Apr 9, 2020
Apr 9, 2020

How changes to the betting landscape have helped bettors - Pinnacle Betting Podcast

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How changes to the betting landscape have helped bettors - Pinnacle Betting Podcast

Host of the Deep Dive podcast, the "Whale Capper" himself Drew Dinsick joins Ben Cronin to discuss a range of topics including social media, betting restrictions, his journey into gambling and the betting landscape as a whole. Read and and listen now!

Ben:

Hello and welcome to the Pinnacle Betting Podcast brought to you by Pinnacle.com. The online bookmaker that bring you the best odds, highest limits, and unique winners welcome policy. Today I'm joined by a man who clearly puts a lot into his betting. And when he's not doing that, he's helping others with a brilliant Deep Dive podcast and live Periscopes. It's Drew Dinsick, aka Whale Capper. How's it going, Drew?

Drew Dinsick:

Oh, Ben, it's going tremendously well. Happy New Year to you, Happy New Year to the listeners. This is exciting and fun, and I appreciate the invite.

Ben:

Yeah, I love the work you do, I really appreciate you coming on. I'm looking forward to what should be a really great episode.

Drew Dinsick:

I absolutely couldn't agree more.

Ben:

Right. We'll get into, I think, the crux of what we're going to talk about today is kind of your betting day-to-day or kind of where you're at now, but I think just to kind of set a bit of a backdrop, it'd be good to maybe set a bit of a scene and talk about kind of what came before where you are now. You've obviously been betting for a while, but what actually came before that? How did you get into it?

Drew Dinsick:

Sure. I've been a very, very rabid sports fan my whole life, without question, and then in college got into sports wagering via online platforms, and that became a pretty quick passion. And professionally, I got into the science and math field, dedicated a good 10 years to my professional life outside of sports betting and have kind of grown into a strong consultant in the field of seismology, in earthquake engineering, and then kind of pivoted back to my principal passion and hobby related to sports, and figured I can apply a lot of these same models, a lot of these same statistical theories to these markets and try to improve my performance and see if I can do a decent job of making a second income in this.

It was a learning experience for sure. It's taken me a long time to really kind of refine and understand and pivot from, "Hey, this isn't necessarily about what you know, it's more about understanding how the market works and figuring out some of the more complex aspects of the entire landscape overall," really is hugely important to being successful doing this. So it's been good four-year journey, building a social network on Twitter and continuing to better understand how the market works to improve my performance and, along the way, doing everything I can to try to sort of give back, so to speak, so that the folks that come along behind us have some roadmap, some understanding, some head start in their ability to grow and to do well in the space.

Ben:

Now I'm kind of envisaging this spectrum of betters. At one end, you've almost got this hardcore sports fan that just goes in kind of knowing what they know from watching the game, and then at the other you've got, as you said, people from a statistical background or who approach it from a math point of view. Is it fair to say you started out kind of somewhere in the middle? You were that sports fan all along, but you knew what was required to actually be successful?

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, without a doubt. Even still, my principle passion, as far as the various sports that I play, is the NFL, because of the nature of there just being a small sample size and because it is the most efficient market, as far as the major US sports, it's extremely difficult. You almost needed to have a broader understanding of the sport in the game on the front end. I don't think you can necessarily have a successful approach handicapping the NFL if you come at it purely from the statistical side or purely from the "I understand the game" side.

I think you almost have to have a blended approach to find success in the NFL, and I'm sure that there are a number of other sports that kind of fit that same qualification; sports like baseball, to a degree NBA, I think tennis, those sports, if you can find a good dataset, if you have a good statistical mind, I don't think you need to necessarily know a lot about the sport itself. It's helpful, but I think you can be successful, you can grind out an edge even without watching a lot of the action itself, but for sure with something like the NFL, where you only have so many games a week, so many weeks a year where you can really try to find an edge, it becomes important to use a blended approach, so to speak.

Ben:

I guess kind of when people start their betting journey, some people do this: they'll kind of utilize the bonuses that might be on offer, some people try and use arbitrage to make a bit of money and stuff like that. Did you kind of start off with this very sensible approach using that model mindset, or were you kind of closer to maybe your archetypal beginning better when you first started out?

Drew Dinsick:

When I first started out, I was in college. I was a very, very recreational player, like full-on, I would deposit at the beginning of the NFL season, and whatever I had at the end, I would take out, if I had anything at the end. There were many seasons where I was like, "Let's see if I can make it through the whole season without having to redeposit," or, "Let's see if I have anything left in my account to bet the Super Bowl." There were for sure years that went by that.

And then, there were years where I completely stayed away, because it was just very difficult as a US player to get down without being in sort of a very legally murky area. I've been living in California for most of my adult life. Outside of Las Vegas, there's really not any clear and obvious legal channels to place decent size wagers. I was sort of forced into, yeah, this has to be a recreational endeavour for me. I wasn't willing to pick up my life and move to Las Vegas and make it a professional endeavour. I wasn't willing to move to the Caribbean or something that, because I didn't have necessarily the background, the tools,  the confidence to be a professional. By definition, I had to be recreational, in terms of my approach.

But for sure, over the last handful of years, the offshore betting space has gotten a lot more stable. The ability to get on and off some of the more stable outfits via Bitcoin has kind of changed the game for us in the US, at least, in sort of the middle tier, I would say, of rec-plus sort of players. And because of that, I was able to kind of take it more seriously and put more time into it. And at that time, it just so happened that I had kind of developed the skillset to go along with building a numerical model and using some of the coding tools to scrape and evaluate data sets, things like that. I had already built up that set of skills from a professional standpoint on the side, and I figured, "Hey, this is good synergy here. I can apply all of these same ideas in this new endeavour that I'm excited about and that I have a passion for."

So I think it was just sort of right place, right time, and had the skillset in place, and then beyond that the explosion of interest on social media and the ability to communicate with other like-minded folks, all of this was super important and helpful in my journey for sure.

Ben:

It sounds a lot of your progression was kind of situational factors kind of aided that. I mean, obviously the clear one there is your field of study and your profession as well. Is there anything kind of outside of those two things that you would say helped you get you to where you are now, kind of resources that you utilize, or a mantra that you went by that made sure you didn't kind of make the mistakes that a lot of people tend to make?

Drew Dinsick:

Without a question, the social network I think afforded to me via gambling. Twitter is probably the most important sort of X Factor in all this.

Ben:

People say it's a double-edged coin, you know?

Drew Dinsick:

I am strongly in the: it's positive [camp]. Honestly, the amount of feedback I've gotten ... Because again, I went into a lot of this relatively inexperienced. There are a lot of people who have two decades more experience in the space doing this stuff than I do, for sure. And there are people that spent decades on forums, building relationships, learning tricks and angles, getting a hands-on understanding, a lot of people first-hand understanding of how markets work, what the role of Pinnacle is in the marketplace, as far as a market-making bookmaker. That sort of stuff you don't know when you get started unless somebody tells you, and there's no grad school for this sort of stuff, at least in the United States, there's really not a framework of pure experienced knowledgeable people that are willing to pass on this information, because the more you teach your peers and people who are coming up behind you, the more information you share, the faster you tend to erode the edges. And if you're professional in your life, your livelihood depends on the handful of small edges that you have, you tend to want to defend those with extreme carefulness.

So, just in general, there's not really a very clear and obvious way of sharing information, transferring knowledge in the space at all. The one exception I would put to that is the forums back in the day, and which has kind of transition now into gambling Twitter space, where you can make relationships with folks who are like-minded, who have your similar experience level, and you can kind of figure this stuff out as part of a team, instead of completely by yourself. A great example: my podcast partner, Andy, we didn't know each other in 2012, we met via just kind of chatting about tennis, I think, actually. We were trying to handicap Wimbledon one year and going back and forth, and I had a rudimentary tennis model that I thought was worthwhile. He was basically making fun of me for a certain fix I was making based on this model. I was like, "Well, what do you have that's so good?"

The next thing you know, we're going back and forth, and we have a good rapport, and we're like, "You know what? Let's invite some other people that I've been talking tennis with, and we'll all get together, and we'll have this kind of forum, this group chat here. You can't watch every single player's match all hours of the day all across the world, there's just too much. A single person's bandwidth is just too narrow to cover it all. But if you expand your network, if you bring in 10, 15 like-minded people who all have their own skillset, they all have their own time dedicated to watching certain matches, breaking down certain statistical matchups that they think are important, and then sharing that information across with a handful of people, now you've got a team, you've got a network, and your ability to attack a very efficient market like a tennis market becomes real. Now you can find an edge, you can figure out certain aspects.

I think all of that was really afforded by the social media environment that we live in today. I just kind of send out a bat signal by just posting my thoughts and ideas and my model results and get feedback. You can pretty quickly filter out feedback that's useless from feedback that's valuable, because some people will say, "Well, that's stupid," and, "Well why?" If you just kind of block people and move on, then you're not really building anything, I'm not really sure what the point is. But if you engage people and you try to figure out, like, "Okay, well, I posted this. You don't agree with it. What is your reasoning," you can pretty quickly sort out, "Oh, they really don't have anything of value to add here," or, "Well, actually, they have some perspective that I missed something, and I'm going to need to engage them on a deeper level."

Usually, you kind of take that offline and create a side conversation or bring them into a group chat setting and sort of hash out some ideas. That's where kind of the most valuable lessons learned for me have come in the four years that I've been really taking this quite seriously.

Ben:

I must admit I always find it interesting, because the similarities you can draw between betters or kind of the betting industry from a customer perspective and put it towards a professional sphere and how it's so easy to make that connection, yet people or a lot of people don't actually do. You just kind of touched upon one there, like networking is obviously very important in professional life, if you're kind of working most jobs. But what I've seen from gambling, Twitter or kind of social networks or whatever it might be, it seems that sometimes there's another social element that comes into the mix. People feel like they have to get on more when it's related to betting. It's almost as if that was another industry and two people maybe weren't the best of friends or they had certain agreements, they could look past that for the benefit of their kind of shared goals. Do you find on Twitter and stuff that relations break down a lot easier than maybe they would in a different professional environment?

Drew Dinsick:

That's a very interesting question. I'm sure you're correct in a general sense. I would say maybe I got lucky, maybe there were some aspects of kind of a filtering, a quality filter, so to speak, of who I'm kind of mostly spending time talking to, where it's like-minded people, like-minded goals, as opposed to someone who- and granted, there is another side of the coin, for sure. A lot of people with ill intentions involved in the gambling space on social media, there's probably 90-something percent, so it is a very difficult task to carefully filter who is a similarly like-minded perspective that adds value to your handicap versus someone who's just kind of using your platform or audience or network, so to speak, to gain something that is completely independent from your goals.

So kind of aligning goals, aligning incentives is a pretty important role in building a network, I think. And a lot of that just kind of comes from trial and error. For sure, there were people in the early stages when I got involved in kind of a networking aspect where, "Oh, no. Okay. These people are only interested in getting a retweet or some exposure or a podcast guest appearance." That was their primary goal, because they had some grander goal of selling picks that were entirely not advantageous to anyone, they just wanted to make a quick buck. It takes a long time to sort of sort through those people's motivations across the space. But, maybe just by luck, I've kind of stumbled across enough people that are sort of in the same mindset, a lot of kind of common goal, common interest professionals.

Almost all the people that I talked to have professional lives, they have relatively well paying consulting jobs or lawyers or finance heads. So they have sort of a stream of income that they primarily are responsible for maintaining. But on the side, this is their principal hobby. Those folks, they're not trying to become something, they're not trying to become scammers, frauds, whatever. They're not trying to leverage any kind of relationship to make money in an immoral way. They just want to be able to get their bets down on the weekend and at the end of the year look at their tracking sheet and be pretty proud of their performance. And those are the kind of people that you want to be talking to, because they're going to find things, they're going to find information, they're going to see tweets you're not going to see, they're going to read articles you're not going to read.

But if you can take away the key lessons from what they're seeing, and in turn give back your key findings from the data you're looking at or the resource that you find, you say, "Hey, I found this new amazing free database. Do you guys believe this," and give it to 10 people, they're going to come back to you with 10 different findings, versus if you're the only one looking at it, you're going to have a much narrower set of results that you find from that. So, I think it's worthwhile overall, but your point is fair; there's a lot of nonsense that goes on, but yeah, it’s a lot to sort through.

Ben:

I think people listening to this, a lot of light bulbs have just gone off with that idea of kind of: if it's the example you used of data sets and sharing things, there's a lot of this kind of, selfishness might be too strong a word, but this concern that if people let things get out that they're working on, then perhaps that the edge might be lost. But what you're suggesting is: if you share these types of things, you may be able to enhance your edge or find a new edge from insights from other people.

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah. I would even go a step further and say that it's important to broaden it, because if you are singularly focused on a single aspect, as far as an edge goes, and you want to scale it up and make a good amount of money on it, your betting it into a market is informing the market in and of itself. Every edge is fleeting, it doesn't matter how good of a secret you keep. If you are betting it into the market and it is winning, someone who is on the other side of the counter, who is evaluating your performance, sees it. And beyond that, if you scale it up, if you're betting it at multiple places, then multiple people are seeing it. And there's virtually no way, in my opinion, to maintain an edge on something that is singularly focused or narrow.

Maybe my favourite example of all time is the effect of humidity on totals in baseball. At some point, someone, a light bulb went off, and they were like, "Wow, all I need to do is integrate what the barometric pressure is in a given game, and I can tell you whether to bet an over or under, and the market is completely missing this information." That seems like the golden goose. But if you are only betting that, and that is the only thing that you're applying, then you're informing the market on what the correct direction over or under is on a given baseball total, and eventually someone else is going to figure it out. And then, it becomes a race to get your bet in before them or speculate on what the barometric pressure is going to be. Eventually, your edge is going to be weighing down to where it's not the golden goose anymore. At that point, if you don't have something else to fall back on, then all of your other skills, all your domain knowledge about a sport has all kind of gone out the window.

So I think you have to be always kind of looking for more, adding to your tool chest, adding to your chest of angles. You need some group of people, I think, to be able to tell you when something is or isn't working. You could have this golden angle, again, on the barometric pressure and baseball totals; if you don't have a group of people who is independently modelling those totals, how do you know once the bookmakers are opening lines that are building that in? And then, the next thing you know, you're playing this one angle, and it's actually already built into the number, and then you're making the line, you're overcompensating for it. There's almost certainly value, I think, in having a network of people to sort of go back and forth with this stuff on, add context to specific angles that you think are valuable that the market's not capturing and picking up new and important information along the way.

Ben:

I guess, then, if we hone in on your podcast, that seems like that's a great medium to kind of generate that discussion, I'm sure. I mean, I myself, at times, have thought, "God, these guys, they ..." Don't get me wrong, I love the podcast, so sometimes I watch it, or the Periscopes, not even for the betting content, just to the back and forth between you and Andy, just because it's entertainment. But, with that, is it the kind of thing where you have these discussions, and then does it go off into groups? You have phone calls? Is it just back and forth on DMs with people? Is it regular people kind of jumping out to you after those sessions that comment on ideas or suggest new things to you?

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, for the most part, it's all, at this point, at least for me, and this is kind of a singular personal experience, I guess, but for me it's mostly just DM group chats via Twitter. People come and go, for sure. There are people who have been around for a long time that participate in these chats and kind of go through cycles of adding to the discussion, and then you won't hear for them for a couple months or a year. It's a fluid sort of network, for sure. But yeah, for the most part we've made a ton of extremely valuable connections that have taught us a lot about kind of the overall "How does this market work." and then, that's been probably the most important thing to learn and the hardest thing to learn, because I don't come from a market-based background, I wasn't trained in trading stocks or futures or anything like that; I have a much different kind of professional training and focus. So kind of wrapping my head around that has been probably the hardest part of kind of maturing as a player.

But we've met people who have kind of learned to have that skillset and expertise. You invite them on to talk on a podcast, and you have a set of focused questions like we're having this conversation now, this is the goal of this podcast, we want to create something entertaining, this is going to be interesting to talk about. People will listen to this and learn, and people will have interesting ideas from hearing this.

But in reality, for us, the value is the 30 minutes we talked to the guys or gals before the podcast starts in the hour or 30 minutes, hour afterwards. You get offline, and you're like, "Well, that was great. Hey, you mentioned this on the podcast. I got the sense you didn't want to say that publicly, but is there something you would tell us?" I've always wondered, "Hey, I've had this fine angle on this niche market, but I just can't find anywhere to get a bet down on it. Do you have any ideas?" "Oh, yeah, I can hook you up." So those kind of connections take you a long way, in terms of being a more flexible, more versatile player, I think.

And without having the podcast to use as sort of a medium to bring to have meetings, so to speak, with the important folks across the industry, then we would be missing out on that and we would still be sitting around wondering which book's moving at what times, who raises limits, when; those sorts of questions would all still be completely foreign, and I think that's been an important part of the growth process for me, at least as a player. It's been incredibly eye-opening going through and meeting some of the higher level folks who have been doing this for a lot longer than us.

You probably know this, I think a lot of people listening to this podcast probably know this, but experience in this space is gold, it's invaluable. You put a lot of time and money into learning. Inevitably, at the beginning, you're losing, you're paying tuition, you're paying to learn hard lessons, and you're paying to expose your own biases. It takes a long time to kind of learn from that. But there are people who have 10 plus more years’ experience doing this stuff, and that experience is pretty invaluable.

Ben:

And if only we could be a fly on the wall on those off-air discussions or you left recording on, you never know we could hear the hidden tapes of the Deep Dive podcast one day.

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, I think it would be ...

Ben:

You get a few more listeners…

Drew Dinsick:

We would burn some bridges. It would burn some bridges, for sure. As interesting as it, as valuable as it is lesson-wise, when the recording light is off, people are a lot more willing to kind of spill the beans, so to speak.

Ben:

We'll cycle back a bit, because I think you mentioned a couple of things there, where you were kind of talking about your development and how the betting landscape has kind of aided you to maybe get a little bit more serious about betting. You cited a couple of obviously positive changes for you. I mean, so much has changed in the last couple of years. Is there anything for you that has harmed you as a better or something you see is perhaps having a negative impact that you wish you could have avoided?

Drew Dinsick:

Man ...

Ben:

You're under the grill here.

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah. The only things that I can think of that have fundamentally kind of, it's tough to say, "Harmed," so to speak ... But without a doubt, I feel more and more sharp, just sharp, smart people are doing this, and there are people who are coming up who are probably a year to behind me in terms of experience, who are very good at this, are willing to bet into lower limits, as I was when I got started. I mean, if you're willing to bet into openers, because you don't really care if you can get 500 or 1,000 or 5,000 down on a particular side or total, then you can have market influence. If you have a very strong angle on a specific sport or a specific niche market, you can really hammer out that market pretty quickly, if your information is actionable, if there is a real edge there.

I think, for sure, it's pretty obvious that the people who are kind of coming up behind us, in terms of experience, they're aggressive, they're sharp, they're using a lot of the lessons that we're talking about, they're sharpening some angles to where, for sure ... I saw with my eyes some of the clear and obvious angles that I had in tennis eroded, some of the clear and obvious angles I had in the NFL eroded, and now this season in the NBA, I've stopped posting information entirely on the NBA even though I'm still handicapping it behind the scenes, because the key stuff that I had that was actionable information and advantage information in the market, I just started, I was waiting until relatively close to tip-off to get my bets down, and I was seeing in the East Coast morning hours, before I'm even awake on the Pacific Coast, lines and sides and totals were getting steamed two and three points in the directions that I wanted them.

So it was like, "Okay, this is really impacting my ability to even do better than breakeven betting here." I think just the information feedback is becoming obvious to me, at least, that the marketplace overall is getting sharper, at least from the handful of angles that I know and understand. There may be other players out there who feel like they still have some secrets, some edge, some golden angle that's actionable, that is unknown to the market, but I think that the half-life, so to speak, of truly actionable information is becoming shorter.

Ben:

Competition's good for you, Drew.

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah! It makes it more fun.

Ben:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, if there's one thing you've got those betters entering the market, not to mention obviously, bookmakers, technological developments, access to data and all those things that helped bookmakers kind of sharpen those lines. But then, they've also got all these intelligent customers, whether it be, like you said, entering the market, or individuals like yourself maybe getting more experienced and sharper. All of that information is always going back to the bookmaker, isn't it, which is just going to constantly make it more difficult?

Drew Dinsick:

Absolutely correct. And I think, even at the highest levels, the kind of the networking between some of the larger groups and some of the ... Yeah, I mean, there's obviously, besides just the Pinnacles and the Crests of the worlds, there's a handful of relatively sharp off-screen outs that are pretty well networked between each other. And I think the sharing of information and just sort of the ability to look at the Don Best screen and evaluate who's moving what when and kind of being able to diagnose that's coming from this group or this player, who's hot, that kind stuff, I think, is being picked up ever more rapidly. There were maybe one or two people in the world, who could kind of look at a Don Best screen and evaluate what was moving, why, when and where five years ago, and now there's probably quite a few people who have kind of spent some time and gained a skill doing that.

Ben:

America's the big one for me and perhaps everything that's gone on there. Do you think that has gone some way to ... This is personal opinion for me, but it almost feels the perception of bettors is changing. I mean, we've got the Jeopardy GOAT or whatever it is going out in a couple of days and, obviously, Jeopardy James and the whole betting thing there. I mean, Paulie Pats or whatever that guy's name is; the less said about that kind of approach, the better. But what that is, there's a certain narrative being built up about bettors, where previously they might have been kind of seen as these shady characters, whereas now it's almost like a thing of esteem or it's building towards a prestige, like it's not necessarily a bad career to have. Do you think you're seeing that, as well?

Drew Dinsick:

Oh, without a doubt. I don't think this is an accident, either. This is full-on strategic marketing by the industry at large, and it makes sense. I mean, the veil came down, in terms of just sort of the acceptability, the willingness to talk about it at Thanksgiving with your parents, that sort of thing. No one would have these sort of-

Ben:

“Mum the Over stung me!”

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, exactly. I would say five years ago, in the US at least, I don't know that I would really even talk to my wife about all that I was doing, because there was this veil of, "You're spending how much of your time doing what now?" That, for sure, existed five years ago, and now with sort of the kind of the overall, "Oh, this is fine, this is a reasonable way to make a living, there are people who are doing this professionally," all that sort of public impression on this space absolutely invites more players. I think that the underlying goal here is to get more people with disposable income to dip their toe in the water, to get involved, to give it a try.

The overall intention here of sort of growing the participation in the United States, I think, is intending to scoop sort of the wider white collar customer, so to speak, into participating. I would guess that, in general, the demographics of who's playing, of the United States players, is shifting. It's less sort of people who were willing to kind of get along with their local bookie. And there will always still be a dedicated customer in the US who wants to play on credit, who wants to have a relationship with a bookmaker in their neighbourhood, in their city, but there's a huge amount of opportunity to create new customers here from people who otherwise weren't participating, because they thought it was illegal, it had a stigma, it had some barrier of entry. And the stories about these people who are getting rich or who are crossing pop culture mainstream wise, like Jeopardy James, that for sure just invites participation amongst the class of people who would five years ago have put their nose up at this.

Ben:

There's benefits there, and you touched upon maybe opening up a dialogue with your mum or your wife or whoever it might be, and people maybe not kind of looking down their nose at you like they once would have, there's benefits in that regard. But at the same time, do you think this greater awareness, this pop culture kind of stuff, has that harmed you, has it harmed the people that are serious about betting to a certain degree?

Drew Dinsick:

I would guess yes, but not the class of bettors like me. Again, kind of considering who is being targeted, as far as new customer acquisition and considering how fragile this kind of current market in the United States is, in terms of who's willing to take risks or who's willing to attempt a Pinnacle style model, those sort of decisions from a corporate level are not obvious and not easy to make. I would guess that that is putting extra pressure on the bookmaking industry overall, to figure out what is the most profitable way to run a business here. Is it even possible to cater to a clientele of sharper players? Do we have to continue to play our profile, know our customers and screen out sharp action, and limit the players who have sort of the most experience and the most knowledge and the highest likelihood of long-term winning against us?

For sure, the folks who are kind of in the crosshairs, so to speak, of player profiling and screening, I think are probably suffering from this, because they're not the intended target, they're not wanted, they're not welcome, they're not part of the overall plan here; it's much more we want to acquire the folks with disposable income who think they know sports, who think they can win a bet, but who are going to be long-term losers. Yeah, it's an interesting kind of conversation, I guess. You're probably more keen on a lot of the industry wide stuff than I am, so I'm curious what your thoughts are.

Ben:

Obviously, Pinnacle doesn't operate in the UK. I'm from the UK, I'm actually from a horse racing background. One of the things that's been a problem sort of in that industry, specifically with UK bookmakers, is the banning or the restriction of customers as soon as they show signs of profitability; it's now become a European problem. It's extended to multiple sports and most of the sports that bookmakers offer, announcing a lot of it coming from America. I mean, I saw on Rufus Peabody's Twitter the other day that the American Betters' Coalition, obviously people are kind of being forced into these things, whether it's bets that have been accepted and then not paid out, or whether it's people not taking bets for individuals, it certainly seems like it's kind of rolling in one direction. As a bettor yourself, do you kind of hold out hope that that's going to reverse, or are you now kind of concerned that it's kind of going one way and you're worried for the future? Can you see things changing?

Drew Dinsick:

Well, it's probably 50/50. I would expect that the likelihood that the issues that plague the European market, at this point, for sharp players is very likely to extend to the US, but there's always kind of been a sort of an underlying kind of American quality, I will say, that there should be fair chance, that this should be a fair play. And something the Bettors' Coalition, I think, is super important and will be effective in kind of communicating to the industry, "Hey, there are people out here with pretty loud voices that are well respected, and if you continue down this road, it will be a reasonable PR nightmare for you to try to walk back this idea that your contest is not fair play, that there is some issue long term with your industry. You're going to cut off the people's willingness to get involved in the first place."

Maybe no better example than what we've seen with the rise and sort of stagnation of new players in the Daily Fantasy space in the US. There was kind of a clear and obvious messaging via media that went out and about, about, "Hey, look, this is not a contest that you can win if you just get involved on Sunday morning and put in one lineup. If you're not a shark, if you're not using your maximum number of lineups, if you're not diversifying your portfolio and entering as many possible lineups as possible, then you don't stand a chance here. This is a minus EV proposition for you." I think that definitely has kind of filtered out a lot of the recreational players from being involved in Daily Fantasy in general.

Now you have another scandal rocking their industry now, relating to bending of the rules and getting even more lineups in for this style of play. I would be extremely concerned if I was at the C level of DraftKings or any of the sites that really rely heavily on Daily Fantasy players, that we are going to entirely choke out recreational participation here, because at that point, you're moving money back and forth between sharp accounts and taking a small percentage. Once it all dries up, then everybody leaves and goes find something else to do.

I think there is a reasonable chance that if kind of the snowball gets rolling downhill, in the sense of this is not fair chance, this is not fair play, you can put your livelihood into this, you can lose for five, 10 years, and then the first year you have winning, they'll cut you off. I think that there's a way to kind of spin that narrative that is extremely effective in kind of giving the players some leverage. I think kind of the underlying sort of American ideas of fairness will help support that sort of movement. So I'm interested to see how that plays out, for sure.

Ben:

Just to play a bit of devil's advocate here. I've seen some stuff on gambling Twitter, as we called it earlier, about this subject specifically. People have said, "A soft book is a soft book. You know what you're getting. If you're serious about betting, don't go to that kind of place and then complain when you have issues with limits or getting banned. If you're serious about betting, you need to go to a serious bookmaker." Can you agree in any part to that comment, or is it a type of thing, if someone's offering a service, then they have to show honesty and integrity and take what comes, if they're going to make money?

Drew Dinsick:

I want to agree with it, but I've also never been in this situation, where my livelihood depends on being able to get a bet down. It's tough to take that angle. But yeah, in general, yeah, if you have advantage information, if you are a long-term winner in this space, I find it very, very hard to believe that you can't find a way to get a bet down some way, somewhere. Is it a headache? Yes. Does it take all the fun and entertainment out of this? I'm sure.

Does the job pivot from developing advantage plays to simply finding outs to take a bet and kind of doing this Whack-A-Mole, like who's moving my action, where are they getting it down, are we going to get paid by these guys, are we getting these accounts closed, now we need new accounts, or we had a hot month, now we have to start from scratch; is all of that an absolute nightmare to deal with? I am sure of this. I have sympathy for the grind that goes into it, but at the same time, if you go headfirst into, "Hey hey" it's naive that if you have that level of experience, if you're that sort of advantage player, if you think you're walking into a brick and mortar shop in New Jersey and going to have unlimited action, that's crazy. I don't think there's any chance that you would expect that. It's sad that that's the state of things and that may change, but I do have a level of sympathy and agreement with that sort of sentiment.

Ben:

We've had some great chat about kind of the industry in general and kind of your development and where you're at now. I'd [like] to maybe talk a little bit about actually kind of what you're doing in relation to betting now, not specific examples, I don't want you to give too much away, but what I personally about these podcasts and when we speak to people you is that we get this, it's often an honest portrayal of betting. People sometimes kind of romanticize what betting is about and that it's all fun and games, and it's easy money. I'm hoping now you'll back up what people have said on here before. So what is, I know you work day-to-day, but a typical betting day for you, say, or an NFL betting day, where you're running your models or you're preparing to put a bet down. What is that like for you? What's the experience?

Drew Dinsick:

For NFL, it's probably the easiest to speak to, because my process has been pretty stable now the last couple of years. I basically intend to take all my positions by about the end of the day on Wednesday, and that usually coincides with when we record our podcast; it just happens to be that way, though. So I kind of spill the beans on the podcast, "Hey, this is everything that I bet," and then I post it all up on Thursday. For the most part, the lines are generally still available, what we're playing. For the most part, my edge that I've calculated on any given side or total is big enough that I don't mind putting it up on Thursday, even if the lines moved still a little bit between when I actually got the bet down and when we posted my card. But I will kind of take a two-week approach to a given week of betting.

So I will start looking at the look-ahead lines for sides. When they become available, usually Tuesday or Wednesday the week prior, I use that to update, what I would call, the "Market rankings" for teams in the NFL, so basically just redefine the space of how far apart teams are from each other across the entire NFL. If you have two weeks of lines, you can do that pretty effectively. And I'm mostly looking at what are closing lines at market making books, like Pinnacle, so kind of defining, "Here is a baseline. Here is the space across all of these NFL teams."

Then, on Sunday, after we see the results of week of action, we see openers, start to populate Sunday evening. Andy and I record a podcast at that time, where we kind of comment on what we think are reasonable lines, what lines we think are off, what direction, so a handful of totals where we think there's going to be a pretty significant market shift, one way or another. This is all kind of informed by, "Okay, hey we expected these numbers. This is what has opened, here are the adjustments, and here are some situational factors that, once they get accounted for, the line's going to move in this direction. Here are some matchup factors that, once they get accounted for, it's going to move the total up or down. So we kind of consider that on our Sunday podcast when we're looking across the openers, make a few small plays, and then we let the market mature as kind of limits come up on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Get the rest of the action I'm interested in for a given week down, and then record our Wednesday podcast where we kind of talk through the handicap. It's a cathartic and learning experience to do the podcast every time, because you have to kind of make a pretty formidable case for why you're betting what you're betting. There are always plays that we agree on, but the interesting ones usually are the ones where I like something and he doesn't see it, and I have to try to make my case. It's fun, because I've made the bet already, so it is what it is. But it's funny trying to defend it, so to speak, to a neutral arbiter, who is also a friend.

And then, vice versa, I know what he's played, and I've decided not to play, and I can kind of push back a little on, "Well, did you think about this? Well, what about this? You're not worried about that?" So it's a fun kind of back and forth to do the podcast on Wednesday, after all of our action is mostly done. I know Andy likes to add stuff later in the week too, so like to kind of pick at that and make sure that the listeners know, "Hey, look, I know you're thinking about adding something. What are you waiting for here," and things like that, because it does add some teasers and some fun plays on Sunday morning.

That's kind of the back and forth, and then after that it's mostly just preparing for the primetime game, so that we have content to talk about on the Periscopes. That's by far the most fun, doing the video stuff is fun, because you get instant interaction; people are in there dropping comments, and it's live, so funny stuff can happen. There'll be weird stuff, like we'll be doing a whole halftime Periscope, not knowing that the starting quarterback for the Redskins is out with a concussion, and they mentioned it on the ESPN broadcast, but we didn't know, what happened on one Thursday night, and I'll never forget seeing the backup get trotted out, as we were wrapping up, and I'm like, "Oh, oh, no. Oh, no. I can't believe that we missed this." So those are funny.

But yeah, no, it's just that for us, for me at least, it kind of keeps me on my toes, on my game, being able to go back and forth on all of these and have an informed conversation and break down handicap. I'm mostly pivoting now in NFL, to where I'm letting the market do the heavy lifting, in terms of telling me how good all the teams are. And then, I'm simply looking at the outlier performances, trying to identify patterns in the outlier performances, trying to say, "Okay." We noticed something weird this year, where all of the teams after they came off of their bye week after their London game performed well below expectation, and we kind of worked out, "Okay there is some signal here" and similar things that with a handful of kind of unusual angles that we identified by just looking at where the market was wrong, why were they wrong.

Home field advantage was huge this year, and we were on the right side of home field advantage this year, which was hugely positive for me over the course of the season. This was probably the biggest factor for me this season, because, in years past, I would look at situational factors, like, "Oh, this team is on their second straight week of travel. They're going to be a little bit more tired, they're going to be travel-weary, the two weeks in a row on the road is tough." I have a statistical database that goes back years that shows me the second week in a row, on the road, especially early in the season, especially since they changed the rules about off-season conditioning, the teams just underperform wildly in that spot.

And week two, we had four examples of that in every fricking road team covered, and some of them covered with glory, they were just wildly amazing. And it was like, "Oh, okay, something's fundamentally changed here. Teams are onto this, they have changed their approach, there's something that we need to dig in a little bit more deeply here." So we look at it a little more carefully, and we're like, "Wow, you know what? Home field advantage is not what it once was." We've known it's been decaying, but to even assume two and a half points, at this point, is kind of ludicrous, given what we're seeing in the results. And sure enough, we go through a full 17-week season in the NFL this year, and on average the away team won by half a point. That's been a complete and total outlier relative to years past, and if you're not kind of carefully evaluating sort of the dynamic nature of the market, you don't catch that sort of stuff.

That's been kind of part one to my approach about NFL these days, is really looking at outlier performances and variants and trying to kind of find deviations from what the market expects, and then kind of use that in a forward projecting sense. And then, number two, looking more carefully at player level injuries, quantifying impacts of certain players being in or out of games, cluster injuries, things like that, putting that into a numerical framework, so that I can come up with a reasonable adjustment on a team's expected performance and kind of evaluate if the market is over or underreacting to this.

Ben:

So clearly the NFL is the big one from you obviously, the amount of content you put out, you said you're a big fan. Correct me if I'm wrong, it's probably the one you enjoy betting on the most?

Drew Dinsick:

I would say for sure, and a ton of that is just because there's two major reasons for that: Number one, because I have kind of a full time professional consulting job, it lends itself more readily to not having to dedicate quite as much day in, day out time to it. And then, number two, I've been watching the NFL for the longest, so as far as sort of the fundamentals of the game and sort of the aspects, what matters, what doesn't from a matchup standpoint, I understand that kind of at a fundamental level a lot better than I do for, say, NBA or tennis or any of the others sports that we get involved in.

Ben:

Has the betting approach and the focus on data analysis and thinking about your bets when you're watching a game or something like that, has that detracted from being a fan of the sport? Do you still enjoy it as kind of just that that old school fan, or is it purely for you know more about the connection with betting?

Drew Dinsick:

Almost certainly, for the NFL, it's connection to betting, and I would even go farther and say it's not even about winning money as much for the NFL, at this point, as much as it is: We have curated a pretty interesting audience of people. I don't think we're getting a lot of the Joes and a lot of the true rec players; we've kind of curated an audience of people who, I think, are kind of us, at the rec-plus level and maybe even some professionals, who like to hear our point of view on this stuff. So, it's almost like a badge of honour reputation thing if we can hit 52% in the NFL in a given season, then I think we can high-five at the end of the season and say, "Mission accomplished."

So I think the public kind of feedback on all the content we create is absolutely as much of a payoff nowadays, just as much as winning money. So I think, weirdly enough, it's pivoted entirely into just: instead of just being a fan of the NFL, being right about what's going to happen. It's kind of become the fundamental goal, which is bizarre, but it is where we are.

Ben:

And outside of the NFL then, how many other sports are there? I know you kind of mentioned, was it the edge eroded in tennis, you're kind of now focusing on basketball, but not sharing so much. I'm assuming there's quite a long list for you that you're betting on?

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, NBA and NFL make up about 95% of what I'm getting down in a given year. I still take tennis Grand Slams super seriously. I watch a lot of tennis just for fun, I listen to tennis on the radio. Tennis is a really fun sport to be attached to. I'll definitely get involved in the Australian Open coming up. It's one of my favourite wintertime traditions, NFL playoffs and Australian Open going on at the same time. I enjoy the big stuff, like the EURO is coming up in soccer, it's going to be a ton of fun. I'm absolutely going to get involved in that. We bet Women's World Cup last year in soccer, that was a ton of fun.

What I'm looking forward to probably the most, more than anything in 2020, is Olympic betting. Olympics in 2016 in Rio were incredibly fun to bet on. I was a swimmer in college, I love the swimming handicapping. It's no different really than horse racing. The races are so quick, the differentiating factors are pretty tough for the general betting public to wrap their heads around. So if you have any inside information, if you have any kind of personal insight, I feel like it's fun to bet on those markets. So I can't wait for swimming in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. And just in general, the Olympics, just as a two-week event and all the fun stuff that there is to bet on and to watch, is worthwhile. So that's probably what I'm most looking forward to in 2020.

Ben:

Yeah, I think I remember, it was a podcast of yours a couple of months back maybe; was that you guys were talking about figure skating or something like that?

Drew Dinsick:

Yes, yes.

Ben:

What's going to be the equivalent in the Summer Olympics in 2020?

Drew Dinsick:

Yeah, absolutely swimming, absolutely the swimming. Yeah, for sure, for sure. We did three podcasts dedicated to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018. They were incredibly fun, and we hit a lot of winners. But yeah, we had a whole Deep Dive dedicated to the men's figure skating, because the market leader, who we came into the event thinking like, "Hey, this guy's injured, the price on this guy's got to be off," and ended up doing a whole Deep Dive into figure skating Reddit, where they had people who were in the training venue, kind of charting what the men's figure skating favourite, what he was doing in practice.

We thought, "Oh, this guy is the perfect fave, golden fave, let's figure out who to bet on in the field," and then we find this training charting, and we're like, "Oh, my God, he's hitting quads. It's a trap." It's like, "This guy is-"

Ben:

It's been run by a bookmaker.

Drew Dinsick:

Yes, exactly. Yeah, exactly. So, we figured out that there was actionable edge on the favourite, because he was the only guy capable of doing a couple of quad jumps that was even in the field, and he was landing them in practice, thanks to this person who was charting them on figure skating Reddit. So that was a lot of fun, and we'll definitely get into that, too.

Ben:

Summer 2020, are we going to get Periscopes with you in a swimming cap and some goggles?

Drew Dinsick:

Ah, now we're talking, brilliant idea. Absolutely, yes. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. We'll go out and do them at the beach. That'll be fantastic.

Ben:

You mentioned the figure there of the 52% as a badge of honour in kind of NFL or those efficient markets. What for you is a measure of success? Obviously, a lot of people, this is their livelihood, or they're kind of driven by profit or a desire to just know that they're doing things right. Is closing line a big thing for you?

Drew Dinsick:

Oh, in NFL, that's pretty much the only thing I'm looking at. That was challenged this year, for sure. I think I hit close to 69%. I'd beat the closing line and my sides and totals in the NFL this year, but I only went 52% or 53% as far as performance. There was a couple of weeks during the course of the season where I was six and one or seven and O against the closing spread and went three and four, and I was just like, "This is tough. I don't understand what's happening. This was so predictive in years past." Surely this year, the market, as far as the closing line, was a little different. I think there were a bunch of influential factors in that. I would definitely like some takebacks on some of the sides I took, because I had some stinkers for sure.

But I think, for me, a successful season: If I'm in 5-10% ROI in NFL, then I'm pretty satisfied, and that's where I've been for the last couple years. Of course, I have kind of a two prong strategy for the NFL. I like to have a nice 5, 10% ROI on my game-by-game betting. I shoot for about a 25-30% ROI on my preseason activity. And then, as my game-by-game stuff goes, I like to try to reinvest some winnings in the futures market over the course of the regular season, and that kind of sets me up for the playoff run. For the playoffs, I'm not betting as significant stake-wise, just because I have a lot of outstanding futures that I'm keeping an eye on. That's kind of my approach to NFL.

Ben:

Whether it's kind of a loss, that's a positive kind of against the closing line that you've actually lost, or whether it's one of those bad beats, kind of a really hard one to take, even after all these years of experience, do you still get disheartened? Do you still kind of get frustrated, or are you at that point now where you can take it and you know that's part of the game?

Drew Dinsick:

I definitely have. The bad beat stuff, I've completely gotten over for the most part. And actually, you made me think of something pretty clear about my NFL performance this year. In the 30-something percent where the market disagreed, I think I feel like every one of those was a loss, like I fundamentally miss something. And I don't know that there were a lot of losses that I took where the market beat me that were unearned, I guess. And then, on the other hand, there were probably 30% of my wins where I'd beat the market number pretty clearly, and there was a good reason for it, like I had the Bears against the Lions, and Stafford gets announced out with an injury, or Sam Donald gets mono, with the Jets against the Browns after I bet the Browns early in the week.

So there were a couple of just absolute smashers, in terms of beating the closing number that came through. There really weren't a lot of examples where I felt like I had the absolute right handicap, the market move with me, and the result didn't come through; there were really probably only maybe five out of about 100 plays over the course of the season.

Ben:

I'm going to start to wrap up. I want to know, out of everything we've kind of talked about today and everything you've discussed, obviously there's a hell of a lot of great points in there, if there's someone listening to this, if there's kind of one message that you could share, what would you share with the listeners?

Drew Dinsick:

Well, if it's a new player, if it's someone who's relatively new to this, I would just say to recalibrate your expectations for what you're going to get out of this experience. It's worth getting involved in this, it's worth playing, it's worth learning about this. It adds to your enjoyment of sport, in my opinion, especially if you're in any way math or statistically-minded, you'll enjoy this. But just don't expect to get rich doing this.

And then, if it's kind of a middle kind of someone with a little bit of experience, I would tell them: build a network, start putting your information out there, you'll find people, you'll get connected with people who are at about the same ... You want to build a network with people who are at or around your same level of experience, so that you can learn together. You're going to learn some stuff the hard way. Some stuff you need to learn the hard way. I think if you kind of build a network, you're going to get the benefit of some network effects. And yeah, if it's someone who's especially experienced, then you want to reach out to us and be part of our podcast this off-season and tell some stories and transfer some knowledge to the next generation. We're interested in hearing from you.

Ben:

What's the future have in store for Whale Capper?

Drew Dinsick:

Oh, man. We're going to keep doing the Deep Dive, for sure. It's a passion, it's part of our lives now, we love doing it. Once the NFL season is a wrap ... We've been talking about this, we've been looking forward to this, we are ready to put this to bed. 2019-2020 season NFL, it's been a grind, we're ready to put this to bed and get back to kind of talking to some industry folks and exploring some of the stuff that we find the most exciting and the most interesting about this space, which is our next challenge.

Ben:

Are you kind of thinking maybe with the consultancy stuff, is betting full time, putting the content out there, is that a realistic ambition for you?

Drew Dinsick:

Ah, it's tough. Two things: Number one, because a lot of the stuff that I do as a consultant, I feel like it's kind of important from public safety, public health standpoint, I have general responsibility to continue practicing, so I don't think I'm interested or willing to walk away from seismology, earthquake engineering research and science anytime soon. But for sure, I will continue to get deeper into the world of handicapping and sports betting and try to continue to improve my performance and become ... At this level, I would say, I'm better than a breakeven player, but I would like to be a true advantage player someday. I need some more years, and I need some more angles, and I need to continue to learn to do that. So that's my goal.

Ben:

Well, I'm sure we could talk for a lot longer, but it's been a great chat, Drew. I've certainly enjoyed you coming on, and I'm sure our listeners have. So thanks for taking the time out of what I'm sure is a busy schedule to discuss all things betting, really appreciate it.

Drew Dinsick:

Oh, absolutely. It was my pleasure, and I appreciate all the content that you guys put back out into the space. Believe me, listening to the Pinnacle podcasts, reading the Pinnacle blogs, that has taught me a lot about sports betting and the markets, in general. So I appreciate everything you guys do. Thank you.

Ben:

Glad to hear it. I've said before, and obviously I'd highly recommend following you on Twitter and people listening to the podcast. Can you just maybe do a quick shout out for your personal Twitter and where people can find the Deep Dive?

Drew Dinsick:

Sure. So I'm on Twitter at whale_capper. Our podcast is called the Deep Dive Pod, and you can find it at iTunes, SoundCloud, Podbean, Stitcher, I think pretty much ... what's the other one? Spotify? Yeah, it's pretty much up everywhere. So if you go search for The Deep Dive Pod or Deep Dive Podcast and look for the one with the little logo of the whale with the headphones on, you'll find us. Yeah, starting after the Super Bowl, we're going to have some interesting content, to say the least, across the gambling space from some fascinating fellow, and hopefully we'll be entertaining and educational.

Ben:

Yeah. I hope everyone's enjoyed listening. It's definitely worth following Drew on Twitter. And if you haven't listened to the podcast already, I'd highly recommend it. Him and Andy are putting some great content out there. If you want to learn more about the topics that we've discussed on today's show, then head to betting resources on pinnacle.com. As always, feel free to suggest any guests for the podcast by contacting @pinnacle on Twitter. Thanks for listening and bye for now.

 

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