Heavy betting: Predicting sports gambling’s major match-ups


If sports industry insiders know anything, they know the fans. Sure, they can cite chapter and verse when it comes to statistics and trivia, but they also have an unobstructed view of how fans think. This gives them a distinct edge when it comes to predicting which sporting events may attract a lot of betting, legal or otherwise.

Chris Matcovich is one such insider. He's the senior director of data and communications for TiqIQ, a ticket price aggregator which draws data from such sellers as StubHub, Ticket Network, and eBay. He observes the trends firsthand, and believes they can provide clues to which games will inspire the most gambling.

"Ticket prices fluctuate based on demand and sentiment from the fans," he said in an interview. "When prices go up, that also translates to the betting market. If you have a grudge against a certain team, you take your passion for the sport a little further, and with that contentiousness, I think it leads to greater betting. People tend to want to put some action on those games."

Matcovich has opinions about which upcoming events may inspire significant betting. These opinions are based on the jump in price of an event ticket's face value to its secondary-market asking price. His opinions are also based on team and league history, and on his intimate knowledge of the issues that cause the most furious debate among the fans.

CNBC.com presents TiqIQ's list of upcoming sporting events that could inspire heavy betting among fans. All ticket prices are current as of Sept. 6, 2013, and are expected to fluctuate up until the day of the event.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez

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Date: Sept. 14, 2013
Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Average ticket price (face value): $1,499.86
Average asking price (secondary market): $2,503.28
Percent increase: 67%

According to Matcovich, boxing has lost some of its popularity in the U.S. to Ultimate Fighting Championship. He said that diehard boxing fans hope Floyd Mayweather, Jr.'s presence in a match-up will help to rejuvenate the sport.

"Anytime he fights, people are interested," he said, pointing out that the Sept. 14 bout is the highest-priced event of the month. "The last big name in the sport draws tons of people to their TVs. The match is in Vegas, so there's a lot of opportunity for betting."

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

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Sept. 14, 2013
Venue: Kyle Field
Average ticket price (face value): $65
Average asking price (secondary market): $828.88
Percent increase: 1175%

In December 2012, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first college freshman ever to do so. He's been one of the most talked-about U.S. athletes ever since.

Matcovich said that his presence on the Aggies is helping to fuel the staggering 1,175 percent increase in the ticket price of their game against top-ranked Alabama. But that's not all.

"There's a lot of love and hate on both sides," he said. "That gets a lot of people on their couches, watching and interested."

New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos

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Sept. 15, 2013
Venue: MetLife Stadium
Average ticket price (face value): $294.39
Average asking price (secondary market): $487.24
Percent increase: 66%

As Matcovich pointed out, potentially polarizing games tend to see increased secondary-market ticket prices. A match-up between brothers Peyton and Eli Manning certainly has that potential, particularly with Peyton Manning throwing seven touchdown passes in the Broncos' 49-27 rout of the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 5.

"Two brothers playing against each other is always a big topic of discussion, especially with Peyton winning the Super Bowl and Eli winning two of them," he said. "It's the 'Manning Bowl' in New York. Enough said."

Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

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Sept. 15, 2013
Venue: CenturyLink Field
Average ticket price (face value): $183.91
Average asking price (secondary market): $512.06
Percent increase: 178%

This match-up features two teams that inspire interest based on their performances from last season. The Seahawks turned in a strong one, and even though the 49ers lost the Super Bowl, the fact that they made it that far means they shouldn't be underestimated.

"A few years ago, this would have been a snoozer," Matcovich said. "Now that both teams have strong defenses and young, mobile quarterbacks, this looks to be a great rivalry for the fans for years ahead."

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma Sooners

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Sept. 28, 2013
Venue: Notre Dame Stadium
Average ticket price (face value): $95
Average asking price (secondary market): $510.28
Percent increase: 437%

Numerous factors lead Matcovich to believe that the Fighting Irish vs. Sooners game will get passions running high. Two of the most compelling are the undisputed talents of both teams, and the rarity with which they compete against one another.

"Schools will say, 'Let's sign a four-game contract over X amount of years,' and they usually do at least two, so there's a home game and a home game," he said. "These are two huge college football powerhouses, and it's a nontraditional rivalry, so fans are excited because this will be a short-lived series."

Click to see the full slideshow on CNBC.com: Sports gambling's major match-ups

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