If you’re placing a bet with your online sportsbook, it’ll probably treat your mutual betting agreement with more integrity than if you place a bet with a friend or relative. However, sometimes both your friend and your sportsbook have the same shortcomings. Sometimes, just like a friend might renege on your bet, sportsbooks can cancel your bet for mysterious reasons.
If this has happened to you and you’re looking to learn why, you’re in the right place. If your bet has been canceled, there’s usually a simple explanation why. Read on to discover the most common explanations of why sports wagers get canceled.
1. Your Sportsbook Offered Odds by Accident
Accidental odds are—without question—the most common explanation for why sportsbooks cancel open bets. Just like humans, sportsbooks make mistakes. While this phenomenon is rare, it’s definitely not unheard of for sportsbooks to post lines for one game that were intended for another, or to accidentally post odds for one team that were meant for the other.
The most frequent error that sportsbooks make are the odds assigned to proposition bets, so be sure to keep an eye out for this.
If you pounce on a line that’s almost certainly posted in error, your sportsbook isn’t going to honor your wager. In nearly every case, they’re going to cancel your bet and refund your money.
If you try to make a fuss about a mistakenly-posted line, sportsbooks aren’t going to have a ton sympathy for your plight. In fact, sportsbooks (almost universally) make it very clear that if lines are made in error, they reserve the right to cancel all pending wagers on them.
If you see a line that’s too good to be true, it probably is. A line that’s too good to be true (that doesn’t get canceled) is likely a sign of a fraudulent sportsbook.
2. The Event Is Difficult to Grade and/or Verify
So you’ve chosen to place money on a prop bet (usually of the futures variety, but not always). There’s a chance that your sportsbook won’t grade your wager, or might even cancel it altogether if there’s any room for doubt about how to verify the outcome.
Because they’re significantly harder to quantify, these types of prop bets aren’t as safe as standard sports bets. For example, if you’re betting on the moneyline of an NFL game, there’s absolutely no doubt about the result of the game: Either the team you bet on won or they lost. This result of the game can easily be verified by a quick visit to NFL.com, which reflects the official record of the NFL.
However, futures prop bets which involve a higher degree of abstraction are harder to verify. We’ll provide you with a few examples below:
Verifying Futures Prop Bets
For an example of the difficulty of grading prop bets, let’s look at a specific prop bet derived from the NHL’s plans to officially integrate and sanction in-game proposition betting:
Things can get murky when it comes to prop bets: What if a goal is scored somewhere on the border between the top-right and bottom-right quadrant? If this happens, your sportsbook is more likely to cancel your bet. They don’t intend on giving you the benefit of the doubt, to be sure.
If you had bet on the goal being scored in the top right quadrant, you might be inclined to argue that it wasn’t really on the border, and was in fact in the top right quadrant.
You might think you’ve got a case. And while there might be a debate over the result, your chances of getting your bet marked a winner aren’t great.
Sportsbooks always choose the outcome that favors their profit margin, and unless there’s a clear winner, they’re going to err on the side of caution. The old axiom “the house always wins” definitely applies here.
Tricky Prop Bets in Action
If you’re curious about some other examples, here’s a case of a Redditor who bet on Bill Belichick’s name to be mentioned before Dan Quinn’s during a pregame show. He lost, despite having a compelling case.
In contrast, here’s a case of a difficult-to-quantify prop bet that was honored. The bet was on the number of lies Donald Trump would tell in his address on border security, and the over/under was set at 3.5. Of course, what actually constitutes a lie is often hard to precisely quantify. However, the sportsbook stated that they would abide by the Washington Post’s official tally of the number of lies told during the address. Their count? Six whoppers, and bettors were paid out accordingly.
The difference between the two? The Belichick/Quinn bet was extremely niche, whilethe prop on Trump’s truth-telling was clearly designed to generate publicity. Sportsbooks are more likely to honor bets on major promotional bets than more obscure prop bets.
3. Your Bet Was on a Match That Your Sportsbook Deems “Suspicious”
It’s very rare, but whenever there is evidence of match or event rigging, sportsbooks reserve the right to void bets. Note that this will never apply to any of the big American sports, by which we mean the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. Instead, this almost universally applies to small market sports.
If a sportsbook believes that anyone who’s placed a bet on the outcome on a predetermined event – or one where a team (or player) has illicitly gained a material advantage – they’ll cancel all bets on that event. If sportsbooks have reason to believe that bad actors have circumscribed the outcome of a match, they’ll negate all outstanding bets on it.
Again, this almost never happens in the United States. More often than not, these types of bet cancellations typically transpire at a UK, European, Asian, or African sportsbook where odds on obscure sports (such as third-tier soccer or unregulated horse races) are much more common.
Of course, because these events are smaller and attract less fanfare, they’re less stringently-regulated than a big money league (e.g. major North American leagues). Less regulation and oversight results in more opportunities for bad actors to influence an event’s outcome.
4. Parlay Constructed Improperly
If you construct a parlay that goes against your sportsbook’s rules—and somehow your book lets you go ahead with this wager—they’ll cancel your bet once they find out. However, do this at your own risk: If your restricted bet ends up being a loser, your sportsbook definitely won’t be giving you your money back. Instead, they’ll treat it like a regular loss. There’s literally no upside in trying to beat your sportsbook by attempting to sneak through a restricted parlay.
What aren’t you allowed to parlay? Our guide to parlays provide a more detailed explanation, but essentially, you’re not able to parlay any events that are connected in any way. For example, you can’t parlay the moneyline and the spread of the same game, as the outcomes of these events are inextricably linked.
Always Play by Your Sportsbooks’ Rules!
Most of the time that your bet gets canceled, it’s for one of the reasons above. However, the reasons above only apply to situations when you abide by your sportsbook’s terms and conditions.
Keep in mind, your account can get locked or you can get banned for a whole host of reasons not included in the list above. A frequent consequence of account restriction comes down to bet cancellation. Sportsbooks reserve the right to cancel any outstanding wagers if they deem that you broke any of their clearly-delineated rules.
Additionally, sportsbooks restrict your account if they have reason to believe you’re engaging in arbitrage betting.
Curious About the Business of Betting?
Interested in learning more about how sportsbooks run their business, and how they maintain a profit? Check out our article on how sportsbooks go about generating their odds.