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Sports betting is a fairly lucrative way to get the right amount of money if you have the necessary knowledge.
But even the most clever in the matter usually fail since the sport is not infallible. Once the event begins, everything is possible, although with much lower probabilities as reflected in the fees paid for something specific.
Surprises in sports history have existed since its inception. We can find clear examples in different times and sports: the Maracanazo in the 1950 World Cup, the defeat of the American Dream Team at the hands of Argentina in the World Cup of basketball in 2002, Buster Douglas’ KO to Mike Tyson in 1990, and Rafael Nadal’s fall at Roland Garros 2009 at the hands of Robin Soderling.
Those are just some of the events that have occurred throughout history. Today, I will review the surprises most prominent in the recent decade, which caused many predictions that sports is falling apart, and people with a lot of luck made fortunes with very little investment, almost ruining economically many bookmakers.
Wawrinka wins Roland Garros 2015
Roland Garros is a clay surface tennis tournament, and clay is synonymous with Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard is considered the most prolific tennis player on clay in history, and his numbers support this. He started his professional career in 2002, and already in 2005, he won his first Roland Garros, and to date, he has a total of 12 championships in that grand slam. In 2015, as usual, he started as a betting favourite to take the title of champion.
The houses paid around $3 for every dollar wagered in the event in favour of Spanish player. Nadal at the time was number six in the ranking, due to injuries that slowed his game, but in Paris, he was at home in his tournament. The second favourite at the bookmakers was the Serbian Novak Djokovic, first in the ranking at the time. Few aspirations were with the other participants.
Fate, whimsical as only it can be, decided that the two favourites would cross relatively early. Both faced each other in the quarter-finals. In an unexpected turn, Djokovic was victorious, leaving Nadal out of the competition and cementing himself as the public and betting favourite to take the trophy home.
However, more surprises were yet to come. Djokovic reached the final as planned after beating Andy Murray in the semi-finals in a five-set match. His rival was Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, the eighth best tennis player in the ranking. Wawrinka dispatched the legendary Roger Federer in the quarter-finals and the French Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals. He reached the final, with many predicting him to be the loser, a stigma that was changing as the game progressed.
After losing the first set 4-6, Wawrinka started the comeback, winning 6-4, 6-3 and 6-4 the rest of the sets to crown himself as champion, laying out the world number one.
Wawrinka’s victory, totally unexpected, paid for itself very well – pre-tournament, his odds were $17. All the Wawrinka fans who had a little faith in him and who gambled in his favour were very well rewarded.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks rise to glory
Life often gives you second chances. It gave them to the Dallas Mavericks, and with an iota of revenge in between.
The finals of the 2010-11 NBA season were played between the Miami Heat, the clear favourite to take the ring, and the Dallas Mavericks, who ran as underdogs throughout the season. Both teams faced each other in the 2005-06 finals in what was the first final reached for both teams in a season where neither team left with high hopes of getting there.
In those 2005-06 finals, the Miami Heat with Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade as the primary benchmarks would take the honours after starting by losing the series 2-0. Dirk Nowitzki, who was the team’s captain and his best player, was left without his coveted championship.
Five years later, they met again in the finals, but this time in a very different context. Miami Heat was the clear favourite to take the title in the playoff despite finishing behind the Bulls and Spurs in terms of a record in the regular season.
With a trident made up of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, everything seemed on track for the Heat to take the title, and bookmakers knew it, paying $4 for every dollar wagered. The second favourite was the Lakers, with $4.4 for every dollar wagered, and third was the Spurs with $9 for every dollar. Even Boston and Oklahoma had higher odds at the start of the playoffs paying 10.5/1 and 19.5/1, respectively.
Dallas didn’t even appear in the favourites photo, and the team led by Rick Carlisle was reckless in showing the world how much they were wrong. They beat Portland in the first round 4-2 to then dispatch the defending Lakers champions in the conference semi-finals 4-0, and still many doubted the Mavs, claiming that they reached the conference finals more because of the Lakers’ demerit than because of their own merits. In the conference finals, they faced Oklahoma and took the victory with authority.
The finals against Miami were a total challenge that the team knew how to face, completing a historic playoff by beating Miami 4-2, leaving the favourite without a championship in their own stadium.
Dirk Nowitzki, along with other renowned players such as Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marlon, Jose Juan Barea and company, showed the world what they were capable of and in the process fattened the coffers of many people since their victory was so unthinkable at the start of the post-season, more than $25 was paid for every dollar wagered. It was round business for their fans and themselves, who got their first and only NBA title to date.
The Nats and an unthinkable World Series
Major League Baseball’s biggest surprise over the past decade occurred recently, and it’s a pretty fresh memory in the collective memory.
The Washington Nationals defied all logic and probability to end up taking the MLB champions title against the Houston Astros, who set off the season as favourites to take the honours.
The Astros had a couple of monsters in the pitching rotation with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, in addition to having renowned MLB players like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, George Springer and Carlos Correa on their roster. Earlier in the season, the Astros’ World Series victory paid out at $6 for every dollar wagered. Nearby they were followed by Boston, the Dodgers and the Yankees, with odds of 6/1, 7/1 and 7/1, respectively.
The Nationals were not even close to being among the best teams in the 2019 season. The loss of Bryce Harper, who had been the leading benchmark and emblem of the institution in recent years, left the Washington team adrift and with many doubts if they could achieve success in the campaign, since although his rotation was a three-headed monster with Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, the rest of the squad was weak in many aspects.
There was less hope after it was announced that Harper would join the Phillies, a team that directly competes against the Nats in their same division. In addition, Atlanta continued to remain strong contenders to win the division, and other teams, such as the Phillies and Mets, had beefed up a lot in the preseason, leaving the Nationals with $16 for every dollar if they won the World Series.
Washington’s weaknesses were noticed during the first half of the season, with a team of relievers that was among the worst in the league in addition to having constant injuries that plagued its players.
All of this put manager Dave Martinez in the eye of the hurricane. In May, Washington paid $50 for every dollar wagered if they went on to win the World Series, which translates into a win of $2500 with a bet of $50. But the team changed considerably for the second half of the season and starting in June, the Nationals began to win game after game and climbed from the fourth position in their division to being second behind Atlanta, accessing the post-season as wildcards, winning en route to the Mets and Phillies in their division, who did not meet expectations.
Within a month of the end of the regular season, bookmakers still did not trust the Nats much and almost rated the comeback they had been orchestrating as lucky, paying $25 for every dollar wagered if they managed to win top honours.
Odds were significantly lower for the Astros compared to how the season started. After they acquired Zack Greinke mid-season, the roster talent was joined by young sensation Yordan Álvarez as well as having the best record in the entire MLB. His share decreased to $2.5 for every dollar wagered.
The post-season started in October, and the Nationals’ adventure would start the same way their season was: coming from behind. In the wildcard duel, they faced Milwaukee, and things started severely when their ace Scherzer put the team at a disadvantage and retired, leaving them two runs below. The game was in the eighth inning, and Milwaukee sent Josh Hader, the league’s best reliever, to end the game. But the night was just not going to smile at Hader, and it was Juan Soto, the the successor of Harper, who hit with bases loaded to consummate the comeback of the Nats by 4-3.
In the next round, they would face the Dodgers, the second team with the best MLB record and favourites to face the Astros in the World Series. Washington played well enough to force a fifth and decisive game in the match, which was a mimic of the situation presented to the Nats in the previous round.
Again they made it to the eighth inning two runs down. Again they faced one of the great arms of the MLB, Clayton Kershaw. Again, they did. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit solo home runs that tied the game and forced them to play extra innings. In the tenth inning, Howie Kendrick, who had had an unfortunate post-season filled with errors and poor offensive efficiency, dressed up as a hero, connecting a grand slam against Joe Kelly that led the Nats to a 7-3 victory.
The championship series was a walk for Washington, and they swept the Cardinals 4-0, who went further than their team’s capabilities allowed and thus reached the World Series against the colossus of Texas.
The World Series started with the Nats paying $2 for every dollar if they won the championship, being the team least likely to win according to the bookies since the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series. The Nats, true to their fighting spirit, forced back one last decisive game and again cut back a two-run deficit in the last innings to finish by winning 6-2 and taking the World Series trophy home for the first time in its history, putting an end to a season where the stars lined up for the team.
As these stories of improbable titles, there are many more in recent years: Leicester City’s Premier League in 2015-16 and Chelsea lifting the Champions League in 2011-12 are some of the most featured.
It is not every day that historical events like these occur, but the victories of non-favourites do occur often and are very well rewarded with juicy odds. It only takes the necessary sports knowledge and a good feeling to win thanks to them.