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15. Let's assume the best: You get good enough at sports betting
to win consistently. Are you now going to be unwelcome at sportsbooks?
Are you going to be stuck in the kind of cat and mouse game that goes
on between casinos and blackjack card counters?
However, the Major Wager forums are full of stories from people who assert they have had their limits reduced or been booted outright from books because they have been successful. Since there is no regulation of the industry in this regard, the books are entirely within their rights to do this.
Supposedly the big books are not concerned with whether you're winning or losing, but I am still in the process of getting to the point where I can find out!
It's all about bargaining position. If you only have one sportsbook that you play with and you win and they ask you to leave, well, then you are in a pickle. But if you have five sportsbooks you play with--and you should, if only for the fact that you can shop sports betting lines that way--then this shouldn't be an issue. Just be happy that you've won.
But that's not to deny that there are some books that lower limits for winners to ridiculous levels and a few that just plain boot them.
Lesser countermeasures, such as reducing the player's limits, cutting the player off from certain sports or certain wager types, or issuing the player a warning are more common, but most players will never face even these countermeasures.
Here are a few things that can make you unwelcome at a book:
1. Out-and-out fraud: If you do something like deposit by credit card, lose, and then dispute the charges with your credit card company and get them cancelled, then obviously you are not going to be welcome to play at that book any longer. In fact, to some extent, such information is shared among books, so you'll probably have the door slammed in your face at some other books as well.
2. Taking unfair advantage of sportsbook errors: There seems to exist a sort of unwritten "code" of behavior that prohibits players from exploiting certain sportsbook vulnerabilities. The clearest example of this would be the so-called "bad line" cases. If a sportsbook hangs a line that any reasonable person could see is just a typo or something unintentional (such as listing Duke as an 18 point underdog instead of an 18 point favorite), and you’re gambling it, you will likely be regarded by the book as only one step removed from the credit card fraud type of thief. Most books, in fact, will cancel the bet. But whether they cancel it or pay it, they will certainly make a note of what you did, and too many such transgressions will get you shown the door.
Unfortunately, the exact line of what will be considered shrewd sport gambling and what will be considered dishonest exploitation of the book is not always clear. What if, for instance, you find out about an important injury minutes before your book does and you make a bet based on your information? Apparently at least some people in the industry consider this too to be a violation of the "code," so here also your book might be giving you demerits even as it pays off your bet.
Some books seemingly take it to the extreme that pretty much any form of wagering where the player finds a betting edge is to be regarded as unethical. If you are online sports betting only an obscure sport like NASCAR, or only bet unusual props that you've researched in greater depth than the linesmakers, you might well come under suspicion. (The "justification" being that these things are offered as a courtesy to players, and it's understood that you will only dabble in them occasionally while giving the book plenty of action on the mainstream offerings.) Similarly, if you are sports gambling only on reduced vig days, or gambling only parlays or teasers at shops that offer excellent deals on those types of bets, this could be frowned on.
This is getting disturbingly close to declaring g that a player winning is in and of itself objectionable. I suppose the distinction would be that even this sort of book wouldn't care that some of their customers win by pure luck (as lottery winners do); they just don't want anyone playing with a positive mathematical expectation.
Thankfully, from what I gather, this attitude is not the norm. Certainly there are books that will kick you out for sport betting intelligently like this, or at least warn you, but there are far more that will not.
3. Placing bets for an organized, professional betting syndicate: Sportsbooks have limits on what an individual can bet. But what's to stop someone from betting $50,000 at a book with a limit of $1,000 from simply arranging for 49 other people (the "movers" or "beards") to bet $1,000 each for him?
This kind of syndicate sports betting is explicitly prohibited at some books, and frowned on at most others. Often an understanding is reached where such sports betting sports bettors will be allowed to play, but will forego bonuses and other perks that might be available to regular customers. Obviously the book wants customers, but these syndicates typically need the book more than the book needs them, and the bargaining proceeds accordingly.
4. Betting "steam": First, a quick explanation of what "steam" is, as I understand it.
The betting lines move when books get significantly more action on one side than the other. The most common times this happens is precisely when one or more of the aforementioned betting syndicates are slapping down big bets simultaneously in octopus-like fashion.
There are many players, not formally a part of the syndicates, who sit and watch the betting lines at numerous books all day, and when they see the line changing in the same direction at several of them, they frantically call the others and try to get down on the same side before they move the sports betting line, or at least while they've only moved it as little as possible so far.
These bettors are the so-called "followers," and they are betting "steam." Their strategy, as I understand it, is twofold. First, they assume that whoever is betting enough to move the line is likely to really know something and to win more often than chance, and they want to get on the same side if possible. Second, if the original syndicate wagers and the wagers of the followers are big enough, the betting line will move sufficiently that later you can bet the other side for a middle or a scalp opportunity (see earlier definitions). In that case, you're quite indifferent as to whether the original bettor can handicap his way out of a paper bag or not. You just are taking advantage of the line move and playing both sides; you don't care whether the steam side wins.
Now let's look at steam from the book's perspective. You not only have the $1,000 from the original bettor (who does this for a living and who you have to think might have a better than chance likelihood of being right), and the $49,000 from his employees and associates, but also now countless thousands more from the innumerable lemmings sitting at their computers all day watching for just this kind of move, and all on the same side.
One of two things can happen, both bad. If you move your betting line too little or too slowly, you are going to have wildly unbalanced action. You'll be gambling instead of booking. If you move your line too much, there will be such a gap that people will ultimately jump on the other side and then you risk the nightmare scenario of being middled and paying off all of them.
Now some books have sufficient cash reserves and sufficient confidence in their linesmakers that they can handle this. They'll take the extra action in the belief that the vig is enough to keep them with a positive expectation over the long run. (Just like at Caesar's Palace, if several high casino gambling rollers choose to bet "red" at the same time decide on roulette gambling, and numerous other superstitious bettors immediately copy them and pile on the same side, Caesar's isn't going to panic just because it might lose big on this one upcoming spin.)
Be aware, though, that many books do not want this kind of action at all. They try to get rid of the steam chasers almost as diligently as they try to get rid of the syndicates themselves. If you're going to try to make your living by watching your computer screen and timing your bets just as you see the betting lines changing like this, you'll want to do some research about each book individually to get a feel for their attitude toward steam bettors, and play at the places that actually want your action.
5. Scalpers and middlers: In effect, a skilled scalper or middler is making the books collectively pay him vig. He's betting only in cases where the combination of lines available to him means the vig has been reversed and he's collecting a fee from the books for letting them take his bets. One day his profit will come from the first book and the next day from the other, but in the long run, he's skimming from all of them collectively.
Many books don't have a problem with this, and some do. Again, if you plan to use this sports betting strategy, it's a matter of researching the different books to get a sense of who wants your action and who does not.
Rightly or wrongly, in the case of books who discourage such action, scalpers often seem to be resented more than middlers. Scalpers guarantee themselves a small profit with each transaction, while middlers go through many small losses and a few large wins to realize a similar long term positive result. Some books seem to regard the former as more offensive, for whatever reason.
6. Betting your own sports betting picks and winning consistently simply because you're a good handicapper: Frankly, I think this is the one where you have the least to worry about. I'm not saying it's impossible that you'll get into trouble for this, but for the most part, this is not the kind of player that books take countermeasures against.
Again, think about it from the book's perspective. They just want to get roughly balanced action; they don't care if you happen to be on the right side of that balance 55% of the time, or 60% of the time, or 99% of the time. They're just keeping the vig and letting you players win and lose against each other.
What they don't like is the artificially unbalanced situations where everybody is copying everybody else, and so everybody wants on the same side at the same time. That's not going to happen if everyone is doing their own handicapping and making their own decisions.
So if you just happen to make good picks and do well, I think the majority of sportsbooks will pay you with a smile and thank you for your business.
In summary, (and this is only my opinion, as someone who is not an "insider" in the industry), #1 and the unambiguous cases of #2 are unwelcome behavior pretty much everywhere. The rest of #2, #3, #4, and #5 will be unwelcome at some books, tolerated grudgingly at some, and little or no problem at some. #6 will only be a problem at the chintziest books.
If winning in the style of #6 is your goal, as it is mine, then I don't think you have to worry about running out of quality places to play. #2-#5 can be a bit dicier, but even though there will be more places that frown on these styles than on #6, there should still be plenty of books available to you.
So if you're wondering "Are the books going to let me continue to play any more if I win?" the complex answer starts with "It depends what you're doing that's enabling you to win…," and the simple answer is "Probably yes."
Buckeye: If a book actually boots players for winning, then that isn't playing fair, in my opinion. You are OK as long as they are beating you, but if your sports handicapping skills get sharp, or the cold player you piggyback gets hot, or whatever it takes that reverses your course at the book, then they don't give you a shot at winning any back.
Some say it shouldn't matter, because you can always play elsewhere. I agree, in general, but some books are more useful than others. They may have better odds, unique props, better sport betting lines, etc. Say I get hammered betting totals on Norwegian fishing for two years at the only book that offers it. Then I stop betting overs on perch and start betting unders on bass and I get on a roll. If they boot me then, it's not even offered elsewhere, so they have frozen me out of the market. I am sure many say that is their right, but I want to know up front that I won't be allowed to win there, otherwise why should I be willing to risk losing to them in the first place?
It seems unfair to me to get booted when I didn't cheat, break rules, etc.; I just started winning. Many say, "They can kick out anyone they want for any reason." True, but it's still wrong for the same reasons that in many countries businesses can't discriminate (by race, religion, etc.) when it comes to whom they will or won't take on as customers without risking lawsuits. Is it fair to be taken on by a book, follow the rules and not pull anything crooked, only to get booted just because you stopped losing money to them? I say no way!
I have never been booted, and hope I never am. I am still a major square, admittedly, but I will say I rarely make what I call "plain vanilla" bets. Meaning I rarely bet something that is generally available at most outs for that exact price and line. So most of sports gambling bets I make, and outs I use, are valuable in helping my bottom line over time. This is part of the reason bonuses aren't that big a deal to me, and vig and opinionated lines are a very big deal. So losing a useful out would likely mean I'd be taking worse lines or paying more vig for bets in the future, win or lose (which would suck).
I agree that books have the right to lower players' limits based on their tolerance to risk, etc. and that they have the right to kick out beards trying to circumvent those limits. On the other hand, the rules some books have against "wise guys" and "steam" players are a mystery to me. How can they differentiate between a player who develops skill both at handicapping and at sports betting strategies to get the best numbers, versus those who fall under these derogatory labels? Requiring customers to follow the rules and to not be jerks is one thing, but when they make the rules so nebulous that they can be used to kick out anyone they want, it is once again unfair, in my opinion.
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