With apologies to The Bangles, Saturday, not Sunday, is most people’s fun day.
But back when he worked in several Las Vegas sportsbooks, sports betting personality Dave Sharapan had a far different feeling on the seventh day of the week, at least in the teeth of college basketball season.
“January, there are still NFL games and you’re trying to manage all the sharps picking off the Rider first half because your number has been sitting there for an hour because you haven’t looked at it,” recalled Sharapan. “Saturdays, you came home and felt like a wrung-out towel. Friday night, the wife and kids would be like, ‘Where are we going to dinner?’ And I’d be like, ‘I’ve got to get home and get some rest, because I’ve got a full day tomorrow.’”
For another veteran sportsbook manager, John Murray of the Westgate SuperBook, Wednesdays were “the worst.”
“They’ve done a better job dispersing the games, [but] when I first started, all the games were on Wednesday night,” he recalled. “You’d go to lunch and just want to put your head down. It was just a different world. When tellers tell me how busy they are, I tell them, ‘Dude, you don’t know what busy was like.’ On Saturday, everybody works, so the workload is shared more, and the games are more spread out. But Wednesdays were the worst. From 4 to 7 or 7:30, you were just buried.”
Of course, as Murray alludes to, the ability to bet from one’s phone or computer has changed the game.
“Back in the day, if your number was off on a college basketball game, there’d be some guy in the front of the book trying to get to the front of the line to bet you on it, and it’d be easier to change it on time,” he said. “Nowadays, the moment you get off market, you can get nailed. It’s good and bad. Your numbers are tighter than ever; they’re constantly being corrected. But at the same time, you can get popped. You’ve got less people out front and a lot of eyes on the back. But you can get away with having less employees out front.”
More mobile means more games
Yet while sportsbooks may be taking fewer bets in person as the action shifts to mobile, they’re offering more games, which creates its own set of challenges.
“The toughest part is there are more teams than ever that we’re booking,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook. “It used to be that we weren’t booking the Southland Conference or Patriot League on a regular basis. That’s changed in the last five years or so. You’re basically taking bets on every game. You’ve got to be on your guard. You’ve got to get the latest injury news. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kentucky-Auburn; it also matters if it’s Alabama A&M and Eastern Kentucky. Ten years ago, nobody would have thought to book some of those conferences.”
“From a bettor’s perspective, if you know you are betting into a book that has every game with every side, every total, first half, second half, you’ve got to wonder: How many people are employed at that sportsbook? Is it all of Wall Street?” said Robert Kowalski, general manager of ZenSports and the Book at Baldini’s in the Reno area.
Without the ability to employ an infinite number of traders, DraftKings Director of Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello has learned to accept the fact that there will be some “weak spots” in his college basketball lines.
“That’s where the player has the advantage,” said Avello. “He doesn’t have to bet them all, but we have to put them all up. You just have to be prepared to move [lines] and sometimes you have to move them aggressively. When you have to do this many, you’re just not gonna be as on it as when you’re only doing a handful of games.”
‘An absolute madhouse’
Avello, who’s been around long enough to have a keen understanding of the before and after effect of mobile sports wagering, said, “It was tough then and it’s tough now. If you look at the Saturday slate this coming week, there are over 100 regular games and then there’s another 35 or so extra games. So it’s a bear. Not only do you have all the games, you have the first halves, the second halves, in-game wagering, alternative lines. It’s a lot, it really is. I had a trader last week. I said, ‘How’d it go Saturday?’ She said, ‘Did you realize how many games there are?’ They have to really stay on top of things.”
“Before the internet, things just weren’t really efficient in terms of the market being tidied up and every casino being close on their numbers,” said Matt Lindeman, a senior lead trader for WynnBET. “It was more of a Wild West situation where you have to wait until you take a bet. You can’t really see where these other places are at. Now you have probably 30-45 seconds before sharp bettors are going to be on a big move or an injury play or some type of information. You need multiple people watching, looking at Twitter, hollering, ‘This guy’s out or that guy’s out.'”
Before he worked for WynnBET, Lindeman worked for retail books operated by Cantor Gaming and Caesars in Vegas, which, in his estimation, still has the highest concentration of sharp bettors — although Colorado and New Jersey are gaining momentum on that front.
“Most of those sharp bettors bet college basketball because it is advantageous,” he explained. “With 150 games, there is so much action that comes in from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. It’s an absolute madhouse.”