Photo of a ticket scalper holding Major League Baseball tickets outside of a stadium. 

Image Credit: MrTinDC - Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

For whatever reason, sports fans see ticket scalpers as mystifying people. How do they get tickets? Do they sell tickets for a living? How do I know if the tickets they sell me are real? These are questions we hear all of the time. And for those that cannot afford tickets on websites like StubHub or maybe don't even know how to use them, ticket scalpers are their only hope.

There are a few events each year in every city where the asking prices are just astronomical. Paul Mccartney concert tickets, the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, Major League Baseball's Opening Day, you name it. On average, if you purchase your tickets more than a month in advance, you're going to pay 30% more than if you waited until the day of the event. Purchasing your tickets ahead of time is essential if you're making travel arrangements so some people don't have the luxury of waiting until the day of the event. However, if you're a resident of that city and your pockets aren't steep enough for tickets at face value, you may want to wait until after the event starts to approach a ticket scalper.

As a sports fan, I don't like the notion of even missing the national anthem before the game. However, I have two close friends that were able to attend two different Super Bowls by waiting until the end of the 1st quarter to purchase their tickets from scalpers on the street. How much did they pay? Roughly $100-$150 per ticket. Not bad considering face value for Super Bowl tickets on the upper level will easily run you $2K. No one ever knows exactly what a ticket scalper paid for a ticket but we do know that no scalper wants to be left with unsold inventory. Hence, scalpers are pretty quick to unload their tickets after an event has already began.


How do you know if there will even be scalpers outside of the venue? 

  • What is the outlook like on the ticket search engines and secondary websites (Stubhub, Ticket Monster, Ace Ticket)? If you see a lot of tickets available online, a lot of tickets will be available on the street.
  • What is the size of the city the event is being held in? There are more ticket scalpers in New York City than there are in Nashville, TN. More ticket scalpers = more tickets available.
  • How important is the game? You will see less ticket scalpers outside of the Super Bowl then you will for a regular season NFL home game. The reason is, it will cost even the ticket scalper a significant sum of money to obtain these tickets in the first place. Don't forget, ticket scalpers on the street are blue collar workers. Ticket companies like Ticket Monster are white collar entities.

There is, of course, the alternative to finding tickets at below face value after a game has begun - not finding any tickets at all. This happened to me during the 2010 NL Wildcard Round in my hometown. That night marked the first night in 15 years that the Cincinnati Reds had hosted a home playoff game when they hosted the Philadelphia Phillies. There were a few ticket scalpers on the street but they all vanished about 30 minutes before first pitch. This applies to number 3 above; the significance of the game. I was pretty down about my unsuccessful attempt but it taught me an important lesson. Tickets will always be available to you as long as you're willing to shell out good money for them on websites like Stubhub. I was looking for a bargain that night and learned my lesson.


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