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Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Sports Betting | 3 comments

When is a Contract Worth the Paper It’s Printed On?

 

 

Today, let’s talk about contracts, particularly as they apply to professional sports.

Even if you do not like sports, this discussion should interest you, especially if you like debating the principles of law.

I just read about an NFL player who is holding out of training camp.  He’s under contract to his team.   But he refuses to show up and play. He wants more money.  I won’t mention the identity of the player, nor name his team, because it’s irrelevant.

The player is one of the very best at his position.  No one will deny this.  Prior to last season, he signed a two-year contract and agreed to accept $11 million for this period.  He played last season and was selected as an All-Pro.  This is now the second year of the deal, for which he’s scheduled to make $5.5 million.  However, the player is convinced he should be paid more money, so he is holding out.

Full disclosure — I typically side with labor against management-ownership because the working class is generally entitled to reap more of the benefits which they create (my political and economic view).  However, the terms of a legal contract impress me as a *binding agreement* between two parties.  Both parties must follow the terms.  End of discussion.  What’s there to negotiate?  They already have a deal.

By using this tactic, the NFL player may be able to squeeze more money out of the team.  Yes, I realize that teams and owners screw just about everyone, so I have no mercy for how they usually do business.  Yet, purely as a matter of principle, shouldn’t the player be forced to honor his end of the deal?  If he is able-bodied and refuses to show up for work, why doesn’t the team file a civil lawsuit against him for breach of contract?

Keep in mind the contract is a two-way street.  Had this player performed poorly last season and lost his starting position, or been seriously injured, or fallen off his back porch and broke his leg, the team would STILL be obligated to pay his full salary.  Think of how many disappointing players leave their teams stranded with wasted high-salaries (one of the major problems with pro sports, and a major reason tickets cost $150+ each).  This happens ALL THE TIME.

Hence, if the player was injured, he’d still be getting $5.5 million — regardless.  If the player performed poorly, he’d still be getting $5.5 million for the 2017 season, even if he was sitting on the bench wasting a roster spot.  So, the team is obligated to pay the salary no matter what.  Given these mutual risks, why does the player have any rights to renegotiate the terms of a contract that were agreed to by both parties?

Please explain this to me.  Why would any fan support a player like this, let alone cheer for someone who is hurting his team?  Moreover, it would seem fans should have some rights, too.  Alas, everyone forgets about the fans.

Consider the actual situation years ago when a losing NHL team from a smaller market signed a star player who was likely to improve the team’s chances to make the playoffs.  Season ticket sales increased by 40 percent.  Then, the star player held out on his team and refused to honor the deal during the final year of the contract.  Shouldn’t the fans who bought season tickets based on the prospect he’d show up and play be entitled to damages?  Or, at the very least, a refund?

One more scenario, which is a bit of an outlier, but still deserves mention.  We’ve seen past situations where an inexperienced backup NFL quarterback is playing for a relatively small salary.  Then, the old starter gets injured and the young player comes in and surprises everyone by exceeding expectations and winning the job.  Under this scenario, one could argue the young quarterback might be entitled to a renegotiation during the following offseason since his responsibilities have increased dramatically.  As a purist, I don’t think any contracts should be forced to be re-negotiated.  However, I concede that teams want to keep players happy and will do this as a practical matter.

However, in the case of the player holding out because he doesn’t think $5.5 million is enough money, nothing has changed.  Seems to me he’s in serious breach of contract and should be sued by the team for violating the terms of an agreement.

Of course, this won’t happen.  It never happens.  But it just seems wrong that athletes can hold teams (and fans) over a barrel in these types of negotiations.

What are your thoughts?

 

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Sports Betting | 3 comments

Are You Ready for Some Footb….err, uhh — CTE?

 

 

Football has been part of my DNA ever since I lost $1 betting on the Dallas Cowboys against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V, way back in 1970.  I’ve been chasing that elusive buck ever since.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize what a disproportionate amount of time is wasted analyzing pre-game matchups, arguing about players and coaches, and watching college kids and grown ups tear ligaments and break bones to move an oval-shaped ball made presumably of the skin of a pig across a designated white line in order to achieve the ultimate obelisk of the game — which is scoring 6 points.  Whippee.

Of course, I’m more guilty than most, not only in sheltering the fever bug of sports fanaticism, but also promoting the duplicity through my writings, videos, and the inevitable rants after a particularly brutal weekend.  I fully recognize — and am even bothered to some degree — by the hypocrisy of this lifelong obsession with sports gambling while at the same time so often belittling the distractions of these mindless diversions within our culture.

I’m disgusted with the game, but alas I still love it so.  College football — the corrupt NCAA, the phony colleges which exploit so-called “student-athletes” while paying coaches and executives millions, and the grotesquely imbalanced ranking and bowl systems.  Pro football — billionaire owners playing pauper to gauge taxpayers for one-sided stadium deals, greedy players holding out and breaking contracts, $30 for game day parking, and way too many television commercials.  And shit referees.

Like all football fans, I bitch and moan incessantly about it all, but then I’m right there every Sunday morning and Monday night, like an addicted junkie doddering towards a needle for another fix.  Nolan Dalla — guilty as charged.

Still, I wonder about the future of football, especially in light of today’s bombshell announcement about the long-term effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  The short version of the latest most comprehensive study ever on the subject is as follows — CTE is real.  Evidence — Out of 111 brains of deceased NFL players that were studied, 110 were found to have some form of CTE.  110 out of 111.  Ka-boom.  That means playing football over a period of time causes serious brain injury.  End of discussion.

Think about that for a moment.

Would you play pro football if given the chance?  I think most of us would say yes.  The money is just too good.  The excitement of putting on an NFL uniform would be way too cool a proposition to pass up.  Well, maybe not playing for the Rams.  But anyone else.

That said, most of us would likely take a long hard look at what we’re doing to our bodies and brains once the inevitable injuries began taking their toll.  Look at it this way:  How much is walking normally worth to you?  How much money would you need to make to sacrifice your mental faculties in the final few years of your life?  These are legitimate questions that every athlete and every parent and every wife, mother, son, and daughter should be asking of those who strap on a helmet and take the field.  The evidence is clear.

It’s one thing for a professional athlete who’s earning millions of dollars to carefully assess the serious risks of playing football.  Indeed, one can justify playing in the NFL at least a few seasons perhaps in order to live the good life and support one’s family.  That’s a risk many are willing to take and a price they are willing to pay later down the road.  But what about high school kids, college players, and those who will never earn a dollar from playing football?  Is it really worth it to endure the whiplash of getting tossed around the turf like a ragdoll playing football for Purdue?  At what point do parents and students say — stop!  it just isn’t worth it.

I suspect this study [READ MORE HERE] and the fallout of more research to come will not be good for football’s long term prospects.  Some parents already don’t want their kids playing football because, they say, it’s too risky.  As evidence mounts, recruiters must worry and now be willing to face what could become a legitimate objection to playing football, in favor of safer sports like basketball or baseball.

Will football be dead in 20 years?

It’s hard to imagine a downfall given all the money, the fame, the billion-dollar stadiums, the entertainment spectacle, and the cultural infatuation with it all.  The National Football League is the American pastime.  That’s because a fan in Macon, Georgia is every bit as interested in watching a game that takes place in Arizona or Missouri or Wisconsin as his team, the Atlanta Falcons.  This is the genius of pro football — making it into a national game.  No other sport casts such a spell over the mass populace.

The counterargument to football’s decline (for medical reasons) is the recognition that violence sells.  A few decades ago, a sport like the MMA/UFC would have been unthinkable.  Women fighting in cages would have a cultural taboo.  Now, it’s on ESPN primetime.  America loves violence.  America is obsessed with violence.  So perhaps, even the risk of ending up like a vegetable attached to a feeding tube will simply be looked at as one of the hazards of the game.  Perhaps it’s an acceptable risk.

But hey, 110 out of 111 brains — all bludgeoned with CTE?

You tell me.  What the risk?  Hell, it seems more like a certainty.

In 1975, a movie came out starring James Caan and John Houseman.  The movie didn’t do particularly well at the box office and has mostly been forgotten since, but it still left an indelible impression on those who saw it.  “Rollerball” told the story of a corporate-controlled future world where the violence of sport turns star athletes into cultural icons.  That fictionalized vision from nearly five decades appears to have become real.  So, perhaps our hunger of violence and obsession with money is so insatiable that games of violence, including football, will forever be with us.  [SEE FOOTNOTE]

So, which way will we go on pro football and CTE?  Is this really the beginning of the end for football?  Or, have we reached the inescapable dystopia reality that violence and entertainment are intertwined?

__________

FOOTNOTE:  From the IMDB page on “Rollerball” (1975) — The game sequences were filmed in the Olympic Basketball Arena in Munich.  Munich citizens were invited to the filming to serve as spectators to the games.  Director Norman Jewison intended the movie to be anti-violence, but audiences so loved the action of the game that there was actually talk about forming rollerball leagues in the wake of the film which horrified him.

 

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Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Personal, Sports Betting | 2 comments

Gambling for a Living: A Madness to My Method

 

 

Writer’s Note:  This is PART 4 in my ongoing series, “Gambling For a Living.”  What follows is a partial recollection of my sports betting escapades over the course of 2016.  For other chapters, please read PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3.

 

Sunlight sanitizes the dim hue of gambling daily.

All the time wasted and ultimately lost — days, nights, weeks, weekdays, and weekends — prodding often so pointlessly and more often still so profitlessly — crunching ideas, testing theories, reading injury reports on squeaky laptops and cracked smartphone screens — eyes darting back and forth between ball scores — the “previous” button battered on the remote control beyond recognition — my solitary self-made man-cave begins narrowing slowly.  Life becomes absorbed within this timeless vacuum, sucking all the life and energy out of everything else that’s happening in the vast beyond, to which one becomes oblivious and indifferent.

Winning or losing has no impact on this dark place.

There’s a reason why convicts shackled up in solitary confinement are given at least an hour of daily sunshine.  Twenty-three hours spent locked within an isolation chamber of unbreakable steel walls are at least temporarily forgotten when the warmth of the sun’s rays hit the face and sink into the body.  This stimulant along with human contact keeps a prisoner from going mad.

The sun is my salvation.

*     *     *     *     *

August, 2016.

108 degrees today in Las Vegas.  Kick-off in five minutes.

Five months of full-time sports betting has provided me with a modest profit, and much to my surprise, almost narcissistic personal satisfaction.  It’s ridiculous, because I could have spent all those hours doing something not just constructive, but likely more financial rewards.  But there’s something inherently pleasing, even smug worthy, about doong what few people can and beating something that few people have mastered.

Sure, almost all sports gamblers talk a good game.  Ask any sports gambler is he’s a winner and damn near 100 percent will say yes.  Indeed, they might look successful.  But virtually all heavy sports bettors have reliable sources of outside income that help to cast the illusion of success.  Beating the vig in the long run is far more difficult than people realize.

I have no other outside sources of income, and so I was sort of forced into this role.  The bills are due.  The mortgage needs to be paid.  Oh, and one of my cars has 130,000 miles on it and the engine is starting to make funny sounds.

C’mon Los Angeles Rams!  Daddy doesn’t need a new pair of shoes!  He needs a new timing chain!

My $7,000 wager on this “meaningless” preseason football game promises to set the tone for the entire 2016 NFL season.  Worst-case scenario — it’s gonna’ be brutally tough to dig myself out of a $7,000 hole, that is, if I lose this bet.  The way things have been going, that’s about two months worth of what I’ve managed to make so far, while doing this full time, and that was mostly on baseball, which will end soon.  I’d have to pick fourteen $500 winners per game down the road just to get back to even (actually, more than that, with the vig).  To put that into perspective, only 80 or so entrants out of 1,727 — which is less than 5 percent of the field — who entered last year’s NFL Handicapping Contest at the Westgate (what used to be the Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest) finished fourteen games above .500 or greater, for the entire season.

But if I manage to win, that’s a strong head start and a nice financial cushion to invest in the upcoming football season, given my average bet size usually ranges between $300 and $500.  The bottom line is — this isn’t merely a $7,000 game for me, which would still be a lot.  It’s really a $10,800 game, since that’s the full amounts of the financial swing.

Indeed, this is money that means something.  They say you never know the real value of money until you don’t have any.  This will sound strange to non-gamblers, but every serious sports bettor will understand it.  I’ve wagered $5,000 on ball games dozens of times over the years, even on teams where I couldn’t name a single player.  Once, I bet $39,000 on a Super Bowl game [READ THAT STORY HERE].  Still, there’s no correlation between the size of a bet and the pressure to win it.  Most of the time when I’ve bet big in the past, I had enough money to cover the loss, and then some.  Notice I said, most of the time.

Fact is, this is a bet I really cannot afford to lose.  I need the Los Angeles Rams to win the game.  That’s it.  No point spread.  Rams on the money line, laying no points.  Just win baby.

This is the first NFL game played in Los Angeles since before the turn of the century.  Although it’s just a preseason game, 92,000 fans still pack the L.A. Coliseum to welcome the Rams back to Southern California (just three months later, they’ll be calling for the coach’s head to be fired, and they get their wish).  Based on the win-loss records from the previous season, the 7-9 Rams should be able to easily handle the 4-12 Cowboys, especially with the extra motivation of wanting to start off the new era in Los Angeles with a big win for the hometown fans.

Dallas should mail it in.  The veteran starter, Tony Romo is out. He’s not even suiting up to play.   The second-string quarterback got injured in training camp.  Some kid that no one has ever heard of who was drafted in the middle of the fourth round is starting for the Cowboys.  His name is Dak Prescott.

The game begins, and meanwhile — I’m outside sunning by the pool doing my best to magically make a fresh bottle of Santa Christina Umbria disappear, preferably before halftime, after which I’ll crack open a bottle of Blac d’ Blanc Champagne from Schramsberg.  All this is evidenced by the photo above.

I’m not even going to bother watching this game, I tell myself.  Why should I?  I refuse to waste a gorgeous Las Vegas afternoon in front of the television.  I’ll be doing plenty of that during the rest of the season.  My money should win.  Let it do the work for me.  Let my money make me money.  It’s just like stocks, I tell myself.  Like a mutual fund.  Hmm, should I go cash my ticket that going to be worth $10,800 later tonight, or wait until tomorrow?  Such are the difficult decisions of the overconfident.

*     *     *     *     *

My laptop is out by the pool.  The game kicked off just a few moments ago.  I want to make sure I’ve got a good connection, so I hit the refresh button while linked to ESPN.  My first look at the scoreboard….

With 14:43 left in the first quarter, it’s Dallas 7, Los Angeles 0.

What the fuck!

How the shit did Dallas score in the first 17 seconds?

Motivated by panic, my curiosity piqued, I slam the refresh button again and see that the Cowboys have run back the opening kickoff 101 yards and scored a touchdown.

I’m about to throw up my last gulp of Santa Christina.

Alright.  Calm the fuck down.  It’s just one touchdown.  Some dude who’s about to be cut from the team blew a tackling assignment.  Big deal.  It happens.  The Rams should still be in control of the game.

Next series, Rams go 4 downs and out.  Punt.  Dallas ball.

Rookie Dak Prescott takes the field for the first time in a Cowboy uniform.  He looks like Roger Staubach winning the Heisman Trophy at Navy and dashes Dallas on a 85-yard drive that looks to be pristine perfection.

Dallas 14, Los Angeles 0.

I’m swimming and cursing at the same time.  If the neighbors didn’t already think I’m half crazy, they’ve got plenty of new material to ponder.  I refuse to let this gambling abomination ruin my day.  No. No. No. No. No.  Let the game play out and quit obsessing over every play of every drive, I tell myself.

About 40 more minutes pass.  Unable to accept the serenity and remain calm, the laptop opens up again and now it’s Dallas 14, Los Angeles 7.

That’s better.  Now, I’ve got a chance.  I’m back in the game.

Another 40 minutes or so passes.  It must be halftime, by now, I suspect.

ESPN on the screen.  Half time score:  Dallas 24, Los Angeles 7.

FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!

*     *     *     *     *

I tend to be pretty good at the things I’m interested in.

If I’m not interested, or worse — bored with it — I’m the laziest motherfucker on the planet.  [Consider that one reason it took me a month to get back to writing this story.]

Lots of people don’t know this but my work did have a significant impact on NFL betting about 15 years ago.  Allow me to tell you that story.  Since it’s halftime, this makes for perfect timing.

Just before I moved to Las Vegas from Washington, DC, I spent that last summer in the nation’s capital outdoors in the sun, reading and calculating and pouring over old box scores of ball games dating back nearly 20 years.  Each and every day, my routine was pretty much the same.  I went outside, dug into the numbers, made my notes, and eventually came up with gambling fucking gold.  It was the equivalent of discovering hidden treasure.

I have to share some of the credit here.  A handicapper and researcher named Mike Garbowski (whom I’ve never met) had been the first writer ever to take on the unchartered topic of football halftime betting.  Sometime around 1999, he published an obscure data set in a booklet which included all the NFL halftime betting lines and results dating back to the season when they first became available, sometime back in the 1980s.  I don’t even think that data is around anymore.  If there’s a copy of “NFL Second-Half Betting” around somewhere, I still have not seen it since my old copy became so worn out it is no longer legible. [Note:  I think that’s the title of the book.  I’m not sure.  It’s been many years since I’ve seen a copy.]

Thing was, Garbowski didn’t do much in terms of creating a narrative with all his data.  He didn’t market the research, at all.  So, I spent the next three months scouring his numbers and then crosschecked them with as many NFL game results as I could find from the Internet.  The longer I worked, the more excited I became.  After a few weeks of doing this, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day, go outside, and spend the entire day data mining NFL box scores.  I know, that doesn’t sound like much of a life.  I guess — it isn’t.  But in the faux-laboratory of the mind of an NFL handicapper, this became an obsession.

The work wasn’t easy.  For every nugget of gold I found, probably 30 or so theories turned out to be false leads pointing to fool’s gold.  That’s the excruciating toil of data mining, the labor that no one sees.  It’s spending half a day or longer than that on something that looks very promising dating back a few seasons, and then when you continue to run the numbers with all the crosschecking, eventually the advantages fizzle out and end up at the same random percentages as coin flipping.  That’s why it’s called mining.  You have to go deep underground, dig through an incalculable amount worthless rock, and if you’re extraordinarily persistent and then lucky, you might just find a few tiny diamonds amidst the coal.  Data mining is an exercise in constant frustration and disappointment, not to be attempted by anyone but the most determined and stubborn.

My research finally led to 7 NFL Halftime Betting Angles that were irrefutably successful, and ended up altering the second-half lines of pro football games.  Seriously, the actually stared shifting the lines because of this research,  I first published my data in 2001 online at MadJack Sports (with proper attribution given to Mr. Garbowski, of course), and afterward everyone pretty much stole our data, re-posted it elsewhere at other sports betting forums, and the gold rush was on like has never been the case in NFL second-half wagering.

Incredibly, those NFL Halftime Betting Angles produced a whopping 65 percent winners during the full 2001 season.  My systems produced an average of 3 to 4 plays per week.  There was no handicapping involved, whatsoever.  You just bet them blind, and won.  It was that simple.  A monkey could make the plays and win.  It was a dream come true.

Making a really long story much shorter than it really deserves to be (note to self — do the detailed write up someone later, especially on the dead-end angles), those angles made me some money, but they didn’t make me rich.  I had no full-time job for about a year (similar to my experience now), so I relied on those wagers to keep me going.  Thank goodness for offshore sports books, which was my only betting option in those days.

The following season, in 2002, I moved to Las Vegas.  The angles performed even better, winning at nearly 67 percent.  In 2003, Dave Tuley published my angles in the Daily Racing Form, even though the subject matter of the periodical was horse racing.  I published a revised editions of my angles in 2003 in Casino Player magazine.  In other words, I updated some angles, and dropped a few based on results.  This was before software packages ran the data, and even that wasn’t very good since quarters and halves aren’t usually broken down with numbers and percentages — so all the work had to be done the old fashioned way, by making your eyeballs bleed pouring over the data.  By 2005, I was attending sports handicapping seminars in Las Vegas and the “experts” sitting up on the stage were quoting my work (and Garbowski’s work), citing our betting angles, and I pretty much just sat there stewing like a pressure cooker with a thumb up my ass, silent like a bitter victim who watched as everyone else ran away with the prize.

Fuck me.  I never should have published those angles.  I should have kept them to myself.

I coulda’ been a contender.

Addendum to this story:  Two things happened — (1) Lines makers began adjusting lines to the angles, and they became less reliable.  (2) The NFL became more of a passing game and rules were changed which helped offenses, negating some of the “under” betting systems I had created.  Closing advice — don’t bother with the angles anymore.  They’re now totally obsolete.

*     *     *     *     *

No, I didn’t tell that last story with any purpose in mind.  It just seemed like a good time.

No, I did not make a halftime wager on this game.  I’m already down y 17 points.  It looks like I’m about to lose more than enough money on this day and the first thing you must when you’re stuck in a hole is to stop digging.

Second half kickoff.  Dallas 24, Los Angeles 7.

Under these circumstances, I now have to go back into the house and watch my action.

Fuck the sun.

Fuck the pool.

The champagne is still sitting the fridge.

Marieta senses that something is very wrong.

I’m miserable as all fuck.

The second half of the first preseason opener is usually a romper room of ineptitude.  Players who have no shot of ever playing in the NFL are now out on the field, trying desperately to make an impression somewhere on someone just enough to get noticed so he might later get signed to a minimal contract to play on the practice squad.  Many preseason second halves are nothing more than scrimmages — training exercises where the coaches just go through the motions, sending in dull plays that would only interest some talent scout from the former XFL.

For this reason, being stuck 17 points in a preseason NFL game is like being down 30 points in a regular season game.  It means your double fucked.

My five-figure wager is now riding on the arm of a new quarterback for the Rams named Sean Mannion, who used to play for the Oregon State Beavers.  I had to look that up just now, because I could not even remember his name or anything about him.  But over the next 90 minutes or so, he’s going to turn into the second coming of Jesus Fucking Christ.

Mannion throws a touchdown pass in the middle of the third quarter, and after three frames, it’s Dallas 24, Los Angeles 14.  Still down by 10 points.  C’mon, you bastards!

By this time, Dallas has replaced Dak Prescott, who played like an All-Pro in his first-ever NFL start.  That stellar display foreshadowed the incredible rookie season he would later enjoy with the Cowboys as he led them to the NFL East title.  Done for the day, now a fourth-stringer takes all the snaps, and it’s apparent the Cowboys aren’t really interested much in scoring in more points or risking injuries to anyone who might make the team.  They won the half that counted on the scoreboard, from both a coaching and talent perspective.

Fortunately for me, the Rams fourth stringers are treating this game like a Super Bowl.  Los Angeles manages to score another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and now it’s Dallas 24, Los Angeles 21.

I’m pacing back and forth in front of the television like a wild mare.  Rams players who drop passes get called out as cocksuckers.  Cowboy receivers who drop passes get called out as heroes.

Down to the two-minute warning.  Rams have the ball, and are driving.  92,000 fans are on their feet, and while most of the television viewers watching wouldn’t normally think this is a big dive, for me this might as well be Elway piercing through the Browns defense in the epic ’87 AFC Championship game.

With about 1:30 left on the clock and the Rams with no time outs, it’s 4th down.  Crunch time.  Rams ball.  They’re on about the Dallas 35.  I’m mulling over the possibility of kicking a 52-yard field goal, and ponder if that’s what I went to happen.  But Rams’ had coach Jeff Fisher isn’t playing for the tie here.  He wants to win.  I desperately need a first down.  Then, I need another 30 yards in the closing minute.

On fourth down, Mannion takes the snap and goes back to pass, then looks to his right, and nothing is there, so then he looks to his left.  A pass rush floods into the backfield and just as Mannion is about eat the ball and go down with a sack, meaning “game over,” he sees a running back trekking out towards the sidelines, fires a missile that hits the receiver high in the shoulder pads, and he collapses with the ball out of bounds, but a half yard across the first-down marker.

First down Rams!

A few plays later, the Rams are down on the Dallas 9-yard line.  A few seconds remaining.  If I lose this game after storming back against the odds, something’s going to get broken.  I don’t like breaking furniture.  Marieta really hates it when I do that.  Please, o’ please let the Rams score.

Mannion goes back to pass……Aaron Green slants off darting towards the left post in the corner of the end zone…..his arm moves forward……ball is in the air…..Green makes the catch…..

TOUCHDOWN!!!!

With the extra point, Los Angeles 28, Dallas 24.  Final score.

Sean Mannion, my hero.  Congratulations, Sir!  You made the blog!

Time to cash a $10,800 ticket.

 

 

Coming Up:  I’ll be writing a lot more about “data mining” in my next chapter of “Gambling for a Living.”

 

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Posted by on Feb 4, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Sports Betting | 3 comments

My Super Bowl Wager

 

 

In the Super Bowl, I’m betting $1,600. to win back $1,454. on the UNDER 59.

This is the highest betting total in Super Bowl history.  Fifty championship games have been played since 1967, with some of the best offenses of all-time.  Yet no betting total has ever been this high.  All things considered, the value looks to be with the UNDER 59.

The public appears to be betting the OVER in droves.  The total opened at 57.5 in many sports books (YMMV), then went up to 58.  All around Las Vegas today (eve of the Super Bowl), there were lots of 58 and 58.5 numbers frozen in place.  Many people I spoke with expected the betting public might continue to chisel the number steadily upward, but enough sharp money should have resisted the total going too much higher than where it’s stabilized over the past 12 days.  When I suddenly saw a 59 flash at Red Rock (Stations) today, I pounced and made this a larger-than-average wager.

Of course, betting against a tidal wave is tricky.  There’s some evidence this total could climb higher.  In that case, I could be sitting on a stale number by tomorrow afternoon.  This is always the risk on takes when betting as a contrarian.  I’ll feel pretty awful if this total closes at 60 and I’m sitting here holding the shit basket.

There’s also some value in the UNDER 29.5 First Half Total.  However, I’ll hope the extra 30 minute time frame will reduce variance (two halves at 29.5 each) and the ticket will get cashed.  I did want to note the First Half Total does look to be equally as tempting.

For this ticket to lose, 60-plus points will need to be scored.  That’s 30 points per team.  Many Super Bowls have turned into routs, of course, which is always the danger here in the big game.  If one team jumps to a big lead, the ball starts flying all over the field and crazy stuff happens.  However, recent Super Bowl games have played at a more modest pace and points haven’t lit up the score board.

The intangible in this game should be the Patriots’ defense.  If they come to play, it’s probably a win and easy cover and the UNDER cashes.  I greatly respect Bill Belichick’s abilities as a head coach (that should go without saying, although his politics are fuck).  But New England has also be a dreadful Super Bowl favorite under his reign, as the Patriots have failed to cover in most games.  That brings up the old saying — Good teams win, but great teams cover.  Remember that, Patriot fans.

I began posting NFL plays publicly on the internet about 20 years ago.  I’ve posted thousands of plays over that long span.  Since I’ve started writing on my own here at my own site, I’ve enjoyed 3 winning seasons and 1 losing season.  This year, my winnings were pretty modest — just $1,384 in profit spread out over 17 weeks (or 13.8 percent in profit).  Most of the winnings game from betting teaser wheels.  I’ve not handicapped the NFL particularly well in recent years.  However, I’ve somehow managed to still make money both in 2015 and 2016.  There’s no pretending here.  However, given all the talk and trash that’s floating out there (touts), I’m pretty proud of being ahead overall after thousands of NFL plays posted at my site.

Accordingly, I could rest on my mini-laurels and wrap up another winning season by betting small.  It would be easy to run out the clock and declare victory.   However, I won’t play it safe here.  I’m risking the prospect of a losing season overall by wagering $1,600 on this game.  Hence, I could end up in the red for the year (regarding posted plays here — not counted are hundreds of wagers such as halftimes and so forth which do not get posted because there’s no time).  However, I really like this UNDER play and if it hits, I’ll end up $3,000 to the good for the season, which is a return of about 30 percent.

Best wishes to everyone.  Thanks for reading.

SIDE NOTE:  Look for my continuing series on “Gambling for a Living,” coming up next week.  I have several more chapters to write, which will include a recap of this year’s NFL regular season.

________________________________________

2016 NFL SEASON RECORD

STARTING BANKROLL:  $10,000.

CURRENT BANKROLL:  $11,384.

NET GAIN/LOSS:   + $1,384.

LAST WEEK:  (7-8-1)  – $360.

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Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal, Rants and Raves, Sports Betting | 4 comments

Gambling for a Living — Part 3 (Give Me $7,000 on the Los Angeles Rams)

 

 

I’ve been asked once or twice or perhaps a hundred times if I’m a compulsive gambler.

That’s a fair question.  Yes, I do fit the classic description.  I’ve spent most of my life gambling.  Check.  I’ve lost vast sums of money at various times, sometimes even seriously harming my financial standing.  Check.  I’ve spent absurd amounts of time inside casinos.  Check.  I blow many hours on sports handicapping and watching ball games on which I’ve bet money.  Check.  I’ve driven across town to get down on the best number, and I’ve driven hundreds of miles to play in poker games.  Check.  My personal reputation is heavily tinged by gambling.  Check.  All this and more, it seems, makes me fit the description of a “compulsive gambler.”

Checkmate.

However, what I’m about to reveal might be shocking.  After nearly four decades spent gambling, and having experienced just about all the highs and lows that one could possibly imagine (keep in mind there are some stories I’ll never tell) — ideally, I’d love to be in the position where I didn’t have to gamble at all.  I’d much rather read a good book or go on a hike than watch a basketball game.  If I had enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life, I don’t think I’d bet on sports again.  What would be the purpose?  Sure, I might still play poker purely for fun occasionally since the game is just as much a social engagement and a gambling exercise, but that would be the extent of it.  I’d have no interest in playing table games or other forms of gambling.  In short, gambling doesn’t excite me.  I could take it or leave it.  And, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t mind leaving it.

That might seem like a bizarre thing to say by someone who’s made various types of gambling his life’s mission.  I stumbled into this career quite by accident and given all that I now know and who I know, I’d be foolish to throw all that knowledge away and start anew into something else.  But if I had my way, and had a real choice in life, I’d probably spend most of my time doing something else, something completely different, rather than gambling.

So, the answer is no — I’m not a compulsive gambler.

***

Coping often requires that we deceive ourselves into thinking we have choices in life when usually we don’t.  And the older you get and longer you live, the fewer choices you’ll have.  Age is an alarm clock and we never know when the bell will ring and our time is up.  Late in life, choices become extinct and you’re stuck with a fate over which you have no control.

This isn’t a discussion of free will, and more precisely, whether or not we have it.  Put more plainly, we’re all chained by common habits.  We become dependent on jobs.  We’re wielded to family members and responsibilities.  We’re rooted in our communities.  We’re expected to act and behave a certain way, especially by all those around us.  Break the mold and do something different, and then eyebrows raise and whispers begin.  Too often, we’re discouraged from breaking molds.  Indeed, most of us are trapped in what writer Henry David Thoreau famously called “lives of quiet desperation.”  Misplaced values cause us to attempt to fill this void of quiet desperation with money, material possessions, and accolades.  But as studies have shown, those superfluous things don’t necessarily make us happy.  There’s absolutely no correlation between society’s common definition of success (mostly measured in wealth and fame) and personal happiness.

***

To have any long-term chance of winning at gambling decisions must matter.  Making decision (or choices) is the difference between games of skill and games of chance, although many forms of gambling include both.

So, in lives with so few choices left, gambling does become a convenient de facto substitute.  When many gamblers say they feel alive again, what they’re often really expressing is the freedom of making their choices and then seeing the outcome within minutes or even seconds.  That choice and the prospect of a win can be exhilarating.

Games which provide a long-term possible positive outcome include poker, blackjack, sports gambling, and horse racing.  Some could argue there are advantage players in video poker, also.  In each of these forms of gambling, the player must make choices.  Those decisions determine the outcome of the wager, at least in part.  Hence, the gambler — to some extent — controls his own destiny.

***

The 2016 World Series of Poker ends, which means now I have the entirety of all my days and nights totally free, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  The next eight weeks get spent mostly lounging out in the back yard, drinking white wine by day and red wine after sundown, and betting baseball from noon until midnight.  Baseball is the only thing going in the doldrums of summer, aside from the occasional Euro or South American soccer bet that captures my gaze.  The refresh button on the portable laptop pops a spring and breaks off from being punched too many times.  With thousands of dollars riding in action daily, baseball updates on ESPN.com and MLB.com become what the stock ticker represents to a Wall Street investor.

Averaging 10 to 15 wagers a day, seven days a week, which is nearly every waking hour, that means there’s a pitch being thrown somewhere in the country at any minute which has some bearing on my financial standing.  After awhile, it all becomes a blur, a mental fog.  One becomes numb to the inevitable bad beat of a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in a game where you held a comfortable 2-0 lead and the bases were empty and you’d already circled the game with a bold “W.”   One also becomes desensitized to the wins just as much, that occasional +230 flash in the pan underdog which cashes and reinforces the dangerously false self-deception that you’ve finally got this baseball thing figured out and can coast to an easy living the rest of your life.

Given my volume of wagers, there’s also the inevitable mistake.  Since I began betting on sports full time, on more than a few occasions I’ve mistakenly clicked the wrong box on one of five online betting apps I use.  That means, I thought I bet on one team when I actually bet on the other.  That’s happened more times than I care to admit, and don’t tell me it evens out because it doesn’t.  Years ago, I once bet $3,000 on a Seattle Seahawks halftime line which seemed like a lock.  I almost never lay points in the second half, but this time I accidentally clicked my offshore account for $3,000 on the ‘Hawks laying -2.5.  The other team covered easily, and that sloppy mistake ended up costing me a swing of $5,700.  That’s the worst brain fart I can remember.

I’ve also double clicked bets, which means when I thought I was laying $400 on a ball game, I was actually risking $800 because my fat fingers turned the keyboard into what amounted to a bingo sheet.  Earlier this year in college football, I took Rutgers for (what I thought was ) one unit, which was very much competitive up until kickoff and ended up losing 79-0.  A double click made the defeat all the more costly.

But the worst betting mistake I can recall making was the “no bet” on a ghastly baseball game that lasted an ungodly 19 innings.  Given my distaste for the game, the only thing worse that following a baseball game is sweating a ball game that goes into extra innings.  I’d bet the under in the Cleveland-Toronto game played in July and despite a marathon match which extended even beyond a double header, more than 6 mind-numbing hours in all, the teams combined for 2-1 pitchers’ duel where my under was never in any serious danger.  Dull but easy money, or so I thought.

Upon checking my account balance the next day, the ledger came up exactly $400 short.  What the fuck happened?  Apparently, I’d put in the bet but then failed to hit “confirm.”  So, I sweated a 19-inning baseball game for absolutely nothing.  That was like getting sucker punched.  I don’t know why, but breaking even on the game was worse than losing.

All these capping and clicks ends up being profitable.  But that the end of each month, I’m still short of what’s needed to pay the bills.  Hence, my betting bankroll continues to evaporate and instead of being able to wager more money on games and eventually step into the class of 55 percent winners and a steady income because I”m now betting $1,000 a game, I’m now having to downshift back to $300 per game because a cold streak could wipe me out.

What I need is a big win.  I need to find the right opportunity.

***

During the NFL offseason, the insufferable St. Louis Rams move west back to their old home in Los Angeles and become the first professional football team to play in the nation’s second-biggest city in the last 20 years.

Many bettors chose to skip preseason football.  Even so-called sharps ignore it.  I’m glad.  That leaves more opportunity for those of us who take these “meaningless” football games quite seriously and invest lots of time studying lineups and motivation.  I could explain more as to why preseason football is actually easier to handicap than the regular season or playoff games (which means they are sometimes more predictable), and will do so another time.  But for now, just go along with me that I’m really smart and know what I’m doing.

The Rams are scheduled to open up their 2016 schedule with an exhibition match versus the perpetually over-hyped Dallas Cowboys.  They’ll play in the ancient but refurbished L.A. Coliseum, which according to media reports gets sold out instantly, despite this being a preseason game.  Most NFL stadiums are half full with bored fans during the preseason.  However, 92,000 excited local supporters of the new team are expected to turn out and welcome the Rams back to Los Angeles.

There’s more compelling reasons to love the Rams in this opener.  Head Coach Jeff Fisher has just been inexplicably resigned to a contract extension.  He’ll be fired three months later.  But entering the 2016 season, there’s reason for optimism.  Fisher appears to be popular with his players and has the support of management.  The Rams are coming off a lackluster 7-9 season.  But this appears to be a great spot for them since they’re facing the downtrodden Cowboys, who went 4-12, their worst record in 26 years when Jerry Jones first bought the team.

I figure the Rams will make a definitive statement in this game.  They’ll play hard.  No way that Rams ownership wants the team to come out on a perfect August Saturday afternoon and lay an exploding lump of dog shit in the first game back in Los Angeles — in front of 92,000 paying customers eager to gobble up plenty of new merchandise.  If ever there was a “phone call” from upper management down to the coaching staff and players saying, “win this game, or else….” this was it.  This was the game I’d been waiting for.  This was the right opportunity.

The opening line comes out at Rams -3 over the Cowboys.  The number quickly gets bet up to -5, then drops back down to -3.5

I get nervous laying points in preseason football games.  So, the more viable alternative seems to play the Rams on the moneyline.  What that means is — I just have to win the game.  No points are involved.  So long as the Rams beat the Cowboys, I win money.  And so, given this rare opportunity where one side seems to have so much the best of it and all the motivation to win, I decide to fucking fire.

Laying the round number of $7,000 to win back close to $3,800 (in profit) means that I’ve got a swing of $10,800 on a single preseason football game.  That’s quite a step up from betting $100 a game on baseball back in April, or the ultimate in degeneracy depending on one’s perspective.  The spread even dips down to -3 for a short time, and I contemplate firing more on the game.  However, one can never be too cautious in gambling.

It’s announced that Dallas won’t even suit up several of their starters.  Star quarterback Tony Romo won’t play.  Dallas, which suffered a rash of killer injuries last season, announces though head coach Jason Garrett, they just want to “say healthy.”  Lots of scrubs, which is the term used for bust outs who will get a couple of weeks in training camp before ultimately being cut back to civilian life and a life of anonymity, will see plenty of action.  Then, right before the game, the Cowboys suffer another setback when the second-string backup quarterback gets hurt and won’t play.  Dallas’ first round draft choice, running back Ezekial Elliott also suffers an ankle injury and will be out.  Meanwhile, the Rams appear healthy and hungry.  This is looking like the lock of the century.

Come the time for kickoff, the Cowboys field a goulash of starters which includes an unknown starting quarterback drafted in the fourth round who has never taken an NFL snap.  His name is Dak Prescott.

 

Coming Next:  Part 4 of “Gambling for a Living.”

 

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