Understanding Odds Boosts And How They Can Swing Sports Betting In Your Favor

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What if we told you there’s a roulette wheel in Atlantic City where the casino has removed the zeros? Or a blackjack table where it’s considered a push if the player and dealer both bust?

If the house offered table games with no house advantage, or maybe even with a slight advantage to the player, you’d have a hard time finding a spot to sit or stand at any time of day.

But casinos don’t do that. It wouldn’t make business sense.

In these nascent days of legal sports betting in New Jersey, however, the mobile sportsbooks are breaking the rules. They’re turning it into a beatable game.

It’s all in the name of spreading the word and getting gamblers to make that first deposit, and the vehicle is something called an “odds boost.”

Need a boost?

If you follow any of the NJ online sportsbooks on Twitter, you’ve surely seen that term, “odds boost,” come across your feed by now. It’s exactly what it sounds like: an increased payout on a specific bet.

Here’s an example of one that DraftKings Sportsbook offered last week:

With 12 players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, a payout of 6½/1 on a bet that Woods would be the top scorer gave a clear mathematical edge to the house. But 10/1 on a bet where the true odds are 11/1 (assuming all players are of equal skill) is a payout that pretty much takes away the house edge (especially if you feel Tiger is a better-than-average member of the team).

Mattias Stetz, the COO of Rush Street Interactive, which handles the Play Sugarhouse platform in New Jersey, gave NJ Online Gambling an example of an odds boost his site offered two weeks ago: “We boosted the odds on the Phillies beating the Braves from +117 to +136, to make that game a zero-cent line.”

A zero-cent line means there’s no vig; if there’s an equal amount of action on both sides, the house breaks even. Without an odds boost, if it’s -136 to bet the favorite and +117 for the underdog, balanced action means the house is guaranteed to win.

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Play Sugarhouse has also experimented with a “profit boost,” where the payout is pumped up on both sides of a game, and a “parlay boost,” where the return if all legs of a parlay hit is increased by a certain percentage (5 percent on a two-pick parlay, 10 percent on a three-pick).

“So far we’ve used this as a promotional tool,” Stetz explained, “testing out how customers react to it.”

And that, in one sentence, explains why the sportsbooks offer odds boosts. Giving away the house edge in the short term can be a financially viable strategy if it encourages someone to open an account and make a deposit, while for existing players it can serve to make them satisfied customers who continue to play on the site.

Boost bonanza

FanDuel Sportsbook has been the most active odds booster of the mobile books in Jersey, offering a new one every single day. From giving something resembling true odds on player props to encouraging bettors to take a shot on a big spread in football or a wide run line in baseball, the odds boost takes a wager you might not otherwise look twice at and makes it instantly attractive.

And it’s been a profitable proposition so far for players who’ve consistently taken advantage of it:

The odds boost isn’t a new concept — it’s been used plenty in other markets in which online sports betting has been around longer, and it’s known by a variety of other names, including “enhanced odds” or “price boost.”

But for U.S.-based bettors who haven’t frequented offshore sites and have stuck to regulated sports betting, the odds boost might be unfamiliar. It’s an innovation borne of the mobile betting age and the competition for attention and customers — which just gets more and more fierce in New Jersey with every additional sportsbook. Nearly two months after DK Sportsbook launched, there are now eight active mobile books in the Garden State.

Those books are offering a wide assortment of promotions to get customers in the door, from deposit bonuses to free bets to automatically refunded losing bets. Odds boosts fit right in there, and they have the benefit of not being tied to opening new accounts or making first deposits.

Odds boosts are essentially akin to when a department store announces a clearance sale on a product you didn’t know you wanted. The store doesn’t mind giving you a great price if that’s what it takes to get you walking down the aisles. 

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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