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"Uncut Gems" Directors Should Have Polished Up Sports Betting Knowledge

6th February, 11:26

It's a very good film with some key logistical errors, one sports-gambling reporter told us

Though it won't win any Oscars after failing to secure even one nomination, Uncut Gems was undoubtedly one of the hottest films of 2019, helping put Adam Sandler back on the map in circles that (rightfully so) don't watch his straight-to-Netflix films like Murder Mystery and Sandy Wexler.

While the film drew praise for Sandler as well as directors Benny and Josh Safdie, it drew eye rolls from some members of one of the industries it highlights: sports gambling.

In the movie, Sandler's character Howard Ratner makes a number of wagers on the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Among them are a six-part parlay bet he places with a bookie (played to wonderful effect by sports-radio wonk Mike Francesa) and a three-part parlay wager he places with a Connecticut casino, both of which involve former Celtics forward and Uncut Gems co-star Kevin Garnett.

On top of both bets being absurdly long shots to win, there are a number of other issues with the first parlay (Celtics win the opening tip, Celtics win -1, Celtics leading at halftime, Garnett surpasses his projected point total, Garnett surpasses his projected rebound total and Garnett surpasses his projected blocked-shots total) as well as the second (Celtics win the opening tip, Garnett surpasses his projected combined points and rebounds total and Celtics win the game outright) according to VSiN reporter Josh Appelbaum.

"A prop bet is any kind of bet on a game that's not tied to the actual outcome, like the opening tip or the over/under for KG points," Appelbaum tells InsideHook. "A parlay is when you tie multiple bets into one big bet in order to get a big payout (in this case, about 15:1). Sportsbooks do not allow you to parlay multiple prop bets. You can parlay multiple regular bets, but not involving props. Books do not allow this because limits are lower for props due to the fact that they are harder to predict than regular game outcomes since you are betting individual player performances. In other words, the house has a bigger liability on props, which is why they don't allow bettors to parlay them. Ratner also incorporated a 'lightning bet,' which means for every additional point the Celtics covered by, he would receive an extra $1,000. Lightning bets are not offered at sportsbooks."

Appelbaum also noticed another factual error with Ratner's second bet: "The final, thrilling scene of the film takes place at Mohegan Sun, a casino and resort in Connecticut," he says. "Mohegan Sun does not have a sportbook because Connecticut doesn't offer legalized betting."

Also, as Appelbaum points out, Ratner's odds of winning his six-part parlay would practically be nonexistent.

"Parlays are the penny slot of sports betting," Appelbaum says. "In my book, The Everything Guide to Sports Betting, I have a chapter on why you should avoid parlays. Simply put, they make a killing for the house. Average Joes are roped in by the get-rich-quick mentality of striking it big, but they are playing right into the sportsbooks' hands. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the average hold for regular individual bets in all the major sports is about 5 percent. The hold on parlays is nearly 30 percent. (The hold is the amount of money the books hold onto after all bets have been settled and paid out). It's hard enough to win one bet, but when you layer multiple bets on top of it, you just assume more risk and increase the likelihood you lose. The books will love how Sandler promotes parlays as a way to win big, but in reality, bettors should avoid them at all costs and only bet them here and there for fun, not as a daily habit."

Despite the errors, Appelbaum says seeing the film is a good bet.

"As a sports bettor and reporter myself, I watched the movie through a different, more sophisticated lens than the average viewer," Appelbaum says. "Novice bettors may not pick up on these factual inaccuracies but they are certainly apparent to veteran wiseguys. However, this is the beauty of Uncut Gems. Even though these inconsistencies exist, they do not take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. The film is so exciting and enthralling that it's easy to accept the suspended disbelief involved in watching. What I liked most about it was that it was so real. The way Ratner sweated a game was exactly the way real bettors act. Screaming at the television, going nuts when something good happens but swearing and kicking the couch cushions when something goes bad ... it wasn't forced or fake, it was real."

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