Back in March, before a worldwide health crisis upended his industry, the sports bettor widely known as “Spanky” traveled to Boston for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. After attending panels and conversing with speakers each day, he’d head to the same cigar bar every night, blissfully unaware of the ramifications his unwind time would soon yield.
The consequences revealed themselves on March 12, as the leagues that hosted the games that Spanky bet on started to shut down at the exact same time his body did—and for the same reason. Pain shot through his stomach, sides and lower back. His shoulders and neck ached without end. He lost his sense of smell and taste, suffered from headaches, fought full-body cramps and registered a high fever. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” says Spanky (full name: Gadoon Kyrollos). He sent text messages to his doctor that grew increasingly urgent, asking whether he needed to call an ambulance—and this personal hell lasted for more than two weeks.
Spanky was eventually diagnosed with COVID-19, the now infamous and ubiquitous respiratory virus. Everyone who hung out in that cigar bar got it. Spanky did recover, but his industry, like so many other industries, did not. In the weeks after the conference, Spanky would put most of his sizable operation on hold—with a staff that helped him find betting opportunities, write computer programs to analyze markets and make wagers, the total well into seven figures.