1.4 million money-line bet on the Chargers to go on to win the game at -12,500 odds. If successful, the bettor would win a net $11,200. Yes, a $1.4 million bet to win $11,200.

The Jaguars would rally back in the second half for a 31-30 win, the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history, and the bettor would lose $1.4 million.

Large money-line bets to win much smaller amounts happen more often than you might expect. Earlier this season, for example, a bettor risked $1,800 on the Indianapolis Colts, when they were leading the Minnesota Vikings 33-0, for a chance at winning $9.

In 2020, a bettor placed a $240,000 money-line bet on heavily favored BYU to beat Texas-San Antonio straight up for a chance to win a net $3,428.55.

The $1.4 bet on the Chargers at -12,500 odds is the most extreme example, though. The bet became controversial on Twitter, with industry stakeholders and competing bookmakers questioning whether individual wagers should be publicized. Sportsbooks typically only reveal bets after receiving permission from the customer or if the betting slips are posted on social media. The identities of bettors are almost never disclosed.

DraftKings confirmed that a $1.4 million bet was placed when the Chargers were leading 27-0 but declined to offer further details. DraftKings did not post about the bet on its social media platforms.

Bleacher Report tweeted the screenshot of the bet just after midnight Sunday.

A bettor @DKSportsbook put $1.4 MILLION on Chargers ML live. To win $11K…

BRUH. �� pic.twitter.com/ZkDG1LilYM

– br_betting (@br_betting) January 15, 2023

A spokesperson for Bleacher Report told ESPN in an email that “we see a lot of bet slips from where we sit but have nothing to say further about this particular bet.”

Other sportsbooks and industry stakeholders did have something to say about what was one of the largest in-game wagers ever reported in the U.S.

Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director of Circa Sports, posted on Twitter about the bet, sarcastically instructing a supervisor to “find the worst bet any of our customers placed and post it! The race to embarrass our customer with the grossest loss to the social media world is on and we’re falling behind! Our players are idiots and we need to show the world and exploit their stupidity.”

Todd Fuhrman, a betting analyst for CBS Sports, who previously worked for Caesars Sportsbook, questioned why PR from sportsbooks “comes at the expense of the player they’re supposed to value.”

Dan Worthington, who was an executive producer and creative director for Bleacher Report’s betting content, told ESPN that people are always skeptical of betting splits posted online, especially the wilder ones, like the $1.4 million bet on the Chargers. He believes for the most part that sportsbooks do a good job of protecting the identity of bettors.

“I don’t think the books should be putting out tickets unless a customer is OK with it,” Worthington, who now runs social media betting content for The Juice at Wave Sports Entertainment, said during a phone interview Sunday night.

Worthington added that he didn’t know how the screenshot of the betting slip made its way to Bleacher Report.

“It begs the question, though: Why would the bettor want to publicize this bet?” he said.

NFL notables

Underdogs went 4-1 against the spread, with the Jaguars, Dolphins, Giants and Ravens covering the spread in the five weekend wild-card games.

All five games went over the total.

The largest reported pregame bet of the weekend at Caesars Sportsbook was $880,000 on the Baltimore Ravens +6.5 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was placed early in the week, before Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was officially ruled out. The line closed at Bengals -8.

“It was the first time this customer has had a bet that size,” Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. “We figured they were betting on Lamar playing.”

The Bengals won 24-17.

The Miami Dolphins closed as consensus 14-point underdogs against the Buffalo Bills, making them the largest underdogs ever in a Wild Card game. The game attracted the lopsided action on Buffalo, with the bulk of the money on the heavily-favored Bills minus the points and on the money-line (-1,000).

John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, said the Dolphins covering the spread produced the biggest win of any of the weekend’s games at his shop. “Dolphins outright would’ve been a massive winner for us,” Murray said. “At least they covered, and we did very well with that result plus the game going over.”

• The Jaguars got as long as 28-1 odds on the moneyline in-game and attracted plenty of support at Caesars Sportsbook.

“It was definitely ugly in-play, that’s for sure,” Mucklow of Caesars said. “A lot of 28-1 money-line bets and they all add up at those prices. Before the Jags scored the winning field goal, we were in the perfect position. We wanted the Chargers not to cover. It was one for the bettors.

“Once you see the momentum change on the teams, no matter what price you put up in-play, people just gravitate to the team with the momentum,” he added. “It’s happened a couple times this year and it’s been great for the betting public.”

Mucklow said the largest in-play bet on the Jaguars was $10,000 on the Jaguars at +750. Caesars also reported taking a $250,000 money-line bet on the Jaguars from a bettor in Michigan that cashed at even money.

Jacksonville’s comeback produced the biggest defeat of wild-card weekend “by far” for the SuperBook.

“We were in position to clean up across all states with a Chargers win on Saturday night,” Murray of the SuperBook said. “And we sure felt pleased with ourselves when it was 27-0.”

PointsBet reported taking a pair of in-game money-line bets on the Jaguars that paid six figures: $10,000 at 11-1 that was placed early in the third quarter with the Chargers leading 27-7, and $20,000 at 8-1 that was placed early in the fourth quarter with the Chargers leading 30-20.

• The Dallas Cowboys were consensus 2.5-point favorites over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entering Monday. Barring dramatic line movement, it will be the first time Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has ever been a home underdog in the playoffs.

The early betting on the game had been relatively balanced at Caesars Sportsbook, but Mucklow said they had received an inquiry about a big bet potentially coming on the Cowboys.

“Right now, we need the Bucs, and it’s quite possible that we’ll really need the Bucs tomorrow,” Mucklow said. “We’re expecting a large bet [on the Cowboys] tomorrow.”

Murray said the SuperBook saw sharp action on the Buccaneers early in the week. “The sharps banged us immediately when we opened Bucs +3.5 last week, and they were on the Bucs +3 as well,” he said.

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