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Odds and Ends

How bookmakers handled the Kershaw conundrum

by Sam Panayotovich
Updated On: October 13, 2020, 5:43 pm ET

I woke up unusually early this morning with today's first column already written in my head. It was 5:55 am Chicago time and I was wide awake and ready to fade Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 of the NLCS between the Braves and Dodgers. 

Atlanta was a +145 underdog with Ian Anderson on the hill and that felt way too high for the Braves powerful offense. I filed that column at 7:05 am Chicago time and it was onto the next. But just after 11 am, I got a notification that Kershaw was scratched from his start with back spasms. This sent the sports betting world into hysteria.

Sportsbooks around the world immediately pulled the game off the board and my phone started buzzing with endless questions.

"What happens to my bet?" 

"Is it still live action?"

"How does this affect my parlay?"

The answer to all those questions depends on the house rules where you placed the bet. PointsBet Sportsbook lives by the listed pitchers rule. So for any wager on a game where a starting pitcher is changed, all bets are voided and your money is returned. If you placed a three or four-team parlay, your parlay decreases by one leg. 

Some sportsbooks in Vegas did away with listed pitchers before the pandemic-shortened regular season because of all the uncertainty surrounding the sport. That switch has certainly saved those places from panic, extra stress and the annoyance of refunding bets all afternoon. 

“Keep in mind, Kershaw was scratched on opening day back in July," Westgate SuperBook executive director John Murray told NBC Sports. "We expected a strange year with Coronavirus and those ridiculous seven-inning doubleheaders and the location changes. So we thought it would be a lot easier for us to not list pitchers. We’re going to move forward with that. Even when baseball goes back to normal, we’re not going to have listed pitchers.”

Books that count their baseball bets as "action" will honor your pre-scratch Braves bets at +140 or higher and also make you sweat out your Dodgers bets at -165 or higher. Thems the rules.

Murray remembered a few times over the years where a situation like today's scratch caused an unnecessary nightmare behind the counter. And while a premium starter getting scratched in the playoffs is far from normal, it has happened before.

“It was only a real nightmare when it was a really high profile pitcher,” Murray recalled. "I can remember years ago when Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner got scratched the day of the game. There would be so many parlays going to the big favorites. If the patron didn’t list their pitcher, they would get a different price. If they did, they would get a refund. A lot of the customers didn’t understand that and they would come up and complain. It was pretty painful."

Those headaches are the reason that more and more books are doing away with listed pitchers. “Action” baseball wagers appear to be the way of the future.

“It’s really just like any other sport now," Murray said. "Say LeBron James isn’t going to play or Giannis isn’t going to play. What do we do? We close the betting and then we reassess and find out what’s going on. So we saw that Kershaw was scratched, closed the betting and reopened when we found out the new starting pitcher.”

Sam Panayotovich

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst from the South Side of Chicago. He'll probably pick against your favorite team a lot. Follow him @spshoot