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The Dreaded Sportsbook Spinning Wheel and How To Avoid it

By Alex Kane

Part of the appeal of live sports has always been the speed. Whether it’s Lamar Jackson finding the edge of the defense and tearing downfield or Shohei Ohtani smashing a three-run homer to give the Angels the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. 

Everything changes in an instant. 

It’s a shame then, that the speed in which sports are built on isn’t matched by the traditional sportsbooks setting and revising lines on games. Sadly, it’s not an accident either. 

Betting on sports with speed gives more power to the bettors. Betting some money on the Eagles moneyline in the seconds after Jalen Hurts scrambles for a TD gives you a chance to jump onto odds as they are in the process of changing. 

Sportsbooks hate it when bettors use speed to gain an edge. Sports betting exchanges like Sporttrade are built for it.

Just two weeks ago I was on the edge of my seat watching Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay battle it out in a playoff at the BMW Championship. I flipped open a popular sportsbook app and tried to place multiple bets based on the swings in action, but was interrupted by wait times (aka the dreaded spinning wheel) in the final stage of placing my bet.

When Bryson landed an approach shot close enough for a makeable birdie putt, I was unable to get my bet down without first accepting a change in odds that made the bet not worth making in the first place. Call me crazy, but I think we should be building sports betting platforms that actually want to take bets, not ones that allow your wager to languish until it no longer has the odds you were looking for.

On a betting exchange, the experience of in-play betting will resemble that of trading stocks on Robinhood or crypto on Voyager. Instead of waiting for a sportsbook to okay your odds or approve of the amount you're wagering, your bets (trades) are fully under your control. You can trade contracts that are based on outcomes, such as Cantlay to win the BMW Championship. The price is tied to the probability of the outcome occurring, so if it’s a true coinflip before the event or while it’s in progress, the price of the contract would be trading at around $50. If Cantlay were to win, it would settle at $100. If he were to lose, it would settle at $0. 

Odds from August 25, 2021
As of August 25, 2021

Here’s how the DeChambeau-Catlay playoff battle might’ve played out on a sports betting exchange: 

If you had been watching the final round and felt like DeChambeau’s putter was letting him down consistently, you could’ve taken advantage of a key moment on the second playoff hole. 

Bryson’s laser-targeted approach came to a stop just 6 feet from the cup, setting up what would’ve been a potentially tournament-winning putt, while Cantlay’s approach left him 30+ feet from the hole. At that moment you could’ve thrown some weight behind Cantlay, whose trading price was sinking to about $18 even as he was delivering an all-time performance with his putter. 

DeChambeau did indeed flub his birdie putt, with each player notching a par as the odds worked their way back to Bryson at around $51 and Cantlay at around $49. But thanks to the speed of exchange betting, you now owned a number of contracts of Cantlay at $18, which would settle at $100 each on Sporttrade once he eventually won the playoff after eight heart-stopping holes. 

In the traditional sportsbook model, you are betting against the house, so it makes sense that the house would put in blockades to prevent bettors from finding edges during the constantly changing odds of sporting events. 

But on a sports betting exchange, the mercurial odds are what make the exchange possible in the first place. The more wild the swings, the more people make trades, and the more liquid the exchange becomes. 

Your bet is what the market is willing to pay, not what a sportsbook is willing to accept

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