In the end, the bettors got it right.
Duke’s Paolo Banchero went No. 1 overall to the Orlando Magic in Thursday’s NBA draft, reflecting the opinion of the betting market, while ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski suffered a very rare misstep. Woj tweeted early Thursday morning that it was “increasingly firm” that Auburn’s Jabari Smith would go first, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren would go second and Banchero would go third.
It was a memorable night for sportsbooks and bettors, capping one of the wildest 24 hours we’ve seen so far in the world of legalized U.S. sports betting.
"This was wildly mispriced"
In betting markets surrounding events (rather than on-field activities) like the NBA draft, NFL draft and Oscars, after a big underdog wins there will be claims of “insider information” or “Vegas knew.”
After speaking to multiple respected bettors on Thursday night, all of them mentioned a variation on the same theme: This was simply a case of taking a shot on a mispriced market – there was no inside information.
“All of the information I used was publicly available,” Drew Dinsick told VSiN over the phone on Thursday night. “I felt the No. 1 market was wildly mispriced with Banchero at 20-1, 25-1 at some places [to go first overall].”
The No. 1 market had mostly been a two-horse race between Smith Jr. and Holmgren since sportsbooks opened the odds. Caesars Sportsbook opened the market to go No. 1 overall on April 7 with Smith the favorite at %plussign% 110, Holmgren at %plussign% 180 and Banchero at %plussign% 200. But over the last few months, Banchero drifted to as high as 20-1, while Holmgren was a -115 co-favorite with Smith Jr. as recently as last week.
Over the weekend, Dinsick began to place some wagers on Banchero based on his perceived edge, but several requests to sportsbooks for larger bets weren’t returned because it was Father’s Day. He decided to partner up to get as many legal bets down as he could.
“Every single mock had it as a three-horse race,” Dinisck said. “I also graded him as the best future pro of those three guys.”
On Monday morning, Dinisck said that everyone got back to him and all of a sudden he had five times what he’d asked for on Banchero. “The market came with us,” Dinsick noted. “We weren’t the only people doing that.”
Respected bettor Bill Krackomberger bet $1,200 on Banchero to go No. 1 at 16-1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook after they opened the market, and gave out the play to his subscribers on Monday as well.
"You have guys that are experts in mock drafts, and they said ‘Don’t think that Paolo isn’t in the hunt for the No. 1 pick and there’s a chance Houston trades for the first pick and that team wants him,'" Krackomberger said Thursday morning on VSiN’s “A Numbers Game.” “So, he can’t be at more than 3-1 then if these experts know this. Anything over 3-1 is good value.”
VSiN host Gill Alexander also mentioned that he was betting Smith to go No. 1 on Monday morning’s show, and reiterated his reasoning on Thursday’s show. “You’re betting the number, and the number was out of whack, Alexander said. “Whether it gets home or not is anybody’s guess.”
From 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday night until Wednesday at noon, 8% of tickets and 15% of the dollars on all NBA bets (including NBA draft, championship and MVP) at Caesars Sportsbook were on Banchero to go No. 1. Over that span, Banchero to go No. 1 was the most popular NBA bet overall at Caesars.
And yet, Smith remained the odds-on favorite at sportsbooks on Wednesday to go No. 1 overall … until Wednesday evening.
Banchero becomes betting favorite on Wednesday night
Everything changed late on Wednesday night. Dinsick noted that a prominent offshore book closed its market around 7 p.m. PT. Soon after, the odds began shifting at legal sportsbooks. Remember that different NBA draft markets have to come down 24 hours before the event in Nevada, while they can remain open until the event begins in other states.
At PointsBet, Banchero went from %plussign% 425 to go No. 1 overall at 7:30 p.m. PT to %plussign% 135 three hours later. At 10:45 p.m. PT, Banchero became the odds-one favorite for the first time at PointsBet at -140 and got all the way up to -200.
“As Wednesday night went on, it was a combination of sharps hitting us, the global markets adjusting and respecting your own liability,” Wyatt Yearout, media analytics manager at PointsBet, told VSiN.
Banchero was the consensus favorite at other legal sportsbooks as well when the East Coast woke up on Thursday morning.
As team boards finalize today, the 1-2-3 of the NBA Draft is increasingly firm, per sources: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2022
On Thursday morning at 8:41 a.m. ET, Woj tweeted that the “1-2-3 of the NBA Draft is increasingly firm, per sources: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.”
Sportsbooks took several markets down, including the odds to go No. 1 overall. When they re-opened, FanDuel had Smith as high as -10000, with Banchero at 900. However, those odds shrunk over the course of the day all the way as low as Smith -135 and Banchero 100, before Smith was bet out to above a -400 favorite.
“Smith was our biggest liability at PointsBet,” Yearout told VSiN. “Throughout the day on Thursday we got hammered on Smith to go No. 1, with 81% of handle at 49% of the bets.”
“Lots of action on Banchero,” FanDuel sportsbook manager John Sheeran told VSiN in a text message, noting it was from both public and respected bettors.
“We were definitely getting hit by multiple sources,” DraftKings Sportsbook director Johnny Avello mentioned. “A few limit plays on Banchero and an accumulation of bets.”
Dinsick came on VSiN’s “A Numbers Game” on Thursday morning and remained steadfast in his opinion. “I haven’t gotten a single call from a pro who is trying to lay off anything because they bet into Banchero at a bad number, so I think Woj might be wrong … this added layer of being right and Woj being wrong isn’t something I expected to sweat today.”
Asked how he spent his Thursday, Dinisick said “staring at the odds screen for 12 hours.”
The odds were fairly stagnant for Thursday afternoon, until ESPN’s NBA pregame show came on 30 minutes prior to the start of the draft.
There was a lot of uncertainty on who was going #1 in the @NBADraft but @beatingthebook & @whale_capper called it right on #ANumbersGame this week.#WatchNow ⏬ pic.twitter.com/TgAoPlBYrC
— VSiN (@VSiNLive) June 24, 2022
Woj tweeted again at 7:40 p.m. ET that Banchero had joined Smith Jr. under “serious consideration” to go No. 1 overall, which began moving the markets again, with more money flowing in on Banchero – until he emerged again as the odds-on favorite to go No. 1.
Two minutes later, Woj tweeted that Banchero had “emerged as a significant possibility to be drafted No. 1 overall.”
Thirteen minutes after that, at 7:55 p.m. (five minutes before the draft was set to begin), Woj tweeted that Banchero was “looming as a frontrunner to be the No. 1 overall pick.”
Sportsbooks had mixed results on the No. 1 market, with DraftKings, SuperBook and Caesars small losers, and TwinSpires and PointsBet among winners. TwinSpires took down odds on Wednesday night and told VSiN that 93% of the handle was on Smith Jr. to go No. 1.
“We saw money piling up on Smith despite the market moving against him the last few days,” Zachary Lucas, sportsbook director at TwinSpires told VSiN. “We had a big liability on him going No. 1 and felt like we were dead once Woj tweeted earlier today. Fortunately, Orlando bailed us out.”
WynnBET was a big loser, as it had opened the market for several months, including while the college basketball season was going on.
“We got smoked,” WynnBET traded Andy Morrissey said. “Money came in Sunday, and we were trying to get off of Jabari last week. They bet both [Wednesday night] until we decided to kill it.”
The biggest win for a bettor at WynnBET was a $12,500 win on a $500 bet on Banchero at 25-1 odds from a bettor in Colorado.
"We took a lot of money on Jabari Smith [to go No. 1], so it wasn't that bad," Avello said. However, one DraftKings bettor did win $100,000 off a $4,000 wager on Smith to be drafted No. 3 at 25-1 odds.
There will certainly be bigger questions to be answered about the power of media insiders in the betting markets, but Thursday was one of the craziest betting days in the young history of legalized American sports betting – one that sportsbooks and bettors won’t soon forget.