“Take the emotional roller coaster a bettor faces on a Saturday or Sunday, multiply that by 100, and you can get an idea of what an hour of my life is like during football season.” David Strauss is the head oddsmaker at the offshore betting site MyBookie.ag. Charged with setting the lines on everything from the Super Bowl to midweek MACtion, David worked his way up from the bottom of the industry as a front-line customer service rep to where he is today.
With college football and the NFL on the brink of a new season, the line-setting guru is preparing for his most stressful and critical stretch of the year. How stressful and critical? “Let’s just say that Coors should sponsor me from September to April,” he quips.
In a candid and often hilarious interview, the man behind the moneylines and over-unders reveals betting trends for the 2018 season, the impact of legalized sports betting in the U.S., and the time Wheel of Fortune utterly hosed him.
“The highs are extremely high, and the lows tend to have me crying in the shower.“ If you think wagering on sporting events is stressful, try putting yourself in the shoes of a man responsible for the hundreds of point spreads, moneylines, over-unders, and prop bets you’ll find on sports betting websites. If holding a three-team parlay is nerve-racking, then imagine setting a misguided line the sharps and public jump all over and dominate. The key is to shrug your shoulders, learn from it, and move on.
“You have to have a short memory because it all begins anew the next day. Sadly for me, we’ve taken multiple six-figure losses from multiple clients. Most of these originate from parlay wagers, yet given that we’re willing to accept a wager of any size if you call our wagering line, more than a few have come on a random Tuesday afternoon baseball game.”
Like a prizefighter floored with a vicious right hook, David is adept at getting off the mat to counter with knockout blows of his own.
“Every line I place is spot on and beneficial to the company. Some recent successes include putting Lebron James at -5000 to sign with the Lakers and Toronto as the favorite to land Kawhi Leonard before trade talks began. I’ve currently got my title as the Nostradamus of gambling staked on the Raiders trading Khalil Mack before the November 1 trade deadline.”
But even a great seer like Nostradamus is wrong every now and again.
“I was out mid-five figures and faced a scolding unlike no other from my superiors.” From predicting the 2016 presidential election to the recipient of the final rose on shows like “The Bachelorette,” unique prop bets are a way for online sportsbooks to cater to the wagering community beyond athletic events.
Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way books predict.
“A few years back, I set a line on if the $1,000,000 prize would be won on ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” David tells me. “I did the math, and the odds of it happening based on the number of slices on the wheel was close to 500/1. Being a bookmaker, I removed one of those zeroes and posted 50/1 odds on if it would happen. Three days into the season, and I’ll contend this until the day I die, Pat Sajak sandbagged me by rigging the contest to give away the $1,000,000 prize. Who would have thought that ‘Wheel of Fortune’ would stoop to such lows for rating success? Certainly not me.”
When it comes to more traditional bets like predicting this year’s national champs, the site is seeing bettors shift their attention from +170 Alabama to squads providing better value like Georgia at +550 and Clemson at +350. “Our sharper players have gravitated towards Auburn at 20/1. We’ve booked multiple over limit wagers on the Tigers, which forced us to move our number to 16/1. If you can’t sense the trend, it’s that oddsmakers and gamblers alike believe [in] the SEC.”
Unlike college football, the site is experiencing a wider distribution of action when it comes to predicting the winner of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta this February. “The Chargers at 18/1 and the Saints at 15/1 are the most popular picks among our players, and also our biggest losses. We currently face a six-figure decision on both, but as the season goes on that liability should be quartered as the money moves around.”
“My favorite trend, year in and year out, is what I call the panel fade.” While I’m personally no longer a fan of football pregame shows, I do have a particular affinity for ESPN College GameDay. From heart-warming (and often wrenching) player profiles to showcasing the electric atmosphere of a college campus on game day, the show is must-see TV before each Saturday kicks off.
There’s only one segment that causes me to stab the mute button: The GameDay crew’s predictions before Lee Corso slaps a mascot head upon his noggin.
Case in point: In 2013 Penn State prepared to face Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in week 1 with a true freshman behind center named Christian Hackenberg. When it was Corso’s turn to select the winner, he chose the Orange and stated that Hackenberg was incapable of completing critical passes.
“Lee,” Kirk Herbstreit said as he turned to face the former Indian head coach. “He hasn’t even thrown a pass in college yet.”
The Nittany Lions won, 23-17.
David expands on this example in what he calls the “panel fade.” “It’s fairly simple: When all of ESPN’s experts back one team, you go ahead and fade their picks by selecting the opponent. I stopped keeping track of this in 2015, but at that time the against the spread record of unanimous ESPN predictions was 39-45-3, meaning had you faded them your record would be 45-39-3.”
“It took nerve and a healthy dose of luck to get where I am today.” On the precipice of a new football season, and with the NBA and NCAA men’s hoops not far on the horizon, MyBookie’s wizard of odds has advice for both would-be bookmaker and gambler alike.
“For aspiring oddsmakers, you need to have thick skin and a short memory. You need to start low and grind your way to the top. You can’t go to school for this, and no one will trust you with this job if you’re not a trustable person.”
After more reflection, he jokes, “Look towards a career in banking.”
I ask him what advice he gives these days to sports betters, including what is often called a sucker bet: the parlay.
“I do not agree,” says David of the mathematically challenging but potentially rewarding parlay wager. “It’s not the bet that is a sucker; it’s the person making the bet. I hesitate to tell people how to beat a sportsbook into submission. It’s counterproductive for me to explain the math behind it, but parlays tend to offer a far bigger edge than a straight wager if you know how to place them correctly. That’s all I’m willing to say on that topic. I’ve got a family to feed.”
The conversation shifts to the exciting news announced in May when the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling made betting on sports legal in the U.S. How will this stunning real-world decision impact the online world?
“With gambling legalized, the stigma associated with America’s greatest pastime has lessened considerably. No longer is betting on sports a hobby that you speak quietly about with your fellow gamblers. It’s poised to break into the mainstream, which is a boom for MyBookie and all of our competitors in the offshore gaming world.”
And the best words of wisdom from the oracle of oddsmaking?
“Shop around for the best line. It’s as simple as that. Arguably, being an adept line shopper is far more valuable to your bottom line than being an adept handicapper. It makes sense: If you line shop, you could save five or ten cents on every wager you place. Over the course of a betting season, this adds up in a way the average bettor could never fathom. Remember, straight wagers put gas in the tank, but parlays pay for the car.”
Most importantly, David concludes, “If you approach sports betting as a hobby versus a money-making venture, you’ll win just as much without the aggravation.”