Bad beat explained – What is a bad beat?

All sports fans will want to have bad beat explained as we have all unfortunately been in the position where a bad beat happens. But what is a bad beat and why does it matter for your sports bets? We’re going to have bad beat explained in some simple terms so that you can quickly identify what counts as a bad beat, and what doesn’t. By doing so, you’ll get to know which of your sports bets were misfortunate, and which were well and truly a bad beat.

Bad beat explained for you

  • Describes those shocking sporting upsets
  • When the winner comes from nowhere to steal victory
  • Must be a losing bet to be a bad beat
  • Can happen in any sport
  • Something for all punters to be aware of

What is a bad beat?

A bad beat can be explained simply as being one of those shock results in the sporting world that nobody saw coming. The term ‘bad beat’ originated in the world of poker when a player with a very strong set of card somehow ends up losing to a player with a much weaker hand.

So if a favoured sports team or player was leading a sporting event by a significant margin, but ended up losing to the underdogs in the closing stages of the game, this could be classed as a bad beat. For example, a football team who threw away a three-goal lead to lose 3-4 would have been victims of a bad beat.

This means that punters and bookmakers alike are extremely unlikely to spot a bad beat about to occur. If you were lucky enough to bet on a bad beat happening, then you would stand to make significant profits. But as bad beats are so rare, they remain a key cause of sports fans losing their bets.

All of which means that you’ll definitely need to understand ‘What is a bad beat?’ if you’re planning to spend a serious amount of time betting on sport. This is because bad beats will always happen sooner or later, and it’s up to you to try and anticipate these surprising moments of sporting upset. So although you’re going to be pretty powerless to stop a bad beat happening, there are some key things that you can do to minimise the damage.

Bad beat explained in classic sporting examples

It could be helpful to answer the question of ‘What is a bad beat?’ by giving you a few examples from the sporting world. We’ll take a look at bad beats from sports like football, tennis, cricket and rugby, but the same concept could be applied to anything from basketball to golf.

What is a bad beat in football?

Most football fans will know what a bad beat feels like. But it’s not enough to just have a smaller team beating a much bigger side, as a bad beat will have to be a result that shakes the very foundations of the footballing world.

Germany suffered something of a bad beat in the 2016 World Cup when they lost 2-0 to South Korea. Thanks to two goals in injury time, the Germany team were kicked out the World Cup in the group stages.

But bad beats can also happen in regards to an entire football tournament. The fact that Greece stunned the world when they won the Euro 2004 tournament is a great example of this. While the team’s stature grew throughout the competition, the fact that they won the Euros without a major international star is still one of the biggest bad beats in sporting history.

What is a bad beat in cricket?

Bad beats are no strangers to the world of cricket. The World T20 semi-finals in 2010 saw this when Australia managed to snatch victory from Pakistan against all of the odds. Australia had struggled to 105-5 in their chase of Pakistan’s 192. But thanks to a stunning 60 runs in 24 balls from Michael Hussey, Australia delivered a true bad beat and claimed the victory.

What is a bad beat in tennis?

Most Grand Slam tennis tournaments can be fairly straightforward to predict, but there’s always room for the occasional bad beat. This happened in the 1984 French Open final where John McEnroe won the first two sets against Ivan Lendl 6-3 and 6-2 before going onto lose the match.

What is a bad beat in rugby?

Anybody who watched the 2019 Rugby World Cup will have seen a bad beat when Japan managed to shock the world with their defeat of Ireland. Things looked to be going according to plan when Ireland were 12-3 up after 22 minutes. But Japan staged a miraculous comeback and ended up winning the match 19-12.

How can you guard yourself against bad beats

As bad beats are by their nature very rare, it can be incredibly difficult to not fall victim to these sporting upsets. But it’s just another timely reminder as to only gamble responsibly with small stakes. This way a bad beat could occur and you wouldn’t necessarily blow your entire betting budget.

It’s also important not to read too much into a team or player’s past form. Even the best football team in the world can have a sudden and dramatic loss of form. In 2021, Liverpool ended their remarkable unbeaten run by somehow losing 3-0 to lowly Watford, and it’s only by examining the psychology of each team that you are going to be able to look beyond the statistics to get a true picture of what could emerge.

Plus it’s also worth noting that live betting offers you a good safeguard against bad beats. If a strong team is looking like they are suddenly going to throw away a strong advantage, this is where you can check the in-play betting odds for the underdogs and quickly put your money down on a bad beat.

Similarly, if you think that your bet is about to suddenly go pear-shaped, then it’s probably best to try and cash out your sports bets early. While you might not be able to get a winning bet, you could at least get a share of your initial stake back before the bad beat takes full effect.

Anticipating when bad beats might happen can also yield many benefits when you are at betting exchanges. Here you’ll be betting against other punters who will probably be betting with the herd and just paying attention to a team or player’s past form. But if you’re willing to take the risk, then there’s plenty of profits to be made by going against the flow.

Why bad beats aren’t always a bad thing

While bad beats can be pretty nasty, they are an essential part of sports betting. There will be a tiny handful of punters out there who have made some decent money from anticipating a bad beat. After all, Leicester City won the Premier League in 2016 at odds of 5000-1.

Such sports betting surprises will mean that the bookmakers will be extra cautious in how they formulate their odds after a bad beat, and this means that you could take advantage of the uncertainty. As a result, there’s plenty of money to be made for any sports fans who are willing to stick their neck out and put their money down on a rank outsider.

Top betting guides and strategies

Now that we’ve given you an answer to the question of ‘What is a bad beat?’, it’s worth thinking about how this applies to some of the most popular sports betting types and strategies.

If you’ve had a half-time bet explained then you’ll know that this should stave off the worst kind of bad beats, while if you’ve have a head to head bet explained, you’ll definitely be wary of any kind of bad beat happening.

But regardless of whether you’ve had rising method explained or have had a high roller explained, it’s worth noting that bad beats are thankfully fairly rare. Far better to have a value bet explained for a good way to catch the bookmakers out, rather than waiting for that bad beat to happen.


We hope that we’ve given you a good answer to the question of ‘What is a bad beat?’. By having bad beat explained, you’ll hopefully know that these are those freak moments in the sporting world when a real underdog steals a remarkable victory from the jaws of defeat.

Although it’s just about impossible to anticipate these shock sporting events, by having bad beat explained, you’ll learn to be a little more cautious with your bets. Plus by factoring in the chances of bad beat occurring, you’ll be much better placed for not just following the herd when betting on your favourite sport.

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