Life Lesson: Don’t Bet $300,000 on the Carolina Panthers

Every week during the football season, I participate in a free game-picking contest. It’s fun and gives me a little something extra to cheer for in the games that I normally wouldn’t care about. But holy cow, am I terrible at picking winners. And it’s just winners – I don’t even pick games against the spread. Once in a while I have a great week and then brag to my wife who nods and smiles as if she actually cares. The vast majority of the time, though, am I thankful I don’t put real money on the line. Like the person last weekend who put $300,000 on the Carolina Panthers in what had to be a dare gone horribly wrong.

Carolina Panthers made no fans this day

Now, to be fair, the Panthers had been playing well. They got off to a shaky start with a gimpy Cam Newton and lost their first two games, but since he hit the bench to get healthy, the team had rattled off four wins in a row. They were on the road against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, but the Panthers had won most of their games away from Charlotte and the 49ers, even though they were destroying everybody, had one of the weakest schedules in the league.

The Carolina Panthers opened as a 6.5 point underdog, a line which looked juicy to professional bettors. Sportsbooks told ESPN that the Panthers were a popular pick among the pros.

“Some big-time players really liked the Panthers,” Caesars Sportsbook senior oddsmaker Alan Berg said. “The handle was really big on that game, too.”

One customer of the MGM sportsbook in Nevada liked the Panthers so much that he placed three separate $100,000 on the NFC South contender. The line had shrunk by Sunday, so he made one his bets on the Panthers +4.5 and the two others at +4.

Thus, this person needed the Panthers to either win the game against the 49ers or lose by four points or fewer. A four-point loss would have been a push for two of the bets, but would have won him the other. A loss by three points or fewer would have won him all three.

The Carolina Panthers lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, 51-13. The game was basically over by halftime, as the Panthers headed to the locker room down by 24. Our unfortunate bettor who lost $300,000 didn’t even have a sweat.

It was so bad that Jeff Stoneback, director of sports for MGM in Nevada, told ESPN, “At one point, I saw the in-game line come across at Panthers +40.5.”

Hey, if you got in on that line, you would have won!

With all the money that was put on the Carolina Panthers, Stoneback said the game “basically made our day.”

Houston Astros seemed like a sure thing

But that unnamed bettor was not the biggest loser of the week. That distinction goes to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, the owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston. McIngvale ran a promotion this year in which he offered to refund any mattress purchase of $3,000 or more if the Houston Astros won the World Series. Considering the Astros were the best team all season, this seemed like a solid bet for Gallery Furniture customers. McIngvale estimated that he was on the hook for more than $15 million if the Astros were to win.

And as a Houston guy, he wanted the Astros to win. He was not content to lose $15 million, though, so he proceeded to fly around the country and place massive hedge bets on the Astros to win.

Before the playoffs started, he plunked down $3.5 million at DraftKings sportsbook in Biloxi, Mississippi, getting +220 odds on the ‘stros. He then made a $1.5 million wager at FanDuel’s sportsbook in Atlantic City and got +250 for a $200,000 bet at South Point in Las Vegas. He also made a series of undisclosed wagers at Caesars, MGM, Circa sports, and Treasure Island.

Houston made the World Series, but things did not start out well for the biggest Series favorite since 2007, as they lost the first two games at home. The good news for McIngvale, though, was that he could place more bets and get a better price.

The Astros won the next three games in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals and thus only needed to win one of two remaining games back in Houston to clinch their second title in three years. And with two potential Hall of Fame-level pitchers slated to start for them – Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke – things were looking rosy. McIngvale placed more bets, included a $675,000 wager on the home town team to win the deciding Game 7 after the Nationals won Game 6.

Mattress Mack didn’t know the exact amount he had on the line, but counting futures, he knows he had at least $11.6 million riding on the Astros.

The Washington Nationals won Game 7 and the World Series for the franchise’s first championship ever. McIngvale had lost a ton of money, but probably not quite as much as he would have lost had the Astros won and had he not bet at all.

He wasn’t upset, though. McIngvale told ESPN that he got a ton of marketing as a result of his betting.


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