Professional bookmaker Mark DeRosa was on a plane leaving Atlantic City after last year’s Super Bowl when he had a clear idea of what would become one of the biggest hits of his career.
DeRosa believed that Tom Brady would leave New England in the offseason and that Tampa Bay was one of the most likely landing spots. However, sportsbooks disagree and indicate that the Buccaneers have a 50-1 rating for where Brady will play in the 2020 season. The bookies have made Brady the favorite to return to New England.
“The books put the price as if there was a 75 percent chance it would come back [to New England],” DeRosa said. “I thought there was a 75 percent chance it wouldn’t come back, so the market was far from that.”
While in Atlantic City for the Super Bowl, DeRosa made two $500 bids on DraftKings, playing Brady against the Buccaneers at 50-1 and 40-1. Then, on the plane back to Florida, he decided he wanted to go to Tampa Bay more often next season to win the NFC and the Super Bowl. He had to convince his old college friend and betting partner Zach White that the Bucs were a good bet.
Tampa Bay just finished a 7-9 campaign in which quarterback Jameis Winston made 30 interceptions. It was the third consecutive season that the Buccaneers suffered a defeat and they were once again considered underdogs with a Super Bowl record of 65-1.
“He had to convince me,” recalls White, a respected Las Vegas gambler, “his reasoning was basically that Brady would go there.
White asked DeRose what he thought Brady’s chances were of ending up at Tampa Bay, “because if he doesn’t, it would be a terrible gamble.
DeRosa said he had a hunch, a hunch based on several signals, that Brady was going to leave New England. DeRosa recalled a 2018 ESPN article that described a rift between Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In August 2019, DeRosa read that Brady had put his Massachusetts home up for sale, and he thought it made sense for the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback to let his contract expire for the first time in his career.
DeRosa felt that Tampa Bay – because of coach Bruce Arians’ displeasure with Winston’s business-oriented coach, an out-of-touch roster of playmakers, the warm weather and no state income tax – was one of Brady’s few options.
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“The worst-case scenario is that you have 30-1 to win the NFC and 60-1 to win the Super Bowl, and that’s just the market price,” DeRosa told White in February. “If that happens, they’re at 5-1 and 10-1, and I really think that’s going to happen. I don’t think he’s coming back. I think he’s going to go somewhere else.
White went to work in Las Vegas and bet several thousand dollars that the Buccaneers would win the Super Bowl with scores of 65-1 and 60-1. Meanwhile, in Florida, DeRosa tracked down sports betting in New Jersey and saw that Borgata had the Bucs at 35-1 to win the NFC. DeRosa immediately booked his return ticket to Atlantic City and bet $8,000 on Tampa Bay to win the conference 35-1.
When DeRosa and White finished betting, they invested about $20,000 in the Bucs at odds of 65-1 to win the Super Bowl and 35-1 to win the NFC. They each took smaller positions with different teams, DeRosa with the Los Angeles Chargers and White with the Saints, but their biggest investment was in the Bucs.
On March 20, Brady signed a two-year contract with the Buccaneers, whose chances of playing in the Super Bowl have increased dramatically in the sports books. Early in the season, Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl 10-1 and the NFC 5-1, as DeRosa had expected.
Things did not go well for the Bucks in the middle of the season. In November, they lost three of their four games, including a 38-3 loss against the Saints, and dropped to 7-5.
“There’s been some frustration,” White said, laughing at Tampa Bay’s mid-season blackout, “but it’s the NFL, man, you can’t shut anybody out.
“Precious stuff has always been valuable. You could make a lot of money before the season started, even with the numbers we had.”
Everyone hedged their bets a bit by betting on the Washington football team +9.5 in the divisional round of qualifying against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay won by 8 points. Overall, however, they held firm and planned to do the same for the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers are three points behind Kansas City.
“I’m not good at covert operations,” DeRosa said.
DeRosa and White went to the Appalachians together in their late thirties and have been betting professionally for more than a decade. They have already won six figures with the Bucs and could score the most points of their careers in any sport if Tampa Bay wins the Super Bowl.
“We had about $11,000 to win $400,000 at the NFC Championship,” DeRosa said. “And then we had about $8,000 more to win the Super Bowl 60-1.”
“Go on, Bax.”
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