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Podcast: Against All Odds with Cousin Sal

Network: The Ringer

What Is It?: A comedian and sports bettor gives his thoughts on lines. He also discusses the sports betting landscape with his “degenerate trifecta” of friends, as well as Vegas insiders and bookmakers.

Who’s The Host?: Cousin Sal Iacono of Jimmy Kimmel Live! hosts this new offering from The Ringer. He has done a weekly NFL guess the lines podcast with Bill Simmons dating back to his pre-Grantland days. Along with those shows, Iacono hosts “Cousin Sal’s Sure Thing” on Facebook and used to write a fantastic NFL prop bets column for Grantland.

What’s a Normal Episode Like?: There have only been two so far, but the show revolves around Iacono and his brand of humor. He spends a lot of the time having a roundtable with his “degenerate trifecta,” supplementing these discussions with his other guests. Also, the theme music is absolutely fantastic.

Previews for the show have said that Iacono and co. will break down lines for practically every sport there is, including competitive hot dog eating, though I think this might be an exaggeration. I am sure they will talk about all of the landmark events on the sports calendar, including the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, but I bet (pun intended) that will be the only mention of hot dog eating lines in 2017.

I find it fascinating that this podcast might be ignoring college sports altogether. In its iTunes description, college sports are not mentioned, even though boxing, UFC, and professional wrestling are. College football doesn’t start for a few more months, so it may still be discussed in future episodes.

Who Is It For?: Obviously, you have to care about sports betting to care about this show. You also need to be a fan of Iacono. Wagering on games is a niche within sports, but it is an important one, especially in Las Vegas.

Cousin Sal wants the show to be an interactive experience. In episode two, he read listener e-mails, including an inductee into the “Degenerate Hall of Fame,” effectively the most ridiculous sports gambling stories you will ever hear. As the podcast grows and more people e-mail in, this will become my favorite part of each episode.

Who Is It Not For?: Iacono is nothing if not light-hearted, and how he consumes sports makes that much clear, even if he has money on the line. Someone who lost a lot of money on a backdoor cover last week might want to throw their phone against a wall instead of hearing Iacono crack jokes about the unexpected outcome.

Can I Jump Right In?: Every week is a new opportunity to jump in, but since sports betting is so heavily event-based, episodes go stale pretty quickly. If Simmons wants this feed to grow, he should consider releasing his and Iacono’s NFL “guess the lines” podcasts as Against All Odds episodes come fall.

What’s Not Great?: The perspective here is very one-sided. Iacono and his degenerate friends are all bettors, which means the people who set lines are not explaining their decisions. In the first two episodes, a shorter interview with Kornegay is the only time that side was given a chance to explain itself. Compare this to Behind the Bets, which has Boyd Gaming’s Bob Scucci discussing the lines he sets every week. The show is really good, but, at least based on the first two episodes, it’s not going to give you a 360-degree view of the sports betting landscape.

My other issue is with the first episode. It was released in the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby, yet the horse race was almost completely overlooked. The episode description does not mention any race preview, which only lasted about two minutes during the best bets segment. Outside of football season, there might not be a better week for a sports betting podcast to debut, but Iacono and his disinterested trifecta not focusing on horse racing’s Super Bowl is a major faux pas.

PS – WHERE ARE MY JERMAJESTIES AT?!

So, Should I Listen To This?: If you want some free advice on your weekly picks, this is a good podcast. It’s hosted by sports bettors who are actually wagering on these games, which means the wins and losses matter to them as much as they will matter to you. If you are someone who has adopted the lifestyle of a sports bettor, scouring for any little advantage you can gain, then you are likely already familiar with Iacono’s work. This is similar to how a lot of sports fans follow Matthew Berry’s work in order to get a small matchup advantage in fantasy football.

While I believe the show will continue to produce high-quality episodes, the fact that it all but ignored a chance to preview the Kentucky Derby in its first episode makes me suspicious about future programming decisions. Something tells me this won’t happen with the NFL, but that oversight bears repeating.

In all, the show has made me laugh and turned me into a more informed potential sports bettor. The future of Against All Odds has some great ideas between the “Degenerate Hall of Fame” and a potential hotline for listeners to leave ridiculous voicemails. That potential, like a multi-sport parlay, gives me hope in what the show could be. But more slip-ups like the lack of a Derby preview could lead me to unsubscribe, even if the concept is good.

Bottom Line – TL;DR: Against all odds, this podcast solidly combines humor with sports betting thanks to Cousin Sal.

About Alex Kaufman

Alex Kaufman is a 2017 graduate of Denison University. He has been published on ESPN.com, profiled by SI.com, and writes for many different outlets including Awful Announcing, The AP Party, The Denisonian, and It's Pronounced Lajaway. As a broadcaster, Alex has spent time working for 91.1 FM WDUB, the Denison Sports Network, Fan Media Network, and ABC6/FOX28.