When most kids his age were enthralled by NBA 2K5, Zion Williamson already had his sights on gracing its cover someday.
Fast forward 14 years. The dominant force nicknamed “Zanos” by his teammates is on the precipice of both video-game- and real-world NBA stardom.
The 18-year-old has been outclassing older opponents since his AAU days thanks to outstanding athleticism and a frame that always belied his age. Incidentally, those metrics currently check in at a whopping 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds.
The Duke Blue Devils ultimately won the Williamson Sweepstakes after his stellar high school career at Spartanburg Day School. He’s rewarded the program with averages of 22.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest as a freshman.
But, like the Brahma Bull he portrays on the hardwood, Williamson is seemingly too overwhelming to keep confined in the college ranks for more than one year.
Zanos is headed to the NBA this June. The one question — will he be a top overall pick before his 19th birthday?
Unsurprising odds on favorite as top pick
DraftKings Sportsbook is making him the clear favorite for the honor.
Williamson’s chances of being selected No. 1 overall this June are currently listed as a hefty -2000 on Draftings. The gulf between Williamson’s odds and those of the next closest player are about as wide as the talent gap between him and many of his opponents — teammate R.J. Barrett checks in behind Williamson at +550.
There’s been some buzz that Murray State’s Temetrius “Ja” Morant, a dynamic guard that owns multiple school records, could potentially usurp Williamson at the top of the draft. DK Sportsbook doesn’t appear convinced. Morant checks in behind both Williamson and Barrett at +650.
Naturally, no prognostication of which player is most likely to be taken first overall is complete without also evaluating what team might be in position to nab him. And that becomes a more interesting exercise this year than in the past. When the annual NBA Draft Lottery unfolds May 14 in Chicago, it will do under slightly different rules.
Thanks to changes approved by the NBA Board of Governors in September 2017, the teams with the three worst regular-season records will now all have a 14 percent chance of garnering the top overall pick.
Previously, the “top seed” — aka team with the worst regular-season mark — had a 25.0 percent chance. The second and third seeds had a 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent chance, respectively.
Likely top five lottery teams all hungry for Williamson’s skill set
With that in mind, a look at the five worst records in the NBA at the All-Star break and their corresponding DK Sportsbook odds of claiming Williamson at the top of June’s draft:
- Phoenix Suns (11-48): +450
- New York Knicks (11-47): +450
- Cleveland Cavaliers (12-46): +450
- Chicago Bulls (14-44): +600
- Atlanta Hawks (19-39): +700
Without necessarily evoking that dirty “T” word, let’s just say that each of the Suns, Knicks and Cavaliers would be exceedingly motivated to secure the rights to the versatile Williamson:
- The Suns swung and missed badly at power forward high in the draft in recent years with the likes of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
- Then, the Knicks seemingly put up a massive neon sign welcoming Williamson to town when they unexpectedly jettisoned Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks in a recent blockbuster trade.
- And let’s just say that despite Cedi Osman‘s solid play this season, the Cavaliers could move some things around to accommodate a player that could bring back an elite level of play to the small forward position in Cleveland following the departure of that LeBron guy (again).
As the team that currently has the fourth-best chance (12.5 percent) of garnering the No. 1 overall pick, the Bulls would also be highly likely to hone in on Williamson with that selection.
Yes, recent first-round picks Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen slot in at the two forward spots at present. However, Williamson is widely regarded as a generational talent that could potentially displace Hutchison, for example.
What’s more, Zion is believed capable of playing some small-ball center. That’s a role he could aptly fill in the Windy City as a complement to another former Blue Devil, Wendell Carter, Jr.
The arrival of NBA’s All-Star Weekend is far from the basketball sports betting wasteland one might initially assume. Yes, the six-day break in the regular season brings a departure from the nightly smorgasbord of games to choose from. Yet there’s actually still plenty of hardwood action to plunk cash down on.
No other professional league has managed to turn their All-Star proceedings into as dynamic and multi-layered an event as the NBA. By the time the actual All-Star game rolls around Sunday — a contest that actually may be the most dubious to handicap of all the weekend’s wagering options — there will have been plenty of other opportunities for those who want to continue getting their NBA betting fix.
DraftKings Sportsbook offering odds on All-Star Weekend events
This year’s All-Star extravaganza unfolds in Charlotte, North Carolina at Spectrum Center, home of the Hornets. There are events spread throughout three days, beginning with Friday’s All-Star Celebrity Game.
In addition to the All-Star game itself, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering odds on the Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Challenge and the Three-Point Shootout.
Notably, there were odds initially made available on the Slam Dunk Contest as well, although those were subsequently pulled. An e-mail to DraftKings seeking comment on that decision has yet to be replied to as of this writing.
Rising Stars Game- Team World vs. Team USA (Friday, Feb. 15)
Favorite: Team USA -3
Moneyline: Team USA -155/ Team World +128
Projected total: 290.5
The Rising Stars Game has been in its current format since 2016. It pits two squads of at least three rookies and three second-year players. Each roster typically consists of four backcourt players, four frontcourt players and two swingmen. The game is formatted into two 20-minute halves.
Notable participants on each roster include:
- Deandre Ayton (Suns)
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (Kings)
- Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
- Lauri Markkanen (Bulls)
- Ben Simmons (76ers)
- John Collins (Hawks)
- Trae Young (Hawks)
- Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
- Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
- Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
Skills Challenge (Saturday, Feb. 16)
The Skills Challenge competition was first instituted for 2003 All-Star Weekend. The contest is formatted as a single elimination tournament.Skills tested are ball-handling, passing and shooting.
The participating players face off against the other in pairs and traverse an obstacle course while dribbling around obstructions, successfully passing into a suspended net and draining a three-pointer from the top of the key. The first player to score the trey is declared the winner of the pairing.
The final round is guaranteed to feature a matchup between a guard and a center. The defending champion, Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, won’t be able to participate in this year’s contest due to recent thumb surgery.
DK Sportsbook’s odds for each participant are as follows:
- Luka Doncic +400
- De’Aaron Fox +400
- Trae Young +500
- Mike Conley +550
- Nikola Jokic +600
- Jayson Tatum +600
- Kyle Kuzma +700
- Nikola Vucevic +750
Three-Point Shootout (Saturday, Feb. 16)
The Three-Point Shootout is the longest-tenured of All-Star Weekend’s complementary events, having been instituted in 1986. For the first time, the field has been expanded to 10 participants this year.
The contest features five racks of five balls set up around the three-point area of the court. Four of the balls are worth one point apiece. A fifth one — a red, white and blue ball — is considered the “money ball”. Successfully draining a trey with the money ball nets two points instead of one.
Each participant gets one minute to put up as many three-point attempts as they can. The maximum possible score in each round is 34 points. The top three scores advance to face off in the championship round.
This year’s defending champion is the Suns’ Devin Booker, who checks in with the second-highest odds of winning again behind the Warriors’ Stephen Curry. Booker set a record last year for most points in a round by racking up 28 of the possible 34.
DK Sportsbook’s odds for each participant are as follows:
- Stephen Curry +215
- Devin Booker +450
- Joe Harris +450
- Seth Curry +600
- Buddy Hield +650
- Damian Lillard +800
- Danny Green +1150
- Kemba Walker +1150
- Khris Middleton +2000
- Dirk Nowitzki +3000
All-Star Game- Team Lebron vs. Team Giannis (Sunday, Feb. 17)
Favorite: Team LeBron -6
Moneyline: Team LeBron -245/ Team Giannis +195
Projected total: 310.5
The weekend is capped off with the 67th NBA All-Star Game. This year will mark the second edition of a format that sees two team captains putting together a roster from All-Star eligible players. The player selection process was televised for the first time this year.
Typically featuring precious little defense, the All-Star Game traditionally generates NBA 2K-like statistics and combined point totals. Even so, a projected total of over 310 points may seem absurd at first blush. But it comes off as almost stingy when considering the numbers generated in four of the last five ASGs, contests that featured many of the stars that will play an integral part in this year’s game:
- 2017: 374 points
- 2016: 369 points
- 2015: 321 points
- 2014: 318 points
After both LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished their selections and executed a Russell Westbrook-for-Ben Simmons trade, the final All-Star squads shape up as follows:
- LeBron James
- Kevin Durant
- Kyrie Irving
- Kawhi Leonard
- James Harden
- Anthony Davis
- Klay Thompson
- Damian Lillard
- Ben Simmons
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Bradley Beal
- Dwyane Wade
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Stephen Curry
- Joel Embiid
- Paul George
- Kemba Walker
- Khris Middleton
- Nikola Jokic
- Russell Westbrook
- Blake Griffin
- D’Angelo Russell
- Nikola Vucevic
- Kyle Lowry
- Dirk Nowitzki
Other wagering options also available
In addition to the event-based odds just listed, there are naturally also plenty of prop– and parlay-based wagering options. These include odds on the MVP of each game, as well as various parlays involving both the Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star Game itself.
A great deal of mainstream media coverage of betting action on the Super Bowl will focus on popular bet types such as the point spread and moneyline. However, as seasoned bettors well know, there are infinitely more wagers can be placed on The Big Game.
The most common are naturally proposition bets, commonly known as “props”. For the uninitiated, props are simply wagers that can be placed on a specific in-game occurrence that has a binary outcome. Props are typically available at sportsbooks at an individual player, team, or game level.
Prop bets give those placing them significantly more vested interest in a game as it unfolds. Unlike end-of-game wagers based on a point spread, moneyline or projected total, prop bets are settled before the final gun goes off. The higher degree of potential accelerated gratification (or disappointment) they offer and their straightforward nature make them significantly popular as “side bets.”
As with other wagers, payouts depend on the odds assigned. With some props encompassing rather improbable events or players, favorable odds that leave the sportsbook with plenty of exposure can be common.
For example, a wager on whether the first score of the game will be a safety, whether there will be a blocked punt by either team in the game, or whether Tom Brady will score a rushing touchdown all qualify as unlikely occurrences to a varying degree. Given their low probability, these prop bets will fetch you some very favorable odds.
Examples of common football-based prop bets
In football, some of the more common props include:
- What team will be the first to score
- What the winning margin of victory for either team might be
- What type of scoring play will lead to the game’s first points
- What teams will be in the lead at the end of any of the first three quarters
- What the total amount of points in the first or second half will be
- What player will be the first to score any points in the game
- What player will be the first to score a touchdown
- Whether a quarterback will throw for under or over a certain amount of yards
- Whether a running back will rush for under or over a certain amount of yards
- Whether a receiver will accumulate over or under a certain amount of receiving yards
- What player will be named the game’s MVP
Naturally, that list is far from comprehensive, especially when it comes to an event such as the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl props breakdown
Brett Collson, Matt Brown and Matt Perrault look at the various offerings at the sportsbooks in New Jersey and offer some of their favorite wagers ahead of Sunday’s game.
A prop smorgasbord on Super Bowl Sunday
As pointed out in the video, New Jersey sportsbooks have hundreds of Super Bowl LIII props available for bettors. The following is a look at the 10 most popular props at DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday afternoon, along with some of the favorite options on FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars and BetStars.
- Heads (-103)
- Tails (-103)
Super Bowl MVP
- Tom Brady (+110)
- Jared Goff (+200)
- Todd Gurley (+1200)
- Aaron Donald (+1400)
- Sonty Michel (+1600)
- C.J. Anderson (+2200)
- Julian Edelman (+2800)
- James White (+2800)
- See full odds here
First TD Scored
- Sony Michel +600
- Todd Gurley +700
- Julian Edelman +750
- Robert Woods +850
- C.J. Anderson +900
- Brandin Cooks +1000
- James White +1000
- Rob Gronkowski +1110
Highest Scoring Half
- 2nd Half (-120)
- 1st Half (+100)
- Tie (+2200)
Player To Score First TD
- Sony Michel (+600)
- Todd Gurley (+700)
- Julian Edelman (+750)
- Robert Woods (+850)
- Brandin Cooks (+1000)
- Rob Gronkoswki (+1000)
- James White (+1000)
- Rex Burkhead (+1000)
- C.J. Anderson (+1100)
James White Receptions
- Over 5.5 (-148)
- Under 5.5 (+112)
James White Receiving Yards
- Over 51.5 (-115)
- Under 51.5 (-115)
Either Team To Score 2-Point Conversion
- Yes (+210)
- No (-278)
Game Goes To Overtime
- Yes (+900)
- No (-2000)
Total Rushing Yards in Game
- Over 213.5 (-115)
- Under 213.5 (-115)
Halftime Leader/Game Winner (not incl. overtime)
- Patriots-Patriots (+140)
- Patriots-Rams (+800)
- Patriots – Tie (+2700)
- Patriots 1-6 points (+350)
- Patriots 7-12 points (+500)
- Patriots 13-18 points (+850)
- Rams 1-6 points (+360)
- Rams 7-12 points (+600)
- Rams 13-18 points (+1000)
First Quarter Total
- Under 27.5 (-110)
- Over 27.5 (-110)
Both to Score TD
- Sony Michel + Todd Gurley (+225)
- Todd Gurley + C.J. Anderson (+250)
- Sony Michel + Brandin Cooks (+275)
Player Prop Parlays
- Tom Brady to throw for 300+ yards/ Patriots to win (+225)
- Tom Brady to complete 28 + passes/ Patriots to win (+260)
- Tom Brady to throw 3+ touchdowns/Patriots to win (+280)
- Jared Goff to throw for 300+ yards/ Rams to win (+330)
- Todd Gurley to rush for 75+ yards/ Rams to win (+340)
- C.J. Anderson to rush for 50+ yards/Rams to win (+290)
Total INTs thrown
- Over 1.5 (+120)
- Under 1.5 (-140)
First Team to Score
- Rams (-105)
- Patriots (-115)
- Interception (-140)
- Fumble (+120)
Team to Make First Field Goal
- Patriots (-110)
- Rams (-110)
First Scoring Play
- Patriots Field Goal +400
- Patriots Touchdown Pass +250
- Patriots Touchdown Run +500
- Patriots Other Touchdown +2500
- Patriots Safety +5000
- Rams Field Goal +400
- Rams Touchdown Pass +300
- Rams Touchdown Run +500
- Rams Other Touchdown +2500
- Rams Safety +5000
Last Scoring Play
- Patriots Field Goal +400
- Patriots Touchdown Pass +250
- Patriots Touchdown Run +500
- Patriots Other Touchdown +2500
- Rams Field Goal +400
- Rams Touchdown Pass +300
- Rams Touchdown Run +500
- Rams Other Touchdown +2500
- Rams Safety +5000
First TD Scorer for Rams
- Todd Gurley +300
- CJ Anderson +350
- Brandin Cooks +400
- Robert Woods +500
- Josh Reynolds +700
- Tyler Higbee +1000
- Gerald Everett +1200
- Jared Goff +2500
First TD Scorer for Patriots
- Sony Michel +300
- Julian Edelman +400
- Rob Gronkowski +450
- James White +550
- Rex Burkhead +800
- Chris Hogan +600
- Phillip Dorsett +1500
- Cordarrelle Patterson +2000
- Tom Brady +2500
- Over 5.5- 2/5
- Over 6.5- 17/20
- Over 7.5- 7/4
- Under 5.5- 2/5
- Under 6.5- 17/20
- Under 7.5- 7/4
Total Successful Field Goals
- Over 2.5- 1/3
- Over 3.5- 19/20
- Over 4.5- 11/5
- Under 2.5- 21/10
- Under 3.5- 3/4
- Under 4.5- 4/11
Team to Make Longest Field Goal
- Rams- 5/6
- Patriots- 10/11
- Under 1.5 yards- 7/10
- Over 1.5 yards- 21/20
Team to Score Last
- Patriots- 8/11
- Rams- 1/1
Team to Score In Every Quarter
- Rams No- 1/3
- Rams Yes- 19/10
- Patriots No- 11/20
- Patriots Yes- 27/20
Two or More Touchdowns
- Sony Michel- 12/5
- Todd Gurley- 10/3
- C.J. Anderson- 17/4
- Robert Woods- 11/2
- Julian Edelman- 6/1
- Brandin Cooks- 6/1
- Rob Gronkowski- 17/1
- James White- 15/2
- Tom Brady- Under 25.5 (17/20)
- Tom Brady- Over 25.5 (17/20)
- Jared Goff- Under 25.5 (17/20)
- Jared Goff- Over 25.5 (17/20)
- Julian Edelman- Under 87.5 yards- 3/4
- Brandin Cooks- Under 72.5 yards- 17/20
- Robert Woods- Over 71.5 yards- 17/20
- Rob Gronkowski- Over 47.5 yards- 17/20
Over time, Super Bowl “squares” contests have become as much a workplace staple as office gossip and politics.
The game is simple in concept and adds a little extra intrigue to the sports calendar’s proverbial national holiday. Typically, an 8.5 x 11 sheet with multiple rows and columns form boxes that have numbers within them. There are a number of variations of the game that have been developed over time.
However, the usual trigger for a cash is the second digit of the score of each team at the end of each quarter matching those belonging to a square one owns.
DraftKings Super Bowl Promo: Squares
For the upcoming 53rd edition of The Big Game, DraftKings Sportsbook is putting its own unique spin on the tried-and-true favorite of Super Bowl betting. The company’s aptly named Squares is free to play and feature a prize pool in excess of $50,000. There will be more cash added by DraftKings for every 100,000 entries in the contest.
And you don’t even have to be in New Jersey to play, according to DK, but it exists only on the Sportsbook app, not in the daily fantasy sports product.
Conventional versions of squares contests typically allow participants to gobble up multiple spots on the sheet. This ups an individual’s odds and increases the overall prize pool, potentially creating a demand for additional “sheets” in the process.
However, the trade-off to DK’s non-existent entry fee is that participants only get access to one square, which remains attached to that player for all quarters, including any overtime period (s).
The nuts and bolts of the contest are as follows:
- Before the Super Bowl kicks off, a player selects a square on a blank digital “board” that emulates that of a traditional money-based squares contest.
- Once the game begins, the numbers assigned to each square will be revealed.
- If the final digit of both team’s score at the end of each quarter matches the numbers on the participant’s square, that participant wins a cash prize.
- Each square on the board naturally can and will be selected by multiple users. Each user that selected a winning square will be awarded a matching, corresponding cash prize.
Another square product for the Super Bowl
The DraftKings Squares contest evokes some memories of a similar free-to-play game rolled out by primary competitor FanDuel for Super Bowl LII.
FD’s Big Game Bingo also had Super Bowl viewers paying rapt attention during the game to see if they’d score cash or prizes. However, that game was centered on props, both football and non-football related. It also featured other prizes besides direct cash payouts — gift cards for use at contest sponsor Game Stop and an XBox One Madden NFL 18 bundle were two such examples.
In contrast, DK ‘s contest focuses solely on football-based outcomes and cash. And as was the case with Big Game Bingo, there is no paid-entry version available for DraftKings Super Bowl Squares.
Two of the more prominent sweats in the gaming community these past few months haven’t come on a casino floor or sportsbook. Instead, they’ve unfolded in a much more subdued environment: the legal arena.
The outcome of the landmark Murphy vs. NCAA case gave the long-awaited green light for states to begin considering the legalization of sports betting, both in brick-and-mortar locations and online.
Then most recent — which came to fruition Monday — was far less welcome. The Department of Justice followed through on what was a rumor for weeks.
New interpretation redefines assumptions
The news sent shock waves through a segment of the online gaming realm.
A quick refresher on what the Wire Act intends to prohibit is in order.
The law criminalizes the utilization of a wire communication facility:
- To transmit “bets or wagers;” or,
- “Information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.”
Additionally, it’s considered illegal to use the transmission of wire communications to provide an individual with any form of remuneration for either:
- “Winning bets or wagers;” or,
- “For information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers.”
One of the key distinctions of either provision: They apply only to interstate transmissions of any degree.
The decision on PASPA helped usher in legal, single-game sports betting in a state other than Nevada for the first time. However, given the Wire Act’s limitations, wagering remains fenced in within each jurisdiction.
Geo-fencing technology helps ensure as much on both the customer and operator side of sportsbooks.
Meanwhile, between the DOJ’s 2011 opinion and Monday’s memo, other forms of online, money-based gaming, e.g., casino games including poker, were tacitly deemed to be out of the Wire Act’s reach based on the previously cited wording.
The same held for online lottery sales.
Multiple states, activities potentially affected
The new reading of the Wire Act shoots down that assumption.
It notes that only one provision of the law singles out sporting events as the subject of the prohibition. The rest, it emphasizes, can be assumed to apply to all forms of money-based gaming.
Eventually, it also resulted in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware establishing ongoing, shared liquidity with their online poker player pools.
Given that state lines are crossed in a manner of ways during business transactions under the latter arrangement, it’s precisely the type of activity this reinterpretation now places into legal jeopardy.
Such activity is now also believed to be outside the law; that is if this latest interpretation is actively enforced as such.
Uncertainty on enforceability abounds
And that is indeed the tipping point.
In the wake of Monday’s announcement, the optimistic view has been to point out the Trump Administration’s DOJ’s similar “walk-back” of an Obama-era memo offering guidance on more lenient enforcement when it came to marijuana-related transgressions.
The current DOJ’s communication on the matter last November directed US Attorneys “to use previously established prosecutorial principles” when enforcing marijuana-related federal law. As with online gaming, the release of that communication prompted initial concerns in a newly legalized and regulated market that remains only a handful of states in size.
However, there has been no subsequent tangible effect on that industry. States that had taken the step of legalizing the activity in some form remain unencumbered by the ruling.
A similar scenario could play out with this Wire Act “redux.”
One vastly important legal component at play — that even the DOJ memo acknowledges — is it represents an opinion and therefore does not carry the force of the law. It further concedes that the opinion could certainly be nullified via a court challenge.
Indeed, there’s already a precedent for such. Both the 1st and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals have previously ruled the Wire Act to strictly encompass sports betting.
So, is there any potential liability for intrastate sports betting?
Sports betting’s limitations under the Wire Act were already clarified under the prior interpretation of the law.
Thus, for the moment, the industry appears far less impacted by the potential fallout of this decision.
Yet, given the avalanche of uncertainty regarding the exact ramifications of the DOJ’s memo — particularly pertaining to what degree it will be deemed legally enforceable — there is still some apprehension.
For example, one significant open question: Whether any leg of an intrastate sports betting transaction digitally crossing state lines constitutes a Wire Act violation.
A strictly literal application of the law may conclude as much. In such a scenario, full intrastate solutions, especially with payment processing, may have to be found.
Intersection with proposed federal sports betting legislation?
Then, there’s one other intriguing angle to the entire discussion that involves another branch of the federal government – the Legislative.
The bipartisan Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, introduced this past December by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), interjects the federal government into the sports betting legislative arena as well.
However, it does so while acknowledging “each State may decide whether to permit sports wagering and how to regulate sports wagering.”
Rather than to impose any prohibitions, one of the stated intentions of the bill is to allow Congress to “provide law enforcement with additional authority to target the illegal sports wagering market.”
The latter wording is especially relevant in the wake of the latest developments. Any potential restrictions on regulated sports betting stemming from the latest interpretation would work at cross-purposes with the bill by once again driving the US sports bettor to offshore, unregulated sportsbooks.
Much like the company hosting the event, there are plenty of participants in this coming weekend’s DraftKings’ Sports Betting National Championship looking to replicate their daily fantasy sports (DFS) success in the sports betting realm.
The most prominent might well be Alex Baker, much better known in DFS circles as “Awesemo.”
Baker currently has the ranking of No. 1 DFS player in the world, by industry site RotoGrinders.
Therefore, he’s no stranger to live, high-stakes bashes, which DraftKings’ Sports Betting Championship promises to be. Last month, Baker held three seats in DraftKings’ DFS NFL Live Final.
Just a couple of months prior, he was a four-time qualifier in the site’s MLB Live Final. That was the second time he’d accomplished the feat; Baker snagged the same number of seats for the NBA season-ending extravaganza last spring as well.
Baker boasted a similarly prolific body of work in the prior two years, too.
His DFS success across multiple sports — he also currently ranks in the top five in PGA and NHL, and in the top 75 in MMA — should serve him well in an event where contestants will be free to wager on a wide variety of games until Sunday when the event draws to a close.
That same day, contest participants must plunk down at least $2,000 on markets for the Chargers versus Patriots, and Eagles versus Saints during NFL’s divisional round. None of the other sporting events unfolding that day qualify with respect to the contest’s leaderboard.
An aggressive approach will be key
Given his overall success, the fact that Baker holds a seat to the single-entry event is far from shocking. He won his way in through a $225 NFL qualifier contest this fall. If that wouldn’t have worked out, he was ready to foot the $10,000 direct buy-in to get in on the action.
In a conversation with TheLines.com, Baker elaborated on his overall outlook heading into the first-of-its-kind event.
Naturally, he wasn’t overly revealing when it comes to the more granular aspects of his planned strategy.
But, Baker did affirm his belief that anything resembling a cautious approach simply ain’t gonna cut it with regards to securing the $1 million grand prize — the amount awarded to the participant with the largest bankroll by weekend’s end.
“I think you have to take a very high-variance approach with nearly half the money going to first,” Baker said. “You also have to place as many bets as possible to increase your bankroll exponentially.”
Given that all bet types, live betting and cash-outs are considered eligible wagers as per DraftKings’ official rules, there’s no shortage of options through which to achieve that goal.
Will DFS skills play a role?
How much can Baker’s DFS talent help in this weekend’s sports betting-focused event? In his view, there’s a certain degree of overlap; yet, there are also enough differences to make it an unchartered territory.
Granted, he’s not a sports betting novice by any stretch. Baker concedes to having “dabbled some” in sportsbooks in the past. There’s also plenty of synergy with DFS when it comes to the type of research involved before decision-making.
Much like in DFS, “everyone will be using the best estimation of what happened in the past to try and predict what will happen in the future,” said Baker.
Having built player models for DFS purposes with success for multiple years, Baker is beyond well-equipped in this regard.
However, there’s naturally a gulf between assessing potential individual production as opposed to attempting to predict a team-centered outcome. Then, figuring out whether a point spread or projected total is exploitable is an even more precise practice.
The area where DFS acumen could move the needle the most may be in individual player props. An expert statistical modeler, the caliber of Baker, could certainly leverage his or her skills in predicting individual performance to achieve substantial success with such bet types.
Regarding contest structure, Baker is very much on board with the aforementioned rule that all Sunday wagering is exclusive to NFL’s divisional playoff games.
In fact, the long-tenured DFS live final participant thinks the structure could allow the Sports Betting National Championship to trump those events in terms of last-minute fireworks.
“In DFS live finals, everyone sets their lineup before lock, and then you wait it out,” remarked Baker. “This will be a fluid situation with all the bets that can be placed as the games go on.”
Prominent handicapper offers his view
Having obtained the valued perspective of the DFS industry’s most successful pro — one that also happens to be one of the event’s participants — TheLines.com reached out to a professional handicapper for his take on the Sports Betting National Championship.
Jon Price, of Sports Information Traders, has been a prominent name in sports betting for many years. He’s hit on several six- and seven-figure wagers in multiple sports while also heading up his renowned “sports investment service.”
While the Sports Betting National Championship has been the recipient of some social media flack, Price lauds the event as a positive that sets up as a formidable test to its participants’ sports betting skills.
“Specifically, this will require more than general knowledge in handicapping, but also the DK fantasy props will provide a challenge to those contestants who don’t normally play fantasy and vice versa for those adept at individual player props,” Price said.
“Also, the idea that all sports are included will definitely create some opportunities (for) professional handicappers who have their niche sport. This is one event that truly does require thought, skill and most importantly, bankroll preparation and execution.”
DraftKings entered the sports betting realm back on Aug. 1 and hasn’t looked back.
The daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry leader —that early on made its intentions of exerting similar dominance in due time over the betting space — is currently operating its DraftKings Sportsbook online in New Jersey.
In early October, DraftKings announced the first-of-its-kind Sports Betting National Championship. The event unfolds this week in the Garden State over the NFL’s divisional playoff weekend.
The championship offers a $1 million grand prize, and DraftKings is guaranteeing a $2.5 million prize pool.
Significant overlay with days to go
The company has gotten plenty of well-deserved positive press for the event, which seemingly seeks to replicate some of the same electricity that DraftKings has been able to generate with its DFS live finals over the past several years.
But as much early momentum as the Sports Betting National Championship enjoyed, DraftKings’ Senior Product Manager Jon Aguiar chimed in with the following on Twitter late last week:
Approximately 100 entries in the Sports Betting National Championship with 1 week to go. 500 are needed to meet the guarantee. This was a VERY aggressive guarantee for a brand new event and is unlikely to be met. Should be a LOT of value out there. https://t.co/ixINU8RMku
— Jon Aguiar (@JonAguiar) January 3, 2019
DraftKings updated that number to 140 entries on Monday following a busy weekend of online qualifiers during the NFL playoffs. That still leaves them well short of the total to meet the $2.5 million guarantee.
For those who are already well-versed in the DFS space, the word “overlay” is typically brings glee. To put it succinctly, overlay, depending on how large, is one heck of an odds booster for the player and a proverbial bath for the operator.
When the guaranteed contests fail to fill, the portion of the prize pool those absent entries would have subsidized then ends up on the company’s tab.
Given Aguiar’s announcement, that bath is looking more like a deluge. With a Jan. 11 kick-off date, there is still plenty of time for some of those empty seats to be filled.
The event has a $10,000 direct buy-in. Therefore, it’s not just exclusive to those that punched their tickets through qualifiers during NFL season or the first quarter-plus of the NBA campaign.
Given the well-timed announcement, it’s the last-minute sales pitch that likely will bring some high rollers to the table. After all, the edge is undeniably magnetizing for those who can afford the buy-in fee and have a degree of confidence in their sports betting acumen.
Unique format sets up an intriguing challenge
The Sports Betting National Championship sports a unique format that promises to test several important sports betting skills in its participants, including multisport knowledge, bankroll management and prudent line selection.
Some of the nuts and bolts of the event are as follows:
- Each participant begins the contest Friday with a DraftKings-funded $5,000 bankroll.
- Players must wager at least $1,000 on Friday and Saturday, and at least $2,000 on Sunday.
- Wagers can be placed on any sports on Friday or Saturday. However, all wagers placed Sunday must exclusively involve the two NFL divisional playoff games unfolding that day.
- Participants must meet the requirements to retain a spot on the official leaderboard and qualify for the $1,000,000 grand prize, or for the subsequent payouts for lower finishes.
- All types of bets are in play, including straight bets, parlays and fantasy props. However, betting closes upon the kickoff of the second NFL divisional playoff game on Sunday.
- The player with the biggest bankroll at the end of the weekend becomes the grand prize winner. Bankroll size determines subsequent qualifying spots.
- DraftKings is guaranteeing a prize pool of $2.5 million. Each direct buy-in above 531 entries will increase the prize pool by $4,700 apiece.
- The contest is single entry. The event will have a maximum of 1,000 entrants.
- All players take home the total of their bankroll at the end of the weekend. Those who have kept their leaderboard eligibility are also awarded any money they’ve earned through that channel.
TheLines will be in Jersey City providing coverage of the DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship. Follow our Twitter account for updates from the event!
TheLines provides a breakdown and analysis for the NCAA’s National Title Game on Monday night. We’ll look at the odds and see why they’re moving a certain way, along with breaking down the matchup and providing the week’s best prop bets.
The top two college football squads in the nation clash at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Monday night to decide which will hold the mantle of top team in the nation for the just-concluded 2018 season. Alabama and Clemson both forged perfect 14-0 records during the regular season.
The Crimson Tide was 8-0 in the Southeastern Conference, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the conference title game by a 35-28 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 45-34 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl semi-final at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The Tigers were 8-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers in the conference title game by a 42-10 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 30-3 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl semi-final at AT & T Stadium in Dallas.
National title game betting odds and analysis
The line has fluctuated at DraftKings Sportsbook within a point over the last week, but the Crimson Tide has never been less than five-point favorites. The apex was a six-point spread in favor of Alabama a week ago. Substantial money clearly came in on Clemson at that point, enough to move the line a full point down to five late in the week last week. There’s been additional fluctuation since, with the Tide bouncing back to 5.5-point favorites Sunday, reverting back to a five-point number earlier Monday, and then landing on 5.5 yet again as of early Monday afternoon.
The projected total at DraftKings Sportsbook has been much more volatile. At 59 points a week ago, the total reached a high point of 60.5 by the middle of last week. A downward slide then ensued, one that eventually saw the total sink as low 57.5 earlier Monday before jutting back up to 58. As of this writing early Monday afternoon, the number had hit a new low of 57 before dropping again to 56.5 two hours before kickoff.
National Title Game matchup
The battle of college football’s juggernauts is a familiar one. The series between the schools has a 118-year history, but the most recent games have been particularly high-stakes affairs. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met in the National Championship Game after both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Alabama notched a 45-40 win in the first game, while Clemson countered with a 35-31 victory in the second. The third meeting, in January 2018, wasn’t for all the marbles. However, it determined which of the two teams would advance to the biggest game of the season. Alabama won that rubber match by a 24-6 margin in the Sugar Bowl.
Monday night’s matchup is a vintage strength vs. strength affair. The Tide checks in scoring the second-most points per game (47.5). The Tigers aren’t far behind, ranking as the fourth-most prolific team (44.0). Then, no team in major college football was stingier than Clemson — they allowed just 13.4 points per contest. That includes a top-ranked 11.4 points per road game. Alabama counters with the fourth-fewest points per game surrendered (16.2). That includes 12.5 points per home contest, second fewest in the country.
The Crimson Tide compiled the seventh-most passing yards per game (322.2). In turn, the Tigers allowed just 192.5 passing yards per contest, including 157.3 per game on the road. The latter figure is the fifth-lowest away total in the nation. Then, the Tigers’ offense often relied on their elite running game. Clemson rushed for 256.8 yards per game, 10th-most in the country. Yet, Alabama was among the best at stopping ground attacks. The Tide allowed a modest 109.2 rush yards per contest, 11th-fewest in the nation.
National Title Game betting breakdown
The Tigers were 8-6 (57.1 percent) versus the spread this season. Monday’s game marks the first instance this season in which the Tigers are underdogs.
The Crimson Tide were also 8-6 (57.1 percent) against the number this season. As is the case Monday, Alabama was a favorite in all of those games.
The Crimson Tide is considered the home team in Monday’s neutral site. Alabama is 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the spread as a home favorite this season, with all of those contests day games, as is Monday’s.
The Tigers were 4-1 (80.0 percent) versus the number as a road team this season. That includes a 3-0 mark against the spread in road day games. The Tigers have also covered the spread in eight of their last nine bowl games.
The average margin of victory for the Crimson Tide this season was 31.5 points. The average margin of victory for the Tigers was 31.4 points.
The Crimson Tide exceeded their projected total in eight of 14 games this season (61.5 percent), with one push. That includes exceeding their projected total in five of seven home day games (78.6 percent), with one push.
The Tigers went under their projected total in six of 14 games this season (42.9 percent). However, the Tigers exceeded their projected total in all three road day games. Each of Clemson’s last four neutral-site games have gone under the projected total.
Sportsbook promos and props
DraftKings, FanDuel and BetStars are offering value for Monday night’s Alabama vs. Clemson game in the form of odds boosts. Have a look below for the options at each book in New Jersey:
To make things more interesting, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering the chance to earn two times your winnings on your first live bet. Here’s how it works:
- Place a live (in-game) singles paid bet on the game.
- If it wins, DraftKings will double your winnings with a free bet (up to $25).
FanDuel Sportsbook is adding a little excitement to the biggest game of the season with its double your winnings promotion. Here’s how it works:
- Opt in to the promotion
- Bet the over (58 points)
- Win pays double your winnings (up to $100 in site credit)
- Amount equal to site credit must be wagered before winnings can be withdrawn
- Bonus expires seven days after receipt
There are several odds boosts available for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game:
- Joshua Jacobs and Travis Etienne to score a touchdown (now paying +135)
- Damien Harris to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +130)
- Joshua Jacobs to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +140)
- Travis Etienne to score two or more touchdowns (now paying +140)
DraftKings got to the top of the DFS mountain by taking some chances and thinking outside the box.
One of the methods by which the industry leader gained notoriety was through its live final events. There have even been full-fledged documentaries memorializing the experience. And while DK wasn’t the first to host one, they arguably have gotten to the point where they pull it off better than anyone else.
The company took a similarly aggressive/innovative approach when entering the sports betting space. Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder Matt Kalish made no bones about the company’s goal to become the “best total value operator in sportsbook” as DK officially kicked off its sports betting product in early August.
Bringing a little DFS flavor to the sports betting space
The subsequent months have arguably been an unqualified success by and large for DraftKings Sportsbook, even as it’s still only available in New Jersey. Now, using a little bit of that same ingenuity that they’ve often applied on the DFS front, the company has found a way to hold a first-of-its-kind live final for sports betting that incorporates players from jurisdictions where the activity isn’t yet available.
“At DraftKings, the natural state of things is to look at everything as an opportunity for creativity and disruption,” said Kalish. “We looked at the sportsbook space and saw very little in the way of events. With our history running the biggest and best fantasy events every year, it seemed natural to find a way to bring that kind of experience to the sportsbook space.”
The first annual DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship unfolds in – where else – Jersey City, New Jersey on the weekend of January 11-13. Qualifiers are currently running in the company’s DFS lobby. However, there’s also the option of a direct $10,000 buy-in.
Some of the other logistics of the event include:
- Each participant begins with a DK-funded $5,000 bankroll.
- Players must wager at least $1,000 on Friday and Saturday, and at least $2K on Sunday.
- Wagers can be placed on any sport Friday or Saturday. However, all wagers placed Sunday must exclusively involve the two NFL divisional playoff games unfolding that day.
- Those requirements must be met in order for participants to retain a spot on the official leaderboard and qualify for the $1,000,000 grand prize, or for the subsequent payouts for lower finishes.
- All types of bets are in play, including “straight bets, parlays, fantasy props and more” as per Kalish. However, betting closes upon the kickoff of the second NFL divisional playoff game on Sunday.
- The player with the biggest bankroll at the end of the weekend is crowned the grand prize winner. Subsequent qualifying spots are also determined by bankroll size.
- The prize pool will be at least $2.5 million, with each direct buy-in above 531 entries increasing the prize pool by $4,700 apiece.
- Contest is single entry. The event will have a maximum of 1,000 entrants.
- All players take home the sum total of their bankroll at the end of the weekend. Those who have kept their leaderboard eligibility are also awarded any money they’ve earned through that channel.
Ensuring a level playing field
The Sports Betting National Championship will naturally have quite a few firsts associated with it. One of those is an educational component not found in DK’s live DFS events.
Despite their many similarities, sports betting – and how it’s laid out in the DK Sportsbook app — is in a completely different stage of familiarity as compared to the company’s DFS product for most that will attend the event, considering:
- Legal single-game sports betting outside of Nevada is still in its nascent stages.
- Many qualifiers for the proceedings will be migrating over from the DFS space. While conventional wisdom would dictate most have placed a sports bet before, there will inevitably be at least a handful that are considerably inexperienced.
- The DK Sportsbook app is only fully operational for New Jersey residents at present. It offers a wealth of potential wagering options – including a suite of in-play bets – that even some experienced players may not have extensive experience with. At minimum, many participants will be navigating the platform for the first time upon their arrival at the event.
Accordingly, the company is trying to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage from a knowledge perspective.
“In addition to the abundance of educational features already included in our easy-to-use app that help better acquaint customers with our product, we’ll be providing additional learning materials to all competitors,” remarked Kalish. “We will also have a fully staffed onsite area at the event for customers with any questions or issues that happen to arise.”
“Method to the madness” in contest rules, structure
As Kalish further explains, there’s sound reasoning behind each of the contest’s rules, even when it’s not evident on the surface. For example, the requirement that all final day bets must be exclusively on football stems from the NFL undoubtedly serving as the U.S. market’s most frequently and lucratively bet sport.
The fact that the NBA and NHL – the other two major sports in action at that point of the year – purposely keep their Sunday slates modest while pro football’s in season also played a role.
And as far as the wagering cut-off time on the contest’s final day? There’s a strategic element at play there as well.
“Closing betting at the kickoff of the last game will allow players and spectators alike to watch the last few hours of action with a clear picture of who could potentially walk away the champion,” Kalish said. “We want the final experience to easily display the necessary turn of events required to crown a winner, adding even more anticipation with each in-game moment.”
From the company perspective, that certainly makes sense. DK is naturally hoping this initial version of the Sports Betting National Championship once again positions it as a trailblazer in a new industry, with all the positives that could bring.
The company’s prior experience facilitating live, high-stakes sports-based gaming events was critical. Devising a final-day contest structure that engenders the type of electricity that’s made DK’s DFS live finals an industry standard was high on the priority list, according to Kalish. Especially for an event that DK certainly has a highly bullish long-term view on.
“Based on our experience with our DFS live finals, which we’ve been hosting since 2014, we think this will lead to a much more focused and exciting conclusion to the event.”
Lead image courtesy of DraftKings
DraftKings clawed its way to the top of the multimillion-dollar daily fantasy sports industry by maximizing the most visceral appeal of its product — the chance to win large sums of money in a single day. That potentially making any sporting event, regardless of its participants, one of keen interest.
That seductive quality has enticed plenty of sports fans — approximately 10 million of them according to co-founder Matt Kalish — to at least give DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports (DFS) offerings a try at one point or another.
The company kickstarted a new era when DraftKings Sportsbook officially went live Aug. 6. Being the new kid on the block brings plenty of challenges; managing to capture the same level of engagement with the sports betting customer as they do with those on the DFS side is one of the bigger ones.
Spicing up conventional sports betting
Traditional sports betting can be a notably more “static” product than DFS on the surface. Many traditional wagers hinge on end-of-game outcomes. And many bettors may only have action on a handful of contests on, say, a typical NFL Sunday. Conversely, the DFS player could potentially have a stake to some degree in every game being played if they’ve created enough lineups.
Not averse to thinking outside the box, DraftKings Sportsbook has multiple features that allow bettors to have many skins in the game during the game. These are in addition to the conventional array of tried-and-true sports betting options, including:
However, they’ve also literally made every “event within the event” potentially mean something by making all of them wagerable.
Every point in tennis. Every play in a football game. Shoot, every pitch in a baseball game. They all have odds assigned within DraftKings Sportsbook, allowing you to plunk some money down on, say, whether Tom Brady’s next pass successfully finds its target or falls incomplete.
For example, DraftKings Sportsbook offered in-play golf bets on every hole for Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the PGA Championship. Bettors could watch live action of those featured players on the PGA Championship app and bet on every shot on the DraftKings Sportsbook app, with the odds changing on the fly.
Having that kind of in-play action certainly helps glue a fair share of eyeballs to a game, not to mention the DraftKings Sportsbook app. And while, admittedly, DK is far from the only operator offering in-game betting (it’s already big in Europe), there’s another innovative feature they can actually claim all their own for the moment — a revolutionary “live ticket” system.
Think sports betting meets day trading, in the purest sense. Except, in this case, you won’t hear a chaotic cacophony of “buy!” and “sell!” — the action all takes place over a matter of seconds within the serenity of a bettor’s smartphone or mobile device.
Simply put, any open bet on DraftKings Sportsbook — even those that fully hinge on end results — can be assigned a value based on what’s happening as the contest unfolds.
In DraftKings Sportsbook, you can monitor that potential value of your wager — which fluctuates as lines adjust for in-game events — and jump off at any point in time you feel is particularly advantageous. A click on the Cash Out button that appears on every open betting ticket is all it takes.
The live ticketing system even applies if you have suddenly second thoughts about taking a stake in multiple games. In other words, you can jump off a parlay just as easily as you can a single-game ticket.
DraftKings Sportsbook becomes the first to offer the live ticket system in the United States, and it’s a feature that could certainly help it carve out a niche in what is already a crowded online sports betting market in New Jersey. The fact that bettors can take advantage of the price they locked in when they opened their betting ticket — particularly when there’s a drastic change in circumstances, such as injury to a key player — is likely to appeal to a sizable segment of the customer base.