Looking Sharp: FTN Network and the interplay of data and bettors

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One of the key learnings across the first five years of widespread regulated sports betting in the US is that the average US sports bettor loves data. It certainly makes sense given the zeal for fantasy sports in the country over the past 30 years or so.

As FTN Network CMO and COO Stefano Vaccarino pointed out, the customer profile for a fantasy player and a sports bettor are “virtually identical”, so many of the same trends we’ve seen in fantasy over the years are carrying over into the sports betting space.

FTN Network and its various sites try to accommodate to all facets of that demographic through FTN Network, a group of sites including FTN Bets and FTN Data. Across the network, FTN offers tools and data to bettors and fantasy players alike to help them become better and make more informed decisions.

Vaccarino and FTN Chief Data Officer Frank Brank joined SBC Americas for the latest edition of Looking Sharp to discuss the role data plays in the behavior of both bettors and fantasy players and the spectrum of choices bettors have when it comes to just how much data they want to engage with.

Bettors compare data analysis from different sources

As discussed in our first installment, bettors are often looking for ways to feel sharp without actually doing the high-level analysis that the top 1% of bettors undertake. Both Brank and Vaccarino echoed that sentiment.

“I don’t know that people really get really in the weeds with data and spreadsheets and stuff. We try to just do that work for them, put it front facing. They’re checking our sites, maybe they’re even checking other sites, and then kind of combining all that information,” Brank observed.

The experience is not passive, but rather than doing that data work on their own, FTN’s community of players references other sites and other groups doing similar analysis and then synthesizes an opinion after evaluating a range of opinions. They then share those processes with the community, which benefits all skill levels and even Brank himself.

“We do get the typical user that comes home from work at six o’clock and they just check the site and they put that in because they want to watch the game. We do have that user, but I would say the vast majority of our users are engaged in our Discord, talking through their own personal bets. They make bets and put them in the Discord that they find value using our models and our tools and stuff that maybe nobody else in on the site or the company is really even pushing,” said Brank. “I’ve gained knowledge and, and sources and websites and stuff from some of our users that are in the space that like sports betting that are doing a lot of their own research, and then spinning it up in our Discord and being engaging.”

FTN community eager to support, sweat, and educate

Vaccarino noted though that, like what Travis Geiger of WagerWire observed, the FTN community will welcome anyone with open arms, even if they are sweating a bet as nonsensical as betting on Lebron James to beat his props because it is his birthday.

These are what he calls “narrative-driven” bets and, while they are certainly not rooted in data, the rest of the community will sweat along and celebrate if the person with the birthday bet wins. If someone does come in with a question about a bet that “feels” solid though, the community is ready to chime in with advice.

“We want that person to feel comfortable and I give our community a lot of credit, it has done a really good job encouraging new sports bettors and helping them learn,” Vaccarino said. “Maybe someone’s placing a bet or they see a boost on FanDuel, right? And they’re like, ‘Oh, is this a good boost? And some people are just like, ‘No, I would stay away from that boost. I think that one is not great value. Maybe this one’s good.’ And they point people to all the corrections and that’s sort of the conversations we want to have.”

Odds boosts are not the only promoted bets that FTN Data offers insights on. The discussion around Same Game Parlays in the industry often dismisses them as sucker bets but FTN even approaches that from a data-driven perspective that has drawn a solid customer response.

“I think overall the industry, you see with same game parlays and you have the Charles Barkley Same Game Parlay that he’s pushing on TNT. Those aren’t really data-focused, but we’re trying to combat that,” Vaccarino said. “So we have a Same Game Parlay tool on FTN Nets that gives true odds on Same Game Parlays. It’s using our projection model that Frank built and is basically showing correlated Same Game Parlays and what the true odds should be, and sometimes you do find value from that.”

Like fantasy football, sports betting is something with a wide range of uses for data as well as a wide range of customer preferences when it comes to data. Also like fantasy, it seems the most common use for the end-user is to source several data-driven opinions to draw their own conclusions, creating an experience where they feel sharper without delving too deeply into a bunch of spreadsheets.