Daily Wager on ESPN.

ESPN premiered its first daily gambling show, Daily Wager, on Monday. My expectations coming in were low, given ESPN’s tepid description of the show (“discussion and expert analysis will be combined with ESPN’s stats and information resources”), but for the most part, they were exceeded.

The first thing you immediately notice on Daily Wager is the extreme amount of on-screen graphics. Holy shit.

Yeah, that’s the traditional Bottom Line, with a running sidebar of odds and totals of a variety of games, and a line of futures on top of the bottom line.

The format of the show is pretty simple—Doug Kezirian talks to people about games, why the lines are where they are, and what they’re feeling about the games. ESPN’s initial release about the show indicated that “sports wagering experts will be making picks on the program while ESPN reporters and analysts will provide information and insight but will not be making picks,” but this is a bit misleading. Most of the people featured on the shows are classified as “sports wagering experts,” but even that isn’t consistent.

Adam Schefter had a brief segment, and didn’t make anything remotely close to a pick. Barry Melrose (!!!) showed up and made some NHL winner and total picks while providing some analysis. Fantasy basketball writer Andre Snellings had an entire segment dedicated to the night’s NBA prop bets and daily fantasy picks. It really seems like the only people not making picks on the show are the reporters, which actually makes all the sense in the world (compared to not letting anchors or analysts make picks).

I know that ESPN probably wanted to go all-out with the first episode of Daily Wager, but I felt there was too much content in the one-hour premiere. There were at least half a dozen guests in the first half hour, three of which were in studio with Kezirian for brief periods of time. The focus bounced all across the sports world, and was dizzying at times. They started with college basketball, moved on to the NBA, then moved to NFL futures, then to the NHL, then back to the NBA, and then onto baseball futures.

That baseball futures segment featured Scott Van Pelt and Stanford Steve with Kezirian, and it was the highlight of the show (mainly because Van Pelt went all in on his wretched Orioles team, before going with the over on their record-low win total).

ESPN.com’s David Purdum also joined Kezirian for a brief segment talking about the future of legalized sports betting in the US, and while the segment was well-thought out and interesting, it really didn’t feel like a fit with the way the show was set up. It’s obviously an important topic that many people have vested interests in, but going from game and line analysis and picks to what was essentially a straight news segment seemed to disrupt some of Daily Wager’s flow.

I also liked how each of the experts brought in on the show seemed to stick to their own lane. Those who knew about the NBA talked about the NBA. The college basketball experts talked about college basketball. The same was true during the lone NFL and NHL segments of the night, and I’d imagine it’ll also be true if the show starts talking about MLB games once the regular season starts.

Most of those featured on Daily Wager are pretty polished on camera, but the standouts were Kezirian (who isn’t just a studio host moonlighting as a gambling enthusiast), Stanford Steve (which you’d expect from his SC:SVP hits), and Chris “The Bear” Fallica (which you’d also expect, given his College GameDay segments). The trio was on camera together several times, and there’s some good chemistry between the three. Here’s hoping that the latter two still make appearances once college basketball season ends.

I think there’s some room to grow, especially with ESPN dumping it on ESPNEWS to start. I also think the overall presentation isn’t too intimidating for novice bettors, though the information provided probably isn’t as useful to experienced bettors, who I can’t see making this part of their daily routine. Altogether, for better or worse depending on your opinion, Daily Wager accomplishes exactly what ESPN set out for it to do—bring sports gambling talk to ESPN on a daily basis without making it seem too forced or unapproachable.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.