Do you want to know why the pointspread moved from -7 to -8 on your favorite team last week? Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a Sportsbook? If you’ve answered yes to either question, then you’ve come to the right place. In the weeks and months ahead, this column will take you behind the “front lines” to help you understand how the sportsbook business operates. As the Operations Manager for BoDog Sportsbook & Casino, I talk to book-makers, handicappers and players every day, so I can shed some light on the mystery of what goes on behind the numbers you see on your screen or in your local newspaper. A little knowledge can go a long way in this business, so my hope is that by reading this column, you’ll be better armed to make the right choices when it comes to picking the right sportsbooks, and winning more bets!
This week, I would like to start with a little introduction of myself, some regular contributors and a few basic terms to get us going.
I’ve been handicapping pointspreads since I was a teenager, and I figured out very early that I was lousy at it. However, I also noticed that lots of my friends were lousy at is as well, so I decided to start trying to make money from them being wrong, rather than me being right. Combining my keen sense of numbers and my interest in the booming online sports betting industry, I parlayed my experiences “on the street” into a full-time career as a bookmaker for offshore sportsbooks in Costa Rica.
During my time as a bookmaker, I noticed that lots of players didn’t seem to understand the industry, although they were participating in it. When I accepted my current position as Operations Manager, I decided to spend some time and help all sportsbook players understand the business side of the sportsbooks a little better. One of my biggest resources will be BoDog’s head bookmaker, Kent. He has an uncanny ability to remember lines, scores and games, and would not be a guy that I would play sports trivia against. Kent has been very generous in providing me with the latest information from BoDog’s wager center, where he gains invaluable input directly from players, as well as all the latest trends and issues affecting our industry. He will be a great asset in our weekly peeks behind the curtain. In addition to Kent’s inside information, I will also be talking to some of the biggest handicappers in the industry, such as Brian Gabrielle, Big Al McMordie, and Doc from Doc’s Sports, so we can all get their views of the games and the industry as a whole.
As a starting point for our weekly discussions, I want all players to understand the basic business model of sportsbooks. As you all know, when you place a straight wager on the pointspread of a football or basketball game, you need to risk $110 to win $100. The $10 difference between risk and payout is known as the juice, or the vigorish (or just “vig” for short) and is the reason sportsbooks are in business. Sportsbooks essentially act as a broker between you and another player who wants to bet on the other team and collects the small commission as compensation for brokering the deal and handling the transfer of funds between the two of you. This is important to understand, because it leads me to the biggest misconception in sports wagering. The pointspread is not the handicapper’s predicted margin-of-victory, but it is in fact the handicapper’s prediction of what number will be required to split the wagering evenly on both teams. We will examine this fact and the opportunities it presents in further detail in the weeks ahead.