Ask A Bookmaker With Johnny Avello: Dealing With All-Star Games

DraftKings' Hall-of-Fame bookmaker answers questions about the sports betting industry
Ask a Bookmaker

Welcome to our weekly “Ask a Bookmaker” feature, which answers many of the common (and uncommon!) questions gamblers and enthusiasts have about how sportsbooks operate in the modern age of sports betting.

Respected bookmaker Johnny Avello has been involved in the betting industry since the 1970s and previously managed the Las Vegas sportsbooks at Bally’s and the Wynn. Now the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, Avello was recently inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame.

Have a question you’d like to ask Avello? Send them to [email protected]. Questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

From a bookmaking perspective, how difficult is it to set all the offerings for an all-star game?

Johnny Avello: It’s not too bad. For the NBA, if you’re doing a total, you know the first three quarters are going to be, go down the court and shoot, and don’t worry about anybody guarding you. But in the last quarter, they tighten up, because they all want to win. There’s some pattern there and some things we’ve seen in the past. These games are fairly close when it comes down to the end.

How about different sports? They’ve always been exhibitions, technically, but in the past, it seemed like the players took them a lot more seriously than they do now. How does that influence how you operate for all-star games?

JA: The Pro Bowl is impossible. It just doesn’t matter. But should it matter? You’re really not playing for much, and you don’t want to get hurt, first and foremost.

In baseball, I think when the guys are at bat, they’re concentrating and trying to do the best they can, but certainly in the dugout, it’s all a frivolous atmosphere. Let’s have some fun. Lose, win — it doesn’t really matter. The NBA All-Star Game, in the fourth quarter, is probably the only time it really matters. I don’t think any other all-star game really does.

For baseball, there are just so many different variables. Who is going to be subbed out when? What are the matchups going to be? I imagine putting markets up with all of that is difficult.

JA: You think about some of the pitchers in an All-Star Game. If those guys came in, and that was Game 7 of the World Series, you’d see these guys really clamp down and really show you their best stuff. They’re out there trying to do a good job, but to them, it’s not precision. It’s time off, but I’m going to pitch a couple innings and I’m not going to go all out.

It is difficult. We look at the rosters, we look at the starting pitchers, and some of the guys who will play more. That’s the best you can do booking the game, and I don’t think anybody on the other side betting it has any kind of edge knowing what’s going to happen in the game.

Do you remember the 2002 MLB All-Star Game that ended in a tie? How did you guys handle it?

JA: I think it was a refund. The totals stood, the run line stood, and the straight bets were a refund.

I bet there were some unhappy customers after that.

JA: What are you gonna do? It ended in a tie. We’ve fielded all kinds of complaints, so we’re used to that. Sometimes games haven’t gone the full distance for betting purposes, so those have been refunds. That’s why we have rules set up, and rules can take you out of hot water a little bit. The customer is not always happy with the decision, but we always have to go back and point back to the rules, as long as you’re consistent.

I’d also guess, with any exhibition, the limits would be different than a standard game. Is that right?

JA: You know, we really never restricted the VIPs for all-star games. If the VIPs wanted to bet $100,000 on the games, they could, but they are never really interested in doing it, either, based on all the factors we’ve talked about.

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