First rule of success is sleep is optional most days. I’m competing with Vegas on a daily basis, and they never sleep, so neither can I.
A Mathematics student from a prestigious university in the early 90s who had a knack for statistics, Jon Price seemed all but certain to pursue a financial career on Wall Street. While his path would ultimately take him to advising people’s finances, it wasn’t in the way that he likely expected, and seemingly unrelated to the degree which he earned.
During his time in New York, Jon took an interest in a small community of sports bettors in his college dorms. His curiosity quickly grew into an obsession when Jon realized from the start that he was quite gifted at not only picking the winners of sporting events, but also applying his understanding of mathematics and statistics to improve his wagering strategies to minimize the risk when finding “Delta”. Prior to finishing his degree, Jon had already made enough money from sports betting in his senior year to fully pay off his college loans, with plenty left to spare.
After leaving college Jon was offered a number of good starting positions at some of Wall Street’s top financial firms, but he turned them down. Instead, Jon wished to focus his energy and ambition towards pursuing a career in sports investing. By this point, Jon already had established a significant following of his sports picks, and placed his own wagers on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. He recognized sports handicapping to be his true calling, and was able to bring a superior understanding of applying mathematics to his wagering system to not only maximize his winnings, but also minimize the necessary risk involved. Years later Jon decided to start his first sports handicapping service, Sports Information Traders. Since then Jon Price has been featured in various national publications such as Forbes and Inc. Magazine, as well as Huffington Post, in addition to a number of online platforms and nationally syndicated radio programs. Jon’s company has gained worldwide acclaim from countless outlets, particularly for a few of his own high profile wagers like a $22k futures bet he placed on the 2015 Royals to win the World Series, way back in April before the season began, and also a multimillion dollar wager on the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl… He won both wagers. Jon continues to wager on his own company’s information and has built a small fortune from his own wagering strategies and picks.
Where did the idea for Sports Information Traders come from?
I developed a large following of people who recognized my ability to win money at sports betting, and eventually I began charging a fee for my services. As a child my dads friends loved having me help them and it was great until my mother found out and put a quick end to that. Need less to say my Dads friends were not happy. This was the start of what would eventually would grow into the world class sports picking services that we maintain today.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First rule of success is sleep is optional most days. I’m competing with Vegas on a daily basis, and they never sleep, so neither can I. At 2 AM when the lines are released, I’m already on the phone with my sources, running optimization tests, figuring out delta, and speaking with contacts whom I trust and am confident in their accuracy of knowledge. The key is to get the earliest line possible as long as it is favorable. By sunrise the next day, the public will have weighed in on the line, and you tend to lose value at that point. So we don’t wait. As soon as the lines are released, we find those gems and we load up on them early. By time the evening hours role around, it’s time to watch the games and see how our investments did for that day. As those are finishing up, we’re already looking forward to the next day, seeing what we think the lines should be for tomorrow’s games, so we can quickly decide what games have value when Vegas introduces the lines. It’s a never-ending loop. So again… Sleep is optional. Especially during football and basketball season. Baseball I tend to relax but still make money no matter the shape or size of the ball.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through pure dedication. Nobody eats, sleeps, and breathes this stuff like myself and the team I surround myself with. There’s no breaks in the sports world. We’re making money 365 days a year. And if you’re not committed to being great, if you’re not up at 2 AM making your picks the second Vegas releases the lines, than you don’t want it bad enough and you’re likely to fail in the end.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
These new betting platforms like Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Really exciting stuff when you start to see sports wagering accepted into the mainstream. It’s only the beginning and those services will continue to grow and improve. I’m very curious to see where they take sports wagering in the coming years.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My ability to work until I am successful. With or without 6 hours of sleep. Plenty of people like to think that the early bird gets the worm, well early birds have no chance against a bird like me who just camps out by the worm hole and doesn’t leave. I’ve been on a mission since I entered this industry, it’s to be the best at what I do, and I haven’t wavered from that goal.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve been doing this pretty much my entire conscious life. It’s the only real job I have had. Although many say I live a fantasy world and the radio broadcasters call me a legend. Hell WGN Chicagos biggest news station labeled me that in the early 90’s and it stuck. At a young age I decided that I didn’t want to be mediocre. I didn’t want to settle. I wanted to be great, and I realized I’d have to work hard for it if I wanted to be successful at whatever I chose to do.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
That’s easy, I’d increase all my wagers by 10 fold. I’ve won far more money betting on sports than my company has ever made, and I often think, what if instead of $22k on this wager, or $1 million on this wager, what if I bet 10 times that. But I always tell myself there’s a big discipline and set of rules I follow and that’s been the root of my success all these years.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Prepare. Picking sports isn’t about some wizardry or innate talent, it’s about preparation and knowing what’s going on in sports on a daily basis. You have to know the trends, the teams’ weaknesses and strengths… You need to know these teams better than they know themselves, and the only way to do that is to never stop preparing. It’s an obsession for me to know more about sports than anyone else. I use lots of proprietary tools to succeed and that’s important to have the proper fuel to light your fire each day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Winning makes everything work. I’ve always been exceptional at winning, and after awhile people start to take notice. After some high profile wagers I won, like on the $22k futures Royals bet to win the World Series before the season started, or the million dollar Super Bowl wager… You start to cause enough ripples that people come calling. And I parlayed that success into some weekly, nationally syndicated radio spots, and that really hit the accelerator on my company’s success. Practically overnight, we had people from all over the world start to call in to our offices. It was a very exciting time, but now it’s become the standard.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I consider every loss my company has ever picked to be a failure. When you prepare as much as we do, you expect to win every game. While we’re smart enough to realize that’s unrealistic, it’s our daily goal and what we aim for. If we settled for going 2-1, and accepted that as a successful day, we wouldn’t be the service we are today. Every loss still feels like a failure, because when you put the time into this like we do, you expect to win every time. Of course in sports anything can happen and that hurts us from time to time but we strive to always make the best predictions regardless of “backdoor cover” events.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m always looking for ways to better the sports wagering experience, particularly for the fans, so I’m really interested in ways to improve these new betting platforms like Fan Duel and Draft Kings. I think they’re brilliant ideas, but how about one that lets fans pick every game on the board against the spread along with the total amount of points scored each week. The winner would be whoever picked the most winners and if there was a tie then it would come down to margin of error on the total points scored.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Probably not the answer you’re looking for, but the best $100 I’ve recently spent, and I do it relatively often, it’s the $100 tips I’ll sometimes leave for people particularly in the service industry. I respect the hell out of people who take their job seriously, no matter how seemingly low that job is, whether it’s waiting tables or delivering pizzas… Work ethic is something I greatly respect, and it’s the reason I’m where I’m at, so it makes me feel good to reward that kind of behavior when I see it in others. Regardless of if you’re a server at some dive restaurant, I like to reward that commitment to work ethic, and show them that no matter what you’re doing, if you do it well, you’ll be rewarded. It’s all about positive reinforcement.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Twitter is the only software play that I am willing to discuss publicly. That’s a great tool for deciphering information before the general betting public knows about it. If there is a big injury and a student at USC spots it and posts it on twitter I’m quick to find out and make a rapid judgment call on a wager if the line hasn’t already been adjusted.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Love Moneyball because it mixes my two favorite subjects – Mathematics and Sports. Flashboys and Liars Poker are also favorites. Pretty much anything Michael Lewis writes is gold.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Anyone who has the commitment to greatness and to being the best at what they do. Seeing as I follow sports as a career, I’ve become close to some players and grown an appreciation for their dedication to being the best. Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant always stood out as guys that would not accept 2nd best. Peyton Manning is definitely another person with that same drive and an extreme sense of kindness & modesty to him. That kind of dedication is something I see in myself, as well, and I find it very inspiring to see other people as mentally entrenched in their craft as I am in mine.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.