I Guess You Have To Bet On Something
Betting news, trends, odds and predictions for from various handicappers and websites for Wednesday 4/1/20
You bet what?! Sports shutdown leads to a lot of weird wagers - plenty on pingpong
By: Patrick Everson
Two words that you’d never expect to hear in the midst of March Madness, or really anytime save for perhaps the Olympics: pingpong betting.
Yes, per The Associated Press Stylebook, pingpong is one word. And yes, per multiple sportsbook operators, wagering on table tennis is all the rage, doing a small part to fill the large sports betting void created by the Coronavirus shutdown.
“Dollar-wise for sure, Russian table tennis, pingpong, has been out of this world,” William Hill US director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told Covers. “If you can believe it – and I can’t believe it – there have been a lot of dollars bet. There are 80 matches a day, one every 15 minutes. It’s fascinating. A few customers have really gravitated toward it. The turnover has been great.”
How great? Well, that’s where the story of this unexpected market gets even better.
“We’re doing in-play now. How about that?” Bogdanovich marveled, while tipping his cap to Tony Richardson, who hails from Britain but lives in Las Vegas, heading up in-play oddsmaking for William Hill US. “He’s working his butt off and doing a great job.”
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For the moment, that’s helped put table tennis front and center, where March Madness would normally reside. Mind you, nothing – not even the Super Bowl – makes up for the NCAA Tournament in terms of betting handle and revenue. But a sport generally thought of as a basement gameroom/garage pastime is in a small way helping sportsbooks prevail during this unprecedented hiatus of all major sporting events around the globe.
“The star of the show has been Russian pingpong. That’s been the most popular ticket-wise and dollar-wise,” Bogdanovich said.
After hearing that, it wasn’t quite as surprising when Johnny Avello mirrored Bogdanovich’s comments. Avello, director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, had a similar level of surprise, as well.
“Pingpong has been crazy, honest to God,” Avello said. “We’ve been dealing every point, in-play pingpong, just like tennis. It’s written a lot more action than I thought it would.”
Even offshore operators, with the ability to offer far more markets than regulated U.S. books, are seeing strong interest in table tennis, among other markets.
“If there is a sport/league with games, we are doing our best to put odds up on it,” said a spokesperson for a prominent offshore site. “Whether it’s soccer from Belarus or Russian table tennis, we have odds on it and people are betting it. Table tennis is actually getting the best action, both in pregame and live.”
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Along with table tennis, other fringe markets getting some love from sportsbooks include sumo wrestling, the aforementioned Belarusian soccer and even a brief foray into chess matches.
“We booked chess, then those matches got suspended, just like all the other stuff,” Bogdanovich said. “That was weird. I didn’t think we’d write a bet to chess, but we did. I didn’t think we’d write bets to sumo wrestling, and we did. People want something to occupy their time. The majority of people are stuck at home. They can research this stuff on their computer, then bet on the mobile app.”
PointsBet USA indicated the limited soccer leagues still available – which appear to be in Belarus and Nicaragua – are getting the bulk of the action at its New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa operations. Straight bets on match results are No. 1 in ticket count, but betting on totals is generating more money. Matt Chaprales, head of content for PointsBet USA, said the oddsmaking team is stretching its collective brain.
“We went up with the Belarusian Extraleague hockey finals, and that generated some solid interest, likely because people were probably ecstatic just to learn that professional hockey was still being played somewhere,” Chaprales said. “Overall, we’ve definitely had to max out our collective creativity the past few weeks, highlighted by our ‘March Strangeness’ campaign, where we’ve offered promotions around everything from Aussies Rules Football to National Rugby League to Nicaraguan Primera Division soccer.”
On the virtual field of play, esports such as Counter-Strike are on the board at William Hill US, and Avello said DraftKings has such offerings on its fantasy sports platform.
“There’s a lot of stuff that takes place, but not everyday-stuff. We’ve got some esports on the fantasy side, like League of Legends,” Avello said, while noting that DraftKings has other gaming products helping to make up for sports betting’s black hole. “One advantage we have over others is that we have an online casino – 21, live 21, slot machines. Of course, the action has picked up substantially on those.”
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Likewise, offshore operators are seeing significant influx into gaming options beyond sports betting, with casino and poker room offerings.
“The action on each is through the roof. Both the casino and poker rooms have been setting records,” the spokesperson said.
DraftKings Sportsbook is also offering wildly popular free pools with cash prizes, for TV shows such as “Survivor” and on the iNASCAR race that took place Sunday.
“The biggest pool we’ve had so far was on the Democratic debate a couple Sundays ago, 70,000 entrants,” Avello said.
Not to be forgotten, traditional American sports are still drawing action, albeit with a much more limited menu. NFL futures in all realms – Super Bowl, conference, division, season win totals – got a jolt these past couple of weeks, aided by some big-name free-agent splashes, such as Tom Brady's move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s interesting, because regardless of the situation out there – Coronavirus, the recession, 9/11 – the sportsbook players always seem to bet on the now type of thing,” Avello said. “When Tom Brady elected to go with the Bucs, we took a ton of Bucs money to win the Super Bowl, to win the NFC, to win the NFC South.”
Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell strongly stated the NFL Draft would take place April 23-25, as scheduled, which helped bolster that market.
“Of course, we’ve got a bunch of NFL Draft props, a ton of stuff up on the draft,” Avello said, pointing specifically to the proposition offerings of which player would be the first overall pick and second overall pick.
DraftKings also has a prop in which bettors wager on the exact outcome of the first three selections, with 18 three-player combinations to choose from. The trio of Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa – selected in that order – is the +225 favorite.
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The offshore spokesperson said action on the more traditional markets continues to come in, too, along with anything else the book finds worthy of posting on the betting board.
“We are putting up as much content as possible. From college football Games of the Year to marble racing, everything we are putting up is getting bet,” the spokesperson said. “We just put up the spreads for each AFC and NFC South team’s 16 games. They are getting bet. The NASCAR iRacing is getting very good action. Politics and entertainment are also getting very good action.”
The offshore operator also has odds on when two staples of American sports, Major League Baseball and the NHL, will return to the fold. The prop bet of the next NHL game taking place by June 1 has Yes a +500 underdog, with No -900. The same prop on MLB has Yes +700 and No -1,600.
Beyond all the aforementioned offerings, there’s the wishful thinking that Dana White might pull off UFC 249 as scheduled on April 18. The card, with a huge main event of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, was to take place at the Barclay’s Center in New York, but that was nixed on March 18.
White has been hunting high and low across the globe for a venue to host the no-fans-allowed event. Monday brought another blow, with multiple outlets reporting that travel bans have Nurmagomedov stuck in Russia. But bookmakers can still dare to dream, provided the card can be safely contested.
“The real star of the show would be if Dana White gets that April 18 UFC card,” Bogdanovich said. “We’re really rooting like hell for Dana to pull that off. The handle would be monstrous. The card in Brazil a couple weeks ago was pretty strong. With the No. 1 fighter in the UFC going (Nurmagomedov), betting would be off the charts.”
Short of UFC 249 happening, apparently pingpong will carry the banner, as sportsbooks and sports bettors try to patiently bide their time, waiting for something – anything – to return in the form of real games on the American sports landscape.
“We’ve stretched out, trying to find things people are interested in betting. But pingpong? I’ve never entered that arena before,” Avello said. “To see bettors have interest – not a little interest, a lot of interest – is shocking.”
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