For Devin Booker, it was a groin aggravation.
He had missed three games with a sore groin, and then came back for the Phoenix Suns’ Christmas Day tilt against the Denver Nuggets. He lasted four minutes before he left the game, his groin acting up.
Suns star Devin Booker is out for remainder of game vs. Nuggets due to his groin injury. Booker played just over four minutes to start the game.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 26, 2022
For bettors, it was a grand aggravation.
Here it was, Christmas Day, and Booker was back in action. Plenty of gamblers bet his props at America’s sportsbooks, put him in single-game parlays, you name it. After all, the superstar sharpshooter was back on the court.
And then he left the game, causing plenty of folks to feel their bets shouldn’t be graded as losers. After all, he only played four minutes. They wanted their bets voided.
@FDSportsbook @FanDuel @FanDuel_Support Someone explain how @DevinBook did not get voided tonight and he only played 4 mins due to injury 🤦🏾♂️ pic.twitter.com/K29xa0Zry1
— Mo Creek (@Mo_Creek) December 26, 2022
For Circa’s Jeffrey Benson, it was a groan aggravation.
“‘Void Booker’ is trending,” Benson tweeted the day after Christmas. “I’ve never seen a bigger group of babies than the give me my money back on a prop crowd. It is insufferable.”
“Void Booker” is trending. I’ve never seen a bigger group of babies than the give me my money back on a prop crowd. It is insufferable 🙄 pic.twitter.com/MeHuRqVUzz
— Jeffrey Benson (@JeffreyBenson12) December 26, 2022
What do we want? A refund!
To be clear: Bettors were losing their minds on Twitter. They wanted their money back, and they wanted it now. FanDuel, for some reason, was getting the brunt of the anger.
If @FanDuel don’t void devin Booker after he played 4 mins and then went and got dressed and put street clothes on I’m going to @DKSportsbook because it’s rigged if not
— gloden one ➐ (@NayCouncil) December 26, 2022
Hey Fan Duel @FDSportsbook – void Booker now. It’s Christmas. People losing THOUSANDS on that “injured in 4 minutes” bullshit.
— Beau L. Wagner (@BeauLWagner) December 26, 2022
AD left after 8 minutes: VOID
J. Taylor left after 7: VOID
Tua left after 45 minutes: [email protected] the inconsistency in your decision making is disgusting and unacceptable. Don’t play the good guy when it only benefits you. Do the right thing. VOID Booker.
— Mr. Baby Bets (@MrBabyBets) December 26, 2022
While this was happening, Benson — along with other pros in the gambling world — was bemoaning the state of the industry, where newbie bettors were crying for refunds despite the very real knowledge that injuries happen.
The new breed of sports bettors who never had to mail in money orders to rando islands in the Caribbean and weren’t on first name basis with their Western Union agent are all soft it seems. Imagine asking 5Dimes Tony for a refund because Christian Watson is a made of glass.
— Aaron Watershow (@TopKaiki) December 26, 2022
In the end, FanDuel listened to its customers and started handing out free bets like they were stocking stuffers. Anyone who had Booker props or as part of a parlay where his prop was the only losing leg got free bets due to Booker’s achy breaky groin.
🚨 REFUND ALERT 🚨
We’ll be refunding the following online wagers in free bets:
▪️ Losing straight prop bets on Devin Booker
▪️ Parlays, SGPs & SGP+ where a Booker prop was the only losing leg
(Refunds to be issued over the next 24 hours) pic.twitter.com/n1UBTYBRSz
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) December 26, 2022
So. Which is it? Which is better, bettors? The old-school, “them’s the breaks, kid” crowd, or the new-school, “here’s some free bets for your troubles” crowd?
As with most things in life, it’s complicated.
While numerous sportsbooks were contacted for this piece, FanDuel was the only book that was willing to give its side of the story. Via a spokesperson:
“FanDuel created our ‘Bad Beats’ program to give customers a best-in-class experience that reinforces fairness and surprises and delights them when their bet would’ve been marked as a loss,” read the statement. “We have internal criteria we use to evaluate what qualifies for a ‘Bad Beat.’ For example, a key player injury early in a game or an officiating error that changes the game result could trigger a ‘Bad Beat.’”
Of course, the key word there is, in fact, “key.” Instead of Devin Booker, what if it was DeAndre Ayton? Mikal Bridges? Can I get a refund for some Jock Landale Australian groin?
This is one of many reasons Benson can’t stand the practice.
“I think if they had consistency with an approach as to when they would be giving bettors back their money, meaning that if a player doesn’t play more than X amount of minutes or a game doesn’t get through a certain amount of quarters … certain criteria for when a refund would be given,” Benson told me on the Gamble On podcast, “that would be very beneficial to bettors to know when they’re getting a refund.
“Right now, there’s so much ambiguity,” he continued. “And that leads to the behavior we’re seeing right now, which is a lot of entitlement in terms of ‘oh, my player went down’ … and reaching out to people on social media and complaining that they deserve a refund.”
Void Devin Booker, fuck all the other shit https://t.co/zW1icQsSlk
— a1. (@dreamBIG8_) December 26, 2022
Another item Benson noted is, quite simply, the other side of the coin.
The Draymond files
“It’s funny to watch these people cry foul when,” Benson noted, “if they had the under in these scenarios and a sportsbook came out and said based on this player getting hurt, we’re refunding all wagers, I think they’d be singing a different tune.”
Capt. Jack Andrews, the noted bettor and founder of Unabated, co-signed Benson’s take, noting numerous problems with bad beat refunds. He said the refunds encourage people to only play overs when the under bets are typically where the value lies. He also pointed out that the refunds come in the form of free bets, which means that not only is the money plowed right back into the book, but, in many states, the books can write off the free bets.
Andrews also made the same point Benson alluded to — that the train runs both ways.
“Probably what irks me the most is the self-entitlement that some people think they deserve if something doesn’t go their way,” Andrews said. “My favorite example from the recent bad beat controversy regarding Devin Booker: Leading the angry mob demanding a bad beat was the same guy who bragged about making hundreds of thousands off of unders during the Draymond Green game back in January 2022 when Green started only for the tip-off and then exited. It’s only OK when he personally benefits. Not hard for people to see the flaw there.”
Ah, yes. The Draymond Green game. Sportsbooks got hammered on unders there when he played for seven seconds. No one who bet the unders — as information leaked out that the injured Green was only out there to honor Klay Thompson’s return to the court — was willingly forking over their winnings.
“they better void booker overs”
“they better not void draymond unders” pic.twitter.com/gY1pvzTOkB
— NBA Travel Watch (@NBATravelWatch) December 26, 2022
Better, worse, or indifferent?
As far as FanDuel is concerned, this is the price of doing business, and they see the refunds as a good business practice, despite the constant deluge of people complaining about their own bad beats.
“While we do receive customer requests, our teams work closely to see if the game in question meets the criteria,” the spokesperson wrote. “‘Bad Beats [refunds] have a positive impact on customer service rates.”
As a small-time bettor myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of refunds, both from FanDuel and PointsBet. Obviously, I like getting the refund. I mean, losing money sucks. Getting a second chance is better.
But at what cost?
“As a bettor, sure, it’s a nice customer service thing, but … books might stop putting up all these player props if complaints continue, and second, more importantly, you may be getting free money on the front end, but what are you paying for on the back end?” Benson wondered. “Maybe you start seeing props at -130 instead of -115. Some injury insurance.”
In the end, this is just another fork in the road between the old school and new school. I doubt FanDuel and DraftKings and PointsBet and others of the new sportsbook world are going to stop the practice, and I equally doubt Circa and the other old-school books are going to start.
Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY