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by Ben Burns - 08/21/2008
I have been asked to bring back a column which I used to run, called "Bad Beats." As the name implies, the focus will be on sports betting losses which were particularly hard to swallow.
You know the kind I'm talking about. Everyone does beginners and seasoned pros alike. These type of agonizing defeats are an unfortunate and inevitable part of wagering. Don't forget that, like beauty, bad beats are in the eye of the beholder. In other words, each time that you experience an unlucky loss, keep in mind that someone else is enjoying a fortunate victory. More importantly, remember that these things have a way of evening themselves out over the long run. That being said, some gamblers have a tendency to forget about the lucky wins while remembering the unfortunate defeats for much longer.
This will be a weekly feature here and your participation is encouraged. If you'd like to share a story about one of your more excruciating losses, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide as many details as possible and stick to (recent) football stories only. This week, we'll look at a pair of promising looking 'under' tickets which both went bad in the fourth quarter. As this is the first issue of the year and the term may be new to some, we'll start by defining what a bad beat actually means.
Definition: In the world of sports-betting, the term bad beat refers to a heart-breaking gambling loss, most often occurring when a late score or fluke play changes the betting outcome of the side or total. In poker, bad beat is a term for a hand which lost, even though the cards appeared to be strong. It typically occurs where one player bets the clearly stronger hand and the opposing player makes a poor call that eventually "hits" and wins. In both poker and sports, the term is subjective. Therefore, you'll sometimes find that players/bettors will disagree about whether a particular hand or game was a bad beat.
Carolina at Philadelphia
Thursday, August 14
Under bettors appeared to be looking very good in this one. The field was sloppy and the offenses were even sloppier. The score was 10-0 for Carolina entering the fourth quarter. With a line of +3 or +3.5, those backing the Panthers felt pretty good about their chances. With the offenses having done so little, those with 'under' tickets (line ranged from 35.5 to 36.5) felt even more confident. Everything changed when the Eagles' backups outscored the Panthers' backups by score of 24-3 in the fourth quarter though. The final blow occurred when the Eagles ran back an interception 74 yards for a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play. Not only did that ensure the pointspread victory by snuffing out the Panthers' drive, it also caused the final score (24-13) to sneak above the total. Tough loss for Carolina. Bad beat for those who took the under.
Detroit at Cincinnati
Sunday, August 17
As already mentioned, bettors will sometimes disagree as to what qualifies as a bad beat. This makes discussing these "borderline bad beats" even more interesting. The 'under' in the Lions/Bengals game wasn't among the worst bad beats that we'll discuss this season and probably falls into the borderline category. It was my toughest loss of the weekend though and I wanted to include one of my own personal tickets. I was enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon, as I'd already won all three of my baseball plays. My chances of winning with Cincinnati and Detroit 'under' and completing the 4-0 sweep seemed reasonably good, as the Lions and Bengals were involved in a defensive affair, tied 10-10 in the fourth. With the Lions up 13-10 with six minutes remaining, at midfield, and seemingly content to keep running on every play, things were starting to look even better. However, just when everyone (including the Bengals secondary) was expecting another run play, Drew Stanton came out of nowhere with a 50 yard play-action touchdown pass. Fast forward a few minutes and we find that the Lions, now up 20- 10, were at third and one at the Bengals' 10 yard line. If they pick up the first down, they most likely just take a knee on the next three plays and run out the clock. No such luck - Stanton ran a bootleg and the confused Bengals allowed him to walk in, untouched from 10 yards out. So much for the sweep!
Bad beats, by their very nature, are unpredictable. Therefore, one can't really point to a particular game and say, "watch for a bad beat in this one." However, it is worth mentioning that both of the above 'under' losses came with games that had closing totals of less than 37, both of which finished with final combined scores of exactly 37. I often discuss the importance of the number 37 in the NFL and will re-visit that topic in this week's "Total Bias" column.