Ask A Bookmaker With Johnny Avello: The Impact Of Overtime

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.

I’ve always wondered why overtime is included for sides and totals. Why aren’t those wagers just graded on regulation? The quibble that I’d have with wagers like that including overtime is that it almost surely isn’t in either party’s — the bettor’s or the book’s — calculations for those numbers. Do you factor the potential for overtime into totals and spreads?

JA: We don’t. If it’s a really close game — pick ’em or one point — it’s certainly something to look at. Maybe it’s a tiny, little adjustment. But most games don’t go into overtime. If you look at the NCAA Tournament, you’ll maybe have a few.

I do realize that customers have absolutely gotten burned in overtime, and so have the books. It goes both ways, where a team can be an 8-point underdog, they go into overtime, and lose by 9. It happened a couple times just this last week. But it goes both ways, both for the book and the player.

But once it does go into overtime, obviously it favors the ‘over’ bettor. You’re getting this free time to add to the total. I’ve just never seemed to square it in my mind that it’s fair in those cases.

JA: It’s just the way we set it up initially. You could do it the other way, but we set it up that way many years ago in Nevada, and that has been the choice of most bookmakers.

I’ve seen games where it’s going into double overtime and it still hasn’t made the total, so it depends on the game, and sometimes it doesn’t get there. I think the way it’s structured is best. The customer knows where they stand.

It’s also what makes the “over” a little attractive in all sports. You know you could have that going for you. We do it every sport, where overtime is included — basketball, baseball, football. It was just part of our initial thinking.

Isn’t the exception soccer?

JA: Correct. Because soccer is booked as full time [plus injury time]. That is one way to bet it. But the other way to bet it is to bet whether a team wins outright, in any way, shape, or form. And remember, soccer was not a sport that was initially booked in the U.S.

If you did put up lines for just regulation for the core sports, alongside the way you do them now, I wonder how well that would be received by bettors. You’d have to think all ‘under’ and underdog action would go into the market that doesn’t include overtime.

JA: We do give you the option on some games to bet whether the game will go into overtime, and you get a pretty good price on that.

But back to soccer, sometimes the tie is good for teams, whereas in [traditional American] sports, we play out ties. And there may not even be an extra period [unless games are in knockout stages].

Are there any particular overtime examples where you remember huge swings?

JA: Through the years, I’ve been burned on them, and they’ve worked for me, also. I remember taking huge bets where a team had to cover 9 or 10, and it goes to overtime, and they outscore the other team 12-0. I’ve had that happen multiple times, and when you have a lot of money on the line for a bet like that, it’s awful, but that’s part of the bookmaking experience.

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