From sports to politics, 2016 defied the odds.
A 5,000-1 underdog won the title in the bet-heavy Barclays Premier League. Lovable losers began erasing 3-1 series deficits while ending decades-long championship droughts. And a candidate initially not considered realistic enough to be listed by some sportsbooks among the odds to win the U.S. presidential election is now headed for the White House.
Let's review some of the biggest long shots and underdogs to bark from this past year.
Leicester City redefines term "long shot"
There has been a recent spike in betting on Premier League "rags." Bookmakers can thank Leicester City.
The Foxes overcame 5,000-1 preseason odds to win the 2016 Premier League title and deliver a significant blow to sportsbooks in the U.K and Las Vegas. Thirty-nine punters backed Leicester City at their preseason odds at U.K. sportsbook Ladbrokes, including a £50 bet at 5000-1 that produced a £250,000 win.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Leicester City at 2,500-1 and took a $5 bet on the Foxes at 2,000-1. The SuperBook also paid out on a $10 and a $5 ticket at 1,000-1. It was the largest futures ticket, according to Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the SuperBook and a longtime Las Vegas bookmaker.
Sherman, who oversees the book's soccer odds, said the majority of bets on Leicester City were placed at much shorter odds, 60-1 or less, including some sizable wagers at 9-2.
"We were still a decent loser on the futures pool," Sherman said.
Leicester City's improbable run to the 2016 championship dinged the books, but it is paying dividends this year. The longest shots on the board this season were only 1,000-1 at the SuperBook and other shops, but it didn't turn away bettors from taking a stab.
"Even though the long shots this season were in the 1,000-1 range, we saw more tickets on those teams, albeit the smaller variety," Sherman said. "So we have liabilities on the long shots and are in good position on the top six clubs."
Ladbrokes reported a 250 percent increase in betting on the "rags" (the biggest underdogs), with Middlesbrough being the most popular long shot this season, according to book spokesperson Alex Donohue.
Middlesbrough began the week in 15th place in the 20-team Premier League, one point ahead of defending champion Leicester City.
"Every fan and futures bettor adopted an outsider as well as a main team," Donohue told ESPN in an email. "Looks like lightning won't strike twice after all and that additional handle will stay in the satchel."
The Lakers beat the Warriors -- seriously
In the previous 11 NBA seasons, there were 65 games with a point spread of 17 or greater. Only one underdog in those games won straight-up.
Leading up to the Sunday game on March 6, Golden State was offered at -7,000 to beat the 12-51 Lakers. You would have needed to bet $7,000 on the Warriors to win $100. A bettor at a William Hill sportsbook put up $3,500 on the Warriors, a bet that would have netted a cool $50.
Trumping the odds
In mid-June 2015, United Kingdom sportsbook Ladbrokes received a request from a punter to offer odds on Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidency. The book obliged the punter's request and added the previously unlisted Trump to the betting options at 200-1. (By comparison, Ladbrokes currently has Chelsea Clinton listed at 200-1 to win the 2020 election).
On June 15, 2015, Trump officially declared his candidacy, setting the stage for a stunning upset in the second-most-heavily bet market that Ladbrokes offered in 2016.
Bookies estimate approximately £200 million ($244.1 million) was bet on the U.S. election in the U.K. Only the Grand National horse race generated more betting handle at Ladbrokes, which took an £80,000 bet on Trump at 6-4 from a customer who originally sided with Hillary Clinton, but cashed out and moved their money to the Republican candidate before the election. Ladbrokes also accepted a £200 bet on Trump at 150-1 in the days after he officially joined the race.
After opening as a triple-digit underdog, Trump's odds quickly tightened and were down to 12-1 by August 2015. But throughout the months leading up to Election Day, he remained a significant underdog to Hillary Clinton. Irish sportsbook Paddy Power was so sure Hillary Clinton would prevail that on Oct. 18, several weeks before the election, it paid out $1 million in bets on the Democratic nominee. Whoops.
-- On Sept. 10, in Liga MX's Clasico Joven, Club America trailed Cruz Azul 3-0 at halftime and was listed as 45-1 long shots to come from behind and win. Two bettors at William Hill's Nevada sportsbook took the odds, including a $100 bet that netted $4,500 and a $2 bet that netted $90, when Club America railed back for a 4-3 victory.
-- On March 17, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Arkansas-Little Rock trailed Purdue by 13 with 3:33 to left. The Trojans were listed as 35-1 underdogs to pull off the comeback. Arkansas-Little Rock closed out the second half with a 18-5 run and eventually prevailed 85-83 in overtime.
-- On Aug. 8, the St. Louis Cardinals were listed as 35-1 underdogs in live betting, after falling behind 4-0 to the Cincinnati Reds, heading into the ninth inning. St. Louis scored five runs in the ninth inning, with catcher Yadier Molina being hit by a pitch with the bases load to drive in the winning run.
Against all odds
-- A $100 12-team parlay at odds of 3,000-1 hit Dec. 3 at the William Hill sportsbook at Tuscany Casino in Las Vegas.
-- William Hill had a $5 15-team progressive parlay turned into $305,375 on Feb. 29, when Kansas defeated Texas in college basketball.
-- The Cleveland Cavaliers were listed as high as 14-1 underdogs to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Cavs became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. Six months later, the Chicago Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. Trailing three games to one, the Cubs were listed as +330 underdogs to win the World Series and end their 108-year championship drought.
-- Tilltheluvrunsout won race 3 on Oct. 11 at Portland Meadows racetrack as a 152.1-1 underdog. She paid $306.40 on a $2 win ticket and was the longest shot to win a race this year, according to data provided by Ed DeRosa of online horse race wagering site TwinSpires, run by Churchill Downs.
-- On July 2, Sam Querrey upset world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a third-round match at Wimbledon. Djokovic was a large -5,000 favorite, with Querrey paying back around 20-1.
-- Six 10-team parlays, each at 800-1 odds, hit in 2016 at Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology. The largest was a $10 bet that paid $8,010.
-- In a November super middleweight bout in Philadelphia, Taneal Goyco, a 40-1 underdog at some sportsbooks, stunned Jerry Odom in one of the largest boxing upsets of the year.
-- In mid-July at Australian sportsbook TAB, a punter risked $50 on a two-leg parlay featuring Henrik Stenson to win The Open and Aaron Baddeley to win the Barbasol Championship. Stenson held off Phil Mickelson in an epic final round and Baddeley defeated Si Woo Kim in a playoff on the fourth extra hole. The bet netted $86,650.
Betting the 'dogs
-- College football: Underdogs went 200-586 straight-up and 424-381 against the spread in the 2016 regular season.
-- Baseball: Money-line underdogs went 1,024-1,437 SU in 2016, including the playoffs.
-- College basketball: Underdogs went 18-40 SU and 30-37 ATS in last year's NCAA tournament.
-- NFL: Heading into Week 17 of the 2016 regular season, NFL underdogs were 110-115-10 ATS.
*Historical information from sports betting analytics site BetLabSports.com on SportsInsights was included in this article.