I Tried Live Betting The Nationals Season Opener. And Honestly? I Hated It

Posted on April 8, 2021

Here’s something I learned from my time wagering on the Washington Nationals’ 2021 season opener: Live betting isn’t for me.

I get it. The appeal is obvious. I even understand how smart folks who can confidently make quick calculations could find live wagering quite profitable.

But Tuesday’s experiment was a failure for me. Well, it could have been a failure. You see, I was plagued with bad decisions, second-guessing, and some tech delays that actually proved to be a blessing in disguise.

In fact, I didn’t end up making a single live bet. However, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. And it wasn’t for a lack of interest.

Turns out I just really suck at live betting. It doesn’t fit my personality type, and it doesn’t mesh with my betting style. It also made my sports-viewing experience a pretty miserable endeavor, which defeats the entire purpose.

But hey, garnering that knowledge has to count for something, right?

My game plan for live betting

I’ve been given a pretty long leash when it comes to exploring whatever topics I fancy here at PlayVirginia. That’s led to a day trip to a historical horse racing parlor, a chat with a top UFC prospect, and an informal survey of other states’ sports-betting markets.

As the MLB season kicked off, though, it seemed like the perfect time to focus some energy on live betting. After all, the game is ripe for live-wagering opportunities, and I figured it could be a fun way to liven up some of my usual MLB betting.

As an Ohio native, the Cincinnati Reds will always be my first love. But since moving to Virginia, I’ve felt a growing fondness for the nearby Washington Nationals. So, after COVID-19 forced the Nats to delay the start of their season, I chose Tuesday’s rescheduled Opening Day game against the Atlanta Braves for my live-wagering whirl.

The Nationals had a depleted roster, Max Scherzer‘s ace status was in doubt, and the Opening Day odds were jumping around just prior to the first pitch.

Could my years of semi-serious sports betting allow me to find value? Could I time the market and pounce when the getting was good? Would live betting take my fondness for sports wagering to the next level?

Pffft. Nope.

Here’s how it played out, minute by agonizing minute.

Game-day diary: Live wagering on the Nationals

8:52 a.m. – As I do most mornings, I scour the day’s MLB lines. Even before the Nationals and Braves kick off later today, I’m eager to place a totals bet. DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and BetRivers all have “over 7.5 runs” at -115 odds. WynnBET set the total at 8 (with the over at -110). Virginia’s only other sportsbook, William Hill, was down with tech issues when I logged in. I ultimately placed my pregame bet at DraftKings. Any other plays? For those, I’d wait to see what the live betting market offered.

3:30 p.m. – I tune into the Nats pre-game show, “Nats Xtra,” on MASN2. The hosts discuss Washington’s patchwork lineup and all the uncertainty as their 2021 season gets underway.

3:37 p.m. – There’s fellow Mizzou Tiger Max Scherzer warming up for the Nationals. He got banged up a bit in that pandemic-effected 2020 season. After winning three Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five every year since 2013, Scherzer doesn’t get a single vote in 2020. Now, folks are sleeping on the future MLB Hall of Famer, I’m convinced. I’m growing increasingly confident I can capitalize on this knowledge once the live odds pop up.

3:40 p.m. – A lengthy DraftKings spot plays on the pregame show. The talking head offers a crash course in parlays and plugs the latest bet $1, win $100 promotion. I used to work in an MLB front office. The one where Pete Rose played all those years. It’s still hard to wrap my head around MLB’s recent embrace of sports betting.

3:58 p.m. – During pregame festivities, the Nats honor slugger Juan Soto following his 2020 batting title. I expect a big game for Soto. It’s one reason I like the over in this game.

3:59 p.m. – Robbed of true 2020 Opening Day festivities, the Nats finally get to celebrate their 2019 World Series title and unveil the championship banners for fans to see.

4:02 p.m. – After hanging at -125 most of the day, the Nationals odds dip to -111 at William Hill just prior to first pitch. That Scherzer skepticism is getting too severe. I think he’s is going to come out strong. He struck out at least 10 batters in his previous four Opening Day starts. As a result, I think that line is going to get a lot worse if he breezes through the first inning. I’m pulling the trigger and taking that too-good-to-pass-up -111 line.

4:03 p.m. – Dammit. William Hill is my one Virginia sportsbook account I haven’t yet funded. By the time I look at my deposit options, the pregame odds have closed, and that -111 line is long gone. I’m kicking myself.

4:07 p.m. – And Scherzer’s first pitch of the inning – the very first pitch of the Nationals’ 2021 season – is launched deep to left field. Ronald Acuna Jr. hammered that one. So, yeah, I dodged a bullet. Good thing that William Hill bet didn’t actually go through, huh?

4:08 p.m. – The Nationals are now +140 at William Hill after that dinger. After a crafty strikeout, though, the line settles at +110 to +120 at the various sportsbooks. Baseball can be a slow-paced, laid-back affair. But with the live odds, every pitch feels like an event, especially with this early offense.

4:10 p.m. – Scherzer has clearly shaken off that first-pitch blast. A mere hiccup. Just a minor speed bump on what I’m sure will be a stellar start, I tell myself. And I’m going to capitalize on it. I see FanDuel has the Nats available at +130. I try to bet, but the system had logged me out due to inactivity. As I try to log back in, I see the line tick down from +130 to +128. It feels like each passing second is costing me money. Once I finally log in, I’m just about to pull the trigger on the +128 odds, but the lines across all of the sportsbooks lock. It’ll be a few moments before new lines pop up. I’m shut out. Again. This sucks.

4:11 p.m. – Welp, Scherzer just gave up another blast. Freddie Freeman flogged that one. Guess I’ll shut up about missing out on that bet. Yeesh.

4:12 p.m. – The Nats are now down 2-0, and the live odds shoot up to +200. My hunches have sucked thus far, and I’m getting a little panicky as I watch the lines dance and try to figure out what to do.

4:13 p.m. – Screw it. I’m taking a breather. It’s way too early in this game to be this flummoxed.

4:14 p.m. – Oh yeah, I remember I had bet over 7.5 runs pre-game. That bet is looking pretty good right now. I’m a damn genius.

4:22 p.m. – After Braves starter Drew Smyly‘s dominant first inning, the Nationals’ live odds are +240. I mean, I’d be crazy not to take that, right? No, no. Chill out, Dann.

4:25 p.m. – And Scherzer gives up another longball. What is happening? Washington’s down 3-0. I’m 0-for-3 on my live-betting hunches. The only reason my bankroll isn’t suffering is because of tech delays and uncertainty. Thankfully, I’m too inefficient to even be a bad bettor.

4:27 p.m. – As the bottom of the second inning gets underway, Washington’s available at +330. At this point, I’m not even tempted. Let’s just sit back and hope for some runs. At this point, my pregame over 7.5 wager is my ride-or-die as far as betting this game.

4:33 p.m. – Well, now that I think about it, I could add onto that bet. I check out the live total, and the over 9.5 runs is +105. However, do I really have a good reason to add to my initial bet, but now with an even higher total that I need to reach? Nah, I’d bet just to be betting. I’ll just stick with that initial wager and relax.

4:35 p.m. – Well, the Nats now have back-to-back singles and runners on the corners with two outs. With one swing of the bat, they could be right back in this. Maybe I should bet the Nats and the over? Dammit, I have just seconds to decide. The lines are flashing all over my screen as I bounce from one browser tab to the next.

4:37 p.m. – Honestly, I really don’t like this sense of urgency. I can’t think straight. I’m frozen as I try to figure out if there’s a worthwhile play here. And I realize this isn’t healthy betting behavior. This isn’t enjoyable. I’m done. At this point, I could easily talk myself into betting the over with any total and any odds. I need to chill. With my luck, these two teams won’t plate another run for the next seven innings.

4:38 p.m. – Two-run double by Nationals catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Of course. Lovely. That’s two more runs on the board and two more points toward the total. That also moves the Nats within a run of the Braves, who are up 3-2. I’m tempted to think of the what-ifs surrounding my attempted live plays. Still, I’m done betting for the day, I tell myself.

4:42 p.m. – Another Braves homer. Acuna again. It’s 4-2. Ugh. I briefly take a look at the live odds before turning off the game and deciding to take the pooch for her post-dinner walk.

4:56 p.m. – I look down at my phone, proud of myself that I’m no longer sweating this game. I’m proud of my discipline and good sense.

4:57 p.m. – Dammit. Trea Turner goes yard, and the Nats tie it up, 4-4. I should be thrilled. My pregame o7.5 bet just cashed in the third inning! I’ve got a guaranteed winner in this game. Yet I’m pissed that I didn’t make those live bets with those big plus-money odds. All I can focus on is the what-ifs.

4:58 p.m. – I’m still stewing. This is stupid. Who does this for fun? Now my walk is ruined too.

5:02 p.m. – It’s been an hour since I started this live-betting thing. It’s felt far longer. And I still keep looking at the live boxscore. Before I check out the live odds, though, I formally check out. I’m done. Experiment over.

Epilogue: Of course the Nationals won

I had an early betting exit from what turned out to be a great game.

In fact, the Nationals won via walk-off hit after refusing to go away. Late-inning runs gave the team a dramatic and adrenaline-pumping start to the season:

As it turns out, every single live bet that I had considered making would’ve been a winner. From -111 to +140 to +118 to +240 to +330, any and all of those Nats wagers would’ve been winners. Even that add-on totals bet would’ve easily cashed.

But again, I was just happy to get out when I did. And technically, with that pre-game wager, I finished 1-0 on the day.

Don’t let this be an indictment of live wagering, though. I’ve seen sharper folks, especially MMA bettors, excel with their live bets. Like a good defensive coordinator, they can take an entire pregame breakdown and adapt it or completely throw it out on a moment’s notice once they see the action unfold.

And these madmen and -women actually enjoy doing it. This is a form of entertainment for them. It’s their idea of fun.

Real sickos, I tell ya.

In all honesty, though, many of you may find live betting to be a thrill. Maybe you already do. But at least for now, I’m sticking with the pregame betting only. It may not be the best option for my bankroll, but I’m confident it’s positive ROI for my sanity.

Photo by AP / Alex Brandon
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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