For a few hours Friday afternoon, Shohei Ohtani was reportedly on a private jet to Toronto, and bettors at sportsbooks in the United States and Canada were rushing to bet on the Toronto Blue Jays to win the World Series.
It would turn out to be a bad beat.
On Friday, with rumors of Ohtani's interest in Toronto swirling, the Blue Jays' World Series odds improved from 15-1 to as short as 8-1, behind only the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, and bets poured in on the Jays. At BetMGM sportsbooks, nearly 85% of the money wagered on the World Series odds on Friday was on Toronto, and the bet ticker at Caesars Sportsbook filled up with wagers on the Blue Jays ranging from $50 to $500.
"There were some pretty respected players that were betting the Blue Jays," Eric Fenstermaker, Caesars' lead baseball trader, said. "Then, the soap opera took a different path."
Later Friday afternoon, it was revealed that Canadian entrepreneur Robert Herjavec of "Shark Tank" fame was on the private jet being tracked to Toronto, not Ohtani. The next day, Ohtani announced on social media that he was signing with the Dodgers, and the motivation behind the surge of bets on the Blue Jays was gone.
"Friday was a really crazy day," said Randy Blum, a Las Vegas bookmanager who oversees baseball odds for the SuperBook.
Blum said media reports, including from MLB Network, prompted him to shorten the Blue Jays' odds.
"These [reports] were from legitimate baseball guys, not random people on Twitter throwing things out there. ... We had to respect it," Blum said. "When it turned out not to be true, we cleaned it up."
The excitement of potentially landing baseball's biggest star got the best of bettors in Canada, too. PointsBet's Canada sportsbook reported a "notable influx" of bets on the Blue Jays to win the World Series throughout Friday. Some of the bettors who backed Toronto on Friday cashed out at a loss on Saturday after Ohtani's announcement, a representative for PointsBet Canada told ESPN.
"The Ohtani to Toronto rumors had already been taken into account by the books, so the betting action was really driven by the full-blown excitement versus the opportunity to win some cash down the road," Patrick Eichner, senior director of communications for PointsBet Canada, said.
Eventually, with Ohtani officially moving crosstown in Los Angeles, the betting public shifted its support to the Dodgers, who moved ahead of the Braves and are now the consensus World Series favorites at sportsbooks.
"Yesterday, after everything was official, we did take some bets on the Dodgers, even though we had already lowered their odds," Blum said. "You just never know what you're going to get."