There are always amazing moments in sports betting every year, but 2022 seemed to have even more that stood out. With sports betting legal in the U.S. for over four years now and over 30 states with legalized sports betting, it’s amazing how often sports betting moments and bad beats are mentioned on social media and on-air broadcasts.
Here are five of the most memorable ones from a year that sports bettors won’t soon forget:
Event: Chargers-Raiders Week 18 game nearly ends in a tie
Date: Sunday, Jan. 9
The last week of the 2021-22 NFL regular season nearly provided one of the all-time historic sports betting moments.
Heading into Week 18, if the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts (+14.5) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) defeated the Baltimore Ravens, the Chargers and Raiders could both reach the postseason with a tie. Many bettors wagered a two-team (or more) parlay with the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts and the Chargers-Raiders to end in a tie, putting sportsbooks into seven-figure liabilities.
The Jaguars pulled off the upset over the Carson Wentz-led Colts and the Steelers defeated the Ravens in overtime, setting the stage for a potential catastrophe for sportsbooks. The Chargers entered the game as a 3-point road favorite. Bettors parlayed the Jaguars and/or Steelers winning with many different variations of Chargers-Raiders ending in a tie.
When the Chargers-Raiders game miraculously went to OT tied at 32 after the Chargers came back from down 15 points in the fourth quarter, bettors were starting to count their money and books were sweating. But a poorly timed Brandon Staley timeout led to a 47-yard FG attempt from Daniel Carlson and the Raiders won 35-32, averting disaster for books.
It’s only fitting that the game was played in Las Vegas.
Event: Tom Brady unretires
Date: Sunday, March 13
After an unparalleled career and second-round playoff exit, Tom Brady announced his retirement from the NFL on Jan. 29. The first rumblings that he may have been coming back came in the betting market.
On March 10, one bettor unfamiliar to longtime oddsmaker Chris Andrews came into the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and wanted to place a wager on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl. With Brady retired and the Bucs at 50-1 odds (and higher at other books), Andrews was happy to take a “big bet.”
A few hours later, the same bettor returned to place a small wager on the Bucs, this time at 25-1. Later in the day, the bettor returned to place another large wager on Tampa Bay at 25-1. After that wager, Andrews moved the odds all the way down to 15-1.
“At this point, I’m thinking, ‘This is kind of interesting,'” Andrews told VSiN back in March.
One bettor at The Borgata in New Jersey wagered $10,000 on the Bucs to win the Super Bowl the previous week as well.
Three days later, Brady announced he was unretiring and Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl odds dropped from 25-1 to +750 at DraftKings.
Through Week 14, the Bucs lead the NFC South with a 6-7 record, and even though they have 30-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, bookmakers are sleeping easy.
Event: Paulo Banchero goes No. 1 in 2022 NBA draft
Date: Thursday, June 23
Leading up to the 2022 NBA draft, the race to go No. 1 was seemingly between Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, both around -115 odds the week before the draft. Duke’s Paolo Banchero, once a close third, had drifted to as high as 20-1 to be selected first overall at DraftKings and other sportsbooks.
On Sunday night and Monday morning before Thursday’s draft, Banchero’s odds fell all the way to +200 at some sportsbooks. Thomas Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata in New Jersey, opened the No. 1 odds market on Monday morning and was immediately hit with Banchero bets.
As Gable theorized, there were likely three main buckets of bettors for Banchero to go No. 1, starting mostly on that Monday:
1) Those betting Sunday night/Monday morning strictly on price
2) A much smaller group betting on good intel
3) People who were seeing the line movement on Banchero and chasing steam
Late that Wednesday night, Banchero became the betting favorite at sportsbooks … until ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted at 8:41 a.m. on Thursday morning – the day of the draft — that the order of the top 3 picks was “increasingly clear” with “Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.”
Sportsbooks reacted by taking several markets down, including the odds to go No. 1 overall. Some kept them closed, while others re-opened less than an hour later. FanDuel re-opened with Smith as high as -10000, with Banchero at +900. And it seemed as if all of that odds movement on Wednesday night was for naught, as a Woj bomb had been dropped.
But a funny thing happened during the day on Thursday — those odds kept shrinking for Smith, pointing to the fact that someone had good information, and it had been shared more widely. Smith got as low as -135 on FanDuel and Banchero +100, before Smith was again bet out to above a -400 favorite. Public money and some bettors were betting Smith at much lower numbers than previously available.
The markets remained roughly the same until Woj tweeted again at 7:40 p.m. ET that Banchero had joined Smith Jr. under “serious consideration” to go No. 1 overall, which began moving the betting markets again, with more money flowing in on Banchero – until he emerged again as the odds-on favorite to go No. 1.
Two minutes later, Woj tweeted that Banchero had “emerged as a significant possibility to be drafted No. 1 overall.”
Thirteen minutes after that, at 7:55 p.m. (five minutes before the draft was set to begin), Woj tweeted that Banchero was “looming as a frontrunner to be the No. 1 overall pick.”
And soon after that, Banchero was indeed taken No. 1 overall by the Magic.
Event: Mattress Mack wins $75M on Houston Astros World Series title
Date: Saturday, Nov. 5
Most sports bettors are familiar with furniture store salesman Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale at this point, for his large wagers on Houston sports teams and his mattress promotions to go with them. Over the course of the year, McIngvale had made roughly $10 million in futures wagers on his hometown Houston Astros to win the World Series, the largest of which was a $3 million wager placed in May at Caesars Sportsbook in Louisiana. He also had a $1 million wager on the Astros at WynnBet at 12-1 odds and a $1 million wager at Betfred Sportsbook at 5-1 odds, among others.
The Astros entered the World Series as around a -180 favorite, with the Philadelphia Phillies a +160 underdog. Houston won the series four games to two and McIngvale cashed in for roughly $75 million, believed to be the largest payout ever in legal U.S. sports betting history.
It was tied to a mattress promotion giving customers a refund on mattresses, so McIngvale would’ve won either way.
“What can we say? We just wrote the biggest check in sports betting history to Mattress Mack for $30,000,000,” Ken Fuchs, Head of Sports at Caesars Sportsbook, said in a statement on Saturday night after Houston won. “Would we do it all again? You bet.
Mattress Mack is back with his latest wager, a series of $1 million bets on the Houston Cougars to win the NCAA men’s college basketball title.
Event: Saudi Arabia (25-1 ML) beats Argentina in World Cup
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 22
In one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, Saudi Arabia defeated tournament favorite Argentina 2-1 in its opening Group C match. Saudi Arabia closed as high as 25-1 on the money line at some sportsbooks before the match began.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi scored in the 10th minute on a penalty kick, and Argentina had several chances throughout the game to go up 2-0 that were disallowed by offside. Saudi Arabia scored two goals (48th minute, 53rd minute) in the second half and held on to pull off the stunning win.
Sportsbooks cleaned up, as 97% of the bets and 98% of the money at DraftKings were on Argentina to win – and roughly the same percentages were on Argentina to win by two-plus goals.
To put the upset in context, when No. 16 UMBC became the first 16-seed to upset a No. 1 seed (Virginia) in 2018 NCAA tournament, UMBC’s odds were also 25-1 on the money line.