Sportsbook operator DraftKings reported taking several very big bets this week, each for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
These days, with the American sports betting market expanding around the nation, six-figure bets are much more common than they were in years past. Traditionally, though, the largest bets were on the point spread or money line of big games. Those types of wagers attract the most betting handle, so taking a big bet on a point spread, for example, makes it easier for bookmakers to mitigate risk.
Most of the big bets reported by DraftKings this week, however, were different:
• $795,200 on the Thursday night game between the Dolphins and Jaguars to go over 41.5 points at -270. (The consensus closing total was 47.5, so the bettor had to pay the extra juice to make the bet at 41.5.)
The Dolphins kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:49 remaining to finish off a 31-13 victory and give the bettor in New Jersey a $294,224 net win.
• $250,000 on Celtics guard Marcus Smart to score more than 12.5 points in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Smart finished with 10.
• $500,000 on the Giants +4 versus the 49ers. San Francisco won 36-9.
• $500,000 on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to pass for more than 244.5 yards. Jones finished with 179.
"These are some of the biggest prop bets that you'll ever see," DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker, said.
Not just anyone can open a betting account with DraftKings -- or any U.S. sportsbook, for that matter -- and fire away hundreds of thousands of dollars on random propositions. Professional bettors are regularly limited in terms of how much they can wager at all sportsbooks, and some bookmakers simply decline to accept bets from any customer they believe to be "uneconomical" to their bottom line.
But select customers who earn VIP status -- often by playing big in the casino pit or by staying in high-dollar suites in Las Vegas resorts, for example -- are granted extended limits as a courtesy. Before accepting these giant wagers, DraftKings runs background checks to ensure compliance with anti-money laundering and requires bank statements as well as proof of income.
"We have a lot of customers that not only bet the sides, totals and money lines, but they like to bet on the props, too, and they want to bet a substantial amount of money, so we accommodate those customers," Avello said.
While you check your account balance to see if you can put half a million dollars on Patrick Mahomes' rushing yards on Monday night, here is this week's edition of notable bets, our look at the action at sportsbooks around the country.
NFL notable bets
• The Ravens are consensus 3.5-point favorites over the Chiefs on Monday night. The early action indicates a public-pro divide, with the sharper bets on Baltimore, according to multiple sportsbooks.
"We know a lot of sharp guys that like Baltimore in that game. I can see why," John Murray, executive director of the Superbook, said. "Baltimore was the best team in the NFL last season and I believe they're the best team in the NFL this season, but you're talking about a one-game scenario and Patrick Mahomes is the other team's QB. Not exactly a sure thing to be laying points there."
• As of Sunday morning, 91% of the money at FanDuel was on the over (54.5) in Chiefs-Ravens.
• Sportsbook PointsBet opened with the Ravens as 2.5-point favorites and took consistent sharp and public action on Baltimore, which drove the line to -3 and eventually -3.5. "Book will be rooting for the under and a Ravens win, preferably by one or two points," PointsBet communications director Patrick Eichner said.
• Most sportsbooks said Sunday was a small winning day for the house, with the prime-time game between the underdog Packers and Saints deciding the fate for some bookmakers.
"[We] need under in late game to call [Sunday] a success," Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN. But the game went over, with Green Bay defeating New Orleans 37-30.
"We had a real good day Sunday," Murray said. "No complaints about our day Sunday."
• Three hours prior to kickoff, 95% of the money at DraftKings was on the Packers to beat the favored Saints straight up.
• Trailing the Falcons 26-10 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears were 16-1 to pull off a comeback. Backup quarterback Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 of the game, leading Chicago to a stunning 30-26 win.
• A bettor at the sportsbook at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, placed a $100,000 money-line bet on the Bears at +120.
• William Hill U.S. sportsbooks reported taking a $52,000 money-line wager on the Colts to beat the Jets at -700. It was the largest money-line bet the book took on the early kickoffs, and it won easily, as Indianapolis cruised to a 36-7 victory. The bettor won a net $7,428.
"In what is becoming a trend, the Jets continued to cost us big," Thomas Gable, sportsbook director at the Borgata, said.
• Despite taking the $500,000 bet on the Giants mentioned above, DraftKings ended up taking more money overall on the 49ers, according to Avello.
• The Buccaneers were the most popular bet at BetRivers sportsbooks, attracting 90% of point-spread bets. Tampa Bay covered as a 6-point favorite in a 28-10 win over Denver.
• The Bills, leading the Rams 28-3 in the second half, were -4,000 favorites to win at William Hill books. The Rams roared back and took a 32-28 the lead with 4:30 left to play, but the Bills responded and scored with 15 seconds remaining to prevail.
• On Friday the Borgata took a $25,000 bet on Bills quarterback Josh Allen to win the regular-season MVP at 25-1. The bet would win a net $625,000.
• Oklahoma could be found as a -4,000 money-line favorite over Kansas State, with the Wildcats listed as around 15-1 underdogs. At William Hill sportsbooks, the Sooners were listed at -2,800 when a bettor placed a $3,590 money-line bet on Oklahoma. That bet would've won a net $141.
A representative for William Hill told ESPN that the largest pregame money-line bet on Kansas State was $100 at 13-1.
Leading Kansas State 35-14 in the third quarter on Saturday, Oklahoma's odds grew to -6,000. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, teams trailing a top-5 team by 21 points or more were 1-545 since 2004. The lone win was in 2005, when No. 10 Tennessee won 30-27 over No. 4 LSU -- the Volunteers trailed 21-0 in that game.
• Iowa State was a 2.5- or 3-point favorite for much of the week leading up to its game against TCU, before closing as a consensus 4-point favorite. The Horned Frogs scored a touchdown as time expired to cut the Cyclones' lead to three, but TCU chose not to attempt the extra point. Final score: Iowa State 37, TCU 34.
• On Sunday the SuperBook took a $25,000 bet on Alabama to win the national championship at 5-1 odds. Clemson remains the favorite at 5-2, followed by Ohio State at 3-1. With the Pac-12 announcing it will hold an abbreviated season this fall, Oregon is back in the picture and is listed at 30-1.
• After upsetting LSU, Mississippi State's odds to win the national championship improved from 2,000-1 to 60-1 at the SuperBook.
• Here are some notable opening lines at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports:
South Carolina at Florida (-20.5, 53.5)
Virginia at Clemson (-29, 50.5)
Oklahoma (-12, 59.5) at Iowa State
Texas A&M at Alabama (-13, 52.5)
Auburn at Georgia (-8, 38.5)
• Game 5 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets on Saturday attracted twice as much betting handle as the Florida State-Miami game at the SuperBook.
• Here is the NBA Finals opening series price, via the Superbook: Heat +375 vs. Lakers -450
Odds & ends
• Legal sportsbooks are now operating in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Tennessee is poised to be No. 19 and is aiming to launch its sports betting market in November.
• Bettors staked $128.6 million with Colorado sportsbooks in August, the state's biggest month since launching its legal sports betting market in May. The sportsbooks won a net $7.3 million during the month.
Basketball attracted the most action, with $38 million, followed by baseball at $22.9 million. The fourth-most popular betting sport? Table tennis, which attracted $4.5 million, more than golf, soccer, tennis and MMA.