An ESPN story published last week just before the Golden State Warriors / Utah Jazz 7-game series detailed several absurd bets placed by Las Vegas area gamblers undeterred by the horribly lopsided betting lines. Prior to the series tip-off, Vegas sportsbooks had priced the Warriors as -10,000 (1/100) favorites in the NBA conference semi-finals.
In practical terms, that means you would have had to bet $100 on the Warriors for a total net profit of – wait for it – one measly dollar. What with this being Las Vegas and all, of course there were a few brave souls willing to take those odds.
According to ESPN, one sports bettor at the Wesgate SuperBook put up $50,000 on the Golden State Warriors in order to win a net profit of $500. That’s right; someone actually put fifty grand at risk to win $500.
At those odds, you would have to win this bet more than 99% of the time just to break even. And just for the record, Utah did beat Golden State back in April. Sure, it was a different game with Golden State resting its starters at the end, but still.
If you’re thinking to yourself that this must have just been a high roller with money to blow, you’d probably be right. But that wasn’t the only bet booked at extremely short odds.
ESPN reported that another bettor over at William Hill Nevada took that same wager at odds of -7,000 (1/70) but only risked $200. If the Warriors go on to win the series, whoever placed that bet stands to win an incredible $2.85.
You know, it’s weird but the $200 bet is even more demoralizing to consider. You can sort of imagine how someone with way too much money would be up for placing a ridiculous bet just because they get a kick out of that sort of thing. Those sums of money aren’t easy for most of us to relate to so it doesn’t seem as personal.
But the punter who bet a modest $200 for a short at a $2.85 payday? That’s just perplexing.
It would have been better to just bet on each game individually or place a parlay/accumulator of some sort to at least get the odds up a little higher than -10,000. There are just so many other, better options for betting on basketball at this time of year. It is difficult to understand the thought process behind these bets.
ESPN also reported on one other huge bet placed last week. One other gambler bet $576,000 on Golden State winning the first game of the series for a chance to win $36,000. That’s still pretty far out there, but at least the bettor earned enough of a return to actually do something with it. That game worked out as we know now, so at least we can close this story knowing someone earned more than mere pocket change.
At least it’s looking like those GSW believers will also be getting paid as of this writing. Golden State won the first three games in the series and Game 4 is ongoing as I write these very words. Unless Utah makes the series comeback of a lifetime, these gamblers are going to be getting paid.
Unfortunately, these high-rolling gamblers won’t be using their newfound winnings fund a nice vacation or get into a new car. They might be able to celebrate in a pretty decent buffet on the Strip, though.
How the Math Breaks Down
Earlier when I said Golden State would have to win this game 99% of the time for that $50,000 bet to be a breakeven wager over the long term, I meant that literally. 99% wasn’t just a convenient number; it’s how the math works out.
You can calculate the breakeven point of moneyline bets using this simple formula:
- Breakeven point = RISK / (RISK + PROFIT)
For example, let’s say you’re looking at betting $400 on a different team at odds of -400 (or 1/4 in fractional odds format).
In this case, the formula would look like this:
- Breakeven point = $400 / ($400 + $100)
- Breakeven point = $400 / $500
- Breakeven point = 0.80 or 80%
This means you need to win 80% of the bets you place at odds of -400 (1/4) in order to break even. A win rate of anything less means you stand to lose money over the long term.
I used that same formula to come to the 99% number:
- Breakeven point = $50,000 / ($50,000 + $500)
- Breakeven point = $50,000 / $50,500
- Breakeven point = 0.99009900
Thus, the breakeven point for betting at odds of -10,000 (1/100) is greater than 99%.
Wes Burns has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a writer, researcher, and analyst in the legal online betting industry and is co-founder of OnlineBettingSites.com. Wes approaches his work from the viewpoint of players.