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Oddsmakers Explain How Their World Really Works

“The best guys I’ve seen have their “thing” that they do best. “He’s a golf guy.” “That guy is sharp with totals.” “He is a prop man.” Find yours and go at it 100%.”

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On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that effectively  limited sports betting to just Nevada. That ruling gave each state the individual right to decide whether to legalize gambling, and since that time 22 states, plus Washington D.C. have adopted sports betting in some capacity.

That decision also opened up the floodgates for the sports betting industry as a whole, and with that came an influx of new bettors. 

First time bettors come with a lot of questions, and understandably so. Since I’ve been writing about the gambling industry for a few years now, I was frequently getting asked about how it all worked. I decided to go straight to the source, because who better to ask than Oddsmakers themselves? 

What are sports odds and betting lines? | IntelligentBettingTips.com

So I chatted with my guys in Las Vegas: Chris Andrews, the SportsBook Director at the South Point Casino; Alan Berg, the Trading Manager at Caesars/ William Hill and long-time Vegas oddsmaker Dave Sharapan to gather their insights on commonly asked questions by beginners.

How do oddsmakers set their lines? 

Chris Andrews: I, along with most oddsmakers I know, start with keeping power ratings. Everyone has their own methodology for doing that, which is good. We all don’t want to come up with the same number.

Alan Berg: Usually a place has a set of ratings and opinions based on their staff. And depending on the shop they are aggressive, indifferent or passive on activating the lines. The world market is key to many books turning on their lines, if you are off that market at all there will be bettors willing to oblige you with a bet. 

Dave Sharapan: You’d be surprised how the lines are set.  There is no magical formula or one way to do it. Ideally, you have an odd number of guys (3 or 5 works best) who do power ratings and “make” numbers. They are independent of each other and have their own methodology to arrive at the number. You take them all, mix ’em up all together, and you have a number. The reason for the odd number of guys is so there is never a tie. Oddsmakers and sportsbooks are not big fans of pushes.

What’s the toughest part of the line making process?

CA: The toughest part is making the right adjustment after an upset or a blowout. Both circumstances mean something, but you don’t want to overreact or underreact.

AB: Preseason stuff is always the toughest because so many things change. As the year goes along in any sport all your stats, bets and opinions are based on what you are seeing vs. predictions. 

DS: The discussions are fun, but they can get heated. A lot of ego gets involved, and nobody likes to admit they might be wrong. It’s a lot like making a case in a courtroom, only you don’t have a judge and bailiff to maintain order.

I respect the hell out of guys on both sides of the counter who have models, use algorithms, and rely on the data. Same goes for the guys who do it with number two pencils and paper.

Sports Betting Systems, Software, Parlays, Football, Soccer

Ultimately, someone who comes up with good numbers and can tell me why BEFORE the games are played and bets are made…that’s the tough part.

For a lot of new gamblers out there, they always ask the same question, ‘how is it that Vegas’s line is always so close to the final outcome’? 

CA: First of all, we’re not always that close. Just when we are, people make a big deal out of it. Secondly, we don’t want to be close. That’s when we get hurt is when it falls right on the number.

AB: A lot of times that’s an illusion, but using the NFL as an example. The numbers are a whole lot closer near the end then the beginning. Mainly because the math is based on what’s actually happened. 

DS: I laugh when I hear this. Only because people only remember the ones that landed close to the number. There are way more that aren’t close than are. Oklahoma was a 28 point favorite and lost outright to Kansas State. And the Ravens were a 3.5 favorite on Monday night in prime time to the Chiefs and never had a shot. 

I am impressed with the totals more than anything. Like Game 3 of the NBA finals, line closed Lakers -10, total of 219. Final score, Heat 115, Lakers 104. Side not close, total right on the number. Which one is the story?

One piece of advice you’d give to bettors on increasing their odds to win?

CA: The juice will kill you more than bad numbers. It’s important to get a good number, but look at a bookmaker. They never get the best of the number, yet they mostly win because the juice is on their side. Depends on the situation, because there are many different scenarios, but if you can sacrifice the best number for a better money price it might be worth it. Be careful either way. The other thing I would tell you is constantly evaluate your method. Don’t just ‘believe in yourself.’ Question yourself. Constantly. 

AB: I think learning to make your own numbers through stats, research and matchups will help if you put enough work in. You’ll know when you start doing a good job when your openers are close to the world market. 

DS: Narrow your focus. Get good at one thing, one conference or one sport. The best guys I’ve seen have their “thing” that they do best. “He’s a golf guy.” “That guy is sharp with totals.” “He is a prop man.” Find yours and go at it 100%.

Can you explain the importance of bankroll management? 

CA: Tough one. You have to bet enough to mean something but not enough that it can break you. I would also tell you if you’re serious about betting don’t piss away your money screwing around with TV action or parlays. You’ll blow a lot of money before you know it. And the tables and slot machines are a no-no.

AB: More than bankroll I think just making sure you get the best number you can at the time is the most important. People always think it doesn’t matter for one bet, but you’d be surprised how fast that adds up if you bet multiple straight bets every day. 

DS: Bankroll management is essential to being successful. It’s not just about picking winners and losers. Usually takes some hard lessons to really learn how to do it…or, if you are lucky, a really good mentor.

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Like anything else, you can read books on how to manage your bankroll, but until you do it, you don’t truly understand it.

Is the rapid growth of media outlets producing and promoting sports betting content good or bad for the industry?

CA: Good overall for the industry, but there is a lot of bad advice floating around out there.

AB: Combination like most things. I would like to see a niche carved out in the mainstream for people who have actually bet or taken bets to help educate the people who watch all these shows. Someday we will likely get there but it will likely be a painful road. 

DS: The growth of sports betting content is both good and bad for the industry. It’s good because it’s opening up opportunities for people in the industry who otherwise would be kept in some back room somewhere. It’s fun to talk shop with guys like you who want to cover it and give guys like us a forum to do it.

It’s bad for the industry in a way. In that there Is just bad content out there too. Stuff that paints the industry a certain way or takes advantage of novice bettors, man, it’s hard to stomach sometimes.

Finding a happy medium is the sweet spot. Good content that is entertaining without being too in your face.  With everyone in a race to get customers, it seems like it can be too much at times.

It’s all exploding so fast. You just have to see what works for you and what you want to consume. And just like bets in a book, opinions will vary on what is and isn’t good content. 

BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 44

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This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.

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BSM Writers

Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio

“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”

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Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon.  Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight. 

Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.

A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show.  Especially in sports.

Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.

On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.

First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.

On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly.  Never interrupt the guest with an ID.

Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.

“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”

In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.

We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up.  He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.

Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard.  It was a really inciteful chat.  Never was on the podcast.

Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.

“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”

“Have you seen a life for you after football?”

“How much do you hate a certain player?”

All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.

Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.

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I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway.  The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.

I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.

Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.

Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.

Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.

(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)

The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming. 

Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks. 

They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.

Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.  

Quality shines through the speakers.  The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.

How to Start a Podcast: Podcasting for Beginners - RSS.com Podcasting

The podcast industry is continually evolving.  Radio needs to evolve as well.  Then, it can be a fair fight.

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BSM Writers

National Voices Can Work For Local Clients

“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”

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Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.

I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.

In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.

Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area.  The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen. 

Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!

If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.  

Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it. 

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