Ask A Bookmaker With Johnny Avello: Let’s Talk About Futures

DraftKings' Hall-of-Fame bookmaker answers questions about the sports betting industry
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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 jbalan@bettercollective.com. Questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Do you have a general idea of how much futures play into overall sportsbook volume?

Johnny Avello: I don’t know the exact number. It’s probably a smaller piece than you’d think, but it’s a very important piece. Let’s take the Super Bowl, for example. The futures are up the day of the Super Bowl for next year, and they stay up all the way until the end of the conference championship games. They’re up for 50 weeks, and we do that with all the major sports. They’re adjusted, and sometimes we even do in-game wagering on them. We did that during the NFL playoffs this year. We didn’t take them down as the playoff teams were playing. We just adjusted the odds and kept them up. So, we’ve even gotten a little more creative with them.

It’s such a moving target, though, with injuries, free agent signings, trades, coaching changes, management changes, etc. How do you manage all that?

JA: It’s not that difficult. It’s just about being aware. When things happen, you need to be ready to make your change. You just don’t leave a price out there that’s too good to be had. If a team goes out and gets Max Scherzer and you have them at 25/1, you don’t keep them at 25/1. You make the adjustments. Now, the adjustments aren’t just on the team that improved. You also have to make the adjustment on the team that lost the player, so it’s about balance. You can’t lower teams and not raise others.

Generally, is the hold on futures better or worse than straight wagers on individual games?

JA: At DraftKings, we’re pretty competitive in those areas. You might see a hold of 10-20% in those areas, but it’s definitely more than a Team A vs. Team B, which is 4.5%. Futures can be good for the books, but we do lose on them sometimes. There are times when a couple teams get hammered from the beginning of the year, they don’t stop betting them all year long, and the team wins it. That usually puts us in a minus situation, but with that being said, there’s still money coming in on other teams, and only one team can win.

Are bettors who focus on futures different than others?

JA: I don’t think so. I think everyone likes to bet futures. The futures market is not just for future bettors only. There are people who concentrate on that and try to find the best value, but I think everybody kinda indulges in futures. They’re a fun proposition for everyone to play, whether it’s the team you root for or if you see some value out there.

How does sharp action in futures compare to other betting markets?

JA: Sharp action can be in any market. If the value is there, then the sharp money is there. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be there, if they don’t find the right spot.

For the money bet early in futures markets, where it can just sit there for months and months, can you explain what that money does in that pot?

JA: Think of DraftKings as this big bank. We’ve taken the money, and the money is there, but it’s in a separate pool. It accumulates and then we pay out the winners. We have many of those markets going during the course of the year. It’s there. It’s just a separate portion of our portfolio.

So it’s not distributed to other things? It stays in that spot?

JA: We’re accountable, as an operator. We have to make that winning bet good. Whether the money is sitting in one spot or not — the money flows — we are accountable to make that good when a bet wins.

Art by Blundell Design

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