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Bettor denied $1M prize in DraftKings $2.5M betting contest

Updated January 14, 2019 - 9:07 pm

Rufus Peabody has no doubt in his mind that he would’ve won the $1 million first prize of the inaugural DraftKings sports betting national championship if not for a controversial ending Sunday in New Jersey.

The professional sports bettor was leading the $10,000 buy-in contest, which featured a $2.5 million prize pool, before he was prevented from wagering on the final game between the Saints and Eagles.

Peabody won his all-in wager of $42,875 on the Patriots (-3½) to increase his bankroll to $81,891, which gave him a lead of about $24,000 with one game left.

But he never got a chance to place a bet on the Saints-Eagles because his account wasn’t credited until after the 4:40 p.m. ET kickoff.

New England’s 41-28 win over the Chargers ended at 4:37 p.m. ET, only three minutes before the scheduled start of the Saints-Eagles.

Peabody said he repeatedly refreshed his browser in the interim waiting for his DraftKings contest account to be credited before posting a 4:41 p.m. ET screenshot of it on Twitter with the caption: “Balance $0.01. Game: started.”

Players could wager on any sport on their mobile app Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday were restricted to the two NFL playoff games. In-play wagering was allowed on the Patriots’ game but not on the Saints-Eagles.

Randy Lee of New Jersey, under the username rleejr86, won the $1 million first prize instead with a bankroll of $101,474 after winning his final wager of $47,500 on Philadelphia (+8½), which lost 20-14 to New Orleans.

The username nomoreiloveyous claimed the $350,000 second-place prize with a bankroll of $88,206 after winning its final bet of $35,000 on the Eagles (+8½).

Peabody, 33, of Washington, D.C., had to settle for the $250,000 third-place prize (and his $81,891 bankroll). But he said he would’ve won had he been able to bet on the final game.

“I spent 2½ hours going over what I was going to do and talking about it with some friends,” Peabody said Monday in a phone interview. “I was going to push all of my bankroll in. It was going to be hopefully a million bucks or zero bucks.

“I was between a few different options, but all those options ended up winning. I don’t see how I would not have won.”

Based on game theory and the assumption that players behind him were going to bet on the Eagles on the money line, Peabody wanted to put himself in position that if the Saints won, he wasn’t going to get caught.

“I wanted to be protected,” he said. “The number I was trying to get to where I thought I was going to be safe was the alternate point spread of the Saints minus 5 (minus 175).

“The other bet I liked, if it was closer and I had to try to double up, was the under on the game.”

$1M ‘bad beat’

Adding to the controversy was the fact that some players had their wagers on the Patriots’ game credited to their account in time to bet on the Saints-Eagles, while Peabody and others were shut out.

“I want to be clear that I don’t think there was any malice on the part of DraftKings,” Peabody said. “But the fact that some people’s bets were graded quicker than others and some people had a chance to put bets down on the last game, and others, like myself, did not, to me that’s not fair.

“This isn’t some $10,000 bet here. This is a $1 million first prize and I was leading the contest. I do feel like it wasn’t fair.”

DraftKings, in a statement Sunday, said: “We recognize that in the rules the scheduled end of betting coincided very closely to the finish of the Patriots-Chargers game. While we must follow our contest rules, we sincerely apologize for the experience several customers had where their bets were not graded in time to allow wagering on the Saints-Eagles game. We will learn from this experience and improve upon the rules and experience for future events.”

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said Monday it is reviewing the DraftKings tournament, the first high profile contest of its kind since sports betting was legalized in New Jersey.

And DraftKings was not the only mobile sports book to experience problems Sunday. FanDuel’s app and site went down for at least 45 minutes during the Saints-Eagles game, angering customers who were looking to make live in-game bets as it unfolded. FanDuel said Monday it is reviewing the incident.

Peabody experienced a wide range of emotions Sunday, including disbelief when he couldn’t get his bet down and relief when the Eagles took a quick 14-0 lead.

“I thought it might’ve saved me some money. That’s probably why I was not as upset,” he said. “But even when the Saints came back to win, I was a little more philosophical about it. I wasn’t livid. Worrying about things outside your control is a recipe for unhappiness.

“It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. But it’s only money.”

Whether or not Sunday’s ending was the worst bad beat of Peabody’s life remains to be seen.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “I’m exploring my options.”

Asked if DraftKings has reached out to him, Peabody said, “We’ve been in contact. I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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