The Offshore Edge
Avid sports bettors look to offshore gambling sites for fast-paced, though unregulated, wagers with less risk and more reward
From the Print Edition:
Adrien Brody, September/October 2010
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Opportunities on the Web clearly aid the sharp professionals who recognize every angle and capitalize on every advantage. But there are aspects of online betting that can help the rest of us as well. The newest opportunity is a relatively fresh gambit called in-running wagering. This is a high-tech form of sports betting that allows gamblers to place a plethora of bets as a sporting event progresses. You can wager on anything from the outcome of a game-obviously with odds and point spreads that continuously evolve-to which side will be next to score. The format is being offered at M Resort in Las Vegas, inside a sports book run by Cantor Gaming, a division of the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald. Cantor's involvement is appropriate, as in-running is a lot like day-trading, complete with hedges, selling out of positions profitably and then jumping back in when the price is right.
James Hipwell, the London-based sports betting editor for betrepublic.com, and a successful punter in his own right, suggests that succeeding at in-running requires lightning fast reflexes, a good Internet connection and a clear understanding of what makes a bet profitable from one second to the next. "For example, when it comes to betting on a sprint-a horse race of five furloughs or 1,000 yards-you look for a horse that comes slow out of the starting gate and immediately lay it [that is, bet on the horse to lose]," says Hipwell. "If it's a favorite with a bad jump, you'll see the odds go from 1-to-2 to 10-to-1 in two seconds." Of course, though, if you know something about the horse that a lot of other people do not-like that it has a tendency to recover from weak starts-you might want to take the long odds and bet on it to win.
A great example of an opportunity for sharp bettors to cleanup came in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird went off as a 50-to-1 longshot and its price got even longer via in-running wagering. The horse spent most of the race at the back of the pack and then came through in the last 16th of a mile to win. As Hipwell puts it, "A lot of in-running punters were shitting themselves."
If the fast and furious pace of in-running is not for you, you can use an old fashioned approach to exploit opportunities offshore. Think like a pro, remove all emotions, study teams and understand what makes one a favorite over another. Armed with that knowledge at game time, you'll be betting into lines that have already been picked apart by other gamblers and made efficient by the books. But right at the beginning of an NFL week, when what Edward refers to as "the virgin line" gets posted by the offshores, you have a shot at discovering advantages. You can capitalize on the shortfalls of odds-makers who find themselves pressed to handicap way more games than you, as a gambler, need to consider.
Offshore sports books are usually first to post the lines for a weekend of games. By the time Las Vegas casinos follow suit, they are already reacting to what happened in the backrooms of Costa Rica, Antigua and other bookie-friendly spots in Central America and the Caribbean-via many millions of dollars worth of opinions. "For the NFL, real value is offshore on Sunday night when sites put up their virgin lines," says Edward, explaining that the biggest professional bettors are limited in what they can get down at that point (because the lines are vulnerable) and they don't bother much with them. "Immediately, the semi-sharp people"-smart bettors with smaller bankrolls who probably do not gamble full-time- "start hammering the weak lines into place. It's worth remembering that the most efficient line is right before the game begins and the least efficient line is when it's first introduced."
Asked for an example of this, Edward recounts a WNBA game from the night before. "Candace Parker is the top female basketball player in the world," begins Edward, referring to the forward for the L.A. Sparks who sustained a side-lining injury that had not been widely reported when the opening point spread came out offshore. "The Sparks were favored by 1 1/2 over the Connecticut Suns. So, overnight you could have gotten Connecticut at plus 1 1/2. By the time Vegas opened it was Connecticut at minus 1 1/2, and it closed at minus 4. The Vegas bookies wake up in the morning and adjust, based on what happened offshore."
Illustrating the offshore advantage, Connecticut won by three points. "So," continues Edward, "that is a perfect example of why it is easier to beat the opening line and the benefit of hitting it early."
It also illustrates why sharp gamblers flock to the offshore books, riskily pouring billions of dollars into betting pools there, regardless of what some American lawmakers and elected officials think is best for us.
Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.
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