It’s one thing to get a chuckle out of the Abe Simpson “old man yells at cloud” meme, but it’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax to actually be Abe Simpson yelling at a cloud.
And I got news for you: I feel a lot like Abe Simpson yelling at a cloud whenever I type the word “sportsbook betting limits.” I haven’t been covering the industry for too long, but I’ve already managed to write three articles covering the ridiculousness of the situation.
So why am I doing it for a fourth time? Because it recently happened to me in a palm-smacking-forehead kind of way.
SugarHouse — part of Rush Street Interactive — ran a no-brainer Super Bowl promo: Bet $55, get five $11 free bets to be doled out weekly. Why a no-brainer? Because I’ll happily take both sides of any bet at -110 for $55, guaranteeing a $5 loss for five $11 bets. Doesn’t get easier than that, right?
So that’s what I did. I took the Bucs +3 on SugarHouse and took the Chiefs -3 on DraftKings, and bingo-bango-boingo, I’ve got five free bets. First week, I bet the over on Donovan Mitchell assists (with Mike Conley on the shelf) and won, thereby already netting a profit on the whole deal. The next two bets lost (thanks a lot, LaMelo Ball and Karl Anthony Towns), and then, with my fourth free bet on March 2, I decided to try a little parlay action: Ja Morant, over 19.5 points; Nerlens Noel, over 7.5 points; and Nikola Jokic, over 10.5 rebounds. Odds were +538 on my $11 bet. Nice little payout if I won.
The bet was immediately approved … for $7.57. I asked for it to be approved for the full $11, which comes to an additional $3.43, which would’ve ballooned my potential winnings by a near-astronomical extra $18.45.
The bet was rejected. I opened my mouth. Clouds shuddered in fear.
You get a limit, everyone gets a limit!
All right: What more is there to say about this? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. As I’ve pointed out, I’ve written about this nonsense before. So let’s take a look back and see some potential reasons why I couldn’t get $11 down on a parlay. A parlay! Remember, parlays are where sportsbooks print themselves money. In fact, according to a much-heralded UNLV Center for Gaming Research study, Nevada sportsbooks clear a 30% profit on parlays (compared to roughly 6% on other bets). Additionally, let’s not forget sportsbooks, post-PASPA, are pushing parlays on their customers like grandmothers push second helpings.
But yes. Why limit me?
1) Because I’m a sharp and they don’t want to be taken to the cleaners by my wildly superior betting talents. Yeah, gonna say “no” to that one. My bets with SugarHouse have done fine enough, but we’re talking about profits in the low triple digits. Not exactly bank-breaking behavior over here.
2) I’m a victim of the so-called “European model,” where sportsbooks will immediately start to limit you if their algorithms are telling them I’m somehow getting the better of the lines, betting early in the week before they move, etc. Again: Nuh-uh, as far as I can see.
3) Because my wife emailed them and said I’m spending too much time gambling and neglecting my family. So far, this is my best guess. Maybe SugarHouse — routinely one of the not-best-performing sportsbooks in New Jersey (where I live) — can rebrand themselves as “Sugar, We’ll Save Your House” to worried spouses.
4) Because I’m not Mattress Mack. True enough, but again: Come on.
5) Legitimately ran out of ideas, half-clever or not, as to why I couldn’t get down my free $11 on a parlay that would’ve won me the princely sum of $59.18.
Play the cards you’re dealt
Now listen: I am not a professional bettor, not even close. It’s like comparing Dave Chappelle to someone who does an open mic twice a year. I’ve never put down more than $100 on any single bet in my life, outside of once in a while taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities.
There is no reason for any sportsbook, ever, to limit me.
There is also — at least for the moment — nothing I can do about it, as every single sportsbook currently operating in New Jersey is running on the Euro model. Thankfully, this getting-limited nonsense is not something I routinely deal with, though I have occasionally seen a $50 player prop bet come back to me approved for less.
I will say this, though: It’s annoying as hell. I spent a few minutes on the SugarHouse app combing through that day’s NBA action and found three things I liked, and I tried to bet it, and then I couldn’t. What does the brain trust at SugarHouse think is going to happen next time I’m looking for some action? I’ll tell you what will happen: I’ll go look at the other New Jersey sportsbooks. We’re not exactly starving for competition around here.
But what we are starving for is the old Vegas model, where limits are clear and all bettors are welcome.
Hope is not lost, of course. Circa Sportsbook has publicly said it is exploring coming to my state, and maybe US Bookmaking — Victor Salerno’s operation — will set up shop here, either independently or with a partner. Both operate the old-school way, with sharp bettors being used to help shape the lines, alongside those crystal-clear limits.
Hey there! 👋 Currently we operate only in Nevada, but we are exploring every opportunity to bring sports betting the way it should be to as many bettors as possible, including those in New Jersey!
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) March 19, 2020
Truth be told, I don’t need Circa or US Bookmaking, because I’m not a sharp or a pro. But I’ll tell you this much: If and when they — or another online sportsbook that operates in a similar fashion — come to my state, I’m going to use them all the time, if only so as not to be annoyed when I can’t get down that extra $3.43.
Oh yeah, the final result
Postscript: I had to use that free bet, obviously, so I dumped the Nerlens Noel leg and SugarHouse let me get down the two-leg parlay. Ja Morant crushed the 19.5 points, finishing with 35 points. And then Nikola Jokic needed to top 10.5 rebounds and he pulled down … 10. Clouds may or may not have been yelled at for the second time that day.