Las Vegas has always been the city of gambling.  People from around the world come to Vegas in the hopes of getting rich quick.  There are those select few who take gambling on as a profession.  Spending endless hours in the sports book usually make people go insane but for professional gamblers it is nothing different than a regular 9-5 job.  The somewhat polarizing Luca Fury joined hosts Sharp and Shapiro to talk about MMA betting and the sport itself on October 22nd, 2019. 

Sharp discusses the difference between boxing and UFC:

“I think boxing is very predicated on money.  For example, let’s say Errol Spence and Terence Crawford are going to have a big fight coming up soon.  Well neither of those two guys are going to lose their next two fights before that big fight happens because there is so much money involved with advertising in TV, paper, and paper view.  I don’t think its rigged, but I think they liked to see certain matchups. “

I think this is something UFC has handled poorly.  I think back to the days of Ronda Rousey losing to Holy Holms.  The newly crowned monster was short beaten by Shevchenko who was then thwarted by Amanda Nunes.  The women’s title belt was being tossed around more than a beach ball in a Nickelback concert.  Boxing is much more careful about matchups.  Long awaited fights are protected by soft fights until the big paper view in Vegas occurs.  I would imagine going all in on these filler matches would create net gains over the long term.

Shapiro asks,

“Can you just give us the process on how you handicap any given fight and how long it takes you to do that?  What are you looking for when you finally make a decision after studying to opponents for what I would imagine for hours on end?”

He responds,

“Well one of the interesting things about the MMA, that unlike something like MLB, you can’t really apply stats to it for the most part.  I know MLB handicappers, NFL handicappers, and they do a lot of software and simulations/ situations.  You really can’t do that for MMA.  It’s all about tape study, knowledge of the game, knowing the techniques, and knowing what works to win fights.  It’s really a lot about experience as well.  Watching fight after fight and looking at patterns.  It’s something you almost have to have a natural feel for as well.”

 Advanced statistics have changed gambling as we know it.  Some professional gamblers do not even watch games and base their bets solely on statistics. Even professional teams such as Houston have changed the way they play based off the numbers concluded in their studies. MMA is just really different.  Team based sports can create much more steady flows of data.  Individuals are much more erratic.  Fighting styles also match up differently from one another.  It would take a lot of game tape to understand those nuanced differences.  Professionals such as Luca Fury spend hours figuring that out to form their own opinions rather than relying on what the general buzz is around a particular fight.

 Sharp asks, what made you start wagering MMA?

He says,

“I never really thought I would get into gambling as a career at all.  I was on the air doing analysis for fights and people said I was really good at it.  They said I should try betting.  I happened to do well at it.  I kept doing well but just based on the knowledge of the fighters.  I thought this was going well for me, it’s interesting, I guess I might as well dedicate myself to it and try to learn about it.”

 Professional gambling is a huge investment.  You have to be into the sport you are gambling.  You will spend countless hours studying the smallest details of it to make the best predictions.  If you don’t like looking into things, you’ll cut corners that can make you lose thousands.  The more you depend on others’ opinions, the more money you’ll lose.

 Sharp also asked,

“Why do you prefer handicapping/wagering MMA versus boxing?”

He responded,

“I was never really much of a boxing fan.  It was really just I had more of that in-built knowledge of MMA.  If I wanted to choose boxing, I would have had to kind of learn that sport whereas with MMA I already had that knowledge.”

 I think this is an interesting aspect of sports gambling.  As a successful professional gambler, he felt his passion for MMA was more important than betting on a sport that he might be able to make more money off of.  This seems to be proof that you can make money in any gambling profession if you dedicate enough time to it. This seems to be the case with fighting based sports at least.  Team based sports rely heavily on accurate prediction models.

 Shapiro asked the most important questions,

“Alright what’s the most money you’ve ever won on a fight? What’s the most money you’ve ever wagered on a fight?”

He hesitantly responded,

“I don’t ever say exact amounts, but it’s been pretty big amounts before.”

 Professional gamblers are often pretty quiet about their strategies and bet sizes.  There is no real reason to reveal it anyways.  The more that people bet on your side the less money you are bound to win overall.  I did some research and his overall net worth is not known.  It is rumored his success rate is about 75% although many people claim it’s much worse.  He ended up making a business out of his predictions, so no one really knows.  It sounds like he left the professional MMA gambling scene in a spot he felt happy with.

Shapiro asks, “Have you won millions of dollars handicapping (collectively)?”

He says,

“Not sports handicapping.  The limits for MMA are just too small to ever get that much down.  On MMA it depends on the scale of the fight.  On Connor McGregor fights they will let you put down $50,000/100,000 maybe more than that.  On your average MMA fight you’re only looking at, per sports book (online ones), maybe a couple thousand on this one.  $5,000 on that one. $10,000 on this one.  In person it’s a little bit more.”

 Although you can’t bet as much on UFC, I think that could be a good thing.  Lines could favor those who study more meaning you would just have to lay your bets across a plethora of betting mediums to get to a set profit.  From the way he talked about it, it seems he net profited somewhere in the low 6 figures over his entire time gambling.    An average sports gambler makes about $50,000 to $150,000 according to Timothy Dawson with legitgamblingsites.com so it seems he got above average returns when he decided to retire.

Luca Fury weighed in on why he believes there are less deaths in MMA versus boxing:

“I think the biggest thing probably is just how the sport plays out. If you’re in boxing and you basically get knocked out, then you can get back up (and over and over again).  If you look at a knockout in MMA, it’s actually not all that often an actual knockout.  It’s usually that a guy gets hurt it would be an eight count in boxing but there is no eight count so the ref just stops it.  I think that if you just have guys getting knocked out over and over and over again then also that goes into the training as well.  People in MMA are much more careful with sparring.  The length of the fight matters as well.  I think it has more to do with the rule thing than anything else.”

There are so many ways to lose in MMA.  Submissions via choke holds and arm bars are fairly common and much less dangerous than a knockout.  Like Fury said, knockouts are much different in UFC as well.  Refs often call a match if the fighter is not immediately respondent.  Had the Tyson Fury and Gene Wilder fight been under UFC rules, the fight would have been immediately over.  There are also many cases in MMA where it is blatantly obvious when a fight should be over due to one fighter completely overpowering the other.  These lines become very blurred in boxing.  The Patrick Day fight is a perfect example.  After getting hit in the back of the head he lowered his guard completely but before the ref had a moment to react Conwell delivered the fatal strike.  That punch also occurred in the 10th round.  The longevity of the fight definitely had to do with his Patrick’s death.

Shapiro asks, “Do you have any tips for the casual better that is thinking into getting into this business betting MMA?”

He said,

“Honestly the biggest thing, if you’re going to bet MMA, don’t really listen to the general opinions you hear.  So much of MMA, the way the lines work, is still based on public reception. If you’re a casual fan you’ll be reading up on these articles on these fighters and how good this up and coming prospect is.  Usually one of the best angels is baiting those guys not betting on them.  Do your own research.”

If I was to get into professional MMA betting, I would probably spend 3 months preparing.  It would become a full-time job.  You would have to separate yourself from the internet and dedicate your life to the upcoming UFC card.  I would do simulated betting and view my success rate during that period of time before betting thousands of dollars per ticket.  I don’t think it is impossible to be successful on a consistent basis, but you would also need a fairly decent sized cash balance to rely on when you are down units for particular month.  It is a fascinating profession.

 

Spencer Ostrovsky

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