Monday, August 4, 2014

The Long Con of @RJinVegas: "Transparency"


RJ Bell is the founder and CEO of Pregame.com, a sports betting website that includes forums, odds, contests, and picks (both of the free and for purchase varieties). It is one of the most successful sites of its kind, in no small part due to the popularity of Bell, who has accumulated over 80K Twitter followers and established himself as the mainstream media's go-to "expert" for stories involving gambling on sports.

An American success story if there every was one. That's only one side of it, though. In some corners of the internet (including this blog), there is a feeling that Bell has not found his success in a legitimate way. This is the fifth post in a series detailing the reasoning behind that particular feeling. If you'd like to start at the beginning, it's here.

RJ Bell really likes to talk about the transparency of his company's business practices:












He's done some serious research on this topic:

"I’ll start by answering a semantics question semantically: Websters defines business transparency as 'visibility of information.' It’s a simple fact that Pregame.com provides a graded public archive of every pick ever made by every Pro. It’s irrefutable that our picks are totally transparent."

In fact, Bell has investigated this issue so thoroughly that we shouldn't even waste our time discussing it:















Yet here we are.

I'm not going to bother comparing Pregame's level of "transparency" to other tout sites, because it just doesn't matter. Bell can brag about that if he wants, but it's akin to the Redskins throwing a parade because they won more games than the Texans last season.

As for Bell's other repeated claim, the only reason that every pick is "available" for review is so he can say that every pick is "available" for review. If you wish to actually determine a tout's long-term record from the "available" picks, good luck with that:

DubV: "Pregame has transparency in name only. It would be like going to a restaurant and asking for a receipt and getting a box of 10,000 receipts with yours mixed in. Sure, technically they gave you your receipt but have fun finding it."

RightAngle: "What he fails to mention is that long term records are not displayed for any Pregame "Pro" and determining a long term record using their system would literally take someone days."

Ndamukong: "I thought 100% transparency would mean easy to find information but instead i have to use captcha for every day i choose to view the past record of a pro."

Of course, this could all easily be avoided if Pregame would just post the long-term records themselves. Why don't you do that, RJ?

"Even as Pregame.com strives to improve upon the pick industry’s past, oversized expectations lead us to place more emphasis on eye-popping short-term results than we would ideally like. The fact is, customers respond more strongly to 73% in the last 2 weeks than 55% in the last year."

Oh, okay. I figured the primary reason you don't advertise* your touts' non-existent long-term winning records is because THEY ARE NON-EXISTENT. But now that you've clarified, it's clear that it's just because long-term winning records aren't marketable. Makes sense.

* Or publish anywhere, or make possible to compile in any reasonable fashion.

Bell also loves to compare his 100% transparent, definitely-not-a-scam operation to a mutual fund:

"I’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 – 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?"

A calm, excellent rebuttal to this completely insane paragraph can be found here. A somewhat less polite response can be found here:

"I’m proud of the fact that our promotion approach is no different than the typical mutual fund."

It is completely different.

"When a fund outperforms the market over X period, they promote that – without being obligated to promote the period which is less impressive."

This is clearly and thoroughly false. As WagerMinds points out, funds are required to disclose their 1, 5, and 10 year histories whenever they are advertising performance over any period. Bell knows this, yet argues the complete opposite.

"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."

Entirely untrue, as discussed earlier in this post. Mutual funds are regulated by the SEC; your touts' picks are regulated by message board posters and CAPTCHAs.

"Why would sports betting picks be held to a higher standard than mutual funds?"

Nobody said this, except you. Bell continued with this "logic" on Twitter; his stance seems to be that people are holding Pregame to a higher standard than mutual funds because they are asking Pregame for lifetime records, while mutual funds only have to disclose 1, 5, and 10 year histories.

Pregame has existed for about eight years, so that line of thinking is entirely incoherent, as well as intentionally missing the point. But Bell is a snake oil salesman who has nowhere else to turn, so his only option is to latch on to the word "lifetime", since in theory that could be a higher standard than 10 years. In practice, not so much. There's also the minor point that Pregame does not disclose 1, 5, or 10 year histories either.

To summarize with a quick chart:














It would be difficult to infer from this chart that Pregame is being held to a higher standard than mutual funds. And when directly asked, Bell admits as much:

Seems a bit different than:

"I’m proud of the fact that our promotion approach is no different than the typical mutual fund."

and

"The fact that Pregame.com has 100% transparency is beyond debate."

But when you make a living selling a worthless product, switching up your answers based on what you think that moment's audience will believe seems to become part of your daily routine.

Previous Long Con post: Bet Like A Pro (Part Three)
Next Long Con post: World Openers

1 comment:

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