He’s no longer on ESPN, but Cousin Sal is still offering up his NFL picks on a weekly basis, apparently making fellow gamblers enough money to put their kids through a semester of school.
The pigskin prognosticator and Jimmy Kimmel Live! personality was roaming around Las Vegas recently when a fan caught up to him to express his appreciation for being spot on with his picks. “People will come up to me and say thank you, you paid for my son’s first semester of college,” says Cousin Sal, real name Salvatore Iacono. “I don’t know if that’s great financial planning, but good for you.”
Degenerates can hopefully cash in on Sal’s extremely accurate selections every week by checking out his Facebook show Cousin Sal’s Sure Thing Presented by Dollar Shave Club. We chatted up the man who loves talking spreads on The Bill Simmons Podcast to ask him how he makes his picks and commiserate over the one bad beat that still sticks with him.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
So if we tune into Cousin Sal’s Sure Thing Presented by Dollar Shave Club what can we expect?
I was let go by ESPN after two years of marvelous results—I think I hit like 79 percent of my best bets—but I got annoyed that they couldn’t promote me. They brought me in and they were like we have to do this tongue in check because we have a contract with the NFL for the shittiest game every Monday. We don’t want to make them angrier. But I wanted to still pick the games for the masses and I found a partner with Dollar Shave Club and Fresno, the production company. Jimmy (Kimmel) helped out, we put it together, and three times a week we do it: Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.
And you’re giving gamblers a chance to win back some of their losses?
I give $100 away, I call it the Bad Beat Buyback. I give it to whoever can prove they have the worst bad beat of the morning if they can send a legitimate Las Vegas posting slip. Someone had Minnesota +5.5, a live line, and that went to OT against Detroit and Detroit scored a TD on the first possession. That’s as bad a beat as you can get.
So he takes the Patriots and we’re at the game and he’s going crazy and he looks at me and says “We did it!” I had my head in my hands and he says “What’s wrong with you?” I told him I had $20,000 on the Rams moneyline.
And what’s the best part of getting to talk about gambling without any restrictions?
The best part is getting railed when you have three straight weeks of great picks and then I go 1-2 and it’s like the sky is falling. No one wants to hear from me and people want to throw my family under a bus. Lot of computer cowards out there. But we’ll shoot the show in Vegas and people will come up to me and say thank you, you paid for my son’s first semester of college. I don’t know if that’s great financial planning, but good for you.
How often do you mess around with teasers?
Way more often than I should. I should really learn my lessons. I see -6.5 and if I can just get them to win the game and not cover the spread...I really should just lock it out of my mind. I did it more on ESPN than I’m doing this year.
The impressive winning percentage you’ve accumulated over the last few years, take me through how you’re preparing to take down the books...
I go through three websites and have other sources that list all the trends for teams. And some of them don’t matter. The Bears are 19-6 against the Giants in the last 25 games. Well, who cares when Dick Butkus played? That doesn’t make a difference. But I do find that there are certain trends like 4-1 against the spread on the road against a losing team that stand out. Or teams traveling out east playing an early game. I basically do a process of elimination. Has a team had a lot of rest or little rest? Things like that. I have a thing called the masses are asses. If I see 91 percent of people are betting the Steelers over the Cowboys, for instance, they don’t usually pay out free money. I not only stay away, I go the other way. It’s not fun having money on the Bears, Browns, or 49ers, but Vegas doesn’t give anything away for free.
What was your worst bad beat this year?
The worst one was this moneyline parlay and I was five out of five and my last one was Oklahoma State over Central Michigan. Oklahoma State was winning by four, with the ball, with four seconds left and they lost the game. The quarterback threw the ball into the stands, got called for grounding, and the referees admittedly gave Central Michigan an extra play and it was a Hail Mary. I was numb about that one for six weeks. You almost feel like the refs know. You end up doubting everything.
The only way to keep from crying over a bad beat is to laugh...
When Jimmy worked at Fox he would do picks [on Fox NFL Sunday] and I would help him out. But that wasn’t against the spread, it was just picking a winner. He had been feuding with Howie Long and he told me I think this is my last year anyway what do you think of the Super Bowl between the Patriots and Rams? The Patriots were like a 12-point underdog but he can only pick the winner. I told him to pick the Patriots and you’ll look like a hero if they win. So he takes the Patriots and we’re at the game and he’s going crazy and he looks at me and says “We did it!” I had my head in my hands and he says “What’s wrong with you?” I told him I had $20,000 on the Rams moneyline.