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Top 5 bad beats in Super Bowl betting history

Everything is magnified in the Super Bowl, including bad beats, which still make bettors wince years after their apparent wins turned into agonizing losses.

Here is a list of the top five bad beats in Super Bowl history, including arguably the worst prop beat and worst beat suffered by sportsbooks.

5. ‘Black Sunday’

It’s been said that there’s more sympathy for the devil than the bookmaker. So it might warm the hearts of bettors to recount the tale of the 1979 Super Bowl that was dubbed “Black Sunday” by Las Vegas bookmakers after they were buried by bettors who middled the game, or won on both sides.

The Steelers opened as 2½-point favorites over the Cowboys, and the line climbed as high as 5. It landed on 4, as Pittsburgh’s 35-31 victory made winners of virtually everybody who had action on it.

“That game was the biggest losing Sunday for the Super Bowl that ever was,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro told the Review-Journal in 2017.

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the inspiration for Robert DeNiro’s character in the movie “Casino,” ran a promotion at the Stardust offering bettors the chance to lay 3½ points with the Steelers and take 4½ points with the Cowboys.

Longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Vinny Magliulo, a young dice dealer at the time, was one of the bettors who cashed in on the promotion.

“I laid the 3½ and took the 4½ for everything I could at the time, which was a grand total of about 300 bucks,” he said, laughing. “I was on the public side of Black Sunday but converted shortly thereafter.”

After Jackie Smith infamously dropped a sure touchdown catch in the end zone for Dallas in the third quarter, Pittsburgh scored two TDs in 19 seconds to go ahead 35-17 in the fourth. But Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw two TD passes in the final 2:27 for the backdoor middle. After his 7-yard strike to Billy Joe DuPree cut the deficit to 35-24, Dallas recovered an onside kick. Staubach then hit Butch Johnson for a 4-yard TD with 22 seconds left.

4. ‘Immaculate Interception’

The 2009 Super Bowl between the Steelers and Cardinals dealt two bad beats to bettors. Gamblers who had Arizona (+3) in the first half appeared to be on the verge of cashing their tickets when the Cardinals, trailing 10-7, had a first-and-goal at the 1 with 18 seconds left in the second quarter.

But then Kurt Warner’s pass was picked off by James Harrison, who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown in what at the time was the longest play in Super Bowl history.

Bettors who had under 46 had to like their chances when the Steelers had the ball and a 20-14 lead with 3:04 left. But that changed quickly. Arizona scored a safety when Pittsburgh was called for holding in the end zone. Two plays later, Warner threw a 64-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals suddenly led 23-20 with 2:37 left.

That was more than enough time for Ben Roethlisberger to direct a game-winning drive, punctuated by his 6-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left that pushed the total over and propelled the Steelers to a 27-23 win.

3. Butler did it

In the only Super Bowl that closed at pick’em, the Seahawks trailed the Patriots 28-24 in the final seconds after they blew a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead. But Seattle appeared almost certain to win the 2015 game after Jermaine Kearse made a spectacular 33-yard catch and Marshawn Lynch ran 4 yards to the 1-yard line with 1:06 left.

What followed will haunt Seahawks fans and bettors forever. Rather than hand the ball to Lynch, who was in full “Beast Mode” with 102 yards rushing and a touchdown, Russell Wilson threw a pass that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler in one of the most shocking Super Bowl endings.

2. Three knees to the gut

Bettors who wagered on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to go over his rushing yards prop in 2020 were counting their winnings when Kansas City went into the victory formation at the end of their 31-20 win over the 49ers.

Mahomes had 44 rushing yards, easily eclipsing the total that ranged from 30½ to 36½. But he lost 15 yards after taking three deep kneel-downs to help run out the clock. That left him with 29 rushing yards, turning Mahomes over bettors from winners to losers.

1. 28-3

Forget about Super Bowl history. Gamblers who had the Falcons (+3) over the Patriots in the 2017 NFL title game suffered one of the worst beats in sports betting history.

Atlanta led 28-3 with 2:12 left in the third quarter, when it had a 99.8 percent win probability. But it was all New England after that, as Tom Brady engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady led the Patriots on five straight scoring drives that produced 31 points en route to an epic 34-28 overtime win.

Bettors who had under 57 also were dealt a brutal beat, as New England scored two touchdowns and two two-point conversions in the final six minutes of regulation to tie the game at 28, ensuring the game would go over the total.

Falcons bettors still had a chance to push (+3) or win (if they got +3½) in overtime. But the Patriots won the coin toss and marched straight down the field before James White scored on a 2-yard run to cap the improbable rally.

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

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