Now that your money is down, Pregame.com's RJ Bell tells you what you should have done.
Why is March Madness such a popular event for gamblers?
I think with any sporting event, there’s a very strong correlation between the interest in viewers to watch it on TV, and the interest in betting on it, so if people want to watch it, they want to bet on it. I think that March Madness is actually amplified because of the brackets. The reality is, the brackets are so simple and the seeds help so much, so even if you don’t understand that Duke is better than team XYZ, you see a little “2” beside Duke’s name and a “15” beside Albany and you know Duke is better. That allows the novices to get involved.
Also, with the brackets there’s a social element. I would say half of the people filling out brackets, if they would somehow be alone in filling out a bracket or maybe even just doing it with their one best buddy, I think over half the people that participate wouldn’t, but once it becomes something that’s office-based, or once it becomes something friends from across the country are doing at ESPN.com, the simplicity and the social element combine to really amplify the interest.
Can you tell me a little bit about Pregame.com?
We are the biggest sports betting news site that is compliant with US law. We’re based in Nevada, and everything we do is 100% above board. We have our own ESPN radio show here is Las Vegas that, actually, on April 1st, is moving to 10 a.m., so we’re the first local show in town right after Colin Cowherd. During football season, I do a weekly segment with Colin. Our tagline is “Connect before you bet.” We don’t take any bets. We’re a news site, but we are a platform that allows sports bettors to connect with people that have similar interests and that they believe offer them value, and with that collective IQ, the wisdom of crowds, is the more people that are able to connect and learn from each other, and the better chance they have of beating the market.
Can you touch on where New Jersey is with their gambling legislation and how that might change the face of the sports book in the US?
Losing the first round of [the battle to legalize gambling in New Jersey] was very much expected. So it would have been great if they would have won, but they were a big underdog to win initially, so to me, it’s not discouraging. If somehow they win on appeal, and again I think there’s more than a small chance they will, it will create a domino effect where other states are going to say, “Wait a minute.” California is going to say “New Jersey gets all that tax revenue and we don’t?” I think if you look at this on a 10-year horizon, this is inevitable.
Sports betting is a big part of society. Keep in mind that Nevada accounts for less that 1% of the world’s sports betting. When 99% of it is happening outside of Nevada, and not being taxed by the United States, it’s happening anyway. And I think the domino effect is going to be very similar to what we saw with brick and mortar casinos. Initially, it was Vegas and Atlantic City and then it was a few other places, and then all of a sudden the taboo was gone, and then it was everywhere. So as soon as the first domino falls, we’re going to have a domino effect. I think the first domino falling is inevitable, but I can’t be sure New Jersey is going to be the first domino.
What’s the best sport to bet on?
I think NFL is the most fun, simply because most people have the strongest passion for the NFL and with only 32 teams once a week, people’s natural level of knowledge is high and it’s more fun to bet when you fully understand teams. So in a weird way that is paradoxical, it makes it harder to win because everyone kind of knows a lot about it, but it is more fun, I think.
And the worst?
Unless you’re a wonk [expert] or very analytically driven, baseball is a real challenge because there’s 162 games, which means that it’s so difficult to know something the odds maker doesn’t know as you get to game 50 and 80 and on. Thus, the lines are what we call “tight” and those tight lines make it difficult to win. But if you are very very good at baseball, you have a great profit potential because there are so many games, but for the average bettor, all of those games mean the lines are extra tight, which makes it a grind and a challenge.
Also, a lot of things I just said about the MLB are actually applicable to the NBA as well. Here’s some great advice: if you want to have a great chance to win, pick one college basketball conference, just one conference, only handicap those 10 or 12 teams. Don’t bet any out of conference games, just bet those games and you, if you are of average intelligence and put the time in, have a heck of a chance to win. Because that specificity results in expertise and even an above average sports fan can know more that Vegas does if they spend all their time researching that conference.
What is the weirdest prop bet you’ve ever seen?
There was a guy in town, he was around the poker rooms, and they bet him $100,000 that he wouldn’t get breast implants and keep them in for six months. He did. He won the $100,000 and he wrote a book about it.
Should you ever bet your own team?
Well, yes, if you can do it impartially. Betting your own team actually speaks to having deep knowledge about a team, and to me - I’m a huge Steelers fan - and because I am able to be impartial, I have the highest winning percentage of any NFL team on the Steelers, because I’m willing to bet on them and against them and I follow them more closely than any other team.
We’re going to list a couple of people, and you tell me if you’d like to go gambling with them and why. The first is Charles Barkley.
Absolute yes, because I figure a he might just drop a few of his $1000 chips.
How about Wild Bill Hickok?
Well, I probably would enjoy playing poker with him, because based on what I’ve read, he was actually a losing poker.
Yes, because Floyd is such a Vegas guy. He literally bets hundreds of thousands of dollars on sports. His focus is sports betting and that’s my first love too, so we certainly could share that.
Finally, Albert Einstein?
Yeah! That would be fun for sure. It’s funny because a lot of the guys who were seminal to gambling theory, were first successful investors in the stock market. There’s a guy named Ed Thorp who wrote the first book on blackjack called Beat the Dealer, and he ended up being really one of the grandfathers of the hedge fund industry, so a super high IQ scientific approach with someone like Einstein would have a lot of success.