I live in a small town where the extent of our local sporting events consists of pioneer league baseball and high school football games. So, whenever I travel, I like to take the opportunity to indulge in the Americana of an historic ballpark, feel raucous energy of a football stadium, or marvel at thuggish artistry in a basketball arena.
In the past few years, I’ve seen NBA, MLB and NFL games – all on scalped tickets – paying as little as $5 a ticket, but never more than $15. Don’t let my experience taint you into feeling like you’re not getting a good deal… it’s not like I’ve been scalping lower bowl Lakers vs. Celtics tickets for $5. That kind of thing just isn’t going to happen. But if what you’re after is just the experience, and you’re not afraid to gamble on being able to get in, my strategies just might work for you, too.
Let me also say that I have attended many events which have been billed as “sold-out” to which there were an abundance of tickets available. I can’t guarantee that will always be the case, but let me put it to you like this: I know people who bought $20 tickets from scalpers to “upgrade” their seats from the $150 tickets they bought months before the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.
But, before we get too carried away, I’ve got to throw out a disclaimer of caution… people do get scammed. On a recent trip to Georgia, I had someone trying to sling me fake tickets. I knew for three reasons: the quality of the ink was poor, the hologram was different from the other tickets I had seen, and the seller was far too anxious to sell them to me quickly and without drawing any attention. Be careful and realize that risk and reward come hand-in-hand.
There are a few immutable laws of scalping.
Supply and Demand
The fact is that there will be more open seats, and therefore cheaper seats at baseball and basketball games because there are more of them. There will obviously also be cheaper seats at games that are against lower-profile opponents and at odd times.
Don’t Appear Overzealous
If you show up to Energy Solutions Arena decked out from head to toe in your Utah Jazz gear, any amateur scalper is going to have his way with you. As much as you might want to support your team, that goes against you when you’re trying to scalp a cheap ticket. You’re better off incognito.
Tickets are Timed to Self-Destruct
A $20 ticket becomes a $10 ticket in the second inning. The inherent value of the scalper’s stash of tickets starts to drop parabolically the moment that the game begins. I love to hear the national anthem, too, but I can skip it it will get me 50% off.
There’s no substitute for exact change. You don’t want to mock an incapacity to pay and then roll out a stack of hunneys. I like to have an idea of what I want to pay and keep it ready in my pocket. Even better is to have plan B in your other pocket. For example, if you’re wanting to pay $10 each for 2 tickets, keep a twenty in one pocket so you can bare it at the right time. Keep a ten in the other pocket in case you have to sweeten the pot.
Now that we have those down, I’ll share my three strategies in the context that I discovered them.
How to Scalp a Ticket
1. Meeting Pablo
I was in Orlando for a work conference and fortuitously happened to be there on the night a shuttle was set to launch from Kennedy Space Center. I had just gotten onto the freeway en route to the coast when a readerboard informed me that the launch had been scuttled due to some kind of leak. I whipped out my iPhone (what kind of world would it be without them?) and found that the Orlando Magic were playing the Chicago Bulls. I veered off and made my way to the stadium. For some reason this strategy was revealed to me as I made my way towards the Amway Center. I could see where the scalpers were gathered, and grinned to myself as I crossed the street with my plan already hatched. When I got to the corner, I looked at my watch to check the time. One of the scalpers asked me if I needed a ticket. I said, “are you Pablo?” The guy said, “No, why? Who’s Pablo.”
I said, “He told me to meet him here and he’s going to give me a ticket for $5.” The scalper scoffed and I just stood there scanning the people walking towards the arena. By this time the game had started and I could tell he was getting antsy about the stack of tickets he still had. He said he’d give me one for $10, which I would have normally taken, but at this point it was a game. I said, “No, I’ll wait… he’ll be here soon.” Not even two more minutes passed before he said, “Hey, look, I’ll sell you this one for $5.” Of course it was in the nosebleed section. I said I’d feel bad if I didn’t buy it from Pablo because I’d set up to meet him, and that the ticket he was going to sell me was closer down on the second level. At this point he was just scrapping and he pulled out another single that was about 10 rows up on the second level. I mocked feeling bad for my imaginary friend Pablo and swapped him for a Lincoln. Deal done.
2. Headed to the Movie
I was in Boston and just a short metro ride away from Fenway Park. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to visit such a historic place, much less when a Red Sox victory would ensure their place in the play-offs. But we weren’t going to tell any of that to the many scalpers that were anxiously slinging tickets just outside the “no-scalping zone” near the field. My co-worker and I came up with the idea of pretending we weren’t really interested in the game, so when the scalpers started bugging us, we told them we were headed to a movie. Of course they came back with something to the effect of, “How are you going to a movie while the Red Sox are playing.” We explained that we weren’t really fans and weren’t all that interested unless we could get the tickets for the same price as a movie. The scalpers acted pissed (that’s part of the deal) and said they couldn’t sell them that cheap, so we went walking on our way. We weren’t even ten steps away when he conceded and sold them to us for $10 each. This was actually my first scalping experience, and I was so nervous about being scammed that we made him accompany us to the entrance and paid once our tickets and been scanned.
3. Knowing the Market
I was in Tampa with a couple of friends and the Bucs were playing the Seahawks on a Sunday night game. It just happened that on the same night, the Tampa Bay Rays were playing the Red Sox in the semi-finals, so we knew that there were a lot of empty seats at Raymond James Stadium. I figured the fact that we had an odd number (3) of us, it would either help or hurt our chances of getting a screaming deal. While normally the strategy is to get the scalper to give you a price, we just went into the deal feeling like we’d be willing to pay $15 for tickets, given our knowledge of the situation. This scalper was the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. He genuinely seemed excited about helping us out and it didn’t take much threatening and coercion. He took our price and gave us tickets for 3 seats in row H (the 8th row) in the corner, near the endzone – amazing seats for about half of the game.
I am a relative amateur when it comes to this kind of thing, but I’ve had some success. For more ideas from someone far more experienced, visit The Ultimate Fan.
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