Professional sports betting accounts for plenty of individual risk, and Rufus Peabody recognized just that early on his career. In the first of TheLines’ feature series on pro sports bettors, Peabody details his journey to become a pro bettor and his advice for novice gamblers in the betting community.
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Professional Sports Betting: “Bet The Process”
When Peabody first graduated from Yale University in 2008, he immediately began working for the Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) — securing a $25,000 salary. At the time, LVSC set the odds for nearly 90 percent of Nevada-centric sportsbooks.
But Peabody was more interested in the other side of the counter. His senior thesis centered around the phycological inefficiencies of the baseball betting model. He built and used his own MLB model to bet on the side while working his full-time job.
During his attempt to slowly churn out a bankroll, or a separate source of money to bet beyond his salary, he was introduced to a a trio of professional bettors (Zach White, Mark DeRosa and “Train”) who looked to add him to their group. In turn, they gave him a free roll on the 2009 MLB season. After a month, Peabody’s return was equivalent to his yearly salary.
“They asked, ‘Why the hell are you still working there (LVSC)? Come work with us full time,'” he recalled.
Peabody’s Prodigious Payday
For this game alone, he utilized his entire bankroll of $15,000, a $10,000 loan from a friend and a $40,000 “investment” from a LVSC co-worker, which he’d get a percentage of the profit. He profited roughly $20,000 — with a majority of the winnings coming from Steelers running back Garry Russell scoring the first touchdown (+1500).
With 14:09 left in the second quarter, Russell plunged in a one-yard carry to give the Steelers a 10-point lead. Yet Peabody wasn’t popping open a bottle of champagne.
Instead, he was one of a few playing a round of golf at the Las Vegas Golf Center. There were no smart phones at the time, either.
“I decided I would go grocery shopping after that and cook up a storm,” Peabody said, laughing. “I still remember trying to make baba ganoush from a recipe that had to be cooked in the microwave.”
Finally, he checked the box score and saw Russell scored. But even then, Peabody couldn’t properly celebrate, as he was renting a small apartment for $450 a month — east of Sam’s Town Hotel about seven miles off the Las Vegas strip. It sufficed that night, though.
Learning From The Losses
Not all betting tales are as rewarding as the last.
From the beginning of the 2010 MLB season through the end of June, Peabody and his fellow bettors tallied over $1 million in winnings. Nevertheless, they proceeded to lose over $700,000 in the next two months. A handful of it slipped away because of a dismal span betting NASCAR.
“Those kinds of stretches motivate me to work harder on the R&D (research and development) and modeling side,” he said. “The same model I used to bet baseball then wouldn’t make money now.”
Naturally, the betting market’s efficiency is enhanced when newfound data and information are gifted for public consumption. Peabody responded by focusing his handicapping on golf, along with the NFL. He even stopped betting MLB once the pandemic impacted the sport.
“I used that as an excuse, and it was tough because I felt like a lot of my identity was tied to betting baseball since it was what I got my start doing,” he said. “Years ago, I was able to win at four different sports and had the bandwidth to do that.
“Football is a bigger market share. You can get more down, but there are fewer games to do so. There’s a lot of labor involved with props if you’re grinding those. I basically just do props for the playoffs at this point. I’m still betting plenty on football, but it’s a small percentage of what I make.”
Overall, Peabody’s current betting group earns over $1 million per year.
Audio Side of Professional Sports Betting
Ever since September 2017, Peabody has hosted a podcast — “Bet The Process” — with fellow sports bettor Jeff Ma. The two worked together in a part-time role at ESPN the year prior, but Peabody felt strapped down by the company’s need to produce soundbite-driven sports betting insight as the company’s “predictive analytics expert.”
“That’s just not the way bettors think,” he said. “It doesn’t sell to say, ‘There’s a 54.5 percent probability that this will happen.’ We wanted to provide sports betting content even though we still don’t even know what the hell sport betting content is.”
Well, neither does much of the current sports media landscape. But through the audio medium, Peabody and Ma strive to connect with recreational and professional bettors alike, as well as other intuitive voices in the industry.
On top of that, Peabody aims to sprinkle in the significance of line shopping for both professional sports betting and casual bettors alike — no matter the monetary value of a wager.
“If I have this $15,000 bet, and I’ll play it at even money, but not at -101 or -102, it isn’t costing me that much,” he said. “But over time, it adds up. You might deposit $20, but you can be rolling it over (into the next wager). If you’re taking a price that’s one to two percent worse each time, that will add up and turn into real money quickly.”