Thursday, April 2, 2020

Sportsbetting During the ‘Rona

By Kevin Beane

With the absence of sports, with the exception of some outliers like Belorussian soccer and Tajik basketball, sportsbooks are looking to expand their betting offerings, and since I am a degenerate, I am following — somewhat — where they lead.

First up is esports. Esports have been popular and something you have been able to bet on since long before the Coronavirus, but I haven't paid attention until now. The video games played by pro gamers that show up on the sportsbooks are Counterstrike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Starcraft, Rocket League, and a couple others, occasionally.

Most of those are first-person shooters, a genre of video game I couldn't be less interested in, and on top of that I've been given to understand that League of Legends and Rainbow Six are games that I need to play to even begin to understand what I am watching. Rocket League, on the other hand, is kind of sporty. It's basically soccer with gravity-defying cars. For that, I went here, took a very rudimentary stab at crunching some numbers, and bet on seven games, and won four.

Bovada has also been offering Jeopardy (as in, the game show) odds, and giving what I think is a great number (+130 or better) on the returning champion most days. This has been a less successful endeavor for me. The first game I bet on the returning champion. He was leading going into Final Jeopardy. He got the Final Jeopardy question right. But, he didn't bet enough to overtake the guy in second place, who also was right and bet it all.

In 44 years of watching Jeopardy, I have never seen the leader in Final Jeopardy get it right, but still lose because he didn't bet enough. So of course it was also the first time I bet on Jeopardy. Sports aren't even happening right now and I'm still taking bad beats at the books.

There have also been small doses of FIFA/Madden/NBA 2k/etc. tournaments to bet on, but I have been more circumspect with those.

If it's an independent tournament or match of some type among pro gamers, then that's one thing. But for a lot of these virtual sporting events, the bookmaker is running it, CPU vs. CPU.

How do I know they aren't tweaking strengths and other effects if betting makes it clear that they would benefit more from one side winning than the other? NPCs will happily fix matches and shave points for free, after all. At some point, I'll probably go ahead and place a bet on one of these out of boredom, but I haven't pulled the proverbial trigger yet.

And ... it's all not really very satisfying. I've also handicapped and bet on that Belorussian soccer I mentioned and it's just not the same. Many, many times in this space over the years I have championed both obscure sports and obscure leagues, but still, I just ... don't care about Belorussian soccer. I want my leagues back. I want college basketball, the NBA, the MLB, tennis, golf, high-profile soccer to come back. I want football leagues to start on time or damn near it.

Hurry back, sports.

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