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Meet ‘Spanky,’ who left ‘rat race’ to become top pro sports bettor

Before he became a prominent professional sports bettor, Gadoon “Spanky” Kyrollos worked on Wall Street.

The New Jersey native was in a Manhattan subway station on his way to work at Deutsche Bank one morning when he had a life-changing epiphany. Kyrollos said he was standing on an escalator while a homeless man yelled at the commuters passing by.

“He was saying, ‘Look at all you rats. Go report to your master and keep running the rat race,’” Kyrollos said.

“I looked at him and heard what he was saying, and it just resonated with me. He’s right. I have to go report to this company, where I’m just a number. I was a young kid, and that’s when it hit me. Why don’t I try to create something for myself?”

After three years on Wall Street, Kyrollos, 45, left the world of high finance for the world of high-stakes gambling, and he hasn’t looked back.

“I started betting sports on the side and wound up making more money than I was at my regular job, so I took the plunge in 2003 and I’ve been betting sports full time ever since,” he said. “If I could find that guy today, I would honestly buy him a house. That’s how much he changed my life.”

Bet Bash, Hall of Fame

Kyrollos has partnered with Circa this week for two of his brainchildren: Bet Bash and the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame.

The third annual Bet Bash is a pro sports betting networking conference featuring expert panel discussions, a speed networking event, a scavenger hunt, nightly open bars and more.

The interactive SGHOF will be unveiled Friday in an enclave in the Circa sportsbook, followed by an induction ceremony and black-tie dinner.

The inaugural class features five living members — Billy Walters, Roxy Roxborough, Jimmy Vaccaro, Scott Schettler and Billy Baxter — and five in memoriam: Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Bob Martin, Jackie Gaughan, Jack Franzi and Charles McNeil.

“Spanky is one of the leaders in the industry now. I respect him a lot,” said fellow pro sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw, who is on the board of SGHOF voters. “He does a tremendous amount for the sports gambling sector between Bet Bash and the Hall of Fame. He wants to give back.”

‘Little Rascals’

Kyrollos was introduced to gambling at a young age.

“My mom taught me basic arithmetic when I was 4 years old using playing cards,” he said. “I learned backgammon and poker from a very young age and it went from there.”

His mother also gave him his nickname, from a character in “The Little Rascals” short film comedies.

“My mom was a ‘Little Rascals’ fan and I was always getting into trouble as a kid, and one of the ‘Little Rascals’ was Spanky. So she would call me Spanky,” he said. “And I used to use Spanky as my password when I bet on the phone. People in the business started calling me Spanky, and it just stuck.”

Kyrollos said he used to deal parlay cards in high school at Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City and also dabbled in bookmaking.

When he went to college at Rutgers — where he graduated summa cum laude and earned degrees in computer science and finance — Kyrollos said he stopped bookmaking because it was illegal and tried to figure out how to become a winning bettor.

He said he learned some valuable lessons from “The Complete Book of Sports Betting” by Jack Moore.

“It kind of flipped sports betting upside down,” he said. “It essentially ignored looking at player stats and teams and focused on the lines and differences in the lines. I kind of employed that method, and it led me to success.”

Kyrollos experienced another eureka moment while taking a class called “Internet Technologies.”

“It taught you how to parse web pages. The floodgates opened in my mind,” he said. “What if I just build something to parse all of these sportsbooks’ web pages and display the odds and let me know whenever there was enough of a discrepancy in the odds and when the odds would move.

“So I built this software that today we know as Spank Odds.”

Spank Odds (spankodds.com) is a real-time odds monitoring and injury-alerting software designed to give bettors an advantage.

“I always say I’m a computer scientist disguised as a sports bettor,” he said. “I’m all about building software to be able to make life easier, and Spank Odds is one of them.

“It’s an odds aggregator that shows different odds from different sportsbooks all over the world. It shows you where the best line is. One day we’re going to charge, but it’s going to be free until it isn’t.”

Middling, scalping

Using an early version of the software, Kyrollos started to build his bankroll by middling and scalping games.

Middling is a strategy in which you place bets on both sides of the same game at different lines, creating an opportunity to win both wagers. Scalping, or arbitrage trading, is betting on both sides of a game or prop at plus prices at different books for a guaranteed profit.

“I never gambled. I just middled and scalped,” he said. “I just built up my bankroll, and I couldn’t lose.”

After initially putting up $8,000 apiece, Spanky and his betting partner, who also worked at Deutsche Bank, steadily increased their bankroll to more than $1 million before quitting their jobs on Wall Street to focus full time on sports betting, Kyrollos said.

Married with four children, Kyrollos now heads an operation with 14 full-time employees, including an injury team, traders, tech and accountants. They also outsource quantitative analysts, or quants, and have hundreds of betting partners around the world who Kyrollos said help wager hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Besides middling and scalping, he also takes positions on games based on differences between his numbers and the market, and by “chasing steam,” a strategy in which a bettor quickly wagers on a line move and gets the best number before it moves with the rest of the market.

“There are so many different things we do to try to maximize our earnings,” he said.

Kyrollos, who has posted multiple videos of sportsbooks shutting him down for being too sharp, said the biggest challenge now is to get bets down.

“Once you know how to win, it’s like a card counter in blackjack,” he said. “The problem is finding a bookmaker to accept your bets. That’s the hard part. The cat-and-mouse game we have to play with the casino.

“So I have to rely on beards and different people and different ways to get down. That’s the most important part of the business.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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