Like all old adages, “the house always wins” is a phrase that’s both rooted in truth and subject to exceptions.
Yes, trying to consistently beat the book can certainly be one of those slippery – and expensive – slopes. But odds boosts give bettors a ton of traction by effectively wiping out most, or in some cases, all, of the house’s built-in advantage and turning certain wagers into +EV scenarios.
Simply put, odds boosts involve a sportsbook essentially flipping the odds on certain teams and/or games heavily in favor of the bettor. Odds boosts could theoretically be applied to a wide variety of bet types. That includes moneyline, point spread and totals wagers.
For the sake of example, say a heavy favorite such as the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Westen Conference Finals carried a moneyline of -200 for that contest.
In an odds boost promotion, an operator could flip that number to +200. That would allow bettors to jump in on an opportunity to get double their original money on a likely winning bet. Under the original odds, the reverse would have been true – the bettor would have only won $100 for every $200 risked.
Odds boosts gaining popularity in new US regulated market
Odds boosts are a new form of promotion that hadn’t been utilized previously in the legal or underground US betting markets prior to the eradication of PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) last May.
However, the growing regulated multi-state sports betting environment has led to a variety of innovations and new strategies designed to keep customers engaged and coming back. Odds boosts are one such mechanism.
“For years, US casinos have offered complimentary amenities like rooms and drinks to enhance customer experience,” explains Jamie Shea, Head of Sports Book Digital at DraftKings. “As a primarily digital sportsbook, odds boosts, giveaways, and refunds are the equivalent for us.”
Indeed, DraftKings Sportsbook has already deployed odds boosts aggressively on more than one occasion in New Jersey. Shea cites the operator’s recent one-day increase of Warriors NBA Finals futures odds to a whopping +514 (in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that eradicated PASPA) as a prime example of DK’s mission to “create the best possible experience” for its customers.
Unsurprisingly, Shea notes that specific promotion has been the company’s most popular odds boost to date. And, it could also be the most costly. Given the Warriors are considered solid favorites to “three-peat” at the expense of the Toronto Raptors, DK is facing a “seven-figure liability” if Golden State prevails, according to Shea.
Motivation for sportsbooks?
So what exactly are the ulterior motives behind sportsbooks suddenly developing what comes off as a suspiciously altruistic streak?
Naturally, there’s a method to the madness on the part of the operator when it comes to these promotions. Yet the good news is that it doesn’t always necessarily equate to a “catch” for the customer.
First and foremost, odds boosts serve as a multi-pronged marketing tool for sportsbooks. The driving force behind periodically offering them is the tenet that a winning bettor is happy bettor.
“We have a 90-percent retention rate with customers that use the DraftKings Sportsbook app and a lot of that is because we work so hard at providing our them with a broad selection of betting options, enhanced odds and rewards,” notes Shea. “When our customers lose it’s not always a win for our business. Customer wins help spur repeat engagement and future growth.”
New Jersey sportsbooks also smartly capitalize on peak levels of interest in certain sporting events when deciding when and how to run odds boosts. Kevin Hennessy, Director of Publicity at FanDuel Sportsbook, notes that the operator typically runs odds boosts that either involve area teams (i.e. Nets, Knicks, Yankees) or whatever might be considered a “feature” game that day.
Benefits for both operator and bettor
Clearly, odds boosts can serve as an excellent lure for repeat business. And, the same can apply to attracting new customers as well.
Jon Price, a respected handicapper who runs Beverly Hills, California-based Sports Information Traders, also pegs odds boosts as a highly effective customer magnet for Garden State operators in their ongoing competition with neighboring states.
“When sportsbooks offer a bonus or incentive it’s usually to get a new bettor in the door, but in these cases it’s intriguing because they’re working on luring bettors away from Delaware and neighboring Pennsylvania,” notes Price. “When the house gives up their edge you should definitely look to pounce on the opportunity and shift your betting dollars from neighbor states and into New Jersey which is absolutely what they’re trying to do. This is one of those [situations where] more competition is good for the sports bettors.”
Ed Miller, successful poker pro and author/co-author of several gambling-based books, concurs that the math behind odds boosts can certainly be exploited by the knowledgeable bettor to create a guaranteed win on that particular game.
By taking advantage of the price disparity between the sportsbook offering the odds boost and one that’s isn’t, a bettor can take both sides of the wager and still be guaranteed a profit to some degree. He further illustrates the point using a hypothetical Dodgers-Giants game where the Los Angeles moneyline had been temporarily boosted from -150 to +100.
“Say you can bet $100 on the Dodgers at +100 due to the odds boost. And then another sportsbook is offering Giants +130. You could bet $86.96 at +130 on the Giants, and then no matter which team wins, you cash for $200 total so you make $200 – $186.96 = $13.04 risk-free,” explains Miller.
But beware of the “parlay pitfall”
But while odds boosts do certainly help even the playing field for the average bettor, it’s not to say they can’t sometimes be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. As with any sports bet, the best chances of success come from picking one’s spots with a discerning eye.
Single-event-based odds boosts are one thing. However, odds boosts on parlay bets — which are already inherently more difficult due to the requirement that all legs of the wager must be successful in order to cash – still leave the bettor at a disadvantage overall in Price’s view.
“Complex multi-event wagers that engage in Odds Boost I would not engage in,” Price commented. “This looks more enticing to the gamblers but has a lower probability of cashing in due to the higher variances at a magnitude that the statistical analysis doesn’t end in favor of the bettor.”