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April 2, 2020

The Grandmaster Discusses All-Time Sports Bad Beats

Essential to my handicapping prosperity has been zigging while many gamblers are zagging. However, in this essay, I will hop on the bandwagon in chattering about bad beats. 

Consistent with not being part of the echo chamber, I do differentiate between “bad beats” and heartbreaking losses, though they are far from mutually exclusive. My top two criterion for true bad beats:

  1. Irrational happenings ensued in true garbage time. The straight up results was already decided
  2. Overtime/extra inning heartbreak. A big underdog fails to cover in overtime or it takes multiple overtimes to exceed the total

The 2014 Bahamas Bowl is widely deemed one of the ugliest if not the No. 1 bad beat of all-time. 

Central Michigan outscored Western Kentucky a breath-taking 34-0 in the fourth quarter, then missed on a two-point conversion to lose by one, getting 3.5 points. Soul-crushing if you were on the downside of the miracle, but because every point mattered in the straight-up outcome, I can’t regard it a top 5 bad beat, though certainly a stunner for the ages. 

Also, it was nationally televised, and the only game played that day. Higher-profile games will always be more memorable and bias people. 

In the name of full disclosure, of course I recall that game very well and may be partial. It was my all-time miracle cover, though probably not topping “good/bad beat” catalog for reasons nuanced above. But the overwhelming part for me individually is that it occured in the midst of one of my worst declines and bad beat runs ever. In fact, it concluded it. It’s crazy how being on the right side of such truly turns the worm.

Christmas continues to be my favorite holiday and my eldest child was born Christmas Eve. So December 24 (when said game was played) is a joyous time for me. As we were celebrating his birthday at my son’s favorite restaurant, I observed the score-in-progress on my phone and concluded it was clear my almost unheard-of rough patch would endure. 

We ventured home and I seized a much-needed mental nap. Several hours later upon waking, I checked my computer and swore I was still asleep and dreaming…or awake and hallucinating.  I went to probably 4-5 sites at least before I trusted the score. Yep MyBookie posted it as a winner in my account. In fact, I went to the little boys room, cleared out some cobwebs, reassured myself I was awake and corroborated the final tally one last time. What a great Christmas gift. 

If I were on the other side, granted I may not have yet recovered, but for perhaps semantical reasons, some lower profile games were worse beats. 

As you are about to observe, I can’t recollect every detail or even the exact teams of my most terrible bad beats. But they were lower-profile games. I long to have the photographic memory of respected capper Jeff Nadu for this assignment.

Twice in 2019, I lost unders that went into overtime more than 25 points below the total. Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern had a posted total of 45 on Oct. 19. No problem, they are tied at 10 at the end of regulation. Oh a mere 37 points in overtime kills me. 

I cannot immediately recall the other one, but all but certain, we went into extra period more than 30 points below the total. And lost. 

Sunday, June 13, 2004, I made one of my biggest bets ever. It was my IL Total of the Year. Overwhelming evidence all pointed towards the New York Yankees-San Diego UNDER 10.5.

What a call. Or so I thought. San Diego leads 2-0, two outs, bottom 9, nobody on. And then all hell broke loose. Of course Yankees tie and send to extra innings. Then the teams combined for seven runs in the 12thas the Bronx Bombers put it over the total with two outs to end it! 

Here is the boxscore!

The reason I suck on my bar trivia team is because I battle to recall meticulous particulars, even teams involved. Despite my research acumen, only recalling conferences, not opponents robs me from presenting easily quantifiable nominations. But premise and basic essentials of these are accurate if not slightly imprecise. 

Circa 1990, pretty certain it was a Colonial Athletic Conference game on Sports Channel America. Though I don’t swear it was Navy-George Mason, I did unearth that in the ’90-‘91 season Mason beat them 85-79 at a bad Navy team. I could not uncover an archived synopsis nor odds, but it may be said game. Or maybe not. 

But the gist is accurate. I had the underdog +5.5 and they are winning outright by one. Favorite has last possession and gets back into front court and calls timeout with seconds remaining. The only realistic scenario I get screwed is if chalk gets fouled, makes 1-of-2 and the game continues into overtime. 

But then the impossible took place. Chalk makes a three-pointer to go up by two. Underdog calls a timeout…but they had none. I believe the dead ball technical meant two-shots, plus loss of possession. Yep, chalk hits two free throws. They inbound, get fouled and convert two more free throws. 

Presuming I did not fumble a detail, I am pretty certain it was seven-points in seconds to cover by a half. 

A great beat I had, was possibly the first year of overtime rules in college football, 1995. Either way, mid-to-late 90s. I had the favorite laying about 9.5 in what I am all-but-certain was a late-night Pac-12 game. My team got a touchdown in overtime, but of course their opponent got possession at the “bottom” of overtime. My chalk ends it with a defensive TD to win by 13 in overtime. 

If those with more unerring memories can help me fill in the blanks, please let me know

High-profile games are clearly easier to recall. But after well-over 50,000 bets in my lifetime, I assure you the obscure ones bring every bit as much suffering or sometimes ecstasy. 

The legendary Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Essentially that theory applies in gambling, but not always in a positive way. I’ve learned I will forget the exact opponents, I will forget the precise details, but I will never forget how those bad beats made me feel. 

Joe Duffy is CEO of OffshoreInsiders.com and widely accepted as the best capper in sports gambling history. 

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