Mystery Of So-Called Odds Boosts Unraveled By Playing Every Last One

math calculations

The wealth of promotional credits that Pennsylvania sportsbooks have been giving away to customers — September’s rate of nearly $20 million in giveaways set a new record – got us to wondering about “odds boosts.”

Nearly all of the 13 online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania show odds boosts of some sort on a daily basis. Sometimes they’re referred to by different names — “super boosts,” “special boosts,” etc. — but they all purport to inflate the reward to the bettor for action on a certain player prop or team performance or some combination thereof.

Such offers come up on Sunday’s NFL games more than on any other regular sport, with each site in almost all cases offering something different from every other one. The difficulty, of course, is the average bettor has no way of evaluating what the true odds should be for such props, the way they can line shop and compare point spreads or point totals for single games among sites.

So when BetMGM posts — as it did Sunday morning — that it is boosting odds in the Steelers game to +225 (from +180) for Ben Roethlisberger to throw two touchdown passes combined with Najee Harris gaining at least 60 rushing yards, it’s hard for those who aren’t MIT mathematicians to assess the promo’s value. To tilt things further in the sportsbooks’ favor, there’s never a “no” option, so that someone deeming that Roethlisberger-Harris combo above a real unlikely occurrence can’t bet against it at -300 or whatever other price might be deemed fair.

So Penn Bets thought it would be nice to try an experiment Sunday: We bet a dollar on every single advertised odds boost in the state — there were 50 of them! — for the day’s NFL slate to see what the result would be. We were skeptical of success, and in some cases we were quite surprised. If you’re curious how much richer or poorer we ended up — and you would have been if putting down, say, $100 for each of the 50 purportedly favorable bets — then read on.

FanDuel offered four

We are determining our order of sites listed here according to their popularity in the state, as measured by monthly betting handle, and FanDuel has been the leader since it started.

It advertised four odds boosts:

  • Steelers and Patriots both win as underdogs (+800, boosted from +600)
  • Four big favorites cover reduced point spreads, the Bills -6.5, Rams -8.5, Bengals -4.5, and Chiefs -2.5 (+350, boosted from +270)
  • Trevor Lawrence passes for at least two TDs while Seahawks win (+300, boosted from +240)
  • Tom Brady passes for 300-plus yards and Alvin Kamara scores at least one TD (+260, boosted from +165)

Amazingly enough, the Steelers bested the Browns and the Pats beat the Chargers, with both of them road underdogs of more than a field goal. And the Brady-Kamara combo for opposing teams connected in the Saints’ unexpected win over the Buccaneers.

The Bengals ruined the four-team bet before we could get to the Chiefs on Monday night, and Lawrence had just one scoring toss in a blowout loss to Seattle.

Result: 2-2 on bets, with $12.60 returned from a $4 investment.

Elliott, Herbert, McLaurin underwhelmed on DK

DraftKings is regularly among the bigger promoters of odds boosts and other offers in pursuit of attracting and retaining customers.

For Sunday, it had five:

  • Saints score first against Bucs (+140, boosted from +110)
  • Ezekiel Elliott scores a TD in the first half (+275, boosted from +240)
  • Justin Herbert throws for 325-plus passing yards (+225, boosted from +190)
  • Tom Brady has at least three TD passes (+125, boosted from +100)
  • Terry McLaurin scores a first-half TD for Washington (+400, boosted from +350)

Brady brought the only win on these, even if it came in his team’s losing effort. Herbert threw for just 223 yards. It’s hard to keep up with 50 bets in 13 games, but if any of the others came close, like McLaurin somehow tripped at the 1-yard line on one of the three passes he caught on the day, it’s news to us.

Result: 1-4 on bets, $2.25 returned on a $5 investment.

Barstool is prolific, and it costs us

This is where the guys from Barstool Sports run amok as the marketers of Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook, putting out all kinds of crazy parlay suggestions with allegedly boosted odds. They apparent aim to appeal to recreational bettors who might be flummoxed while putting their own parlays together and like the idea of some known personality doing it for them, with the implication that they are getting a good deal in the process.

So here were the 11 boosts promoted Sunday:

  • Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, and Matthew Stafford all throw at least two TD passes (+185, boosted from +150)
  • Mike Williams and DK Metcalf both score a TD (+400, boosted from +360)
  • Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson each score a TD (+600, boosted from +525)
  • DeVonta Smith and Kenneth Gainwell each score a TD (+625, boosted from +550)
  • Big Cat’s Can’t Lose Parlay: Rams, Bengals, and Bills all win, combined with Steelers +7.5 and Cowboys-Vikings over 47.5 (+325 (boosted from +220)
  • Lions win combined with Patriots +5.5 and Washington +3.5 (+900, boosted from +780)
  • Lions, Patriots, and Saints all win as underdogs (+2200, boosted from +1900)
  • Lions, Chargers, and Broncos would score the first TD before opponents in their games (+525, boosted from +450)
  • Justin Fields under 188.5 passing yards and Tua Tagovailoa under 232.5 passing yards (+300, boosted from +255)
  • Tom Brady under 301.5 passing yards, Mike Evans under 66.5 receiving yards, Saints +4.5, and Bucs-Saints total under 49.5 (+750, boosted from +650)
  • Eagles-Lions total over 52.5 and Bucs-Saints total over 54.5 (+625, boosted from +575)

That’s a whopping 11 offers, only two of which hit: the modest passing totals from Fields and Tagovailoa, and Allen, Burrow, and Stafford all passing for multiple TDs.

Interestingly, the Bartstool Sports Twitter feed was quick to tweet a “Cash It” message when the Fields-Tagovailoa promo won, but there was nothing like a “You Lose” message tweeted out when the many others failed.

Also of note, the same Allen-Burrow-Stafford two-TD parlay was posted by FOX Bet, only it provided a better reward. It said it was boosting original +162 odds to +200, as opposed to the +150/+185 odds Barstool reported the bet and boost were worth. As previously stated, who knows what the customer really deserves here?

Result: 2-9 on bets, $6.85 returned on an $11 investment.

BetMGM boosts go 0 for 1

BetMGM posted various offers, only one of which it identified as a “boost” — the one previously mentioned for two Roethlisberger TDs combined with Harris 60-plus rushing yards at +225. Harris did his part, but Roethlisberger threw for just one score.

Result: 0-1, with $0 returned on a $1 investment.

The Rush Street sisters post a goose egg

BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse are sister sites of Rush Street Interactive, posting the same odds and promotions. Like Barstool, Parx, Unibet, and TwinSpires, they use odds originated by European supplier Kambi, but individual offers like odds boosts come from the sportsbook itself and differ from those of competitors, whether Kambi sites or not.

The Rush Street sites posted six odds boosts:

  • Steelers or Browns would score a TD on their first possession (+115, boosted from +100)
  • Bills would win each half against Dolphins and score over 30.5 points (+175, boosted from +150)
  • Colts would win, with Carson Wentz passing for over 250.5 yards (+275, boosted from +225)
  • Tom Brady and Justin Herbert would combine for over 600.5 passing yards (+300, boosted from +250)
  • Ezekiel Elliott would score TDs in both halves (+700, boosted from +575)
  • Any game would end with a “scorigami,” a point result for the two teams unique in NFL history.

OK, none of these succeeded, though Brady-Herbert came tantalizingly close at 598 instead of 601 yards, with a dropped pass on a well-thrown Brady ball at the end of the Bucs’ loss costing that 3/1 profit.

But the scorigami was the interesting one, with odds we definitely didn’t like at 2/1. There have been more than 1,000 unique scores in NFL history, with a few new ones recorded every year, reducing further chances of another scorigami each time.

The score in the Patriots’ 27-24 win, for example, had been seen 220 times previously. The first five weeks of the NFL season went with no scorigami, and the most recent one came Oct. 24 when the Cardinals beat the Texans 31-5. When the Saints won 36-27 Sunday, that final score had occurred just once before.

Result: 0-6, with $0 returned on a $6 investment.

FOX Bet better some times, others not

FOX Bet’s four offers included the Allen-Burrow-Stafford combo mentioned earlier, which was a winner at +200 odds.

Its other three were:

  • Bucs, Chargers, and Broncos all win +275 (boosted from +240)
  • Alvin Kamara and Mike Evans both score TDs (+300, boosted from +250)
  • Tom Brady and Justin Herbert each throw three or more TD passes (+350, boosted from +300)

Herbert had an off day and the Chargers lost, but Kamara and Evans both scored.

That same Bucs-Chargers-Broncos moneyline parlay was offered by Betway, and while FOX Bet did better than Barstool in the other comparison, in this one Betway served customers better (potentially), offering +300 instead of +275.

Result: 2-2, with $7 returned on a $4 investment.

Parx bets make profit, even with .333 success

Parx posted three boosts:

  • Seahawks, Chargers, Saints, and Broncos all win (+1100, boosted from +890)
  • Eagles win both halves against the Lions (+325, boosted from +265)
  • Either Cowboys or Vikings score at least 35 points in their game (+150, boosted from +115)

The Eagles delivered a profit for anyone betting equally on the three of these, clobbering the Lions 44-6.

Result: 1-2, with $4.25 returned on a $3 investment.

Unibet offers also return nothing

Unibet advertised six offers as “boosts” for bettors, but unlike its competitors, it did not list what the original odds were purported to be. Since it called them boosts, we list them anyway:

  • Bills -13.5, Rams -15.5, and Bengals -10.5 all covering (+625)
  • Colts win (+100)
  • Justin Fields throw for more yards than Jimmy Garoppolo in their matchup and the Bears cover +3.5 (+345)
  • Falcons cover -3 (+110)
  • Jameis Winston pass for at least two TDs and Saints cover +4.5 (+270)
  • Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott combine for at least three TDs (+200)

Loss, loss, loss, loss, loss, and loss. The Colts were offered at a nice moneyline price compared to the regular -155 or so, but lost in overtime. Winston got knocked out by injury after one TD pass in the Saints’ eventual win.

Result: 0-6, $0 returned on a $6 investment.

TwinSpires’ super bets not so super

TwinSpires advertises what it calls “super odds,” though the inflated numbers they cited weren’t nearly as super as those suggested by competitors. And there were just two:

  • Terry McLaurin to score a TD in a Washington win (+450, boosted from +420)
  • Dolphins-Bills, Eagles-Lions, and Patriots-Chargers all to see point totals over 48.5 (+600, boosted from +570)

The 26-11 win by the Bills negated the chance for a nice payoff on the second, and neither bet won.

Result: 0-2, $0 returned on a $2 investment.

Caesars, where art thou boosts?

Caesars shows very little interest in special bonuses and promotions compared to other sites, and that’s certainly the case with odds boosts. It identified none. Its standard odds, however, are generally very competitive, and sometimes more favorable for bettors than what is offered elsewhere.

Mixon, Chase give Betway bettors a boost

Aside from the favorable +300 odds for the Broncos-Bucs-Chargers parlay that failed, Betway labeled two other bets as “enhanced odds” under its Betway Boosts tab, but with no original odds given:

  • Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase both score Bengals TDs (+400)
  • Rams win, with Matthew Stafford passing for more than 324.5 yards (+250)

Mixon and Chase came through for their bet, but Stafford fell a little short.

Result: 1-2, $5 returned on a $3 investment.

Thanks for the profit, Betfred

With low-volume Betfred, we saved one of the best for last, as least so far as bettors were concerned. It had five offers:

  • Eagles -3.5 and points total with Lions over 48.5 (+320, boosted from +260)
  • Browns beat Steelers, with total over 42.5 (+220, boosted from +180)
  • Rams win, with Stafford throwing at least three TD passes (+155, boosted from +130)
  • Saints +4.5 and points total over 48.5 (+320, boosted from +260)
  • Vikings win and score over 27.5 points (+260, boosted from +215)

The Eagles didn’t get much help from the Lions when it came to points, but the 44 they scored enabled that bet to win. The separate offers on the Rams and Saints also succeeded.

Result: 3-2, with $10.95 returned on a $5 investment.

All in all, we lost about 2%

In total, for our $50 ventured, the sportsbooks gave back $48.90, which is better than what occurs for the average sports bettor.

Did these so-called boosts help in that? Certainly. Does that mean they were good bets? Uh, maybe yes, in some cases, maybe no in others. We’d need a room of statisticians to parse it all, and even then they’d probably disagree.

Honestly, we thought we’d do worse. So many of these are longshot parlays — especially the Barstool promos — that if a couple of them hit, it probably makes it a good day. If none do, it’s a negative for one’s finances. Every week is going to be different. But the offers also create a lot more interest in multiple games than the standard straightforward point spread or moneyline bet.

That’s more or less how all sports betting should be viewed for at least 99% of the population – for entertainment purposes, rather than as an investment opportunity. But we’re now very curious to see what odds boosts FanDuel and Betfred offer next week. Just sayin’.

Photo: Shutterstock

Author: Wanda Peters