For this series of Q&As, we’ve spoken to some of the most respected and influential people in sports betting. We’ve asked bookmakers, pro bettors, reporters and industry attorneys some lighter questions, as well as more serious ones. One of the most important questions – What’s one positive thing we can take from this pandemic? – is often saved for last, and no one has answered it better than Gill Alexander.
In fairness to all of our participants – who have all been great – these sessions are off the cuff. The folks we speak to aren’t prepped ahead of time. But Gill’s response to the final question perfectly reflects how many of us are trying to make the best of this strange time.
Alexander is staying these days in San Francisco, where he continues to produce fantastic content with top-level guests for his VSiN radio show and “Beating The Book” podcast. He jokes he “fled Vegas” days after the sports world’s tipping point – March 11, when the NBA postponed its season upon Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19.
“I plan on going back to Vegas next month and then there’s part of me that’s like, why would I do that?,” Alexander said during our phone call Wednesday.
As anyone who knows or listens to Gill would expect, our conversation was thoughtful, insightful and funny. Here it is:
BetIndiana News: How are you doing through all this?
Alexander: I’m great, man. You said at the top, trying to make the best of it. It’s not easy for anybody, but as long we’re doing shows Monday through Friday, you have to adlib, you have to figure out how to get through it with meaningful content, and to the extent that I’ve been able to do that, I’ve succeeded. … It’s a challenge for sure, but you embrace that challenge.
BetIndiana News: You’ve been staying pretty busy with your shows, your podcasts, providing great content for the sports betting community. But what else are you doing? How are you spending your downtime?
Alexander: You get into a routine. I ruptured my Achilles six months ago so I can’t really run, I can’t exercise to the extent that I want to. But I do take the opportunity in San Francisco – because it’s very hilly, not sure you’ve heard of that – to walk the hills every day and try to exercise that way. So it’s a really slow process getting back from a ruptured Achilles.
I eat probably way too well. And like so many people, I’ve caught up on every television series that I’ve ever wanted to watch, every documentary possible.
BetIndiana News: How’d you hurt your Achilles?
Alexander: This one playing tennis with my buddy Todd Wishnev, or as he would say, a dropshot that was so good I snapped my Achilles getting to it. But I ruptured my other Achilles 23 years before that playing basketball, which is the more typical sport that causes it. Everyone has their Achilles, Marcus, mine just happens to be my Achilles.
BetIndiana News: You play tennis was with Wishnev. Without seeing either of your tennis games, I’d probably make you about a -300 favorite at least
Alexander: (Laughs) I’ll tell him you said that. He’s really deceptively good because he’s about 10 feet tall out there, and somewhere underneath that, uh, armor is a good athlete. We thought about using him as a hustle vehicle, just hustlin’ people for money. He’ll beat a lot of people. He’s deceptive.
BetIndiana News: So who usually wins?
Alexander: Oh, he does. He calls me Gilly Ice because he says I have all the shots, but he thinks I have the mental fortitude or lack thereof of Matty Ice.
BetIndiana News: You mentioned you’ve been watching some TV. I know you’re watching “The Last Dance”. But what else have you been watching that you would recommend?
Alexander: I started like everybody else watching “Tiger King” and “Ozark” – that feels like the gateway drug for everybody. But I binge watched all three seasons of “Fauda” – it’s an Israeli-Palestinian (story) on Netflix, which is just phenomenal. Documentaries, so many of them. I recommend “The Pharmacist”, which is so good. And this is a little older, but “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”.
BetIndiana News: Have you been betting anything that you normally would not have bet on?
Alexander: Yes is the quick answer (laughs). But it’s not what you would think. It’s not the table tennis or the Belarusian soccer or Nicaraguan soccer. I bet whether the stock market will go up or down every day, over/under on certain numbers, and I will even in-market play them. I might have a startling amount of money on it today as I’m speaking to you. Maybe, Marcus, maybe.
BetIndiana News: What do you need?
Alexander: I need for it to stay in the low range that it is currently.
Note: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Wednesday at 23,247.97, down 516.81 points (2.17%).
BetIndiana News: Have you made any early NFL plays? A lot of markets have been popping up. Are you on anything early?
Alexander: I did a whole show with Warren Sharp about it and I analyzed the schedule and I’m fascinated by the schedule, but did not make a single bet. As long as I, as long as none of us are 100% sure that a specific sport is going to happen, I just don’t see the point in betting it. Someone asked, ‘Hey, you have any baseball features?’ Well yeah, the ones that I made way back before the pandemic. But I’m not making another one until I know what’s happening. I just don’t believe in having the book tie up my money for no reason if I don’t have to.
BetIndiana News: I know you’re a Redskins fan, so let’s assume the season goes off as normal, a 16-game schedule, maybe without fans. What is your outlook for the ‘Skins this year? Their win total is five and a half with under juiced slightly. Where are you at with Washington this year?
Alexander: How did I know this question was coming? I’m going to shock the world maybe. Those who know me know that I have no problem betting against the ‘Skins. It’s almost like a cottage industry for me. But I think they might cobble together six wins.
The defensive front seven is actually really good. And if Chase Young is pre-suspension Chase Young, then it could be extremely good. But everything else is a hole, I admit, and quarterback being the most glaring and obvious of that. Let’s say Dwayne Haskins starts the season and is just horrific. I think Kyle Allen improved last year (in Carolina). If you can sort of look aside from the bevy of interceptions he ultimately threw and think to yourself, “Well, he probably can correct that to some extent.” He can’t be any worse, certainly he’ll improve to some degree.
I am not betting it for all the reasons we stated earlier, just on principle, but it’s probably not a season win total I am gravitating towards to begin with. But if I had to, I would bet OVER.
BetIndiana News: Positive reports (this week) about the NBA. Maybe some momentum toward getting the season started again and finished. Who you got winning it?
Alexander: We’re already counting it’s going to be played, huh? I got the Clippers winning if it if it does happen. In the end, Kawhi will will his team to victory.
BetIndiana News: What’s the worst beat of your gambling career?
Alexander: Oh, easy answer. Easy answer. The 2014 Bahamas Bowl. I had Western Kentucky. By the way, most people who like to delve into the horrors of college football bowl season will quote the 2012 Belk Bowl as their answer. That wasn’t crap compared to mine.
The 2014 Bahamas Bowl, I had Western Kentucky versus Central Michigan, and Western Kentucky was laying two-and-a-half. Western Kentucky led going into the fourth quarter, 49-14. You guessed it, Marcus. Central Michigan scored 34 unanswered in the fourth quarter, the last touchdown of which occurring with one second left in the second and a half (with Central Michigan starting from its own 20 yard line) on a series of laterals to score the touchdown, much to my horror and anybody else who had Western Kentucky pre-flop.
And then instead of kicking an extra point to send it into overtime to give us another shot, they go for two. And so with either outcome we were screwed. That, without question, would be the worst beat of all time.
BetIndiana News: I saw Chris Andrews’ tweet just now — “invoking Larry David’s spite store as a handicapping angle.” I missed that. What was that about?
Alexander: I was asked about a prop – who will throw more touchdowns this year, Aaron Rodgers against Dak Prescott (Prescott is favored). It is not a prop I would gravitate towards, but here are the cases for each: Dak has so many weapons, Dallas is going to have a subpar defense, so over the course of the season, Dak is going to have a lot of opportunities to throw touchdown passes. The more drives the merrier if the defense is bad. (For Rodgers), it’s almost like Larry David’s spite store in the most recent season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. (The case is) this would be Aaron Rodgers’ spite season, that he is so angry at Jordan Love being drafted, he will just take it upon himself out of spite to just go crazy this year.
BetIndiana News: You get so many great guests on your shows. Who’s one person you haven’t had as a guest yet that you’d love to have on?
Alexander: Oh, that is a great question. I have not really given that much thought. Let me think. … For betting specifically, I think the answer is Billy Walters, which will not surprise anybody. He’s sort of the Holy Grail of sports bettors. I’d want to pick his brain.
BetIndiana News: Let’s broaden that a little. You have dinner reservations for four at your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. What three people are you inviting?
Alexander: Does it have to be in Las Vegas, or can it anywhere?
BetIndiana News: It can be anywhere. Let’s say alive or dead, what the hell?
Alexander: Alive or dead? God, I wish I had been prepped on this. I think I would have Sugar Ray Leonard because I idolized him as a child. Ray Leonard and Joe Gibbs would be the guys from childhood sports that I would love to have there. Then, Paul McCartney. Just to get his viewpoint on thousands of questions.
BetIndiana News: I wonder who’s picking up the tab there. Probably McCartney. He’s probably the wealthiest.
Alexander: (Laughs) But I don’t know if Paul would get along with Ray or Joe Gibbs. It seems like a really awkward table, doesn’t it?
BetChicago: (Laughs) Yeah, maybe. But it would be interesting for sure. … So “The Last Dance”. What’s your favorite memory from that Bulls era?
Alexander: There are so many to think about it. I said this early on in this: I remember Jordan moments like I do where I was to watch each Super Bowl. I remember each one of them. And for every Jordan memory, I remember exactly where I was.
I was a big Georgetown fan. So the saddest one for me was him hitting the go-ahead bucket against Georgetown in the ‘82 college basketball (final), where he hit the shot and Freddy Brown threw the ball away.
The happiest one for me and the one that you where you’re like, “This dude is incredible,” was the flu game, which they haven’t covered at all in the docu-series, curiously, to this point.
BetIndiana News: What are your favorite podcasts, sports betting or otherwise?
Alexander: Here’s the honest answer with sports betting: I have been doing a sports betting podcast for so long that – and I hope no one takes offense to this – I don’t listen to mine after I record it, and I don’t listen to anybody else’s. I do 10 hours of live programming every week on sports betting, and it’s my biggest passion in the world, it’s obviously why I do this for a living. But I have to have some sort of life balance, so I don’t listen to anything. And that’s not a knock on anybody. I’m sure there’s tons of great stuff out there, but I just can’t take it, right? If I do that then I have no life whatsoever.
BetIndiana News: Let’s assume the football seasons start on time, and we’re in Week 1 of the NFL and Week 2 of college football. You can pick one sportsbook anywhere in the world to spend that weekend. Where are you going?
Alexander: This is Week 1, (the new) Circa’s not going to be open yet, so I can’t answer that way. For me, it’s probably a very strange answer. It’s one of the weirdest sports books in Vegas, which is the one at the Aria. It’s sort of like an extension of my apartment, it’s right in my backyard. They’re in the middle of The Strip, and they treat me well. It’s sorta like a living room. So I still gravitate towards the Aria sportsbook.
But by the way, that sportsbook’s not going to be open whether there’s an NFL season or not come Week 1. That casino might not be open for another year. So that’s my peculiar answer to that question.
BetIndiana News: Are there any changes to the industry that you see happening as a result of this or coming out of this?
Alexander: Oh, totally. The obvious answer is there’s more mobile. If you thought it was quickly drifting that way before the pandemic, that’s in overdrive now. If you’re betting offshore, this is the life you’re used to. For those who only feel comfortable betting in legal jurisdictions, I think it will absolutely train the behavior of mobile betting, and the rush to get back into anything brick-and-mortar – sportsbooks and beyond, by the way – is going to alter tremendously.
We’re also a society that forgets quickly, and when it comes to sportsbooks, you’ll see big events attended well. I still think Super Bowls will be packed, I still think March Madness will be packed. Derby weekend might qualify in the Super Bowl and March Madness category. But any other weekend, The Masters (for example), I don’t think people are going to spend time in sportsbooks the way they used to with the exception of the biggest events.
BetIndiana News: Beyond what you just said about the sports betting industry, what’s one positive or one lesson that we can all take from this?
Alexander: At our best, we could take this as an opportunity to reset each and every one of our own lives. So the ability to pause in a way that we have never ever had to pause before. You could make lemonade out of a lemon here and take a personal self-inventory, which I know I have and said to myself, “Wow, while I’ve been on this hamster wheel, I’ve developed bad habits in life.” I’m not talking about sports betting specifically. Whether it’s as benign as eating too much, not exercising enough. Maybe it is about sports betting. Maybe I’d make stupid bets here and there. Maybe I should reconsider that. And it could be more serious. Maybe I treat people in a certain way that I shouldn’t.
We all have this strange but unique opportunity to reset ourselves. And hopefully if there’s enough introspection in the world, enough introspective thinkers, not to be too corny about it, but man, we can improve everything around us. And I hope a lot of people do that. I know I am.
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