Dave Portnoy And Joey Knish Go At It Over Barstool Sportsbook

Last week’s sports betting Twitter feud between the man known as “Joey Knish” and Dave Portnoy had an early 2000s WWE heel vs. heel vibe to it. Two guys with larger-than-life online profiles, two guys who aren’t afraid to say what’s on their minds, two guys whose @ mentions sometimes could use a good moderator.

But yes. They went at it last week, and while I’ll admit I don’t have the full story — mostly because both Knish and Portnoy’s minders at Penn National Gaming didn’t return my numerous requests for comment — no one comes out of this one smelling like a rose.

A quick recap, then: On May 13, Knish tweets out “Welp, looks like no more ‘can’t lose parlays for Uncle K’” with a screenshot of an email he got from Barstool Sportsbook, which informed Knish that due to his “non-recreational tendencies,” Knish will no longer be able to bet on promotional markets at Barstool.

This caused Knish to hold a Portnoy-esque “emergency press conference,” in which he called Portnoy and Big Cat “frauds” and “corporate shills” and said “you show a little bit of a pulse, you win a little bit of coin, you bet a little of non-recreational stuff, get ya outta here.”

Portnoy — not a wallflower — took the bait, and responded to Knish on the Dave Portnoy Show.

“They’re sharps. Think of it as a card counter. We did a bad job, from seeing, like, the Penn response, we don’t {inaudible} recreational gamblers? You can’t have card counters. That’s universal. It’s the equivalent of a card counter,” Portnoy said. “We do these promos that are meant to give players great odds, but then there’s a group of people who use those odds, can bet them both ways, multiple accounts, things of that nature, which guarantee you win — not illegal, theoretically, but illegal with terms and conditions of what we say, but that’s how you go bankrupt, allowing that type of behavior.” 

Portnoy then went on to say there is no other sportsbook that advocates more for the player than Barstool and that Knish was using “bots” to further his profit-making.

Knish responded, saying he never bet a bonus, never bet an odds boost, doesn’t use bots, and just made regular ol’ bets before he got the email from Barstool.

So that’s the story, and most of Gambling Twitter™ stood behind Knish.

But … as I said in the beginning, no one is really escaping this one scot-free. Let’s rank them, from least wrong to most wrong.

Joey Knish

Here’s the thing: Knish’s story was short on detail. I’m assuming since he was labeled as a player with “non-recreational tendencies” by Barstool, he’s also been limited in what he can bet. I’m assuming this, but that’s certainly not made clear. What is clear is that he’s been banned from the promo markets at Barstool, and speaking as someone who is banned from the promo markets at PointsBet, I gotta say … I get the position of the sportsbooks here.

For better or worse (mostly worse) most sportsbooks offer these promo come-ons on a daily basis, trying to gain new players. The goal for them is to lure us in. And if you’re lured in … well, why should they continue to offer you enhanced odds? Again, coming at this from the sportsbook perspective. 

Is this good customer service? No, it’s not. I was banned from PointsBet promos after winning somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 over a period of months betting their NBA player prop promos. I’d max out every bet they offered (usually $100) and depending on how confident I was, I’d either let the bet ride or arbitrage it out at another book. Then PointsBet banned me, I was as irritated as Knish, and now PointsBet doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of business I used to give it.

Now, Knish said he didn’t even bet promos, does say he won a little bit of “coin,” and was banned from the promo market. Bottom line? Without knowing what Knish’s bets have been limited to — if at all — then there’s a little bit of “meh” to his very loud complaint.

Penn National

Attention sportsbooks of America who utilize the so-called “European” model in which successful players get limited to ridiculous levels: Just stop. By driving away successful players, you might be helping out your bottom line for the moment, but long-term you’re just going to continue to get bad PR like this. It’s a terrible way to run a business. At minimum, set maximum wagering amounts that everyone has access to. Be more like Circa, be more like Colorado’s Sky Ute, be more like the offshores you’re trying to replace. 

Barstool Sportsbook Customer Service Copywriters

This whole “non-recreational” thing is bananas. They’re saying Knish isn’t using his account recreationally. His tendencies tilt toward “non-recreational.” Yeah, um, STFU Barstool. The definition of “recreation” per Google is “activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.”

Listen: I’m not a pro gambler, not a pro sports bettor, but I certainly do not look at my betting (and DFS play) as “recreation.” Sure, it’s fun, but when I’m putting money down on something, it very quickly becomes “work.” You know who agrees? The IRS. So let’s not pretend sports betting is akin to needlepoint or scrapbooking.

The whole idea of Barstool Sportsbook


I’m usually naive until I can’t be naive anymore, and I thought that maybe Barstool Sportsbook would live up to the anti-establishment, take no prisoners, give zero f’s mentality of Barstool Sports. And … nope.

Dave Portnoy

To quote Robert DeNiro’s Jimmy Conway from Goodfellas, Portnoy was out of order. 

Knish says he never played a promo market, never bet an odds boost, and for Portnoy to liken him to a “card counter,” to accuse him of betting both sides of a market at Barstool (something even the most amateurish of bettors would know not to do), to say Knish is using a “bot” to gain an edge (whatever the hell that means) — no, no, no, no, no, no, you insulted him a little bit, Dave, you got a little out of order yourself. 

Listen: Barstool and Penn National (and every other sportsbook) have the right to limit anyone as they see fit, and players have a right to publicly shame them for it. Hopefully a few sportsbooks operating in this manner will realize it may not be the best long-term strategy. In the meantime … please bet recreationally, or, failing that, lose a ton.


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