Haralabos Voulgaris, also known as Bob Voulgaris or H-Bob on Bill Simmons’ podcasts, is a professional sports gambler, and has been called “the world’s top NBA gambler.“
Voulgaris has made a name for himself identifying patterns, locating edges, and developing models and algorithms to beat the sportsbooks. According to ESPN, he had accumulated “a fortune” before turning 30, and routinely bet $US1 million on NBA games in a single day.
Voulgaris was a guest on ESPN Radio’s “The Dan Le Betard Show” Wednesday to talk about the scandal that has hit the daily fantasy sports industry.
In this recent controversy, the New York Times reported that one employee for DraftKings was shown to have access to valuable data the same week he won $US350,000 at rival site FanDuel, raising questions about who had access to what data. According to Voulgaris, this is not really a big advantage as the data can be found by regular players if they do the right research, at least for NFL games.
“The advantage that he had is not even really that big of an advantage in the NFL,” Voulgaris told the show. “The information he was using is basically publicly available on a Thursday. So basically, if you enter a bunch of contests on a Thursday, you can see the ownership of all of the players that you selected and that’s representative of that Thursday for the following Sunday’s NFL.”
In other words, a player can see the ownership data on Thursday and the patterns will likely still be the same on Sunday. Voulgaris does explain that this type of data would have a bigger advantage in MLB daily fantasy sports games since the games are played and completed in a single day instead of over a 5-day window.
But this doesn’t mean the average player isn’t getting screwed. In fact, Voulgaris says the casual player sitting at home and watching NFL games for fun is getting “fleeced.”
“The real issue is, that I think people don’t realise, is the fact that the person who is tuning in and seeing these commercials, and signing up to play in these multi-tournaments, where the winner gets a million dollars, I think if they knew that they were going to enter maybe three, or four, or five entries, but a pro is going to enter 1,000 entries, they wouldn’t think it was that exciting to enter these contests. I think that’s the part where there is some impropriety. If the actual casual viewer, watching these commercials and signing up, knew they weren’t competing against other like-minded people like themselves, that they’re competing against professionals who have algorithms and thousands and thousands of entries in all these tournaments, they would realise that their chances of winning are really not that good and it’s really not as exciting as they think it is … the pros are winning all the money and they are also entering all the contests. It’s a giant partnership between the pros and the sites, and the unsuspecting customers who are doing this for entertainment are literally getting fleeced.”
What Voulgaris is describing is not unlike playing poker, something else he has excelled at. Playing regular fantasy sports, at sites like ESPN.com, is like playing poker with your friends for a few bucks. Playing daily fantasy sports is like going to Vegas and sitting down at a poker table, where 2-3 of the other players are secretly pros, and thinking the game is going to be just like the one played in your co-worker’s basement.
It’s not, and it won’t be, and you are probably going to get fleeced.
You can listen to the entire segment at ESPN.com.
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