Gamblers lost a lot of money on those March Madness upsets

Iowa State’s Georges Niang reacts during the NCAA tournament game against UAB in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, March 19, 2015.
Iowa State’s Georges Niang reacts during the NCAA tournament game against UAB in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, March 19, 2015.

So your bracket is already busted, right? Don't worry, so is everybody else's. But what about those gamblers who spent millions and lost on the upsets? You probably don't feel as bad as they do right now.

Thursday was a "great day for sports books overall," said Lou Moretti, managing editor of SportsbookReview.com. But not all of them: "One sportsbook confirmed being down $250,000 going into the night slate of games because of parlay winnings paid on the Georgia State vs. Baylor game."

Most of the bets were on point spreads, but the University of Alabama at Birmingham vs. Iowa State game stood out for the dollar amounts, Moretti said. Because so many people thought Iowa State was a Final Four contender, they couldn't see a loss like this coming. Bettors "got crushed on the Iowa State moneyline across the board with total losses over $2 million," he said.

Another report claimed that Thursday was the second-biggest day in Vegas casino history, reaching Super Bowl-levels of profit.

Here is some analysis of the double-digit upsets Thursday night:

#11 UCLA beating #6 SMU

  • 56 percent of bets were made on the point spread of SMU -4. Players lost $120,000 on this side.
  • 58 percent of bets were on SMU to cover the first half point spread of -2. Players lost $46,000 on this side.
  • 55 percent of bettors wagered on the over, expecting both teams in total to score over 132 points. The final total landed at 119, so the 45 percent of bettors wagering the under cashed their tickets. One sportsbook profited $56,000 on this outcome.

#14 UAB beating #3 Iowa State

  • 54 percent of bets were on UAB to win outright.
  • Players won 10 times their investment, as a $100 wager returned $1,000 in profit.
  • One top sportsbook recorded a $300,000 loss on the game.
  • 46 percent of bets were on Iowa State to win outright: Players took a beating on this game.

Iowa State was such a favorite it would have only won you $100 on a wager of $1,500. High risk, low reward—because it seemed like such a no-brainer. "It was included in a large percentage of parlay bets."

By including large favorites in parlays, players can essentially bet multiple big favorites to win more, by risking less than with straight-up bets. These bets are risky but can be profitable, and in the case of Iowa State, turned out to be a bad move.

#14 Georgia State beating #3 Baylor

  • 46 percent of bets came on the Georgia State point spread of +9.5, which turned out to be a winning bet.
  • As for the moneyline (outright winner) market, 57 percent of bets were on Georgia State at 4 to 1, so a $100 wager returned $400.
  • One sportsbook recorded an overall $900,000 loss on the game.