Behind the Bets

Mark Cuban is full of fanciful ideas that take a machete to the conventional wisdom and then turn into the kind of cash that could save Social Security. That's why he's a billionaire -- and you're reading this trash looking for betting tips.

A few years ago, when the financial world was flying high, Cuban had one of his moments of clarity. In his blog, he proposed establishing hedge funds that invest in the sports gambling markets. Essentially, he wanted to take advantage of slight differences in point spreads across the books. For example, if the Orleans had the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl spread at six points, and the Hilton had it at eight, the Cuban gambling fund would bet the Steelers minus-6 and the Cardinals plus-8. If the game landed on seven, the fund would win big. If it didn't, the bets would cancel each other out. In finance they call that arbitrage. In sports betting they call it middling. (The difference in language says all you need to know about why one form of gambling is legit and the other is shady.)

Cuban believed that betting on stocks was riskier and less transparent than gambling on sports, and his plan would have pulled sports betting out from the darkest corners of Las Vegas Boulevard. Of course, a year after floating the idea, Cuban bagged the project because it was too much of a hassle. Billionaires can afford to leave big-money ideas on the table.

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