Its hard to pinpoint the exact volume of betting that goes on during an IPL game. But there are clues to suggest that its a lot. The bookie I go to has four phone numbers, says an insider,who has been an active punter since the IPLs third season. During matches,all four are busy nearly all the time.
Apart from his phones,there is one other piece of technology that is essential to this Chennai-based bookies operations. Its this machine, says the source. Its connected to a phone line,and it has a beeper and has a small screen that keeps flashing odds.
The source cant quite say whos at the other end of that particular phone line. But its rumoured,he says,that the lines going out of a number of such machines eventually form a pyramid,whose apex is located somewhere in the Middle East.
Bookies such as this one accept bets for the eventual winner of the tournament,the winner of a particular match,and,during a game,the batting teams score at the end of what is called a session. Spot fixing can seriously sway a session score this way or that,and bring bookies a massive windfall.
Session by session
Usually,the sessions comprise the first six overs,the first twelve,and the 20-over mark. The bookie doesnt offer odds for session scores. Instead,he offers par scores; for example,50 at the six-over mark. This would be expressed as 50-51. The punter has the option of betting on a no-50,which would mean he backs a score of 49 or less,or yes-51,a score of 51 or more.
At the start of the match,the bookie will only offer par scores for the first six overs, says the source. And then for the 12-over mark. Only after the end of the 12th over will he take bets for the final innings score. And the par score gets updated after every ball. A six or a wicket would affect it in a big way.
Considering the volumes of money bet on such outcomes,a single anomalous over could help a bookie make significant profits. During his press conference on Thursday,Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar suggested that they might have made crores through Sreesanths 13-run over against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali.
This was the fourth over of Punjabs innings,which began with their score reading 11 for one. Their run rate was less than four an over. At the crease were Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh. Gilchrist had been in poor form through the tournament,and was returning to the team after dropping himself for Punjabs last three matches. Before this innings,he had scored 94 runs in eight innings at an average of 11.75.
At this point,the par score (for six overs) would have been no more than 30, says the source. 32-33 tops. Its not inconceivable that a large number of punters will have bet against that outcome at this point.
Before starting this over,Sreesanth is alleged to have taken an unusual length of time adjusting his field and warming up. This,the police commissioner claimed,would have given bookies in the know additional time to pull in bets. And they could have also used this time to place yes bets with other bookies, says the source. Now,Gilchrist and Marsh hit Sreesanth for three fours. After the 13-run over,the score was 24 in four overs, the source says. Everyone who had bet against the par score before that would have lost a lot of money.
Bookies would have now updated their six-over par score,to around 38-39 or 39-40.
To punters,that expensive over might have suggested a momentum shift towards Punjab,rather than just being a blip in their innings graph. Were the bookie to have offered them 39-40,a large number might have backed the yes-40. But Rajasthan only conceded 13 in the fifth and sixth overs,and Punjab closed their powerplay at 37 for one.
Its usually these sort of sessions,where the momentum swings one way and back the other way,where people lose the most money, says the source. Once again,the bookies,or anyone else with a knowledge of the spot-fix,could have made a no bet and made a double profit.
Online vs. offline
Betting websites also allow betting on session par scores. Mostly,the bookies scores are quite close to those offered by Bet365, says the source. But sometimes,theres a significant difference; at one point during yesterdays match between Rajasthan and Mumbai Indians,the online 20-over par score for Mumbai was 187.5 (or 187-188,in the bookies terminology). At the same time,the bookie was offering 190-191. Depending on how many overs are left,that could make a big difference.
How it works
During a Twenty20 game,odds can shift dramatically in the blink of an eye. According to a Mumbai-based bookie,the odds on Kolkata winning their recent match against Pune went from 15 paise (for every rupee staked) to 85 paise in five minutes,after Yusuf Pathans freakish obstructing the field dismissal.
In Test and ODI cricket,bets are placed on things like the maximum sixes,total runs for each side,or to a batsman scoring a duck or a hundred. In the IPL,punters generally bet on how much a team scores during a session,or a certain block of overs.
A bookies glossary includes terms such as sau,meaning a crore,and eka,meaning a lakh.
Bookies always record phone conversations,to prevent punters from going back on their bets. In most raids,police have found detailed notes on every bet on the bookies laptops,and conversations recorded in their phones.
This season,the odds on Chennai or Mumbai winning the IPL are Rs. 1.80,and Rs. 14 for a Hyderabad triumph.