How Sportsbooks Handle the Unexpected

Most of the time when you decide to bet on an event, everything will go as planned. You will fill out and submit your betting slip correctly, the event will take place, the result will be determined, and you will either win or lose money.

But sometimes things can go wrong either with you, the betting site, or events on the field or in the court.

So, what happens when the unexpected happens? In this article, we will discuss various “what if” scenarios that you could encounter while you are wagering, and what might happen as a result.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about what determines the outcomes in situations like these: The Betting Policies for Your Sportsbook.

Every Sports Betting Site Has Its Own Policies

By definition, “what if” scenarios are not straightforward. Because there are no cut-and-dried answers that apply across the board in complex situations, each sportsbook may choose to handle them differently.

So, one site might have one response to a situation like dead heat, while another might treat it differently.

Likewise, one site may have a policy that is different from another in the case of a postponed match, and so on.

For that reason, we cannot tell you what will happen for certain situations, because it depends on not only the situation you encounter, but also where you are playing.

But what we can do is run through certain situations you might encounter. That way you know what to look up when you are skimming through the betting rules for the site where you are wagering.

We will also go over some example policies for some of these scenarios as set by our recommended betting sites.

These are the Terms and Conditions as laid out by Bovada. There’s also the Forms and Agreements as well as the Privacy Policy if you ever feel the need to go through those!

Some “What If” Situations to Be Aware of When You Are Betting on Sports

What happens if an event moves from one venue to another?

Sometimes a sporting event may be planned for a venue where it cannot ultimately take place. The match may unfold as scheduled, but at a different location. At that point, what happens to wagers you may have placed?

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Example Policies

Cloudbet has the following policy in case of venue changes:

For any team sport: if the scheduled venue is changed after the market is loaded, all bets will be void only if the new venue is a home ground of the original away team.
For all categories or markets other than team sports: if the scheduled venue is changed after the market is loaded, all bets will stand.
If there is a change in the type of scheduled surface after the market has been loaded, all bets will stand.

In summary, Cloudbet usually doesn’t cancel any wagers in case of a venue change. The exception is if the away team will now be playing at home and vice versa.

Bovada has certain rules set out in sections that pertain individually to different sports. Here is the venue change policy from their soccer betting rules:

Venue Change: If a match venue is changed (other than to the away team’s location), then wagers already placed will stand, provided the home team is still the home team. If the home and away team for a listed match are reversed (e.g., the match is played at the original away team’s ground), then wagers placed based on the original match listing will be graded as ‘No Action’.

As you can see, Bovada has chosen to take the same approach as Cloudbet here.

Intertops, like Bovada, tends to be highly specific about its policies. Here are some examples.

For tennis – Match Betting All bets are deemed action only if the required number of sets as determined by the particular Tournament Rules are completed. If a player (or players) fails to start a match or retires or is disqualified during a match before its completion, then bets on that match, other than those which have been irrevocably determined, are void. In the event of a match being delayed, all bets will stand unless the match is officially abandoned. Bets stand regardless of any change of venue or court surface.

For rugby – 6.27.1 General Unless otherwise stated all Rugby bets are settled on 80 minutes play. The term 80 minutes play includes any stoppage time. If a venue is changed from the one advertised, then all bets on that match are void. In the event of a change of opponent from the one advertised, then all bets for that match are void.

Aussie rules – If the match venue is changed, we reserve the right to void betting.

Horse Racing – In Horse Match-Ups when a Race is moved from Turf to Dirt or vice versa all wagers are void. In Horses Daily when a Race is moved from Turf to Dirt or vice versa all wagers are void and a new market will be created.

What Happens If An Event Needs To Be Cancelled On Account Of The Weather (or any other reason)?

Sometimes events are cancelled outright for one reason or another rather than delayed. What happens if a match or race is cancelled and you have already made a wager?

Often, what happens to your bet depends on the type of bet it is. Here are some examples.

Example Policies


Here is a relevant rule at Intertops:

These guys love to cancel games if it looks like rain.
We’re just pointing stuff out, that’s all…

If a game in your parlay is postponed, cancelled, ends in a ‘push’ or is refunded for whatever reason (eg, change of venue), then your parlay will be evaluated on the games left that still have action. For example, a four team parlay will automatically become a three team parlay and so on, and the odds will be reduced accordingly from a four team parlay to a three team parlay and so on.

Here is another:

If a game or selection in your round robin is postponed, cancelled, ends in a ‘push’ or is refunded for whatever reason (eg, change of venue), neutral odds of 1.0 are awarded and the round robin will be evaluated on the games left that still have action.

And another:

Ante Post/Futures bets will only be refunded if the entire game/tournament is cancelled.


Let’s take a look at a cancellation policy from BetOnline. Once again, you can see that the type of wager impacts the policy, as does the sport.

For hockey – If any game is suspended or cancelled before it becomes official, after fifty-five (55) minutes of play, the grand salami will be no action.

It isn’t common for matches to be cancelled outright; most sporting events are far more likely to be rescheduled. So, you will find a lot more detail on postponement policies than cancellation policies at most sites.

What happens if an event needs to be postponed for any reason?

Example Policies


Here are some policies pertaining to postponed or rescheduled events as laid out by BetOnline:

Auto Racing – If for any reason a race is delayed or postponed, action for all wagers will remain for 48 hours. In the event that the delay should last more than 48 hours, all wagers are cancelled and the stakes refunded.

Rugby – Should a game be abandoned or postponed for any reason and is not completed within 24 hours of the scheduled start time then all wagers will be considered void.

Soccer – If a game is abandoned or postponed for any reason, all wagers will stand provided the game is played or re-started within 24 hours of the original kickoff time. If the game is not player or re-started within 24 hours then all wagers will be considered void with the exception of 1st half wagers if they have already been settled.


This is the Cloudbet general policy for postponed events:

If a match does not start on the scheduled starting date or starts but is later abandoned and is not completed (resumed) by the end of the next full day, all bets will be void except for any bets placed on markets which have been unconditionally determined, which will stand.

Some markets have different rules and these are listed under each sport/market.

What happens in the case of dead heat?

Another situation where rules can vary between sportsbooks is when there is a tie for a race or a game. Nonetheless, most policies are similar in this area. Let’s take a look at some example policies for dead heat.

Example Policies


Cloudbet has this policy for dead heat:

For each bet matched on a relevant winning selection, the stake money is first reduced in proportion by multiplying it by the sum of the number of winners, divided by the number of actual winners (i.e. stake multiplied by (number of winners expected/number of actual winners). The winnings are then paid to the successful backers on this ‘reduced stake’ (reduced stake multiplied by traded price).

As this is a rather complicated policy, the site also provides the following example:

For example, assume there is a dead heat for first place between three horses. ‘Client A’ has backed one of the winners for a stake of 300 at the traded price of 4.0. When the event is settled, the stake (300) is multiplied by 1/3 (i.e. the number of expected winners (1) divided by the number of actual winners (3)) to calculate the reduced stake (100). The backer then receives the traded price matched (4.0) multiplied by the reduced stake (4 x 100 = 400). In this example, Client A’s net winnings are 100 (400 payout minus the original 300 stake).


1.3.17 Dead Heat Rule: If for any reason whatsoever, more than one individual or team are declared winners of the same game or event, the stake for the purposes of pay-outs shall be divided by the number of winners declared. For example, if two winners are declared, the stake shall be halved. If three winners are declared, the stake shall be divided by three.


Many betting sites have dead heat rules for each sport. Here are some examples from BetOnline.

Golf – For golf wagers containing more than two participants (3 balls or groups) where two or more players tie for the same place the dead heat rule is applied as follows:
The wager is reduced according to how many players tie and is then applied to the full odds with the remainder of the stake deemed as lost.

For example:

  • You wager $100 at odds of +200 and 2 players tie for the same position.
  • Half the stake is lost -$50
  • The other half wins and is paid the same odds. So $50 wins at +200
  • If 3 players tie for the same position then:
  • Two thirds of the stake is lost -$66.66
  • The remaining third $33.33 wins.
  • What happens if something unfair has taken place in a match or race?

Thrown matches and corruption among judges are both less common than many bettors assume, but they do happen.

What Happens To Your Wager If Such An Event Does Occur?

Example Policies

It is a bit difficult to track down these policies, probably in part because it is rare for them to need to go into effect. But you can view one example below.


When a game or sporting event has or is suspected of having any irregularities the Operator may withhold payments until a full investigation by the relevant governing body/independent authority.

What happens if there is a technical problem when you place a wager or the sportsbook made a human error?

Sometimes, the unexpected event that takes place has nothing to do with what is going on with teams, players, venues, or other events on the field.

Instead, it may have something to do with what is going on between you and the sportsbook.

For example, there could be a technical error that causes your bet to be filled at the wrong time at the wrong odds.

Sometimes, there could also be a human error made at the sportsbook end.

In Situations Like These, Who or What Is To Blame?

Example Policies


Make sure you don’t become this guy and mess up your own bets!

Cloudbet explains when it will and will not void a bet for reasons that have to do with system problems and/or human error:
If a bet is accepted at a price that is materially different from those available in the general market at the time the bet was made or clearly incorrect given the chance of the event occurring then the Operator will void all these bets.
Although every effort is made to ensure that information displayed on site with regards to events is correct, event dates, start times, scores and match times displayed on our website are an indication only and are not guaranteed to be correct. Customers should be aware that transmissions (data feeds, live video streaming, etc) described as live may at times be delayed. The extent of a delay may vary between customers, depending on the connection through which they are receiving data or content. If you rely on this information to place bets, you do so entirely at your own risk.
Cloudbet will not be liable for any action taken or not taken by you as a result of your reliance on this information or for any loss or damage (direct or indirect) suffered as a result of your use of this information.

Here is a relevant policy at MyBookie:

In the case of an obvious line error on a posted line, MyBookie Sportsbook, Casino and Racebook Sportsbook, Casino and Racebook reserves the right to either
(a) Correct any obvious errors by settling winning bets at the ‘Correct Price’ which will be reasonably determined by MyBookie Sportsbook, Casino and Racebook Sportsbook, Casino and Racebook, or
(b) Void any bet placed on obvious line errors.


Here is what Intertops has to say:

All published odds and point spreads at the time bets are accepted, are used to determine winners, losers and ties and are for information purposes only. Intertops shall maintain a record of all point spreads, odds, final scores and related betting propositions, as well as statistics to protect both the customer and Intertops in case of obvious mechanical or human error.

Intertops cannot under any circumstances be held responsible for any mistakes in the publishing of prices or other palpable errors which lead to prices or conditions being posted other than those intended, or bets being accepted that contravene these rules. Despite our every effort to ensure total accuracy, we reserve the right to correct obvious errors. For bets placed in-running that are accepted at incorrect prices and are obvious errors, all bets will be made void and the customer will NOT be contacted.

Intertops shall in no way and under no circumstances be liable for any damages or losses including without limitation direct, indirect, consequential, special, incidental, or punitive damages, deemed or alleged to have resulted from or caused by the present web site or its content, including without limitation any person’s use or misuse of its content, the inability of any person to use the site, delays in operation or transmission, communication line failure or any errors or omissions in content.

What Happens If You Make a Mistake When You Place a Bet?

There may be times when you regret placing a bet because of a mistake that you made. Perhaps you misread something, mistyped a number, or submitted a ticket when you did not mean to. What happens in these situations? Can you cancel your bet? Let’s take a look at how different sportsbooks handle this scenario.

Take a look at this image. That’s what it will look like when placing a wager at BetOnline which is similar to the others. As you can see, mistakes shouldn’t happen, your bet isn’t placed until you click the giant green button!

Example Policies


Bovada writes:
You can’t cancel, change, or modify your bet in any way once it has been received and accepted by Bovada Casino and Sportsbook. As you are solely responsible for your account transactions, review all bet details for any mistakes, errors or omissions before clicking ‘PLACE BETS’.

Bovada also goes on to address scenarios where a bet may be deemed invalid even if you want it to go through.

  • Bets will be accepted up to the starting time of the sporting event.
  • A bet shall be deemed invalid when:
  • It is submitted later than the deadline.
  • It is completed erroneously or incorrectly.
  • It is a bet on an obvious line error.
  • It isn’t accepted by the transaction server for some reason.


MyBookie writes:

It is the client’s responsibility to review wagers before submitting them and before logging out to make sure all bets are placed correctly. All wagers placed on the internet are final and cannot be changed or deleted.

Xbet writes:

Please be aware that Live betting wagers CAN NOT BE CANCELLED, and players are responsible for enabling and disabling this option at their discretion.


Cloudbet says:

A bet, which has been placed and accepted, cannot be amended, withdrawn or cancelled by you.

You may wonder if this leaves you entirely without recourse if you make a mistake. You could always try contacting customer service at the betting site you were using. There is a chance that if you ask nicely and you are a longstanding, reliable customer, they will grant the request and cancel or modify your bet for you, given that the circumstances make sense.

Nevertheless, you should not go in with high expectations. Most betting sites make it quite clear that they are not going to correct errors for you, and do not allow you to do so yourself.

This policy makes sense, because it is easy to picture situations where someone might want to change their bet for reasons that have nothing to do with a mistake, but still claim that they made their bet in error.

If betting sites regularly granted requests for modifications, it would be all too easy for bettors to change their wagers in response to new information, which is clearly not playing fair.

What if a sports season is put on hold or cancelled because of COVID-19?

Nowadays, there is another big “what if” scenario you need to be concerned about when you were wagering on sports.

It Is Possible That a Sports Season Could be Postponed Or Even Cancelled Outright Because of Coronavirus?

Sportsbooks have needed to come up with policies to address this possibility. Here are some examples.

Example Policies


Intertops has policies set by sport. For example:
NFL Futures
Superbowl and Conferences:
– All wagers will be graded on the official result regardless of season length or playoff format.
Divisions: Wagers will be graded on the officially declared result that is listed on the NFL’s official website, regardless of the number of games that have been played.
If the regular season is cancelled and no divisional champions have been declared on the NFL’s official website within 28 days of the regular season being officially cancelled, then ALL wagers for the relevant divisions will be void with the exception of those that have already been mathematically determined.

MLB Futures
World Series and Pennants:
– All wagers will be graded on the official result regardless of season length or playoff format.
Divisions: Wagers will be graded on the officially declared result that is listed on MLB’s official website, regardless of the number of games that have been played.
If the regular season is cancelled and no divisional champions have been declared on MLB’s official website within 28 days of the regular season being officially cancelled, then ALL wagers for the relevant divisions will be void with the exception of those that have already been mathematically determined.


Bovada has put together an entire page specifically regarding COVID-19 in its help files. The page is subject to change, and is being updated as events unfold. Here is an example of a policy update that is current as of the time of this writing:

***UPDATE*** NBA Regular Season – Wager Settlement:
The NBA Board of Governors has approved a plan to resume the regular season in July. Below is our plan for settling all NBA Futures and Season Props:
To Make the Playoffs: If the team makes the new playoff format, “Yes” will be graded the winner and “No” will be refunded. If the team does not make the playoffs then “No” is graded the winner and “Yes” will be refunded. The only exception is for teams that clinched a playoff spot at the time of the stoppage or were mathematically eliminated at the time of the stoppage. (Lakers, Warriors, Bucks, Raptors and Celtics)
League Leaders: Leaders at the end of the season will be settled a win all others will be voided.
Regular Season Team Wins: In cases where the unplayed game(s) would have an impact on the result, all wagers will be settled No Action. All Other wagers will be graded based on the results at the end of the regular season or if the teams win total has mathematically unattainable at the time of the stoppage.
NBA Divisions: Winners will be graded at the end of the regular season. Losers will be settled No Action
Post-season related bets (Ex. Conference Championships and NBA Finals) as well as NBA Regular Season awards (Ex. MVP, Rookie of the Year etc.) still have action and will be settled once results are finalized.

Always Review the Betting Rules for Each Site Where You Wager

We have discussed a number of “what if” scenarios you might encounter when you are betting on sports. These include postponements, dead heat, technical problems and more.

You also have had a chance to take a look at some of the policies at different sportsbooks. You can see that policies vary from one site to another, from one sport to the next, and even between different types of wagers, even though they are often similar.

This is why you should check terms and conditions and rules pages when you join sportsbooks. Otherwise, you might make incorrect assumptions. It is important to know what to expect so you can make informed decisions when you are betting.

There are also countless reasons as to why you should be joining multiple sportsbooks. There are quite a few listed in this article here whether you have realized it or not. Everyone’s always going to have their own policies, you want to make sure you join the one(s) that are right for you!

Anything Else Catch Your Eye Over Here?

UPDATED November 6, 2020
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