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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf.

Ready To Roundball Rock? Here’s The Guide To In-Play NBA Betting In New Jersey

Grant Lucas October 16, 2018
NBA in-play

Certain songs tap into nostalgia, instill excitement and signify the beginning of a long-awaited time of year.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, radio stations begin blasting Christmas carols. March Madness starts playing “One Shining Moment.” Remember Hank Williams Jr? “Are you ready for some FOOTBALL!?”

For the NBA, the great anthem of John Tesh rings in the new year: Roundball Rock.

Lo, the NBA season has arrived. For sports betting as a whole, it becomes another arrow in the quiver of wagering options. For New Jersey sports bettingKambi-powered mobile sportsbooks, per a release by the company, “will be the only place to go as the leading sports betting supplier prepares to offer a raft of updated props hoop-by-hoop.”

Kambi enters NBA realm

Certainly, the NFL will continue to attract the most attention and the most wagers. Football, after all, remains the most popular sports in the country.

The global influence of the NBA, however, could make the sport a contender. And with Kambi, not all NBA bets need rely solely on game outcomes.

According to the release, Kambi-powered sportsbooks in the Garden State will boast the “market-leading offer” beginning with Tuesday’s season-opening NBA games: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston CelticsOklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors.

Every day, Kambi will offer pre-game and in-play betting options as well as “in-running lines” on individual player totals that will update with each passing minute.

“The NBA has become extremely popular over the last few years, with the game becoming faster, smarter and teams relying on analytics more than ever before,” Stefanos Moysidis, Kambi Head of Live Basketball, said in the release. “Superstars are dominating games with a barrage of three-pointers and bettors are increasingly wanting to wager on high-profile players and choose their own lines. At Kambi we have embraced these changes and developed our offering to cater for this new and more informed audience.”

What’s included

Of the eight mobile sportsbooks in New Jersey, three are powered by Kambi:

At each, according to the release, a variety of in-play wagers will be offered by Kambi, which already features “result of current drive” for NFL games and “nearest to the pin” in golf.

Take Tuesday’s Thunder-Warriors matchup. Is Golden State’s Steph Curry in a rhythm? Bet on the over on his individual points line as the game goes on. Is the Warriors’ Kevin Durant struggling from the field? Take the under on his point total.

A more-intricate wagering option has bettors predicting the next made field goal: two-pointer or 3-pointer. All told, Kambi’s in-play betting, to quote the release, creates “a fast-paced wagering experience from tip-off to final buzzer.”

In addition to in-play betting, Kambi will offer an array of pre-game alternative lines and relevant in-game lines, which allows bettors to be picky with which lines on which to wager rather than relying on the traditional point spread or moneyline.

So while Kambi continues to take advantage (and reap the rewards) of the popularity of the NFL season, do not forget about the NBA. With in-play wagering and the variety of lines offered, bettors will be able to stay engaged during any given NBA game, whether it comes down to the final shot or the Warriors run away with a 40-point win.

You can bet on that.

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Shield Your Eyes, America: Small-Town Bookie Movie Is The Worst Idea

Grant Lucas October 5, 2018
All Square

Nothing about All Square seems good. Nothing. Director. Screenwriter. Cast. Everything about the soon-to-be released movie, like the hundreds of turns in NASCAR, nothing is right.

But I guess everyone involved held a similar mindset as Fox Sports Radio blowhard Clay Travis in everything he does: Let’s throw this garbage out there and see what happens.

One review of All Square calls the flick not “as much a movie about gambling … as it is a character study of the players involved.”

That may be the best compliment the film will receive. “It’s a movie… with… uh… people.”

And in a world where legalized sports betting continues to expand and thrive (and somewhat seriously gets discussed), All Square rolls out the tale of a garbage person (a bookie) taking wagers on youth league baseball games because his business model sucks so hard it’s sponsored by Dyson vacuums.

The premise

First, here’s the synopsis of All Square:

“John Zbikowski (Michael Kelly) is a down-on-his-luck, small town bookie having a hard time collecting on outstanding debts. After a one night stand with an ex-girlfriend (Pamela Adlon), John strikes up an unlikely friendship with her 12-year old son, Brian (Jesse Ray Sheps), and develops a plan to recoup the money owed to him by taking bets on Brian’s Youth League Baseball games.”

Yup. “Unlikely friendship” and “taking bets on Brian’s Youth League Baseball games” appears in the same sentence. Phew. Heartwarming. Especially considering Zbikowski himself has no kids yet apparently attends every little league game to gather information about future betting lines. Which of course is not at all strange.

The trailer… Part 1

Two minutes is all it lasts. It is a teaser, after all. Still grueling. And still all you need to know to form an informed opinion on the well-thought-out journey of an upstanding citizen running a shady and illegal business and who is allowed to watch after a kid whose mom this upstanding citizen drunkenly recorded a one-night stand with.

Open: Doug Stamper from House of Cards at his desk, a bowl of Lucky Charms (eaten with fingers) his fuel for being a role model. He answers the phone, and his voiceover begins:

“I’m a bookie. With me, you bet on credit. Now this business model works…” (no, no it doesn’t; a hungover college freshman who sleeps through Intro to Economics could tell you that) “… assuming you get paid.”

Spoilers: Zbikowski is not good at getting paid. Hence, this waste of film reel.

So Zbikowski gets loaded at the local watering hole (Is he free to babysit later?) and runs into an old girlfriend. They proceed to continue getting trashed (sort of a hat on a hat with this trash person) and go back to her place where adult things transpire.

Next morning, Zbikowski comes downstairs. Hey look, a kid. Let’s bet friends, right? He takes Brian to his little league game. And as if he discovered a way to defeat Darwinism, Zbikowski devises a plan: To make up for lost revenue, take wagers on youth baseball.

“I see it,” he said. “Nobody else did.” Yeah. You’re the only one to see it because you’re an awful human being.

Trailer… Part 2

No joke. The garbage man went through the entire little league schedule with this kid, whose intelligence should be questioned considering he continues to pal around with a guy who has clearly made tremendous choices in life.

“I saw an untapped market,” Zbikowski said, as the camera pans over a group of dads whose faces make it seem like the pregame tailgate never occurred like that a-hole Al had promised.

At one point, Zibby decided to put his tanking business aside to give pointers to his young protege. After all, he said with a drag of his cigarette, “I was a pitcher once.” Yeah, and I would have gone pro, too, if my JV coach didn’t have it out for me.

“First batter you face,” this guy tells Brian, “I want you to throw it at him.” Where is this kid’s mom? Or any adult?

Back to the business run so terribly that even Wells Fargo goes, “I’m out.” Naturally, things get “ugly” and “restless” after the popularity of little league betting peaks. (GASP!) Parents and coaches scream at kids: “YOU COST ME 200 BUCKS!”

It took this long (this is the worst town in America) for Josh Lucas to show up as the voice of reason, telling Zbikowski to stop taking bets on the kids’ games. Even Zibby’s buddy, the guy who played a corrupt senator in The Wire, tells him to stop.

Reasons the face for better education: “It’s not my fault people in this town act like savages.”

No. It is.

Fortunately, the trailer ends with Zbikowski getting pummeled by someone higher on the bookie food chain. So at least there’s a happy ending.

Want To Bet On Every Shot At The Ryder Cup? Kambi Has It Covered In NJ

Grant Lucas September 27, 2018
Ryder Cup

Paris. The City of Lights. La Ville des Lumières. The catalyst for Kambi Group’s latest sports betting offering.

At Le Golf National, the Ryder Cup creeps toward its first tee time. Too-swole-for-golf Brooks Koepka and partner Tony Finau kick off America’s run toward a second straight victory as they take on Europe’s Justin Rose and Jon Rahm. The tournament begins at 2:10 a.m. ET on Friday.

While that appears too late for the normal person (though ideal for those just getting back from the bars), Kambi provides an opportunity to enjoy the Ryder Cup with cash implications.

And Kambi, with swing-by-swing and hole-by-hole coverage, expects record-breaking betting figures.

Kambi cashing in on Cup

A sports betting platform and software supplier for DraftKings Sportsbook, SugarHouse Sportsbook, and 888sport in New Jersey, Kambi expanded its golf-related offerings ahead of the Ryder Cup.

An in-depth range of pre-match and in-play betting options sets up Kambi to anticipate “a record-breaking number of wagers” over the weekend, according to a release from the company. Combined with several US states activating legalized sports betting and Europe’s bolstered market, Kambi predicts the “Ryder Cup to be the biggest yet.”

“We are very excited by what the next few days will bring,” Johan Munthe, Kambi Head of Pre-Match, said in the release. “The Ryder Cup has always been popular among Europe-based bettors and, following the return to form of arguably the greatest golfer of all time in Tiger Woods, we are also seeing plenty of interest from our new US players in our market-leading pre-match offering.”

With the bi-annual Ryder Cup likely attracting golf’s largest global audience, pitting Team Europe against Team USA, Kambi said it will provide bettors with “the industry’s market-leading experience before and during each of the competition’s three days.”

Over the three days, Kambi will offer live and in-play betting options across all 28 matches.

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What to wager on

A “vast array” of betting options will be rolled out by Kambi.

On top of the traditional bets, taking one team or another, bettors have the option to wager on the top team points scorertop rookie and top wildcard. Another set of special bets also exist, such as number of points gained by individual players and hole-in-one-related markets.

Over 28 matches across the three days of competition, according to Kambi, patrons can bet on match winnersleaders after nine holes and the hole on which the match will end.

To highlight it all, Kambi will introduce a variety of shot-by-shot instant markets for featured matches. During those matches, live bet offers include

  • hitting the fairway
  • finding a bunker
  • landing in water hazard
  • closest to the pin

“Coupled with our hole-by-hole live coverage and unrivaled range of instant markets,” Munthe said, “we are expecting to see record turnover while we are once again proving that a high-quality Sportsbook must not only deliver a best-in-class UX for a handful of sports, but across all sports.”

Seeing The Woods Through The Trees: Tiger Is Back, And Oddsmakers Agree

Grant Lucas September 25, 2018
Tiger Woods

The 18th green and the area around it at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta may now sit several feet lower than it did Sunday morning thanks to Tiger Woods. Ironically, after causing the uproarious celebration that Atlanta hasn’t seen since the Falcons took a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI (too soon?), Woods watched his odds soar to win next year’s Masters.

And fitting how, just after securing his 80th career PGA win in his trademark red polo and black slacks, Woods has seemingly made his return as the man to beat. Not just on the golf course but also in the sports betting world. Tiger’s furious finale over the weekend resulted in a number of Tiger-centric futures hitting the sportsbooks. And for once, we don’t have to see the headline, cringe and wonder, “Who cares?”

And that’s what life is all about, right?

Welcome Back, Kotter Tiger

Few expected Tiger Woods to win again after… well… you know…

And then…

Not even John Daly, the long-ball-hitting, tee-off-a-beer-can-swinging and every-man’s favorite golfer whose notoriety for going hard resulted in a cocktail bearing his name, received as much scrutiny.

Yet Woods somehow did the improbable: located the nearest shovel, digging himself out of the hole and scooping up Lindsey Vonn (a gentleman’s tip of the cap, sir). He appeared in nearly just as many tournaments in2018 (18) than the past four years combined (19). He nearly tripled the number of made cuts (16) this past year than between 2014 and 2017 (6) while appearing in all four majors for the first time since 2015.

In Atlanta this Sunday, Woods booked his first PGA win since 2013 and his first Tour Championship victory in 11 years. Watching his post-round interview provided chills, a nostalgic “TI-GER! TI-GER! TI-GER!” chant breaking out from the gallery.

If futures odds are any indication, it won’t be the last time a reception such as that will occur on the 18th green.

Masters and Commander

Per the Westgate SuperBook, Woods is the odds-on favorite to win The Masters. Shake it off. Not a typo. Tiger. Woods. Is. The. Favorite.

Shortly after he sealed the Tour Championship win (and second place in the FedEx Cup standings for a cool $3 million on top of the $1.67 million for winning the tourney), Woods jumped to the top of the 2019 Masters odds list.

Heading into the weekend, Woods was tabbed as a 12/1 favorite to win the coveted green jacket (gold jacket?) next year. Now, Tiger has the target on his back as he seeks his 15th major victory, including his first since 2008 and first at Augusta since 2005.

Other odds emerge

Cue Billy Mays: “But wait… There’s more!”

Remember that Tiger vs. Phil Mickelson head-to-head event? The one thing no Thanksgiving can do without? Westgate lists Woods at -220 to win the match-play event over Lefty, who is tabbed at +180 to win.

“But wait… There’s more!”

Westgate apparently also offers futures on Tiger’s performances at the majors next year. Not so much, “Will he win?” Rather, “How many will he win?”

Thus concludes Tiger Watch — OH BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Apparently “futures” is not limited to just 2019. So make that bet and keep it in a safe place for seven years.

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Lessons To Be Taken From The Unpaid $82,000 Broncos Ticket At FanDuel Sportsbook

Grant Lucas September 18, 2018
FanDuel Sportsbook

Editor’s note: This article was published before FanDuel Sportsbook elected to pay out the winning ticket in the full amount.

Anthony Prince appeared to possess the ticket of a lifetime.

With just over a minute left in an AFC West showdown against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon, the Denver Broncos trailed by two points. They had possession. They began driving. Prince decided he wanted to put money down on Denver to complete the comeback.

The New Jersey resident headed to the counter of FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands Racetrack and, in an interview with News12, said he put $110 on the Broncos with around 1:10 left in the game. At the time, Denver was at its own 45-yard line. NumberFire, a sports data company owned by FanDuel, pegged the Broncos at 38.96 percent chance to win.

The Broncos continued to march down the field, and with 6 seconds left, Denver kicker Brandon McManus drilled a 36-yard field goal just inside the right upright to seal the Broncos victory. And, in theory, hand Prince a sizable payday.

The winning ticket

See, when Prince made his bet at the window, he was handed a FanDuel Sportsbook ticket that listed the Broncos as a 750/1 longshot to win. With a Denver victory, Prince was lined up to rake in $82,610 on his $110 bet. The problem: When Prince went to claim his winnings, FanDuel refused to pay him, allegedly telling Prince that the bet was void because of a glitch in their system. And Prince, understandably, is pissed.

The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) said Tuesday afternoon that the matter is under investigation. FanDuel issued the following statement Tuesday evening:

“The wager in question involved an obvious pricing error inadvertently generated by our in-game pricing system.  Specifically, near the end of the Sunday afternoon game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders, the odds for the Broncos (who had the ball and were trailing by two points at the time) to win were +340 (bet $100 to win $340).  The next play, the Broncos completed a 26 yard pass to position themselves to attempt a 36 yard field goal to take the lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, clearly positioning the Broncos as the favorite to win.  At that moment in the game, our system updated the odds and erroneously posted a price of +75,000 on the Broncos to win the game (bet $100 to win $75,000) when the correct odds for the Broncos to win the game at that point in time were -600 (i.e., bet $600 to win $100).  A small number of bets were made at the erroneous price over an 18 second period.  We honored all such bets on the Broncos to win the game at the accurate market price in accordance with our house rules and industry practice, which specifically address such obvious pricing errors.  We have reached out to all impacted customers and apologized for the error.”

Putting aside the narrative about the bookmaker being in the wrong or about how it should settle a bet regardless if an alleged “glitch” occurred to create an incorrect line. For now, this space is dedicated to educating the bettor. Because, like it or not, when you place a bet, there is a contract that is agreed upon between bettor and bookmaker.

House rules

First and foremost: Each sportsbook in New Jersey (and, really, in any book in any state with regulated sports betting), is required to have “house rules” that, per the DGE, “shall be conspicuously displayed in the sports wagering lounge, posted on the operator’s Internet website, and included in the terms and conditions of the account wagering system, and copies shall be made readily available to patrons.”

Basically, these rules are everywhere. Within them, and, again, required by the DGE, are a number of items. For FanDuel Sportsbook, House Rule No. 6 is telling:

“Patrons should verify that all information on wagering tickets is accurate before leaving the betting window. Management is not responsible for errors or omissions made on a ticket once the patron has left the betting window.”

Sure, seems like a scapegoat. But 750/1 odds for a two-point game in which the underdog has possession and is driving with over a minute to go? Seems too good to be true. Which means it probably is.

And just so we’re clear: this does not absolve the sportsbook for handing Prince the ticket with those odds. After all, the algorithm determining the odds has to “glitch” and the ticket writer has to print off the wager.

Terms and conditions

As required by the DGE, FanDuel Sportsbook also features under its T&Cs for online wagers a section titled “Errors & Suspected Errors” that should draw the attention of future bettors.

After ensuring that the book “makes every effort” to avoid any errors (human and tech), the section indicates that they do occur. So the sportsbook set up a safety net of sorts:

  • “FanDuel Sportsbook reserves the right to correct any obvious errors and to void any bets placed where such errors have occurred.”

Basically a “whoops, yeah that should not have happened, so, no, we won’t pay.” Shady? Maybe. But it happens. It has happened.

Across the pond, this provision has been a mainstay in the UK sports betting industry. Wagers are voided legally as determined by gaming regulations. It’s no different than what happens in Nevada.

Not all is lost for bettors. Per the FanDuel Sportsbook terms and conditions, if “any blatant errors in prices transmitted (including for example where the price being displayed is materially different from those available in the general market and/or the price is clearly incorrect, depending on all of the circumstances), bets will be settled at the correct price at the time of acceptance. … If a bet is accepted by us on an event where offering a price on the event itself (rather than the price) was in error, the bet will be void and your stake will be returned.”

(Fun fact: Apparently FanDuel Sportsbook did offer Prince a consolation prize. The Newark man said an employee offered him $500 and skybox seats to three New York Giants games, but Prince refused.)

Just to be clear…

This is not to defend FanDuel Sportsbook. After all, the operation has had a couple whoopsy-daisies since opening in June.

In general, Prince’s tale of woe and justice-seeking provides a lesson for future customers. There is a contract agreed upon by bookmaker and bettor. And all of them, including FanDuel Sportsbook, end their terms and conditions (the contract) the same way:

“By using our Services, you understand that we reserve the right to change or remove any of these Services at any time.”

BetStars NJ Sports Betting App: How To Get Started

Grant Lucas September 14, 2018

Since DraftKings Sportsbook became the state’s first online product at the beginning of August, the NJ sports betting mobile crowd has swelled to eight products — the latest of which fully activated on Sept. 13.

Welcome, BetStars

Through a partnership with Resorts Atlantic CityThe Stars Group, which operates the PokerStars NJ, introduced its BetStars sports betting platform.

Based out of the Isle of Man, The Stars Group joins the wave of European gaming companies expanding or making their first footprints on American soil.

With nearly a dozen sports betting licenses worldwide, BetStars has become a fixture in the wagering industry. At the time of the company’s partnership with Resorts, Matt Primeaux, SVP Strategy & Operations, USA at The Stars Group, noted how that experience will translate to the US.

“Working with our longstanding partner, Resorts, we are really excited to introduce a brand-new consumer experience by bringing New Jersey fans closer to the sports and the teams that they love,” Primeaux said. He then added: “We believe The Stars Group is uniquely qualified with the experience and insight needed to make sports betting a success in New Jersey.”

How to get started

Gaining access to the BetStars mobile sportsbook is simple.

For Android, users visit the BetStars NJ website and are faced with oversized font that is impossible to miss. A quick scroll down brings to the screen the “Get Our Android App” button. Upon selection, the app will begin downloading on the mobile device. Once complete, open the app, see the options, sign up and get cracking.

Apple users have a more roundabout way to reach the mobile sportsbook.

The BetStars product, for iOS users, is integrated with the PokerStars NJ app. (A standalone product is expected to launch in the future.) From there, the process is similar as Android users. Sign up, see the games, get to betting.

BetStars at a glance

Courtesy of its overseas experience and success, BetStars features a clean interface with smooth navigation.

Upon opening the app on Android, users are taken to the home page that features “Highlights” of the day. In Friday’s case, that included the “Odds Boost” feature, which according to the BetStars website, boosts “the payouts of certain favorite bets each day to give you a bigger and better return.”

Also on the home page are two tabs that display a pair of features ideal for first users. The “Popular” tab includes the top games on which to wager, such as the weekend’s popular college football games or the top events from baseball, soccer, tennis, boxing/UFC and hockey. Neighboring the tab is “In-Game,” which offers in-play betting in contests currently underway. Near the bottom of the page are the “Trending Bets,” a self-explanatory section that features the contests drawing the most action from bettors.

For those not willing to scroll too much, or those who know exactly what sport and what games on which to wager, the top of the page will draw the most attention. Spread across the page beneath the BetStars banner are the wide selection of sports the app offers:

  • NFL
  • NCAA football
  • MLB
  • English Premier League
  • Football (in general, which includes NFL, NCAA and the CFL)
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Boxing/UFC
  • Hockey
  • Cycling
  • Motorsports

The app caters to the frugal bettors in the audience, offering minimum bets of just $0.01 for some events, the lowest in the NJ market. To boot, those penny wagers are vig-free.

Helping the app stand out from the crowd is the “Spin & Bet” feature that is a spinoff of the PokersStars’ “Spin & Go.” With this feature, users take a portion of their wagers and spin a wheel to possibly win up to a 10-time multiplier on potential winnings. Users select a bet type in the drop-down Spin & Bet section of the app, add it to their betting clips, enter the wager amount and click ‘Spin & place bet.’ Odds on the bet will then be multiplied by the spin’s outcome. In order to fund the “enhanced odds jackpot,” according to BetStars, “we deduct 10% from every Spin & Bet amount.”

Primeaux has noted that one of the app’s features will be livestreaming, which by initial launch had not been activated. With this feature, bettors can follow the action of their events without physically watching gameplay.

Additionally, A cashout option allows users to earn winnings before the end of a given event. Take Super Bowl LI, during which the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots. If bettors feared such a comeback was in store, they can cash out before the rally even begins.

BetStars also offers several betting and deposit promotions. After signing up, users can wager $25 on any event on any day and received $5 in free bets. New players also have the opportunity to receive $500 in wagers. Bettors place a bet, up to $50, and have it matched by BetStars. On top of that, for every $150 wagered thereafter, another $50 in free bets come in, up to $450.

FiveThirtyEight Should Be Thankful It’s Not An Actual Sportsbook

Grant Lucas September 7, 2018

Legal sportsbooks should not just be your destination to place a wager. (Quick reiteration of legal sportsbooks. Talking to you, offshore book, among others, that doesn’t deserve to be named because you for some reason still exist and are for some reason setting lines on if Colin Kaepernick gets a signature shoe or if Donald Trump will slam Phil Knight for Nike bringing on the controversial quarterback.)

Whoa. Shake it off.

Anyway, legal sportsbooks are not just for sports betting action. They’re educational tools composed of educated information crafted by highly educated folks. Plays, players, games, teams, leagues, sports, all handicapped by savants who rarely receive their proper due.

Meanwhile, holed up in a dark room lit only by the cold light of a computer screen and serenaded by the depressing soundtrack of the clacking of keyboard keys and the scratching of pencils-on-paper, “experts” provide their take on the 2018 NFL season.

One resource combines analytics, gut feelings and knowledge; the other composed of overanalysis and algorithms. One (hint: the legal sportsbook) mans the keg tap while running the lit playlist at a house party; the other (hint: FiveThirtyEight) lives at said house but was banished to the basement after spending an hour trying to decide what genre of music paired best with the craft beer using thousands of computer simulations.

Simulations that prove nothing

FiveThirtyEight recently unveiled its 2018 NFL predictions, utilizing a model that uses what it calls “Elo ratings,” which measures head-to-head results and quality of opponents. Per the site: “This forecast is based on 100,000 simulations of the season and updates after every game.”

“Good work, everyone,” sighed the simulation supervisor, drawing in a deep breath of stale, chick-pea-puffs-infused air.

Using much less time, and enjoying the light of day as a result, bookmakers churned out win totals and odds to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. After the wiseguys got out their lines, FiveThirtyEight shared its computers’ simulation-derived work. For argument’s sake, we compared FiveThirtyEight’s predictions with the odds offered by FanDuel Sportsbook, which powered by longtime European bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair.

Of the 32 teams in the league, FiveThirtyEight had 23 with win totals that stood within one of those produced by FanDuel Sportsbook. Of that group, 15 were virtually exact or EXACTLY exact with FanDuel’s numbers. Fun fact, if nothing else. But what stands out with FiveThirtyEight should relieve the company that it’s not actually a sportsbook.

Value where value should not be

Last year’s FiveThirtyEight predictions are interesting to study. (In fairness, even sportsbooks get bad beats; and unforeseen injuries — like for Green Bay, Indianapolis and Houston — certainly hurt projections.)

Heading into Week 1 of the 2017 season, FiveThirtyEight gave the Philadelphia Eagles a 2 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, one of the lowest in the league. They were forecast to finish third in the NFC East with an 8-8 record. Of course, Philly went on to go 13-3, win the division and the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

Other surprises cropped up: Jacksonville winning the AFC South after being projected to take last, and reaching the AFC Championship game; the Los Angeles Rams winning the NFC West after having the fourth-lowest percentage to reach the playoffs in the league. Sportsbooks also succumbed to such surprises. But the 2018 predictions from FiveThirtyEight are … surprising, to be nice about it.

Obviously, the company (sorry, its simulations) have the usual suspects atop the Super Bowl favorites: New England, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Same with FanDuel Sportsbook.

Let’s say FiveThirtyEight was a sportsbook. Where’s the value?

Oh, I’ll feed you, baby birds.

Start with the teams that are overrated (compared with FanDuel Sportsbook’s odds). Kansas City, per FiveThirtyEight will win the AFC West with 9.5 wins (8 wins by FanDuel). The Chiefs are the sixth-biggest favorite (12th by FanDuel) to reach the playoffs and the seventh-biggest favorite (16th by FanDuel) to win the Lombardi Trophy.

Never thought I’d say this, but Alex Smith is no longer there for the Chiefs. Their playmakers (Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill) are now on the radars of opponents. And KC’s defense is fragile. With the Chargers on the rise and the streakiness of the Raiders, the Chiefs have a difficult road ahead. Under on wins; yeah, OK, on playoffs; end of season.

FiveThirtyEight’s algorithm (dang robots) also overvalues Buffalo, which inexplicably reached the playoffs last year but not by their own doing. The company/fictional sportsbook has the Bills winning 8 games (FanDuel more accurately with 6.5) and with reasonable playoff chances at 36 percent. FanDuel gives Buffalo the longest odds at the postseason, which, without Tyrod Taylor and no other weapons seems more reasonable.

The greatest discrepancies between FiveThirtyEight and FanDuel Sportsbook come with Green Bay, Houston, and San Francisco.

Consider that in only two seasons the Packers have not made the playoffs with Aaron Rodgers as a starter: 2008 (his first year as the play-caller) and last year (when he was injured early in the season). Yet FiveThirtyEight projects Green Bay to take third in the NFC North with 7.1 wins (10 by FanDuel), a paltry 23 percent chance at the playoffs (FanDuel with sixth-best odds), and a mere 1 percent crack at the title (FD against with sixth-best odds).

A similar story is told with Houston, which was 3-4 and in the division title hunt before starter Deshaun Watson went down. FiveThirtyEight gives the Texans 6.3 wins (8.5 by FanDuel) to finish last in the AFC South and the fourth-lowest chance at reaching the postseason (ninth-best by FanDuel). San Francisco is also predicted to take last in its division with 7.3 wins (8.5 by FanDuel) with a slightly better playoff percentage than Green Bay but still in the lower half of the league (FanDuel with upper-half odds). This FiveThirtyEight forecast is for a team that features a QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, that went 5-0 as a 49ers starter last year and added offensive and defensive weapons in the offseason.

Certainly pocketing the potential to tell everyone, “I TOLD YOU SO! I CALLED IT!” while parading around the room like Rocky Balboa is the American dream.

But being able to take on the “experts” (FiveThirtyEight allows readers to do week-by-week picks to beat its projections) and scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!” is even sweeter.

DraftKings Celebrating NJ Sports Betting Milestone The Only Way It Knows How

Grant Lucas September 5, 2018
DraftKings Sportsbook

New Jersey sports betting was born nearly three months ago. Years of court battles led up to a signature from Gov. Phil Murphy to legalized wagering in the Garden State.

Delaware beat its nearby neighbor by nine days to accept the first legal bet outside of Nevada. Yet Jersey has sprinted past Delaware in terms of evolution, as eight retail sportsbooks combined with five mobile platforms put New Jersey at the forefront of state-sanctioned sports betting outside of Nevada. Perhaps one day even catching Nevada.

August has proven revolutionary for New Jersey, as sports betting operators introduced online and mobile wagering services. The first company to do so is now planning a celebration for a milestone moment.

DraftKings Sportsbook celebrating 1 million

Within the first week of August, DraftKings Sportsbook, using the Resorts Atlantic City license, rolled out the state’s first mobile sports betting app.

DraftKings CEO and co-founder Jason Robins called the service “the most innovative, mobile sports betting product in the US,” adding that “sports fans in New Jersey will enjoy using it to make the experience of watching the games even more interesting and thrilling.”

Now Robins’ company features a promotion to add even more interest and thrill: DraftKings Sportsbook doling out prizes for reaching 1,000,000 wagers placed since launching.

From the link above, users are directed to a splash page:

“Mad props, Jersey. You’re about to hit your… 1,000,000th bet.”

The daily fantasy sports giant plans on awarding shares of $35,000 in free bets to bettors who place landmark wagers between 900,000 and 1,000,000. Every 10,000th bet up to 990,000 earns prizes, and every thousandth wager from 995,000 to 1,000,000 also lands rewards.

The largest purses sit at bet No. 998,000 ($2,500), 999,000 ($5,000) and 1,000,000 ($10,000). As of 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, the count stood at 878,535.

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DraftKings stays ahead of the game

Certainly, DraftKings Sportsbook was not going to continue running a monopoly in the New Jersey mobile market. Over the past few weeks, four other mobile services have entered the fold.

By no means, though, was DraftKings going to fold. Its eyes continue to point forward.

The company brought on NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley as a hype man of sorts. It implemented in-play betting and live cashouts. It has eyes on opening operations in PennsylvaniaNew York and West Virginia. Add to all of this a recent Nielsen Sports survey commissioned by the American Gaming Association indicating that bettors are ready to switch from offshore books to legalized wagering services.

“The need to constantly keep it fresh and add to the experience and to innovate on the offerings that you have just to keep the product fresh and interesting — I think we’ve done a good job engaging a group of customers for five-plus years now and steadily retaining and keeping their business,” DraftKings co-founder and chief revenue officer Matt Kalish said recently.

Of course, DraftKings is rewarding the patrons who have helped build the company from a DFS powerhouse to a respectable sports betting platform. Simultaneously, DraftKings takes another step in setting itself up for the future, in which Robins said that sports betting revenue will surpass that of the DFS industry in two to three years.

“The handcuffs have been taken off, at least in New Jersey or anywhere else that legalizes it,” Robins told Yahoo Finance. “Now we can pretty much do almost anything. Forgetting even the traditional sportsbook stuff, I’m most excited about the types of new products, things that people play in their offices, Super Bowl squares, March Madness brackets, there’s all kinds of stuff that previously had to happen underground.”

Legion Of Doom: Richard Sherman Brings Daily Number Into DFS Market

Grant Lucas August 28, 2018
Daily Number

One certainty exists in life: Nobody has come close to the genius of Kevin McCallister. Dude was a stone-cold mastermind — albeit a tad sociopathic — as he took on the Wet/Sticky Bandits at just 8 and then 10 years old.

Homeboy camped out at the back door with a BB gun, only to have an electric barbecue starter cranked high on the doorknob of the front entrance. He’d rig the downstairs sink of a shuttered New York City apartment electrocute any criminal looking to make his way in from below while a blowtorch lights up his partner two stories up.

All over, Kev set traps to cover his blind spots while he forged ahead. Apparently NFL All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman did not pay attention to the Home Alone documentary series.

DraftKings and FanDuel have their sights set on the present and future of sports gambling, each daily fantasy sports company having set up sports betting powerhouses in New Jersey. With the kids guarding the front door, seemingly guarding only the front door, Sherman is looking to sneak in the back and take over the DFS side of gaming.

Problem is, this is the house of DraftKings and FanDuel. And they’re ready to defend it.

Enter: Daily Number

DraftKings and FanDuel built the DFS game. They entered an undeveloped land and swooped through in trench coats to create the very world in which we play. As the two diverge into the sports betting industry, Sherman and his team, trailing behind like Marty McFly on a scooter skateboard, have let go of the coattails. They have set up camp in the form of Daily Number.

Released this week for iOS and Android, Daily Number (available in 23 states in which DFS is legal) is the newest DFS platform on the market, but with only one playing format: Build a seven-player roster to eclipse a predetermined score — the “daily number” (see what they did there?).

If the game sounds familiar, it should. FanDuel debuted this format earlier this year with Beat The Score. The difference: Daily Number does not include a salary cap like FanDuel. Instead, Sherman’s game rates players from one to five stars. The fewer top-tier players used results in a bigger payday.

“We’re simplifying the DFS format for the everyday sports fan,” Daily Number CEO Tom McAuley said in a release, “while maintaining the core gameplay principals that have made fantasy sports so massively popular. We are driven by the opportunity to develop a proprietary platform and customer database that will be extremely valuable to many industry stakeholders as sports gaming continues to evolve in the United States.”

Hey, this seat’s open, everyone! Let me just move this sweater, this still-hot platter of nachos, this bucket of ice cream that is both unsealed and still freezing, and this 5-year-old who claims to be “saving my dad’s seat please put me back in my chair I NEED AN ADULT.”

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Legion of Doom

Giving yourself a nickname is a top-notch way to remain friendless. Daily Number apparently agrees. “The Crown Jewel Of Daily Fantasy Sports,” the company calls itself. Even George Costanza, aka T-Bone, wants none of it.

Forget that self-enamoring, though. Simply existing in the DFS market is superfluous. Daily Number entering the game now is like putting a third NBA team in Los Angeles. It’s like trying to get through Thanksgiving dinner after taking Imodium: There’s just no room for that crap.

The DFS market is already oversaturated, what with DraftKings, FanDuel, FantasyDraft, DRAFT, Fastpick, on and on and on. Understandably, Daily Number focuses on its simplification of daily fantasy sports. One format. One number. One payday.

The newest DFS company aims to educate and mentor newbies, implying it can reach an untapped demographic (spoilers: doubtful, at best). Say Daily Number succeeds, though. Even that future is bleak. FanDuel already features such a game format. Now this start-up, after three years of tweaking and toiling, has emerged.

Clearly the model is imitable. So who’s to say FanDuel doesn’t do some refining on its product while DraftKings introduces the format for its customer database? Even if they don’t, who’s to say a sharp — perhaps a FanDuel/DraftKings savant — doesn’t dive in with insight and begin racking up winnings, ultimately waving for his buddies to join the buffet like a geek from Walking Dead?

“Daily Number is a game-changer,” Sherman lied stated naively said in a release announcing the launch. “I’ve been pitched numerous DFS opportunities, but nothing has even come close to comparing to Daily Number.”

Maybe Daily Number will thrive, even take the DFS world by storm. Maybe it will fail harder than a Seahawks goal line play call in the Super Bowl. Sherman is Stanford-educated and a bright mind, after all.

Then again, he did sign with the 49ers in the offseason…

The AP Preseason Top 25 College Football Polls Are Out! Overreact Now!

Grant Lucas August 20, 2018
College football polls

Break out the oversized, satirical cymbals! Let the sardonic rings of gongs fill the air! The Associated Press Preseason Top 25 college football poll has been announced!

Oh, joy! The season hasn’t started but it has already been decided! Hooray, we did it!

But seriously, guys, c’mon. Rein in the enthusiasm/conspiracy theories. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Pointless is as pointless does

Preseason polls are pointless. Take this tweet from Jeff Schultz, a senior writer for The Athletic.

They are biased. Not in the same sense that fans make it seem. “Why do (insert poll creators) hate (insert your team) so much? These guys are clearly (insert political view you vehemently disagree with even though you don’t actually understand what it is or why)!”

Polls themselves hold recency bias. They are based on the previous week’s results. That’s fine. It makes sense.

But preseason? Clickbait. Click chumbucket. Click diaper-dumpster-fire. But, hey, I guess conversations have to start somewhere. And I supposed some reference is needed when it comes to somewhat-educated sports betting.

So, here goes… I guess…

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For those who care too much

Typically with sports betting, there are two groups of folk: those who take rankings as gospel, and those who think they know better than the rankings/experts/everyone.

An unborn child could have predicted the preseason No. 1: Alabama. For the third straight year (a feat matched only once historically), the Crimson Tide came in at the top spot heading into the season. National champs twice in the last three years (and five times since 2009) are followed by *feigning shocked face* Clemson, the preseason’s No. 2 team for the second time in three seasons.

Third is Georgia, last year’s national runner-up. Then comes the Big Ten bores Ohio State and Wisconsin and the “well, we have to give the Pac-12 some love” Washington Huskies.

Betting on the CFP championship has become as much fun as the NBA Finals.

Then again, there is some hope for a solid payday.

Consider the 2017 playoffs: Of the final four teams, only Bama was ranked in the top four before the season. Georgia was actually 15th. In 2016, two final four teams were not among the preseason top four; in fact, Washington was 14th. Three of the top 10 teams in the final CFP poll entered the season unranked. The previous season, Clemson and Oklahoma entered the year ranked 12th and 19th, respectively, yet ultimately made the CFP playoffs.

So not all is chalk when it comes to the college football championship. Last year, even, the preseason No. 1 (Bama) needed a Hail Mary selection just to sneak into the playoffs. (*throws stapler across the room in disgust*)

With Ohio State swirling in its own coaching debacle, with Wisconsin/Michigan/Penn State beating each other up year-in and year-out, the Big Ten could be a shoo-out of the playoffs. Same goes for the SEC outside of Alabama and Georgia. Go with the Tide if you dare do the math on 19-10 odds, or with Clemson because 3-1 odds are easier to calculate. Even Georgia is 9-1, which is insanely reasonable.

Put faith in Touchdown Jesus and lay money down on Notre Dame at 40-1, or trust Mark Richt, if you dare, to lead Miami (at 50-1) to the title.

For the self-proclaimed experts

Go with your gut. Because obviously, you don’t care what’s written here. To you, this portion is as pointless as the preseason rankings themselves.

To that, I tip my backwards hat… but will be the first to laugh when your Michigan pick goes down in flames by Week 6.