A Slam Dunk for Online Sportsbooks
by Buzz Daly
Traditionally, the Super Bowl has been the sporting event that generates
the most wagering, but it is being superceded by the three-week orgy of
betting on college basketball that takes place during the NCAA Mens
Basketball Tournament, popularly known as March Madness. While gridiron
action is the engine that pulls the sportsbetting train, the emergence
of offshore sportsbooks as an alternative to local stores has encouraged
more and more punters to stay in action as football segues into hoops.
The ability to bet over the Interneteasily, without a lot
of fuss or computer smartshas increased the sports betting market
tremendously, observed William Caesar, managing director of Belize-based
Carib Sports. Like most offshore shops, Carib handles action via toll-free
telephones and over the Internet. But over the last few years, online
business has dwarfed what we do on the phone, said Caesar.
Bookmakers rejoice over the daily action that comes with baskets. Although
baseball too is played every day, it has never caught on as a popular
betting activity. Caribs Caesar noted that the public doesnt
seem to understand or enjoy betting money lines, which is how baseball
odds are expressed. Basketball odds, like football, are offered in point
spreads. With sports bettors getting into action from their homes or offices,
and the betting menus of offshore books bigger and more attractive than
many of those in Las Vegas, business is booming. The drop off after
football used to be nearly 40 percent, said Caesar, who opened Carib
in 1993, but now there is virtually no change in volume after the
The proliferation of computersparticularly among sports bettors,
who tend to be young, upscale maleshas altered the wagering mix
considerably. Today, 90 percent of Caribs action comes via the Internet.
Other books report similar ratios. The main difference between betting
over the phone and in cyberspace is the limits. Phone bettors are generally
offered higher ceilings. Online action frequently tops off at $500 or
$1,000, but more books are increasing what they will accept.
Curacao-based Aces Gold gives customers very high limits on the
Internet, said the shops bookmaking manager, known as Charlie.
We feel we can put up as good or better numbers than anyone in the
world. If we cant, then were going to get our butt blistered.
Were going into our sixth season. Not too long ago it was 98 percent
phone, 2 percent Internet. Now, were at 70 percent Internet. Some
of our wisest guys have Internet accounts.
For those who are thinking about opening an online account, you should
select at least two books in order to shop lines, and take advantage of
the volatility of basketball numbers, particularly totals. In choosing
a place to play, personal recommendations from friends are a good way
to start. You can also peruse posting forums at websites that encourage
comments from bettors. But beware, sometimes people with an agenda use
the forums to lobby for, or against, a book.
Checking out ads in reputable publications like Gambling Times is another
method of deciding where to play. Well not recommend any specific
books, but suggest you avoid being dazzled by those which promise the
most freebies or biggest sign-up incentives. Savvy bettorsthose
who concentrate on books that emphasize professional management, competitive
vig, and attractive but fiscally sound signup incentivesgenerally
experience minimal problems. Happily for players, the marketplace is crowded
and books are aggressively vying for customers. We can use that to our
advantage by seeking out special offers that the books use to separate
themselves from the competition.
excellent example is Bet365USA (www.bet365usa.com),
a U.K.-based full-service sportsbook, has several unique features. In
addition to the standard option of buying points, Bet365 lets players
sell points as well, from one-half to seven points.
On parlays, Bet365 offers true odds instead of fixed odds, which often
contain onerous vig. The books basketball parlays are computed just
like baseball parlays, reducing the house advantage. It also has created
a prop called the flexi-teaser, which lets bettors tease up to twelve
teams with variable teases of one-half to seven points. We salute them
just for having the software that can calculate such brain-twisting plays.
book, Belize-based Yahoops (www.yahoops.com),
specializes in handling just basketball action. It offers NCAA, NBA and
European leagues. The site takes wagers in seven different languages and
claims its phone limits, handled over toll-free telephone lines, are higher
than most Internet shops.
The aforementioned books are just two examples of what is out there for
basketball bettors. Surfing with a purpose will likely turn up other appealing
options. Some Internet books offer overnight lines on the following days
games. Limits are relatively low, but serious players take advantage of
this option. In fact, there is so much overnight business conducted by
professionals and syndicate bettors that line movement tends to be hectic
Beware of early line moves as a lot of it is influenced by those looking
to set up middles. According to several offshore bookmakers, much overnight
and morning play is from middlers. Wiseguys and the syndicates make their
big plays in the afternoon. There is a lot of competition among these
groups. It is not unusual for one outfit to come in strong on a side,
then, after the line has moved two to three points, another group plays
the other side.
Professional players feel betting baskets offers the biggest advantage
of any sport. The sheer number of games and propositions that must be
posted by the oddsmaker on a daily basis is overwhelming. This can work
in the bettors favor. Unlike casino games, which have built-in negative
expectations for players, sports wagering is beatable, as illustrated
by a small number of professionals who regularly beat the books. The bookmakers
know who they are, and while many shops keep them on a short leash, others
use their action to balance the publics play, which tends to be
weighted towards favorites.
In sports wagering, even the rankest of squares is bucking only a house
edge equal to that of 10 percent of a straight wager. For more than forty
years, the standard 11-10 vig has been the bookmakers edge. What
other business has had such strong resistance to inflation? During that
time, the accessibility of information that helps bettors overcome the
house advantage has improved dramatically. Todays technology offers
a vast array of convenient, cost-effective means to gather relevant information
that only a decade ago was the private preserve of the oddsmaker and a
few professional bettors. Casual/recreational punters can use the same
strategy that gives wiseguys their winning edge. That is the ability to
scan the board and make plays only where they perceive a line is out of
whack or is a mistake by the oddsmaker.
Realizing that there are differences between the college and NBA game,
and knowing what they are, is important. College hoops is one of the most
volatile sports in terms of personnel changes and coaching movement. Tracking
this is difficult, but serious players and the betting syndicates apparently
do a better job than the oddsmaker, because books frequently lower limits
on certain conferences and take games off the board with the slightest
provocation. In the NBA, travel and injuries are the biggest variables
that must be tracked. What bettors are looking for is something that is
not generally known, so it cant be factored into the opening line.
It is the little edges that give bettors an opportunity to win. However,
if you are not a professional, chances are you find sports betting a challenging
activity that provides a generous quid pro quo of entertainment. It is
unrealistic to think showing a dollar profit is the only way to measure
winning or losing. Most players bet enough to give them a rush when they
win, and momentary angst when they lose. But year after year, they keep
coming back for more. Lets face it: sports bettors enjoy the hunt
as much as the kill. As a wise man once observed, the best thing in life
is betting and winning; the next best thing is betting and losing.
Back to Online Gaming | More
Buzz Daly Columns | Mail
this Article to a Friend