Which is expanding more rapidly: sports betting access or podcast listening options? They are both areas of exponential growth — and, as you might expect, the intersections are on the rise too. This is the latest article in a recurring series reviewing some of the most noteworthy entries in the increasingly crowded sports gambling podcast space.
Listener reviews are a far-from-scientific way to determine the quality of a podcast, but in the case of Bet the Process, they provide an illuminating glimpse at where the show succeeds with some and falls short with others.
Perusing the feedback on Apple Podcasts — where the relatively low average rating of 3.6 stars can be ignored given that one angry listener apparently spammed the system with 63 one-star ratings in a single day in 2020 — we see an assortment of opinions celebrating the podcast’s content and chemistry or ripping on one or both of its hosts for ruining the show.
Those hosts include one current and one former professional gambler, neither of whom has an extensive journalism or media background. Rufus Peabody is among the world’s most respected sports bettors and a co-founder of the betting education site Unabated. Jeff Ma has worn many hats, but is certainly best known as a member of the MIT Blackjack Team in the ‘90s and as the basis for the central figure in the book Bringing Down the House and the subsequent movie 21.
And depending on what snippet of feedback you believe, they’re each either everything that’s great or everything that’s awful about Bet the Process.
‘Nuance on top of nuance layered in sarcasm’
One listener who gave the pod a one-star review wrote, “Enjoy Jeff … but Rufus is like listening to Charlie Brown. Wah-wah-wah.” Yet a two-star review with the subject line “Please let Rufus talk” countered, “Find yourself someone that loves u as much as Jeff loves himself, unfortunately the show is unbearable. Rufus please do a show by yourself.”
Another reviewer took aim at both hosts by declaring, “Rufus acts like a teenager. Jeff’s humor is atrocious.” A one-star review labeled them “nerds trying to impress each other with their minutiae,” while a two-star review complained that Peabody doesn’t help listeners out with actionable sports betting advice, writing that the show is “almost unbearable at times, he gets so awkward when Jeff asks him to tell the listeners anything about strategy or who he thinks is going to win. It’s super cringey and it’s okay to help your listeners out every once in a while.”
But for every critique, there are numerous five-star reviews.
“Great pod if you like nuance on top of nuance layered in sarcasm given slowly,” opines one.
“Love your unique approach to sports betting podcasts,” shares another. “No gimmicks. No BS. Smart commentary. Looping in other subjects. Love it.”
Another five-star review says, “Two really smart guys having interesting conversations. The show lacks polish at times, but the quality of the information easily overcomes that.”
And one with with the subject line “Makes me smarter” insists of the hosts, “I really respect both of them and all that they have accomplished, and getting a little snapshot into their minds is always entertaining.”
Pardon Rufus or Jeff’s interruption
Now for the US Bets take. For better and for worse, the comment above that Bet the Process “lacks polish at times” is accurate. This isn’t the crisply edited, carefully segmented podcast you might get from a fully staffed media house. There’s an independent spirit to the way Ma and Peabody do things that may allow the show to drag in spots, but ultimately imbues it with charm.
Every longtime team of podcast hosts — Peabody and Ma are coming up on their fifth anniversary of Bet the Process this year — has its share of inside jokes, and that certainly is the case with this duo. There’s their signature claim that they have only seven listeners. (The “nuance on top of nuance” review referenced this with the subject line, “One of Seven.”) There’s the running gag that “Rufus” is a dog’s name, not a name fit for humans. There’s acknowledgement that the podcast’s rough edges surface in the form of each host frequently interrupting and talking over the other.
Both hosts seem to bristle with annoyance at the other frequently, a bit like the Tony Kornheiser-Michael Wilbon chemistry that elevated Pardon the Interruption. But whereas that show is as regimented and formatted as any in sports talk history, Bet the Process is often two guys just pressing “record” and seeing what comes out.
Sometimes the podcast takes on a slightly more professional feel when Ma and Peabody welcome a guest. Usually, those invitees are fellow industry insiders with whom Ma, Peabody, or both have existing relationships, with semi-regulars including the likes of “Sports Cheetah” Preston Johnson, Matthew Davidow, Rob Pizzola, and Captain Jack Andrews.
The pod is constantly seeking to strike a balance between experts sharing their gambling expertise and friends/agitators ribbing each other and chatting about day-to-day life. All of the show’s seven regular listeners (eight, if you count this US Bets writer) dig that sweet spot that Peabody and Ma find. But as the Apple reviews indicate, it isn’t for everyone.
Bet the Process drops new episodes weekly, though it’s not unusual for the show to skip a week or two when one of the hosts is traveling or overly busy. Most episodes are between 50 and 70 minutes in length.
Previous reviews in this series: