P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
And now I just made you a sucker, because you believed that. As it turns out, Barnum almost certainly did not say that; it was a Syracuse businessman/huckster by the name David Hannum. (The story behind it involves a cigar manufacturer, a pair of fake giants, and a defamation lawsuit.)
The sucker in this story — well, the willing sucker, so really, not a sucker at all, but someone trying to shine a light on a questionable sportsbook practice in an effort to get others to stop being suckers — is Steve Brubaker, an Illinois lobbyist for the horse racing industry and fond watcher of all things gambling related.
Brubaker came across an article that quoted a member of the FanDuel team. Brubaker can’t recall exactly which article it was, but one item stuck out to him: that 42% of FanDuel’s handle comes from the app’s home page.
Brubaker decided to “spelunk” around that home page and see what was so enticing.
“When you open the page, you get their fabricated Same Game Parlay,” Brubaker told Sports Handle. “So I decided I was going to bet it for 25 days and see what happened. I decided to extend it to 50 days. I was wondering what the magic sauce is for FanDuel, and I think the magic sauce is that no one ever wins these bets. That’s been my experience, at least.”
Day 47. Here’s the home page bet. 1200 at 4:40 am. pic.twitter.com/UPQRpHzDcN
— Steve Brubaker (@SteveBrubaker) March 9, 2023
Brubaker won once in 50 attempts at average odds of +1033. He recognizes this is a small sample size, and he’s not entirely surprised or disappointed in the results. He does, however, think the state regulatory boards should be looking at this practice. (To be clear: All the major sportsbooks have jumped on this train, offering pre-made SGPs. And no wonder: Sportsbooks clean up with parlays in general, and SGPs are undoubtedly no different.)
Bring in the government?
“I call on regulators to do an assessment of the parlays that people create, let’s look at the win rate on that, compare it to the ones FanDuel creates, and let’s see what the win-loss record looks like,” he said. “I think if people are using their own decision-making power and want to play a same game parlay and they’re analyzing what is best for that bet, then it’s on them if it goes good or bad. But when the book makes the SGP, there’s room there to manipulate what the result is going to be. They have more knowledge than everybody, more data than everybody. That product, in my opinion, shouldn’t be offered.”
Brubaker has also noticed some hijinks when it comes to advertising how many people have placed the bet.
“What I’ve noticed over time is they change the bet and they keep the same number of people who bet it,” Brubaker said. “The odds change all the time, so it’s not the same bet, but I don’t get upset about that. But if you change the numbers, it’s no longer the same bet. A few days ago they pulled points off a few players and added points to others but said it was the same bet, and the number that goes along with the flaming hot sign of people who bet the SGP kept increasing. That’s an advertising gimmick, an inducement for someone to be comfortable making that bet, even though the counter is wrong because it’s not the same bet.”
But that isn’t even the worst of the premade SGP faux pas in the business; Caesars will sometimes add legs to a SGP that don’t increase the odds at all. There is literally zero upside in having the extra leg, and 100% downside.
One of the more predatory things I’ve seen are these @CaesarsSports “quick pick” sgps that include a player to go over their PTS and their 3s made when Caesar’s gives 0 benefit (assumes 100% chance it happens) to these two events. Don’t bet these with both included. Screenshots⬇️
— The Promoguy (@ThePromoguy123) March 3, 2023
Emails to both FanDuel and Caesars to discuss their premade SGPs went unreturned.
“People love parlays,” Brubaker said. “People love same game parlays. If bettors are creating the parlay with their own knowledge or gut feeling, fine, have fun, spend your $10, it’s a free world. But I don’t like it that the books are doing that.”
A fool and his money
I can’t believe I actually have to type this, and forgive me for hollering, but, THE SPORTSBOOKS ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.
They are actively trying to take your money, just as much as you are trying to take their money.
Don’t bet premade SGPs, people. The sportsbook is creating exotic bets that are A) parlays, which generally result in a hold of 30% or more, and B) single game parlays, which are jiggered and rejiggered based on voodoo math and correlations that you don’t have access to.
Furthermore, the sportsbooks know exactly how thirsty you are to try and win a lot for little. Don’t believe me? Here are the words of DraftKings CEO Jason Robins: “Serve up same game parlays to players who have a proclivity to engage with that type of bet.”
“Serve up Same Game Parlays to players who have a proclivity to engage with that type of bet.”
Imagine any other industry that targets a demographic based on their lack of understanding of math.
ie: A bank serves up higher mortgage rates to people who seem finance deficient. https://t.co/15tppuEVyu
— Captain Jack Andrews (@capjack2000) May 21, 2022
The data the sportsbooks have on us is enormous, and the data they have to build these sucker bets (though they are fun, ain’t they?) is even more enormous.
I mean, shouldn’t it be a red flag to anyone with a double-digit IQ that if the book is creating these, posting them on the home page — like they all do — that maybe, perhaps, the premade SGP isn’t exactly a long-term winner?
Honestly, if you’re betting premade SGPs, you’re a rube. I’m not really sure the regulatory agencies should be getting involved, like Brubaker proposes. I’ve kind of had it up to here with the government sticking and re-sticking its collective nose into this industry. If you’re lazy enough to play a sportsbook-created same game parlay, well … I kinda think that’s on you.
Besides, as Mark Twain famously said, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” That’s been the case since the dawn of man. No surprise it continues today.
Oh, and also, Twain didn’t say it. The exact phrase was first written by Dr. John Bridges, writing in 1587’s Defence of the Government of the Church of England. Now you know, sucker.