Tuesday, February 6, 2024

There's a Place for Sharp Bettor Education, Sharp Money and Sharp Action

Back in 1998, when the online sportsbook boom was in its nascent stage, Pinnacle Sports was created in Curacao. This online sportsbook was different, because it didn't push signup bonuses or anything flashy, it simply decided to offer high limits and good odds. 

For a hundred or more years -110/-110 odds were commonplace, and in most of the betting space it's the same today. It's not uncommon to see football games priced at -108/-108 or baseball posted even lower at Pinnacle. 

And over time, despite zero advertising, everyone knew the place. 

In a long ago episode of the Sopranos, Tony overhears someone that got a great bet down for $50k on a boxing match. Surprised at the good price, Tony asks where he got the bet down. "Pinnacle", said the bettor, much to Tony's chagrin. 

Interestingly enough, as per a conversation on twitter yesterday with Crunk, ITP and others, Pinnacle is the place that, despite these great lines, wants you as a bettor to get better, not worse. 

They have articles like this, on if you should bet volume or edge, discussing EV, right in the limelight. There are many of them. 

Pinnacle works on high volume, low margin. It educates customers of this. It offers the lowest prices around. There are no, or few, gimmicks. There's no promotions. There's no fancy hat parties. There's no ABR bus. There's no barstool guy drinking beer, eating pizza and swearing at a receiver. There are no pick 6 tickets with ABC's. 

If they wanted to why can't horse racing achieve this type of medium, when their system - pari-mutuel - doesn't even have bookmaker risk?

The reasons are numerous, and they are nothing new. Too many fingers in the pie, a lack of willingness to accept price as an important variable, to name just two. Even when they're handed a medium for high volume-low margin, like betting exchanges, they're sabotaged with high hold and lack of a push. 

But in my view it's probably more than that. 

As Rufus Peabody today scribed on the twitter, sportsbooks are corporations. They are burning through cheap money, hiring everyone everywhere, and are 100% focused on growth. With growth comes same game parlays and casinos and high vig and everything else. 

And as Rufus notes, bloat is normally associated with big government, but it works in today's corporations as well. Bloat is so inexorably tethered to inefficiency, a place like twitter can fire 75% of its staff and ostensibly work the same as it always did. 

Horse racing betting, like the firms Rufus references, works similarly. They aren't nimble. They can't experiment quickly and pivot, offering things quickly like Pinnacle can, or eliminating them when they don't work. 

It's at least partially why we're stuck with one-week takeout experiments, or countless meetings to offer bet $200 get $200 promos. Even those simple promos seemed to take a decade with horse racing corporate owned ADW's. 

There's a place for sharp money, sharp bettor education and sharp action. But it has to have certain characteristics. Those traits are at a place like Pinnacle, and for horse racing it remains elusive, and in my view, probably always will be. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

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