Tony Martino started March just like the rest of us: looking forward to college basketball’s Madness and the NBA and NHL playoffs.
But instead of snowboarding with his boys in Tahoe during the NCAA Tournament or sweating out a first-round series at the Bellagio, he ended up confined at home becoming proficient in Russian table tennis.
“I just do it on weekends,” said Martino, a recreational sports bettor who lives in Las Vegas and drives a truck for Budweiser. (Talk about essential workers.).
“It’s too much with work and all to follow it all day every day. [But] it’s a blast," he said. "When I tell people at work, they just laugh and make fun of me. But everyone’s talking about it now. That’s the funny part.”
More obscure markets opened up in the absence of traditional sports this spring. William Hill lead oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich, who has seen his share of insanity, is astounded.
“I’ve been in this since 1986 and it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Bogdanovich. “It really is. I am just shocked by how much we write on it.”
Bogdanovich said the volume is similar to a nightly 10-game NHL card. It’s not football, but it’s mildly significant. It’s also posed a challenge for bookies to learn an entire new sport.
“They play four matches a day," Bogdanovich explained. "Every guy’s name ends in a V, so you have to make sure you have the right matchups and are reading the right game. There’s a 12-hour time difference. It’s a lot of tedious babysitting, but by the end of the day when you add it all up, you’ve written a significant amount. It’s just crazy.”
The sports crypt is slowly opening in other countries. NASCAR on Sunday will hold its first race since March 8.
“Obviously there will be a huge microscope on how we’re doing things, making sure it’s done in a safe manner," NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin told the Associated Press. "For all of us, it’s just the unknown of making sure we’re doing it the right way.”
Same goes for bettors. Kyle Busch, the reigning Cup series champ, is the consensus favorite at around 5-1 with Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Joey Logano, who won the most recent Cup Series race, close behind. Sunday will be the first of four NASCAR events over the next two weeks.
Bundesliga, the German futbol league considered among the top three in the world, will resume Saturday. There’s another UFC card on Saturday night and match-play golf on Sunday with Rory McIlroy partnering with Dustin Johnson.
Parx has McIlroy/Johnson (-200) favored over Rickie Fowler/Matt Wolff (+163).
The more interesting golf match is Sunday, May 24, when Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning go against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. Tiger/Peyton are a hefty -225.
“We had to pivot and find various types of content for customers to wager on,” said DraftKings director of operations Johnny Avello, another Vegas veteran. “We started off with numerous soccer leagues and Australian Rules Football. Then we started booking table tennis, which we still have, it has been the majority of the handle for the last six weeks.”
“We’ve had darts, volleyball, E-Racing. [But] we’re starting to get back into the core sports a little bit.”
9:20 a.m. - Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 (FS1)
9:20 a.m. - Bundesliga: RB Leipzig vs. SC Freiburg (FS2)
12:20 p.m. - Bundesliga: Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (FS1)
6 p.m. - MMA: UFC Fight Night 37, preliminaries (ESPN)
9 p.m. - MMA: UFC Fight Night 37, main card (ESPN+)
9:20 a.m. Bundesliga: Cologne vs. Mainz 05 (FS1)
11:50 a.m. - Bundesliga: Berlin vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)