Traditionally, when an NFL quarterback has been ruled out, bettors would rush to bet on the opponent to cover the spread before sportsbooks could pull the game off the board. These days, though, bookmakers face a more difficult task. Derrick Henry is a prime example.
Henry ran over more than the Houston Texans for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Sportsbooks felt the pain, too.
More bets were placed and more money wagered on Henry to score a touchdown Sunday than any other player at sportsbook PointsBet. He attracted three times as much money as any other player to score two-plus touchdowns.
At Caesars Sportsbook, the over/under on Henry’s rushing yards opened at 96.5 and grew to 104.5 after Titans starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was ruled out and rookie Malik Willis was named the starter. By Sunday morning, 98.9% of the money bet on Henry’s rushing yardage was on the over.
The increasing popularity of player prop bets has added to the challenge for bookmakers, who know if they’re slow to react to an injury, they’ll pay the price.
“It hurts, especially if you take your eye off the ball, miss any injury,” Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. “The ticker fills up within 30 seconds of 200 bets, and always max bets when it’s something like that.”
Bettors’ success backing Henry to have a big day was only part of what multiple sportsbooks called their worst Sunday of the season. By the time the prime-time game between the Buffalo Bills and underdog Green Bay Packers kicked off, Caesars Sportsbook was in a no-win situation.
“We’re stuck no matter what happens,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. “We’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of good weeks, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not horrible. But this one’s no good for this year.”
To Pullen’s point, Nevada sportsbooks won a net $70.7 million in September, the second-most lucrative month in the state’s history, behind only November 2021 ($72.0 million).
• Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM each reported losing days on a Sunday that saw favorites go 7-5 against the spread. “Worst week of the season so far,” Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, told ESPN in a text message Sunday.
Caesars pointed to the Titans and New England Patriots covering the spread — their wins over the Texans and New York Jets, respectively — as two of the most costly games for the house.
• The largest reported NFL bets at Caesars Sportsbook this week were: $325,000 on Broncos +3 (-130), $220,000 Saints +1.5, $130,000 on Vikings -3 (-130). All three were winners.
• “We had a great day on Saturday, one of our best of the season,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said. “However, the only word I could use to describe Sunday is forgettable. The games were boring, and we didn’t have the kind of volume we’ve enjoyed the past few weeks.”
• Murray added the New Orleans Saints’ 24-0 win over the Las Vegas Raiders and the Carolina Panthers covering the spread in a 37-34 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons were the best results of the day for the sportsbook.
“Our worst games were the Titans and the Cowboys,” Murray said. Dallas covered the spread in a 49-29 win over the Chicago Bears.
• On Friday, a bettor with PointsBet placed a $200 bet on the Panthers to win the Super Bowl at 500-1. The Panthers fell to 2-6 after Sunday’s loss to the Falcons.
World Series: ‘Significantly larger’ than any other bet Betfred USA has taken
Larger, more well-established U.S. sportsbook operators, like Caesars and MGM, are used to million-dollar bets like the ones they took from Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale over the summer on the Houston Astros to win the World Series.
Sportsbook Betfred, on the other hand, is not, at least not in the U.S.
Betfred, which has been taking bets in the United Kingdom for decades, is a relative newcomer to the U.S., where it is active in a handful of states. On July 23, Betfred accepted a $1 million bet on the Astros at 5-1 from McIngvale, who regularly places large wagers to mitigate the risk from promotional giveaways from Houston furniture store, Gallery Furniture.
McIngvale has approximately $10 million on the Astros to win the World Series. If Houston defeats the Phillies, he’ll give customers who spent at least $3,000 on furniture double their money back.
Bryan Bennett, chief operating officer for Betfred USA, said the $1 million bet is “significantly larger” than any other wager the company has taken since entering the U.S. market.
“While it’s a sweat and obviously might leave a little bit of mark on our U.S. results, we’re part of a much larger entity in the U.K., which takes seven-figure bets on the regular,” Bennett told ESPN. “It’s not as big of a sweat, globally, but, yeah, it’s fun for us.”
Bennett said Betfred USA is trying to have fun with the wager. The sportsbook’s twitter feed has an anti-Astros avatar, and it’s offering a “Fade Mattress Mack” promotion with enhanced odds on the Phillies. But making a significant dent on the liability the book faces on the Astros isn’t realistic at this point, Bennett says.
“We know there’s no chance that we even things out or even come close to leveling things out,” Bennett said. “We’re all Phillies fans for the next 10 days.”
While the seven-figure loss will sting, Bennett said no company holiday parties will be canceled.
“We’d prefer not to lose that bet, but there won’t be any ramifications,” he said.
College football notables
• Georgia opened as a 9-point home favorite over Tennessee on Sunday afternoon at Circa Sports in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. The line was down to a consensus -8 by Sunday evening. It’s the largest line on a game between the No. 1-ranked and No. 2-ranked teams since Florida State was a 9-point favorite over Auburn in 2013.
Caesars Sportsbook said it took a $50,000 bet on Georgia -8.5.
• Other notable opening lines: [via Circa Sports]
Alabama -12, 59.5 at LSU
Clemson -4, 47.5 at Notre Dame
Florida State -7, 46.5 at Miami (Florida)
Texas Tech at TCU -9, 70.5
Ohio State -36, 63.5 at Northwestern
• Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker moved past Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this weekend at Caesars Sportsbook. Hooker is even money, while Stroud is +180.
Odds and Ends
• A bettor with DraftKings won $2,730 on a $1 four-leg parlay featuring the scorers of the first field goal in four NBA games Monday. The bettor correctly picked: D’Angelo Russell to score first against the San Antonio Spurs, Pascal Siakam to score first against the Miami Heat, Tobias Harris to score first against the Indiana Pacers and Franz Wagner to score first against the New York Knicks.
• The Jake Paul-Anderson Silva fight attracted 11 times more money than the Vasiliy Lomachenko fight on Saturday at Caesars Sportsbook. Paul won a unanimous decision over Silva and afterward publicly challenged MMA veteran Nate Diaz to fight. The SuperBook has posted odds on a proposed Paul-Diaz bout. If Paul really does fight Nate Diaz and it’s scheduled for a soft weekend, I think it could do a lot of business, as long as it’s promoted well. Paul is listed as a -200 favorite over Diaz in a boxing match. No official announcement has been made about a Paul-Diaz fight.