Opening Your First Sportsbook? Wondering How to Find the Site for You?
When I was 18 I opened up my first account at an online sportsbook. A friend had told me about a magical cyber-place where you can make bets sitting at your computer. The alternative to this convenient method was a provincially run lottery that required betting be made at a retailer. In addition to having to trudge out in the middle of the prairie winter to place bets at lottery retailers, the odds available at these online sportsbooks were far more favorable for the player than the provincially run lotteries.
I signed up, deposited money, and began draining my account one $5 parlay at a time. I played exclusively at Wagerstreet for almost three years and never had a problem. Eventually, as I became more interested in shopping for odds and less interested in parlay betting, I opened up accounts at other sportsbooks and stopped paying regular visits to Wagerstreet. The site was purchased by Olympic Sportsbook and continues to thrive.
Now I have accounts at many sportsbooks - some I have had positive experiences, some not so positive. I realize now that I was lucky to not have problems with Wagerstreet. They are a great book, but I just as easily could have stumbled on a book that would not pay me. Some sportsbooks are reputable, others are deposit-only. At the end of the day, the value of a winning bet at an online sportsbook is like a piece of art, a beanie baby, or a hockey card: it is only worth what people are prepared to pay you for it.
Why am I sharing this nostalgic, uplifting tale with you? Well, a reader who was considering opening their first online sports betting account asked me to recommend a few sites. While ultimately the right decision depends on what you are looking for, there are information and resources I know about now that I wish I knew about the first (and only) time I got scammed by a sportsbook.
1. Are these people actually going to pay me?
While I was lucky to have chosen Wagerstreet, numerous people get scammed by sportsbooks that are only interested in your deposit and have no intention of paying you. The first place you should look when considering a sportsbook is Sportsbook Review. They are a website dedicated to ensuring the player is treated fairly by the sportsbook. They have ratings, reviews, and blurbs on hundreds on sportsbooks. I would recommend only playing at sportsbooks rated B- or higher. They also have a list of scam sportsbooks, as well as a Scam Alert. Reserach your book thoroughly before giving them your money and credit card number.
2. What do I want out of my sportsbook?
While sportsbooks essentially offer comparable odds, there are differences that are worth noting. Knowing what you want from a sportsbook will help you narrow your choices down.
a. What type of bet will I be making?
Will I be betting on single games? Parlays? Futures?
If you are betting on single games, you should be using either a betting exchange or a reduced juice sportsbook. I described the basics of betting exchanges and the benefits of betting exchanges in previous editions of Frozen Assets. A reduced juice sportsbook is a sportsbook that offers prices on games at less that the traditional -110 odds (bet $11 to win $10).
When betting parlays, make sure all bets can be included in your parlay. For example, at betED, often you will not be allowed to include a large favorite or large underdog in a parlay.
If you are betting on futures, make sure your sportsbook regularly offers futures bets, and that the limits on your potential winnings are reasonable (I tried to bet on Golden State at +12500 yesterday at Totesports and was offered $2 as my maximum bet). Also, as a general rule, the less often a sportsbook updates their futures odds the better.
b. What sports will I be betting on? What options are available for those sports?
In the sports betting world, hockey is not a major player. As a result, while almost all sportsbooks offer betting on hockey, few sportsbooks go beyond offering the traditional moneyline, handicap, and game total odds. If that is all you want to bet on then you do not have to be as discriminating when choosing sportsbooks. Some books however, offer alternatives to traditional hockey betting. Betting on whether an individual team will score more or less then a certain amount of goals, alternate totals and pucklines, three-way betting, 60-minute betting and betting on the point totals of individual players are all options that are available at certain books (5Dimes is the industry leader in offering betting options for hockey). Some sportsbooks and betting exchanges offer live in-game betting on events (only Stan James offers this option for hockey).
c. What are the methods/fees for withdrawing?
Some sportsbooks offer free payouts while others charge exorbitant fees. Some sportsbooks are flexible in their payout methods, while others have petty, senseless rules designed to delay your request. Call the sportsbook yourself and ask them what their methods and fees for payouts are.
d. Bonus Offers
A bonus offer means that the sportsbook will match your deposit up to a certain percentage, or offer you a free bet for depositing. To the recreational player, bonuses seem like free money. Bonuses, however, often come with a restriction known as a rollover requirement. A rollover is the amount of times you have to wager the amount equal to your initial deposit + bonus in order to request a payout. Example: a sportsbook offers a 20% bonus with a 5X rollover. You deposit $100 and receive a bonus of $20. You have to make $120 * 5 worth of bets ($600) before you can request a payout. By the time you have met your rollover requirement, it is often time for another deposit.
Some bonuses, particularly sign-up bonuses, are not onerous in their restrictions. Finding a good bonus at a sportsbook should not be a determining factor of where to open a sportsbook, but it is nonetheless of noteworthy consideration.
One final caveat on bonuses: a tactic of scam sportsbooks is to offer large bonuses so they can attract new players. They can offer these large bonuses to you only because they have no intention to pay you.
Those should be your main considerations when considering where to open a sportsbook. If you have any specific questions about opening a sportsbook, let me know and I will do my best to provide you with personalized advice.
Examining the NHL's Best Division: The Central(?)
I wonder what the odds would have been on "Central division to have most points" at the start of the season? Not including overtime losses in the loss column, the Central is the only division in the league to have all 5 teams above .500. This would have shocked me at the start of the season (see my preview of NHL division betting before the season started). A few games into the season, however, it was obvious that Chicago, Columbus, and St. Louis were not going to be the doormats they had been for the last few years. Then, a few games later, the Predators started winning consistently.
There are two possibilities here: either it is too early in the season to make meaningful predictions, or these teams are legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. What do you think?
The Chicago Blackhawks (13-9-2) have made great strides from last season. Rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been sensational, Patrick Sharp has become a short-handed sniper and a young defense has been holding their own. With Martin Havlat back, the Blackhawks add one of the league's premier scorers to an already skilled set of forwards. Unlike the three teams mentioned below, the betting public is aware of Chicago's turnaround, and as a result the best odds remaining on the Blackhawks are at betED where they are +6000 to win the Stanley Cup.
The St. Louis Blues (14-8-0) have played well since the firing of Mike Kitchen last year. Andy Murray has found a capable goaltender in Manny Legace, Brad Boyes is playing up to his potential, and Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk are playing like they did when they were in their thirties. Every week I beg people to take the Blues at +5000 to win the Conference at Carib, and I know you are not listening or the odds would have changed by now. Once this price is gone you will not see anything close to it for the rest of the season.
Ken Hitchcock has given the Columbus Blue Jackets (11-9-4) experience and an effective system to work within. Rick Nash has bought into this system and is playing the best hockey of his young career. Pascal Leclaire has 6 shutouts in 18 games. Nikolai Zherdev is an early favorite to be nominated for the comeback player of the year award. Like the St. Louis Blues, Columbus is available to win the Western Conference at Carib at odds of +5000.
The Nashville Predators (11-9-2) were supposed to struggle after losing many of their key contributors last year. I don't know why the Predators are winning but they are. Dan Ellis has been spectacular between the pipes when given an opportunity, but the Preds only have one scorer in the top 67 (Martin Erat is 49th) and have one of the worst special teams in the conference. They are also available at Carib at odds of +5000.
Who knows how the Central division will play out over the season. I predict that at least three of the eight playoff teams will come from the Central. Maybe you should just open a sportsbook at Carib and put your money where my mouth is.
For illegal curve, I'm Ari-Baum Cohen.
About the Writer: Ari Baum-Cohen's first sports betting victory came in 1989 when he won his father's office pool at age 8. Since then, he has been interested in many different types of sports betting. His breakthrough futures win was at the end of the 2003 baseball season when he picked the Florida Marlins at odds of +7500 to win the National League.
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