UPDATE: Some of the lines moved a little, so some of the bets have changed a little. The most significant change was the single half-point in the Cincinnati – Cleveland game causing Gamblor to triple its bet. A similar change also cause it to boost its bet in the Tampa Bay – Washington game. And they finally posted a line in the Seattle – Indianapolis game, though the bet didn’t change much and neither did my opinion.

I was hoping I’d be able to wait a little longer into the season to run with this clip, but unfortunately…

(To watch this video, right-click and hit “play”)

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Gamblor had its first losing week of the season, coming in with a weighted win percentage of 39.1% and hitting just 6 out of 16 picks. It was particularly tough to watch its biggest pick — Buffalo — stay alive all the way into the fourth quarter before crumbling. And surprisingly enough, the lowly Rams were alive into the fourth quarter as well. All in all it could have been far worse, as the computer only ended up dropping $61.75 based on total bets of $271.49 (a summary of last week’s performance is here). My own picks were pretty solid, going 9-7. I’m still resentful that Vegas switched the line on the Denver-Oakland game; it seemed obvious that the books were panicking when they moved the line so much so quickly. And like most non-Redskins fans out there, I found it heartening to see Detroit finally break their losing streak.

It’s always disappointing to have a bad week, but one thing that makes me feel better is knowing that Vegas had a far worse week. Of games where 60% or more of the action came in on a particular side, the sportsbooks went an abysmal 2-10. They lost huge on Chicago (96% of the public bet on the Bears), the New York Giants (93%), and Green Bay (93%), and also took hits on Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit, Denver, Philadelphia, New England, and Dallas. Ultimately, favorites ruled the weekend, as the spread was covered in 11 of the 16 games. There were a lot of trap lines that didn’t pan out last week, and you can expect the sportsbooks to be very vindictive this week as a result. It’s been three bad weeks in a row for the house; another week like this and they won’t bother taking bets at all, they’ll just stick people up at the entrances to the casinos.

Since the average bettor had such a fine time last week, and Vegas took such a beating, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the worst bad beats the sportsbooks have suffered. I’ve enlisted some help (including poker professional Joe Pelton, Steve Makinen of statfox.com, and Walter Cherepinsky of walterfootball.com) to gather together the greatest bad beats of all time (which I’ll post in a few weeks), but for the moment we’ll amuse our bouches by looking at the toughest losses for the books in 2008.

The Sportsbooks’ Top 5 Bad Beats of 2008:

polamaluOne of the more memorable moments of the 2008 football season came during Week 11. Jeff Reed had just kicked a 32 yard field goal to give the Pittsburgh Steelers an 11-10 lead over the San Diego Chargers with 0:15 on the clock. With just five seconds remaining in the game, San Diego ran their last play and desperately lateraled the ball back and forth in hopes of a miracle. On one of these “laterals” where the ball actually traveled forward, Troy Polamalu snagged the ball out of midair and ran untouched into the Chargers end zone for a touchdown as time expired. To the horror of the 71% of bettors who had risked their money on the favored Steelers, the officials nullified the touchdown, claiming that because an illegal forward pass had taken place, the play was ruled dead. This nonsensical ruling was absolutely incorrect, which the league admitted after the game. But that was scant consolation for bettors, who were enraged to see a miracle cover (of a -4.5 spread) wiped from the record books. It was one of the few times when sports gambling was acknowledged by the analysts (Bob Costas actually mentioned the spread, and later broadcasts found the issue too big to ignore completely and tiptoed around it as best they could) and ultimately the swing turned out to be very profitable for Vegas. Fortunately, gamblers everywhere got their revenge in these five other stunning reversals of fortune:

5. Denver 39 – San Diego 38: In Week 2, the Denver Broncos played host to a tough San Diego team. The spread was set at zero points, so it was victory or nothing for the 66% of the public who wagered on Denver. The bookmakers cackled with glee as San Diego erased a two-touchdown deficit in the second half and took a 38-31 lead with just four minutes remaining. And then they nibbled their fingernails as Jay Cutler drove the Broncos seventy yards down the field with seconds left on the clock. Their huge surge of triumph as Cutler was sacked at the ten yard line and fumbled the ball away turned sour as Ed Hochuli’s inadvertent whistle gave the ball back to Denver, who promptly scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on a pair of Cutler passes to Eddie Royal to pull out a 39-38 victory.

4. Carolina 17 – Oakland 6: In Week 10, 86% of bettors loaded up on Carolina as they visited Oakland as 9.5 point favorites. Oakland kept this game competitive, holding Carolina to just 14 points until a very late field goal by John Kasay put the Panthers up 17-6 with just 1:49 remaining in the game. Oakland actually managed to move the ball to midfield and let Sebastian Janikowski attempt a 58 yard field goal as time expired. Bookies watched with bated breath as the completely meaningless field goal soared off Janikowski’s foot, bounced off the crossbar, and fell to the ground on the wrong side of the uprights along with their hopes of a miracle backdoor cover.

3. Indianapolis 18 – Minnesota 15: Vegas teased the public all week with the line in this Week 2 game, which opened up at +2 and slipped to +1. The Vikings had been completely manhandled by Green Bay on national television the week before, and Indianapolis was still a crowd favorite. The short line was a classic trap, and the public gobbled it up, as 94% of bettors attempted to cash in on the free money. When the Vikings had assembled a 15-0 lead with 2:00 remaining in the third quarter, the books were feeling very smug about the hustle they had engineered. But the Colts ruined it all for them by putting together two touchdown drives (including one circus play that featured a 74 yard catch and run and lateral and run). Adam Vinatieri knocked home a 48 yard field goal with just 8 seconds left to secure the win for the Colts, cover the spread, and play the part of Robin Hood for a very grateful betting nation.

2. San Diego 28 – Oakland 18: In Week 4, San Diego came into Oakland as 7.5 point favorites, and the public wasn’t fazed at all — they jumped all over the Chargers to the tune of 92%. The Raiders miraculously jumped out to a 15-3 lead, which they took all the way into the fourth quarter before collapsing spectacularly, giving away two touchdowns in less than two minutes and falling behind 18-15. But the Raiders engineered another miracle from the books’ perspective as they drove downfield and kicked a field goal to tie the game with just 2:47 remaining. There’s not many ways a team can fail to cover a 7.5 point spread in this situation. But the Raiders, determined to completely screw over anyone dumb enough to risk money on them, found a way. They let San Diego drive far enough to score a field goal with 1:51 remaining, then turned the ball over on downs near midfield with 1:22 left. All that was left for San Diego to do was run the ball safely up the middle and kill the clock. Instead, the Raiders let Ladainian Tomlinson squirt through for a 40-yard touchdown that was completely meaningless to everyone except the poor saps, including every sportsbook in the country, who were counting on the Raiders.

APTOPIX Colts Texans Football1. Indianapolis 31 – Houston 27: In Week 5, Vegas decided they wanted revenge for what the Colts and their fans had done to them during Week 2. The line on this game was shady from the moment it was set, sitting at -3.5 and not budging despite the piles of cash that 85% of the public loaded on the Colts’ backs. The Texans surprised everyone (except the books) by jumping out to a 27-10 lead. The Colts closed to 27-17, but after a failed onside kick, the game looked to be winding down. Then, with 3:54 left in the fourth quarter, backup Sage Rosenfels, filling in for the injured Matt Schaub, pulled off one of the most spectacular single-player collapses in the history of the game, aided by one of the stupidest decisions the football world has ever seen. Facing 3rd and 8 at the Indianapolis 39, Rosenfels ran a bootleg and tried to run for the first down. He wasn’t going to make it. But instead of sliding to the turf, he inexplicably attempted to leap over three Indianapolis defenders and was spun around like a pinwheel and fumbled the ball. Remember Blue Thunder? Airwolf? Neither of these was a match for the Rosencopter! The ball was scooped up by linebacker Gary Brackett and returned for a 67 yard touchdown. Then Rosenfels fumbled again, inside his own twenty, which Indianapolis quickly converted into a touchdown and a 31-27 lead. Finally, for good measure, Rosenfels turned the ball over one last time with an interception to completely spoil the sportsbooks’ nefarious plans yet again.

Apparently Gamblor is a little bit gun-shy this week, risking the least money so far this season. To make things a little more interesting I’m bumping all of the bets under the minimum up to $5.00. Here is the summary sheet, my thoughts on the games are below.




Gamblor’s Pick: Detroit (+10)

Bet Amount: $32.17 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: When you’d previously lost 19 games in a row, winning a single game must feel like winning the Superbowl. But that doesn’t change the fact that Detroit is still a terrible, terrible football team. I’m glad they won, but their victory came at home against an underachieving Redskins team, and even then they still managed to flirt with disaster until the very end. Chicago boast a very stout defense and an offense that is finally starting to come together after playing against three very tough defenses to open the season. Two weeks ago, Minnesota was able to control the ball easily against the Lions after a shaky start. I don’t see anything different happening here. Chicago’s got a bye coming up next week, so there won’t be anything distracting them from having their way with the Lions.




Gamblor’s Pick: Cincinnati (-6)

Bet Amount: $16.62 (Flip Conflict)

WHY I AGREE: I’m curious to see if this line is going to slide a little more, I’m hoping it will so Gamblor will wager a bit more money on Cincinnati. After pulling off a huge win against Pittsburgh last week, the Bengals are no doubt feeling pretty good about themselves. As well they should – ff not for a fluke play against Denver, they’d be 3-0. It’s hard to imagine them letting their foot off the gas against Cleveland, though next week’s matchup against Baltimore is certainly looming and might serve to distract them from the task at hand. In any event, it’s hard to imagine Cleveland’s touchdown drought ending against Cincinnati’s hustling defense, and unless this is a dirty trick that Vegas is up to (certainly very possible), this game will be over by halftime.




Gamblor’s Pick: Seattle (-10.5)

Bet Amount: $7.15 (Flip and Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: I think this is the point where Seattle pretty much gives up on their season. Peyton Manning is looking very sharp right now and will cut up Seattle’s secondary like Alpha cut up Whiskey on Dollhouse.




Gamblor’s Pick: Kansas City (+9)

Bet Amount: $17.16 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: All I’m expecting here is a rerun of last game except the Giants’ unworthy opponent will be wearing different uniforms. Kansas City is pretty much terrible in every possible way and even though it’s New York’s third game in a row on the road, when they get home they’ll be facing Oakland, so there’s no reason for them not to focus for this game. And even though the Chiefs have been historically tough at home, the stadium will be half-empty for this game as the Kansas City fans abandon their season. Nine points isn’t nearly enough to balance this game, I’m not sure I’d want to take the Chiefs even if they were getting 17.




Gamblor’s Pick: New England (-1.5)

Bet Amount: $23.77 (Flip – 90%)

WHY I AGREE: Baltimore has looked terrific in pretty much every aspect so far this season. They easily dismantled inferior foes (Kansas City and Cleveland) and brought their A game to the table when facing someone tough (San Diego). New England, on the other hand, has looked erratic and tentative and is fortunate to be sporting a 2-1 record. Against Baltimore’s defense, New England is going to have to be firing on all cylinders to put many points up on the board. But will they deliver? I’m hoping they will, because I’m certain that lots of lots of bettors are going to be very enthusiastic to get the chance to bet on Baltimore as an underdog. I think this one will be close, but New England will win, and the points the Ravens are getting won’t be enough to make a difference.




Gamblor’s Pick: Washington (-7.5)

Bet Amount: $13.94 (Flip)

WHY I AGREE: To me, this game boils down to a question of pride. The Redskins, who probably still consider themselves to be a talented football team with a realistic chance to contend in their division just let the Lions end one of the longest losing streaks in NFL history against them. The Buccaneers haven’t held a lead at any time in any football game so far this year. They have no illusions about how awful they are. Washington will be out for revenge, while Tampa Bay will be sleepwalking through the game. I doubt that Zorn will be around for much longer, but a big win here will keep him alive for a few more weeks, so he’ll be taking this game very seriously.




Gamblor’s Pick: Jacksonville (+3)

Bet Amount: $3.22 (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: This is yet another must-win game for Tennessee, and I think they’ll finally get it together this time. Jacksonville put together a nice win against an objectively better Houston team Houston team, but they’re not good enough to accomplish this feat twice in a row.




Gamblor’s Pick: Houston (-9)

Bet Amount: $13.94 (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: From a financial perspective, it’s nice to finally be betting against the Raiders. Oakland sucks with a capital SUCKS. Al Davis is desperately trying to justify his draft choices, and he’s willing to throw away an entire season’s worth of games just so that one time – one time – Jamarcus Russel and Darius Heyward-Bey can connect on a long bomb and he can claim vindication. Houston is certainly capable of putting up enough points to cover a nine point spread, and the only thing that will be keeping their offense off the field is having to wait for Jamarcus to finish throwing incompletions before Shane Lechler punts it away. I hate being so casual about picking against my team, but they really make it far too easy.




Gamblor’s Pick: New York Jets (+7)

Bet Amount: $10.54 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Can the Jets stop the Saints? Can anyone? Somebody eventually will, but I’m not sure it happens here. I keep writing about how I expect Mark Sanchez to get rattled, and he keeps proving me wrong. But that single half-point in the spread gives me pause. If New Orleans wins, they’ll win big. So why entice folks with a tease of a line? Any more will limit action on New Orleans. Any less won’t seem credible. As much as I like New Orleans in this situation, I think I just talked myself into taking the Jets.




Gamblor’s Pick: Miami (+1)

Bet Amount: $13.76 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Pennington is gone for the season. But I’m not really sure he brings all that much to the team that can’t be replaced. And Miami’s loss to San Diego would have been a very different game if not for Ronnie Brown’s clumsy fumble on the goal line in the first quarter. So I feel like I’m getting pretty good value on this line. With a week’s worth of leading the team in practice, Chad Henne should be able to function adequately against the Bills. And Buffalo has shown that they’re very capable of late-game collapses. They looked sharp in their first road game at New England, Miami is a much longer trip. I have the feeling that this is one of Vegas’ revenge games, so I’m happy with the computer’s choice of Miami.




Gamblor’s Pick: St. Louis (-9.5)

Bet Amount: $13.76 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: It’s going to be awfully difficult for San Francisco to bounce back after such a heartbreaking loss in Minnesota last week. San Francisco is looking really good this year, and if they keep playing like they’ve been they’ll end up in the playoffs, but I don’t think they have the offensive weapons to cover a large spread like this – particularly without Frank Gore. St. Louis actually managed to hang with Green Bay for three quarters before collapsing in the fourth, and I’m hoping they’ll manage just one more quarter against San Francisco. I think this is another revenge game for Vegas, taking advantage of the public’s enthusiasm for the 49ers.




Gamblor’s Pick: Dallas (-3)

Bet Amount: None (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Denver’s still got a lot to prove, and they’d love to do it at home against a perennial favorite like Dallas. Considering that Denver is undefeated and Dallas is 2-1, it’s pretty disrespectful for the books to list Denver as a home underdog. Gamblor agrees that this is a haywire line, which is why it’s leaning towards Dallas. It’ll be the Broncos riding the Cowboys this Sunday, bank on it.




Gamblor’s Pick: Pittsburgh (-6.5)

Bet Amount: None (Flip)

WHY I AGREE: Gamblor sees this line as being just a little high in favor of Pittsburgh, but not enough to risk any money on it. I’m glad. This is a very tough game to call, and based on the line and San Diego’s popularity, I’m tentatively picking Pittsburgh to win this game by a single touchdown.




Gamblor’s Pick: Green Bay (+3.5)

Bet Amount: $5.54 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: I see this as another instance where the line is a giveaway – Vegas is expecting a nice tight game that potentially goes into overtime, and gets decided by a field goal. Of course, it sure would be nice to see a complete meltdown from Brett Farve against his former team, but I don’t really expect that to happen here.





Weighted Wins

Weighted Picks

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