Dear Sportsbooks: Please Tell Me What My Limits Are So I Can Be Happy

It's not just big, successful bettors who are aggravated with opaque betting limits
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I’ve written my fair share about betting limits, specifically how the vast majority of online sportsbooks in America seem to make a habit of limiting successful players.

But if you think you’re such small potatoes the limit issue can’t happen to you, think again. After all, sportsbooks aren’t telling anyone their limits, and not knowing what your limits are can affect even the nickel-and-dimers (to which I am a proud member) among us.

Consider this: I found myself an arbitrage opportunity last week that would guarantee an 8.7% ROI. Now I don’t know about you, but when I find a guaranteed 8.7% ROI, I’m going all-in, and I mean that literally. I would take every dime (and nickel) I have and throw it in, knowing I’d wake up 8.7% richer than when I started.

I was happy when I discovered this. 

I was less happy when I realized I had to be careful when I placed these bets because one false move, and not only would my “guarantee” evaporate, but I also might end up on the losing end of the proposition.

Hello Mr. Arbitrage

I had written an NFL draft props column last week and felt I was now (obviously) an expert. So the next day I went back to see if any odds changed, and that’s when I found it: the over/under on offensive linemen to be drafted in the first round. SugarHouse (what BetRivers calls itself in New Jersey) was offering over 6.5 at +115. At BetMGM, the offering was under 6.5 at +120. As far as arbitrage opportunities go, this one was a geyser.

Now understand something about me: I am always looking for arbitrage opportunities, and if I find one that will net me any profit whatsoever, I will take it. It just makes good sense to do so, especially considering how I spend my gambling dollar. I’m mainly a DFS player, and I mainly play the big low-dollar tournaments, and I mainly put $30-$50 in a day when playing MLB and NBA. (NFL is another $tory. Anyway … )

Anyway, if I can make a few dollars a day in arbitrage — and I do, most of the time — that’s a few less dollars I need to worry about for my DFS contests. I not only take advantage of differences in odds, I’ll also take advantage of daily casino promos to make a few extra bucks. This is how I start my day, every day. Ten free spins on Starburst on BetMGM, free blackjack credits on DraftKings — whatever it is, I’ll grab it, play it, cash it, and know my DFS entry fees are being subsidized. 

It’s pleasing. It’s the same feeling as getting a few nickels out of a payphone coin slot from 40 years ago. Clinkity-clink.

So yes: Two sides of the same bet and both at plus-odds? All. Day. Long.

I didn’t even think. I bet $100 on the over at SugarHouse at +115, and then $97.73 on the under at BetMGM at +120, and no matter what happened, I was going to get back $215.

I did it again. And then when I was about to do it again, I paused.

What if I put $100 at SugarHouse and then tried to put the $97.73 on BetMGM but had hit my limit? Goodbye, guaranteed ROI, hello big rooting interest in the over, which I have no interest in, as I have no idea if the number is going over. I’m only interested in the free money.

So I had to start going smaller. My bets were halved, and then I eventually ran into the SugarHouse limit first, and it told me so. But if it went the other way, where I bet on SugarHouse and then ran into the limit on BetMGM? I would’ve been screwed.

Some books are better

“Not knowing your limits is a pretty big problem,” said Robert Walker, the director of sportsbook operations for USBookmaking. “How does the bettor, like yourself, know exactly with certainty what kind of limits they’re going to get? Especially in what you’re talking about. You want to arbitrage here, which makes perfect mathematical sense — why wouldn’t you do that? But the horror is you bet $500 at one place and then can only get $80 at the next place and now you’re gambling, which you didn’t want to do.”

Exactly. 

USBookmaking — which is run by Victor Salerno, and is currently in the B2B space, with plans to eventually go into B2C — is always telling its bettors what the limits are. No surprises when someone goes to start betting.

“I think these things will be shored up, but you bring up a valid point,” Walker said. “My contention is every player should be able to get online and know their limits without ever having to worry about coming back and finding out they exceeded their limit. It’s something we need to work on as an industry.”

In my experience, the only sportsbook active in New Jersey that allows you to know your limits beforehand is FOX Bet. When you go to make a wager, there’s a little “max bet” button you can press that automatically populates the bet slip with the “max” wager. Sometimes it’s $10, other times it’s thousands. Either way, though, you know how far you can go with your bet.

Of course, a few other sportsbooks do this (or better) — Circa comes to mind (please come to New Jersey!) — and many more have limits posted at their brick and mortar shops, but online, you’re betting into the wind without knowledge of where you will buck up against the limit.

It’s annoying.

“When someone walks into our sportsbooks and/or bets on our mobile app, they will at all times know the limits they can get down on any given market,” said Jeff Benson, the sportsbook operations manager for Circa. “We don’t want it to be a guessing game for our players — what is more frustrating?”

Note to virtually all the sportsbooks: Be better. At least be like Circa, or USBookmaking, or yes, FOX Bet. Not even asking for giant limits, just knowledge of what my limits are.

Honestly, the books have every advantage built in, and I fail to see how my knowing my limits interferes with their bottom line.

Of course, I hate the idea of sportsbooks limiting players due to their successful play, but business is business and if that’s the course they want to go on, it’s clear there’s no stopping them. But just being upfront about what the limits are seems like a small ask. If nothing else, it will save me a ton of time and worry when trying to arbitrage my way to happiness.

Clinkity-clink.

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