All the sports bettors crave landing that big, unexpected win. However, it’s important to acknowledge that sportsbooks are smarter than you might think. Their in-house traders price up sports events daily, with rank outsiders given long-shot odds for a reason. However, it can be profitable long-term to back outsiders if you can consistently find winning picks on teams and athletes that were unfancied pre-game. You don’t need a high strike rate if you are someone that targets outsiders to win sporting events, but you do need an element of good fortune along the way.
These five sporting upsets are prime examples of teams and athletes overcoming the odds against them. Whether it’s unprecedented skill and work rate or miraculous luck, these stunning victories have given bettors unexpected paydays through the years. If there’s one thing to take from this article to put into your sports betting strategy, it’s that short price favourites are by no means invincible. Although it’s possible to use past performances to inform bets, things don’t always go according to plan.
Leicester City win the 2015/16 Premier League (5,000-1)
In terms of an event with the longest odds, Leicester City’s price to win the 2015/16 Premier League was an almighty 5,000-1. The East Midlands club had only narrowly avoided relegation to the EFL Championship the previous season and there were few indications that the Foxes would even trouble the top half of the 2015/16 Premier League let alone the top of the table.
Yet City’s journeyman head coach Claudio Ranieri managed to cultivate an unstoppable team spirit, as Leicester became a team that never knew when it was beaten. The goals of Jamie Vardy – another impressive rags to riches story in its own right – ensured Leicester would keep on winning while their major title rivals fell by the wayside. City were crowned unlikely champions on 2nd May 2016 with a round of matches to spare.
United States ice hockey team embarrass the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics (1,000-1)
Heading in to the 1980 Winter Olympics, a lot of the hype surrounded the ice hockey event. Lake Placid, New York, was the venue of the medal round game between the United States and the Soviet Union. Given the geopolitical undercurrents in the Cold War era, this contest grabbed the headlines across the globe.
However, few could have anticipated what would happen next.
The US ice hockey team were heavily unfancied before the Games. They were also locking horns with a Soviet team that hadn’t tasted defeat in the Olympics since 1968. After a 10-3 loss in an exhibition game between the two nations before the Games, the US team were given 1,000-1 odds to win their medal round game. However, a young US team defied the odds to win 4-3. Just a few days later, they continued to conquer the Finnish national team to win the gold medal.
Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson in 1990 (42-1)
Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world going into his fight with Buster Douglas in Tokyo, Japan. He was undefeated too, with 37 wins, 33 by knockout. In the other corner of the ring, Tyson was up against relative unknown Buster Douglas. Douglas was almost seven years Tyson’s senior and had already been defeated on four occasions in the heavyweight division.
Remarkably, Douglas took advantage of an unfocused Tyson performance to snatch a 10th round win by knockout. Tyson floored Douglas in the 8th round but shrugged it off to land multiple decisive blows in the 10th round to seal a shock victory that would reverberate around world sport, not just world boxing.
St. Louis Rams win the Super Bowl in 1999 (300-1)
At the start of the 1999 NFL season, the Rams were priced as 300-1 rank outsiders to win the next Super Bowl. It was a difficult era for the Rams, who had a torrid time in the closing stages of the 1990s, effectively operating as the whipping boys of the rest of the NFL. However, 1999 was their opportunity for redemption.
The season began in disarray with their marquee quarterback signing Trent Green sustaining an injury before Game Week 1 that would keep him sidelined for the entire season. The unfancied Kurt Warner deputised but this proved to be an inspired moment as the Rams just “clicked”, romping to the Super Bowl and making history.
St. Louis Cardinals win the MLB World Series in 2011 (999-1)
The city of St. Louis is home to not one but two major sporting upsets. In 2011, Major League Baseball franchise the St. Louis Cardinals looked down and out. They were four-and-a-half wins behind the Atlanta Braves to reach the Wild Card place in the National League with games running out.
The Cardinals were priced at 999-1 to win the World Series at this stage, but a run of 11 wins in their last 15 regular season games bagged them a Wild Card place. Buoyed by this free hit, the Cardinals flew all the way to the World Series where they would brush the Texas Rangers aside.