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December-01-2009,
Gambling? There's An App For That...By Jay Graziani

The iPhone is an amazing piece of technology, one that has already made a significant impact on our daily lives. Apple's clever device puts incredible computing power in its users' pockets, allowing near-continuous access to the internet, email, and messaging. iPhone applications (more commonly known as "apps") have grown into a major business market, with over 100,000 different apps now available and over 2 billion downloads worldwide.

About 6 months ago, I reported at MajorWager on the stir being caused by an iPhone app that was designed to assist card counters in beating the house in blackjack (see http://www.majorwager.com/index.cfm?page=27&show_column=747). While that remains the most newsworthy gaming app, there are a number of other gambling-related apps, including those focused on sports and poker. What follows is a sampling of a few of the more noteworthy sports, handicapping, and poker apps available for iPhone.

Sportacular (free, $1.99 for ad-free version) is the best of the live scoreboard apps, even considering the more popular ESPN ScoreCenter and FOX Sports Mobile. Sportacular offers a user-friendly interface and detailed live scoring for all major U.S. sports. For NFL football, details include live game stats, scoring details, current field position and last play. The app is quick to load and quick to update and allows the user to set up "push alerts" on selected games or teams. The minimally-disruptive banner ads are quite bearable in the free version, but a 2-dollar upgrade gives you the clean version. This is the must-have iPhone scoreboard app.

Though the World Series is just behind us, the FanGraphs Baseball app ($2.99) packs a whallop for any stats-driven baseball handicapper. Traditional and sabremetrics statistics are available updated for games in real time, and the application includes "win probability charts" that can serve as benchmarks during live betting. Box scores are updated live, but also reach back into an archive of 35 years of games. Three bucks represents a very small outlay for the wealth of information contained in FanGraphs baseball, and this app should get high marks from both baseball handicappers and hardcore baseball fans.

iBet NFL 2010 ($9.99) aims to be an all-inclusive football betting app, with buttons for NFL standings and schedules, live scores, current betting lines, and a "bet tracker" function. I evaluated the iBet NFL 2010 Lite version and found it to be unwieldy and very sparse on information, though the creators claim the full version has better live scoring information. They are also working in weather reports and "consensus bet" reports, but the underwhelming preview version didn't justify the very steep $9.99 price to give the full app a whirl. One noteworthy gimmick, however, is the ability to call your bookie straight from the app, although I'm sure most bookies would appreciate their personal information being kept a bit further from the evidence. iBet NFL 2010 is a good idea, but needs work.

A slightly cheaper alternative is BreakTheBook ($1.99) which has a more attractive and intuitive interface and has the standard live scoring, live odds feeds, and bet tracking functions. This take on the bet tracking app also includes "tips" from well-known handicappers (think Dr. Bob and Covers Experts), some of which are complimentary, while others require a premium subscription ($2.99/month), which also buys you the ability to get push notifications on line moves, injuries, and scores. This app is quite usable for the price, but its more sinister use as a vehicle for touts to hawk their 25-star locks is a turnoff.

Sportsbook ($4.99) is a simply-named app that focuses purely on the bet-tracking function, and does a much better job of it than iBet NFL or BreakTheBook. It features up-to-date lines and odds for NFL, NCAA football and a simple interface for entering wagers. Sportsbook is a very flexible app, allowing customization of pointspreads, parlay/teaser odds, sportsbook juice, and "settle day". For the price though, I'd expect a more detailed real-time scoring feed, and one has to wonder whether its possible to justify dropping a five-spot on an application that does little more than can be done with pen and paper, or an Excel spreadsheet.

For the card players, PokerCruncher ($4.99) is a powerful odds calculator with some advanced features. The full version supports up to 10 hands, random/unknown cards, deal-to-flop analysis and hand ranges on top of a detailed odds calculator and monte carlo simulator. These features make for a much more nuanced calculator than some others on the market and have yielded excellent reviews, including a 12-page thread on the TwoPlusTwo poker forums. A free version only calculates for two players and doesn't support hand range calculations, but serves well as a demo for those interested in a test drive before diving into the features-packed full version. There's also a "lite" version ($0.99) that doesn't support hand ranges and is missing a few other features, but anyone considering a purchase should just splurge on the works. The developers also offer "Hold'em Odds Quizzer" ($1.99) and "Poker Odds Teacher" ($0.99) apps for those looking to improve their poker skills. For iPhone-owning poker players, PokerCruncher is a must-have app.

12-1-09
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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