Barstool Sports: The night the lights went out in Vegas

You've probably read Barstool Sports, a kick ass sports blog with an East Coast focus. They join us every week to enlighten us on their own betting experiences. This week Pete Manzo tells us about one of the most overlooked scandals in recent betting history.

People always have bad beat stories. But there is no doubt what is the worst bad beat in the history of gambling. It's the night the lights went out in Vegas. 

For the non-degenerates in the audience, the game I am referring to is UNLV/Wisconsin, played August 31, 2002.

As you’ll see, the game’s ending was shadier and more mysterious than a North End election. What you will also see is that of all the unpaid writers in all of metro Boston, this one just so happened to be vacationing in Las Vegas that week and in attendance at Sam Boyd Stadium that night.

Here is my account of the events leading up to and through the now infamous game:

When I arrived in Vegas on Tuesday night the 27th, it didn’t take long to figure out who UNLV was playing in their home opener on Saturday. Whether it was the Tram to the Mandalay, the front row at Club Paradise, or the line (again) at the ATM, you couldn’t go 10 feet without seeing someone sporting “Bucky the Badger” paraphernalia or wearing a friggin’ foam block of cheese atop their head.

Wisconsin fans had actually flocked in such droves that week that the game itself set an all-time attendance record for UNLV football.

What Badger fans also did was flood the sportsbooks. And rightly so.

In fact, when I first noticed the line at “Wisc…3….UNLV” written in red magic marker at the “palatial” Tropicana sportsbook, I too nearly put down my Keno Gold card and hopped the six folding chairs blocking my path to the betting counter.

Huh?

How could UNLV only be getting a field goal to a Big Ten power like Wisconsin? Did Randall Cunningham have an extra year of eligibility I didn’t know about? Is the Fonz the new coach for the Badgers?

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Posted by papahoho
4 years ago

you absolutely could bet UNLV in 2002. this story is 100% true. the ban was lifted in 2001.
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Posted by mrusso
4 years ago

Thank you King for bringing that to Mr. Walleyes attention. If that's an example of his football knowledge, I'd love to be his bookie
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Posted by jetvegas
4 years ago

small world. unlucky for me i was working the book the morning after at the trop. i was facing a sea of red screeming at me when they found out what happened. some refused to cash in their tickets and said they would see lawyers when they got back home. almost fell off my chair when i saw the story on covers this morning!
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Posted by ace7
4 years ago

I live in Reno and have for 5 years now. You can get action on nevada teams ever since I've been here. I don't know if that was different before I got here. But I know it's been that way since I've been here. 2002 was two years before I moved here.
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Posted by tpier11
4 years ago

haha think of how relieved those saps who took UNLV felt after the game - 2 sides to every coin i guess
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Posted by King_III
4 years ago

I guess you are new to sports WalleyeJB but they never kick FG or XPTs to go to OT in the preseason. Good try at a story though WalleyeJB says: 10/02/09 06:28AM How about a good beat. I had a friend I went to school with that worked as a Vegas bookie. He said every team owes them but it's easier to call in a sure bet in preseason. Pitt and I think TB. He says bet the mortgage on the under 36. I'm not a big bettor at the time but I put 20 dimes on the under. I'm going crazy, can hardly watch. One minute left, score 17-10 TB. Pitt throws a short pass and breaks it for a TD. 17-16 and extra point ties it. OT.....OH S--t. Pitt calls timeout and goes for two. If they make it 35, miss it 33. I can't lose. That's the day I knew who ruled sports
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Posted by sonpal
4 years ago

By the way - are games fixed? Of course, more than people know. But is it a casino fixing it? No. They don't have the reach, they don't have the power to call coaches (I love hearing about those) and the most overlooked fact of all - to do so, they would risk losing their license and access to the geese (sheep) that lay the golden eggs.
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Posted by gordhead
4 years ago

My bad...I guess I'm wrong. But i've been in Reno and tried to wager on a nevada game when i was reminded of that "rule". That was 8-10 years ago, so perhaps things have changed.
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Posted by sonpal
4 years ago

No subject has more misinformation posted about it than Vegas, from those that still believe that all but maybe 2-3 casinos actually have odds makers rather than line movers, to those that insist they make "trap" lines, to the totally clueless that think sports books have the power to fix games. On the above matter, the Wisc/UNLV game, action was taken. The law had been changed to avoid the calls of hypocrisy. Some powerful lobbies were seeking to ban betting on collegiate sports. Vegas obviously took the other side of the debate. The lobbies pointed fingers, saying "Sure, you want betting on MY school, but you don't even allow bets on YOUR schools (Wolf Pack & Rebels.) So, betting became legal on the 2 schools to shut off that avenue of objection to allowing wagering on collegiate sports. As for the particular game above, what the knuckleheads usually fail to point out, or claim to have inside knowledge of when they have nothing of the sort, is that who is to say the books needed UNLV that night? Badger bettors claim they were ripped off because Vegas would have lost $, but they have zero knowledge of what side books needed, and they usually can't fathom the simple concept that books might have lost too, because more $ was wagered on UNLV than Wisconsin. They'll claim things like, "I know for a fact BOOK X had more Badger money" based on the what some ticket seller said, or how many angry Badger fans they saw at the counter, or what the line move was, discounting all bettable options such as parlays and teasers in play for the weekend. I can't speak for all books, as some who tell this story do, but I can speak for 3-4 that I spoke with (because I know them personally and we shared such info on a daily weekly basis) and I can certainly speak for one, because I was running it - the lights going out didn't save us, we needed Wisconsin. It makes for an interesting tale, but like much of what is written about Vegas on the internet it's just that - a tale. A tall one at that.
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Posted by gordhead
4 years ago

Last time I checked you couldn't wager on a Nevada team in the state of Nevada!!! WTF! Is this just a bullshit story or am I missing something...???
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Posted by Flipside715
4 years ago

hey i wanna know what u guys think of this...last year, i took the panthers at -10 against the raiders...i think deangelo gotta another late TD to put them up 17-6 and for the last drive of the game wit under a min left, the raiders got barely close to mid-field with 3 seconds left, but cable brings out janikowski to try some meaningless 60+ yard FG, ended up bouncing off the bottom crossbar to be No good...isnt that kinda sketchy? has cable been doin this multiple times?
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Posted by WalleyeJB
4 years ago

How about a good beat. I had a friend I went to school with that worked as a Vegas bookie. He said every team owes them but it's easier to call in a sure bet in preseason. Pitt and I think TB. He says bet the mortgage on the under 36. I'm not a big bettor at the time but I put 20 dimes on the under. I'm going crazy, can hardly watch. One minute left, score 17-10 TB. Pitt throws a short pass and breaks it for a TD. 17-16 and extra point ties it. OT.....OH S--t. Pitt calls timeout and goes for two. If they make it 35, miss it 33. I can't lose. That's the day I knew who ruled sports
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Posted by prophet4profit
4 years ago

No,no,no. Do any of u remember tampa bay at home against the colts. Tampa was up by something like 21,or28. All I remember is after 3onside kicks which 1 was deemed illegal later, colts won the f..n game. Tampa had owned um all game w something silly like 5mins left!!!Fn amazing what can happen when the refs and players try getting involved with the bookies too!!don't they make enough to leave us degenerates to a fair game!!!lol,good luck this weekend fellas!!
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Posted by timmytguns
4 years ago

RULE OF THUMB!!! DONT EVER BET ON A NEVADA TEAM!!! NOT ANYMORE, TOO MUCH FISHY BUSINESS GOING ON!!! IF YOU DO, BEST OF LUCK, BUT WHY? THERE IS TOO MANY OYHER GAMES ON THE BOARD, UNLESS U HAVE THE INSIDE INFO, AND EVEN THEN THEY STILL SCREW U!!!!!
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Posted by dreadedrasta
4 years ago

i live in vegas you can bet on unlv...i know awhile back you couldnt but you can now
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Posted by 1teebone
4 years ago

I lost big in the ALCS last year when in game 5 boston beat tampa 8-7 on an amazing comeback!!!!! it was sour for me because they won the game when it was tied on a walk off ground rule double with the bases loaded and only 1 run scores!!! that should be 2 runs!!!! I had the -1.5 runs for that game. wish i would have had it straight up... would have been the greatest comeback in gambling!!
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Posted by parlaybob
4 years ago

HEY, GUYS I'VE GOT ONE FOR YOU ---HOW ABOUT THIS ONE!!! HI, GUYS; i've got a "BAD BEAT" for everyone that maybe (if your old enough) you might remember. the date was monday oct. 12th. 1992 & it was monday nite football (with frank gifford & dandy don ) who were (2) of the announcers broadcasting the game. it was the redskins vs. the broncos & my buddy & i were partners & we had the redskins -9 & the over which was 37 1/2. we had parlay's with other teams that had already won on sunday. we couldn't hedge because we didn't didn't have just one or the other on our parlay's. what happened then was disterious!! the redskins were ahead 34-3 a total of (37) & the running back for the redskins (rookie) clearly ran it in for a touchdown, but; the referee claimed his knee was down at the (6") yard line. there was a little over a minute left in the game & IT WAS 1ST. & GOAL & "THEISMAN" went under the center & then stopped & got up & called "TIME OUT" & WALKED OVER TO "JOE GIBBS" & TALKED TO HIM & CAME BACK & KNELT DOWN!! DANDY DON & FRANK GIFFORD SAID: WELL, I KNOW THAT THE GAME IS "OVER" BUT; WE KNOW IT'S NOT REALLY "OVER" TALKING OF THE 34-3 SCORE. THEISMAN THEN KNELT DOWN (3) MORE TIMES & I'LL NEVER FORGIVE THAT person (theisman) & JOE GIBBS FOR DOING THAT!! I, ALSO BELIEVE THERE WAS SOME KIND OF INVESTIGATION AFTER THAT BECAUSE "JOE GIBBS" LEFT FOOTBALL THE FOLLOWING YEAR & WENT INTO CAR RACING. THAT GAME WOULD HAVE WON US $3700.00 DOLLARS. WE END UP PAYING THE "BOOKIE" OVER $1200.00 & BECAUSE OF THAT GAME I CALL IT A REAL "BAD BEAT"
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Posted by Godfather16
4 years ago

crapsplayer, first and only time I have ever seen that, and that was one helluva terrible beat for runline or over players...
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Posted by crapsplayer
4 years ago

This doesnt come close to being the worst beat of all time. 1999 baseball playoffs, I think it was the Mets and Braves, the total on the game is 7.5 and the score is 3-3 and the bases are loaded and the guy hits the ball over the fence for a home run and as he is running the bases the guy on first rounds second and stops running and comes back to the guy who hit the homerun and hugs him. The final scored is ruled 4-3. Anyone remember that game.
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Posted by VERMONT1
4 years ago

this story appears to be a bogus rendition from barstool's [manzo's] gambling aspect of the incident. although facts pertaining to the game itself are accurate. unless i am missing something, action is/was not allowed on nevada schools. correct me if i am wrong.
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Posted by Godfather16
4 years ago

That's the ultimate bad beat, IMO. How else could you lose? UNLV scores 2 TD's in the last 7 mins, not likely. If you lost this way, it'll probably never happen again like that.
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Posted by sean2114
4 years ago

i agree with CMJohnson, how is it a bad beat if you never get beat?????? If you didn't lose then you didn't get beat!!!!
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Posted by VegasMaxx
4 years ago

lol. I posted this article in a thread a couple days ago.
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Posted by Godfather16
4 years ago

Do you think this would have happened if UNLV was winning comfortably? Nahh. I think books were able to resume taking action on Nevada schools about 8-10 years ago.
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Posted by kilneski
4 years ago

I remember this happening, however this guys memory has got me confused because Vegas did not allow any sports betting on their own sports teams. If you were in Neveda there was never a line on this particular game that you could wager in any of the Nevada casinos.
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Top Response

Posted by AURIC
4 years ago

"When did sportsbook start taking action on games within the state, or were they always available?"