The COVID-19 pandemic has made life difficult for almost everyone, including professional sports bettors.
One of them took four different flights to three different states over a five-week span this summer before finally being able to place the bet he was looking for — Deshaun Watson to lead the NFL in passing yards this season. The bettor, who preferred to just go by Mark for this story, saw his effort pay off to the tune of $35,000 on Sunday.
Mark, who lives in Florida and takes approximately 15 to 20 flights per year for sports betting purposes, cashed a $1,000 ticket at 35/1 odds on Watson to lead the league in passing yards.
His journey started with a flight to Atlantic City in June, but all the Caesars sportsbooks were closed. There was no information online about the books still being closed, despite the casinos re-opening. They had not updated their hours of operation or posted details about when they would be open again.
So, Mark flew to the Caesars property in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“It was the same situation there,” Mark said. “I actually showed up the very first night and the sportsbook was closing down. They weren’t taking any more bets. I said, ‘Oh what time do you guys open tomorrow?’ And the guy goes ‘Oh, we’re closed for the next three days.’ So I wasn’t able to bet there either.”
His next trip was to the mecca of sports betting for a midweek visit. He walked into Caesars in Las Vegas only to find out they were closed for the next few days as well.
Mark finally nailed down their hours of operation in July and was able to move his flight back by a day in order to make another trip to Vegas. This time, he was able to place wagers on five different quarterbacks to lead the NFL in passing yards this season.
The ticker writer offered him $500 on a pair of 75/1 longshots.
“If you give me the nickel on the 75/1, I figured that he’ll probably give me a dime ($1,000) on the 35/1,” Mark said. “I tried for two (thousand) and he came back with one.”
Watson is the first player with 12 or more losses to lead the NFL in passing yards since Jeff George did it for the Raiders in 1997. Mark had several reasons for betting Watson at 35/1.
“I felt like the Texans were going to have a bad year,” he said. “I felt like they were going to be trailing quite a bit and there was a good chance that they would be down. I knew they had the offense, because they had Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills. They had a lot of wide receivers and it looked like they would have a deep passing game.
“I felt like they would have an opportunity to reel off some big games. That’s pretty much what happened.”
Houston lost Fuller and Randall Cobb to injuries in November. They finished second and third on the team in receiving yards this season, but Watson was able to make do without them.
“Fuller is a big deal, Cobb wasn’t really so much,” Mark said. “I think they just kind of slid Brandin Cooks over into that Will Fuller role. The schedule was pretty brutal down the stretch, so they were playing from behind. They weren’t ever really beaten to the point of submission in a game. They didn’t have any games where they threw the ball like 25 times.
“They were able to stay within games, but not run away with any or be beaten so badly that they didn’t have any possessions.”
When Kansas City decided to rest Patrick Mahomes for the final week of the season, Mark knew his Watson ticket was looking good. He generally doesn’t hedge his season-long bets anyway, though.
Even if he had wanted to hedge, Mark couldn’t find a sportsbook offering an over-under for Watson’s passing yards against the Titans.
“I generally just let those things ride,” Mark said. “I had the Giants to make the playoffs at 20/1 odds and I could have bet Washington last night. That’s the one time where I really wish I hadn’t let it ride, because the outcome was pretty much pre-determined.”
Watson shredded an inept Tennessee secondary. He completed 28 of 39 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns, beating out Mahomes by 83 yards for the season lead.
“I didn’t really watch any of the game,” Mark said. “I was checking stats. I knew he only needed like 120 yards or something at halftime and they were trailing, so I figured it was pretty much in the bag.””
Now, he will root for some bets he placed last February. Mark wagered on Tampa Bay to win the NFC and the Super Bowl at longshot odds before Brady signed with the Buccaneers.
“I got some really, really strong bets on the Buccaneers before they signed Brady. I bet a lot on the Buccaneers,” Mark said. “Just cheering for Tampa.”