Yesterday, we posted six open questions for RJ Bell, the Founder and CEO of Pregame.com. Bell sent us the following written response, which we are publishing it its entirety with no edits. Our original questions are in italics.
1. Youâ€™ve written that youâ€™re more transparent than other major pick-sellers but Right Angle Sports, the most influential pick-selling operation, lists their complete record on their website in a manner that lets users view their total pick history in a matter of seconds. There is not a single Pregame Pro who has their complete lifetime record listed in any easily-accessed manner. Given this, how can you claim that Pregame is more transparent than others in your industry?
Unbiased critics provide a valuable service to any industry. At times in the past Iâ€™ve felt as if Wagermindâ€™s coverage of Pregame.com has been less than balanced. In this case, the clarifications youâ€™re requesting concerning our transparency all strike me as fair, so Iâ€™m happy to participate.
By â€śmajorâ€ť I meant to convey doing substantial business selling picks from multiple handicappers. Wagerminds itself used the exact same adjective (â€śthe major tout sitesâ€ť) in this tweet â€“ while stating in the same conversation that the other major sites (Covers and Don Best) are â€ścurrently being out-disclosed by Pregameâ€ť. So, it would seem that we agree about our superior level of transparency. (Though we disagree on the use of the word â€śtoutâ€ť â€“ here are my published thoughts on the topic)
Regarding RAS, as a sports bettor, I am impressed by his results. As a businessman in the sports picks industry, I must note the limitations of who his marketing approach can benefit. Charging an amount for access that only large bettors can afford will effectively attract big-dollar customers, while ignoring the needs of average bettors. Free content is an alternative way RAS could help the vast majority who cannot afford his premium rates, but his free content is nearly non-existent.
Pregame.comâ€™s Steve Fezzik also has a big-dollar program called â€śBet Like A Proâ€ť â€“ charging an amount that only large bettors can afford. What is one-of-a-kind about this program is that itâ€™s truly pay only if you profit â€“ offering a 100% cash refund if you donâ€™t profit enough long term to pay for the service and make money on top of that. RAS attempted a profit guarantee in the past (though without accounting for cost of service), but later rescinded the offer. Fezzik has been with Pregame.com since 1/11/2013 â€“ and itâ€™s the first time in his career heâ€™s made all of his picks available to the public. His lifetime record at Pregame is tracked daily at the site (contrary to the statement in your question). To date, followers of Fezzik have won 39.8 units. We are necessitate that Fezzik provides substantial free content daily.
2. Given that you believe transparency is paramount, can you provide Vegas Runnerâ€™s overall record since heâ€™s been selling picks for your company?
3. Can you provide the lifetime record for each of the other Pregame pros as well? These figures are next to impossible to determine using the data your site provides while they are just two clicks away on one of your competitorâ€™s site.
Combined answer for question 2 and 3:
Iâ€™ll start by answering a semantics question semantically: Websters defines business transparency as â€śvisibility of information.â€ť Itâ€™s a simple fact that Pregame.com provides a graded public archive of every pick ever made by every Pro. Itâ€™s irrefutable that our picks are totally transparent.
But Iâ€™m happy to address what isnâ€™t visible: lifetime records. Pregame.comâ€™s marketing mandate for Pros is they are free to promote the truth. Lifetime records are promoted by Fezzik and Andre Gomes (winning an amazing 8 straight NBA seasons, including +51 units this season).Others provide season-to-date records. Others focus on shorter term streaks. What drives these decisions, like any business, is customer preference. Sales numbers are not open to debate, and the fact is customers care more about a 14-2 run than a 55% season. Savvy readers understand that 55% is an amazing long-term result, but the reality is most pick buyers look at a promotion for â€ś55% winners this yearâ€ť and are underwhelmed. I personally wish this were not the case, since many of our competitors are much more aggressive with convoluted streaks and countless Games of the Year. But, like most industries, pick buyers care about the sizzle at least as much as the steak. The goal of any business is to provide what the customer values. Thatâ€™s exactly what Pregame.com does.
Iâ€™m proud of the fact that our promotion approach is no different than the typical mutual fund. When a fund outperforms the market over X period, they promote that â€“ without being obligated to promote the period which is less impressive. In both the case of Pregame.com and mutual funds, the raw data is available to consider for any time period the customer is interested in. Why would sports betting picks be held to a higher standard than mutual funds? Why should pick sellers be the only professionals forced to promote in a way that will turn off the average customer?
What people need to understand is bias against pick sellers discourages talent from entering the industry. Most people are incentivized by compensation â€“ and every expert scared off by the hating is one less expert sharing their expertise with the public.
What also needs to be called out is the intimation that sports picks customers arenâ€™t smart enough to know what they value. The best any business can do is: promote honestly, offer transparency, and provide what they promise. Pregame.com has an open thread in which anyone is free to report any promotion discrepancies, weâ€™ve already covered transparency, and when it comes to providing what we promise, Pregame.com has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Our customers are fully empowered with all the information required to make a decision. Many of Pregame.comâ€™s customers are medical doctors, attorneys, PhDs, and members of other accomplished professions. Itâ€™s nothing less than objectionable to not respect their freedom to decide what they want to spend their money on.
4. Pregame used to sell picks for a pro named â€śStan Sharp.â€ť The biography on your site indicates â€śStan Sharpâ€ť only makes money by betting on sports and is also one of the most â€śfeared bettorsâ€ť in Las Vegas. Weâ€™ve heard from multiples sources that Stan Sharpâ€™s picks were simply another Pregame proâ€™s picks being re-branded and sold as if they came from a unique pro bettor. Did the identity â€śStan Sharpâ€ť belong to another Pregame pro also selling picks under a different name? And why did Pregame stop selling Stan Sharp picks last year?
Stan Sharp stopped selling picks at Pregame.com in May of 2012. At the time, Stan was the only Pro who chose not to directly engage with the community. I came to believe that direct connection with the customer was not only preferred, but was necessary. Stan had always been adamant about his anonymity, working directly with a single Pro he trusted (thus, this unsubstantiated rumor). When Stan was unwilling to connect with others directly, he was cut from the site. Stan sold quite well for us, but I decided that the uncertainty that stemmed from anonymity (this question, even years later, for example) worked against our mission of openness. To this day, both of our major competitors fail to demand the same standard that Pregame.com made the difficult financial decision to require.
On a related topic, the sports betting industry has a long history of using professional names. More than a few of our Pros do. For some, no doubt, the motivation is separation of their personal and pick selling life. Iâ€™ve been weighing this valid desire with the value of even more openness. I will likely soon mandate a change. In my case, I use the professional name of RJ Bell because my given name (Randall James Busack) has a last name that is far from memorable. I didnâ€™t think it made much business sense to try to grow a brand with a last name people had trouble pronouncing. Iâ€™ve never hidden my use of a professional name (in fact, I updated my Pregame.com bio last summer to include that fact). No different than many in Hollywood, Literature, and other professions – but once again the sports betting industry for some unfair reason is judged more harshly. In fact, a blogger recently got excited that he found an online interview I did with my hometown newspaper which referenced my given name. He didnâ€™t seem to comprehend that if I were trying to hide anything, I certainly wouldnâ€™t give an interview discussing it! Sports betting badly needs better qualified critics.
5. The term â€śproâ€ť implies that someone is exclusively making their living from betting on sports. How many of the Pregame pros do just that and how many have paid jobs in other industries?
The act of selling picks would make it impossible for them to â€śexclusivelyâ€ť make their living betting on sports. Pro is short for professional. If you make money selling picks for Pregame, you are quite literally a Pregame Pro.
6. Since you believe in each of the Pregame pros enough to sell their picks to your customers, do you also bet your own money on every Pregame pro selection? If not, why not?
I would never suggest that anybody bets every pick released by all our Pros every day. Such massive volume would be untenable. Iâ€™ve personally always been an advocate for handicapping the handicappers (i.e., considering the handicapperâ€™s areas of specialization, current form, and pick confidence rating). I have personally bet sports 99% percent of days since I was 14 years old. These days, picks from Pregame Pros make up a majority of the information I consider in all sports except NFL (the one sport I do original handicapping work in).
Thanks for the opportunity to clarify your remaining questions out Pregame.comâ€™s transparency. I understand that with leadership comes scrutiny. By the same token, other industry leaders should receive an equal level of scrutiny. I trust that Wagerminds will fairly dish it out.