Seven Days in May (Betting Baseball)
Sports betting is one of two things. It’s either fool’s gold or the holy grail. In reality, it’s likely both, depending on how you’re running at the moment.
Anyone with that ill-advised delusion of trying to beat the oddsmaker will at some point certain as the night is long find sports gambling to be a most humbling, even a humiliating experience. It doesn’t care about our feelings. At least in this regard, the beats we’re dealt are indiscriminate. It’s nothing personal. Indeed, I’ve been humbled. I’ve been humiliated. And yes, I’ve even gone broke a few times — once right here on these confessional pages in front of your very eyes.
Thinking we’re smarter than oddsmakers or convinced that we’re wiser than the sophisticated betting syndicates out there actively moving lines and hammering small edges is the fallacy of the gambler’s folly. And thank goodness to the heavens for that gambler ego, plankton floating in an open sea of sharks. Without these susceptible lower life forms — those picking the popular favorites and wildly betting the parlays — there would be no ignorance for exploitation. Without public money, otherwise known as a consensus, winners would not exist in sports gambling.
Exactly what does it take to win? I’d say winning is largely dependent on five things, probably more: (1) modesty/discipline, (2) access to multiple and favorable lines, (3) a big enough betting bankroll to withstand variance, (4) access to breaking information that might not — at least yet — be properly favored into the line or total, and dare I say (5) a little luck along the way. I’m working on improving in all of the above. Especially the luck part.
During the last five weeks betting baseball, I’ve been getting far luckier than I should. That’s produced about $4,000 in overall profit this baseball season, so far — well in excess of my original more modest goal, which was grinding about $350 a week, or fifty bucks a day. Broken down further, I’m running substantially ahead of where I expected to be, returning about 10 percent overall when my realistic expectation was a 5 percent return on the average wager. Put in simpler terms, I need to bet about $7,000 a week in games to produce that level of return.
This week, I made 38 bets in baseball. I wagered just under $8,000 total. Now, entering Week #6, here’s how the daily grind of betting on Major League Baseball has been going:
Sunday, May 8th
In gambling, winning money is only half the challenge. The other half is somehow hanging onto it, and/or turning the financial windfall into something positive. “Something positive” might be paying a few bills. It could be adding funds to the bankroll. It could even be taking a day or two off. What it doesn’t mean is going out and blowing the money, as I and so many others have done so many times before.
Flush with a reasonably healthy betting bankroll of $7,000 which seems like a comfortable reservoir for baseball (35 units at $200 per game), admittedly there’s a strong temptation after a winning streak to step up the amount of my wagers. Since the principles of handicapping remain the same regardless of how much you’re wagering, why then not bet more per game? What if I had wagered $300 per game over the past month instead of just $200? With similar results wouldn’t that mean I’d earn a whopping 50 percent more in profit?
Well, the short answer is yes. Trouble is — I’ve been down this road before. This time, I’m determined to maintain a stronger sense of discipline. This I must do. I’m also not thoroughly convinced (yet) that I’m going to beat the game in the long run. Were I absolutely certain of my ability, then I’d surely fire more on each wager. My new motto is: No one ever went broke being too cautious.
So, stuck on betting $200 per game for the time being, last Sunday’s plays performed as follows:
STL/PIT OVER — won $200
SDI +135 — lost $200
TEX +125 — won $250
KC +115 — lost $200
OAK +130 — lost $200
TB/LAA UNDER — won $200
BOS +125 — won $250
TOR +120 — won $240
This was the ideal betting day — lots of plays, two totals with some moneyline dogs, a winning record to inspire more confidence, and a solid profit. $540 to the good. Oh, and the Yankees and Dodgers both lost, so that was an added bonus.
Monday, May 9th
The new week doesn’t start out well. My new online betting account with SportsConnection.com, which is online betting through the Stations Casinos sportsbook, legal only here in Nevada, isn’t working. I keep getting error messages each time I try to confirm a bet. Turns out my new cell phone isn’t programmed yet (it’s a new model which just came out on the market). This requires me to take the phone into Red Rock and have them add the device to my account. Come to find out that each account user is tagged with a device. There are strict rules in place governing sports wagering here in Nevada, most of the draconian measures relating to geolocation. They don’t want gamblers using proxies or out-of-state residents logging in from outside state borders (which would technically violate the Wire Act). So, the major sportsbooks which provide online wagering set up various firewalls which require jumping through some hoops. Bad news for me is — the only land line service they allow for computers is through Cox Cable, which I don’t use. So, my only option is the Android smartphone. The bottom line — I’ve got wagers to make but I can’t log in and get the bets confirmed.
It’s 9:45 am.
One of my games goes off promptly at 10:05 am (it’s a 1:05 afternoon start on the East Coast). I jump in the car and make a mad dash off to Red Rock Casino, which is about 2.5 miles away. After barreling though a couple of red lights, I dovetail into to the parking lot, park in the designated takeout space at Lucille’s Barbecue (they’re not open until 11 am — this special parking place will prove to be a real time saver in emergencies) and dart into the casino where I see the pitchers warming up on the giant overhead screen.
Trouble is — this is a Monday morning, which means business is slow. That also means there are fewer tellers, and the ticket writers which are open are blockaded by deadbeat horse players doddering around betting $3 trifectas and taking up what seems like eternity calling out their sucker exotic wagers. Move it, fuckers!
Sure enough, I get to the window, call out the number on the big board, and find out the game is suddenly off the board. The first pitch has already been thrown. Well, you know the final outcome. My phantom total, the OVER, wins easily. Trouble is, I’m sitting here holding a handful of air.
Fucking deadbeat horse players.
My wagers for the day went as follows:
PIT +120 — won $240
KC + 110 — lost $200
CHISOX/TEX OVER — won $200
OAK +120 — lost $200
CLE +11o — won $220
TOR/SFO OVER — lost $200
A day where I should have went 4-3 because the early game won turned into a split, going 3-3. But the calendar date still produced a small profit, $50 to the good. Like I said, if I can somehow manage to do this every single day until 2021, the home mortgage will be paid off in five years.
One ominous warning of bad things to come — this was the first game of the OAK at BOS series, where the A’s pitching got absolutely massacred. I mean, they were destroyed. They gave up 13 or more runs in every game. In this game, I lost my A’s wager 14-7. I know I have to play OAK the next few in this series, but I don’t know if I have the intestinal fortitude to bet them.
Tuesday, May 10th
I finally get my new HTC 10 phone in sync with the Station Casinos online site. I must say, they were exceptional in terms of tech support. I was trying to tie in two phones, plus a tablet to my account. The tech guys at SportsConnection.com could not have been more helpful. They even emailed me software to download in case I have other issues (like breaking another phone). They called me later as a follow up courtesy to make sure things were working okay. I often kick ass when it comes to bad customer service, and many sportsbooks around Las Vegas have atrocious personality-challenged dimwits working at the counters. But I must say that my experience with the Stations people, at least in terms of tech service, was outstanding. Gee, they must really like me. They must really want my business. I’m a VIP.
Look out. Brace yourselves. Tuesday’s plays were:
PHL +105 — won $210
MIL +145 — won $290
CIN +125 — won $250
CLE +115 — won $230
SEA +120 — won $240
STL +120 — won $240
What a day! Six out of six! All moneyline underdogs! This was as good as it gets in baseball. $1,460 in profit for the day. Inexplicably, I also talked myself out of making a bet on OAK +170 at the last minute, which then got pounded 13-5. Sometimes the bets your don’t make can be just as wise as the ones you do make.
One interesting side note: I started writing a handicapping column for a betting website, which is 2BET.com. During the course of my research the previous weekend, I was looking at false home favorites. Turns out, the Atlanta Braves have been the worst bet in baseball at home this season. If you bet them in every home game, you’d be in the poorhouse. It’s amazing how bad this once proud franchise has become. On this day, I saw the Phillies still weren’t getting enough respect from the public, despite being something like 20-15 on the season after posting the worst W-L record in baseball last year. Somehow, Atlanta, which had won just just 8 games all season was laying a small price to the Phillies. My old self would have bet a large amount on this game, and I was tempted to fire $1,000. It was hard to resist that impulse. But I remembered this is a new period for me, and I didn’t want to dust off 25 percent of my profits on one whim of a game, no matter how attractive it was. So, I stuck to the program and bet my standard $200. The game won easily, and better yet, I got a nice price on my wager.
Hey, anyone can pick 6 favorites and sweat the card. Try picking 6 dogs. That takes balls — which happen to be balls of platted gold now after going 6-0.
Wednesday, May 11th
Three solid winning days in a row. I almost took the day off.
I wish I would have. Well, I kinda’ did take the day off. But I still made my bets.
I can’t explain why this seems to happen with greater regularity than it should statistically speaking, and perhaps my evidence is purely anecdotal, but whenever I have a huge day or week in sports, the ice cream often seems to melt into a dollop of shit.
Before I get to that, first something personal and unusual. And it has something to do with baseball. On this day, I’m doing something I have not done in 46 years. That’s right, I am going somewhere for the first time since the year 1970, when I was just 8-years-old.
Nick Christenson (the book author, high-tech guru, sports handicapper, and master of all trades) joins me, along with Russ Fox (the tax accountant, best known doing lots of taxes of people you would probably know, and Adam Bachrach (who I’ve known for 20 years, and was a poker pro for a while), and Matt Lessinger (another book author and a casino manager at The Oaks Club). We down lots of tap beer over at the Main Street Station pub, then head off to a minor league ballpark called Cashman Field, where the Las Vegas 51’s play their home games.
Like I said, I haven’t been to a minor league baseball game since 1970. I’ve never been inside Cashman Field. I was stunned to enjoy myself as much as I did. The weather was absolutely perfect. I also won two unexpected wagers, and now I’ve got to pour salt in the wound and do a rooster dance. Right before the first pitch, Nick put out a line of Las Vegas -115 with a total of 10 runs, and so clueless as to what any of this meant, I took the visiting El Paso Chihuaha’s, along with the UNDER. The 51’s come to the plate in the bottom of the 1st, and whack! First pitch is a home run. It flies over the fence and bounces off a pine tree. I’m thinking my money is fucked. Well, joy! That turns out to the the only run the 52’s bring home all night, and the El Paso pitchers combine for a 4-hit gem, with a final score of 4-1, easily going UNDER the total. I sweep both of my bets and collect cash from Nick. In my 54 years on planet earth, that’s the first time I can remember going to a live sporting event and leaving with more money in my pocket than when I came in. So, for my minor league baseball betting career, I’m a perfect 2-0. I shall retire undefeated.
Now, back to the majors. Turns out, I’m going to need that money the way my Wednesday bets go. Here’s the bloody carnage of disaster:
TOR +110 — lost $200
CHISOX +125 — lost $200
MILW +160 — lost $200
CIN +125 — lost $200
DET +140 — lost $200
So, I went a brutal 0-5, with all five of the losses coming by a single run! Results: 6-5, 5-4, 6-5, 4-3, and 3-2. Lost one game in extra innings and another when the home team pitcher walked in a runner with the bases loaded. Nice job bullpen!
That’s what I call a “market correction” day after going 6-0 the night before. Still, I have to be pretty happy with the overall results. If there’s anything that’s good about a horrible day, it’s when it comes after a very good day. It really sucks when you have a horrible day and then another horrible day.
Easily, this was my worst day of the season, so far. Lost $1,000, not counting the stew I pulled out of the sucker who lost money to me at the minor league ballpark.
Thursday, May 12th
Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase. Don’t chase.
No, my keyboard isn’t stuck. Those are the two words I kept murmuring to myself over and over after blowing a full grand back out of my betting bankroll on the previous day. I was so, so, so , so, SO, tempted to abandon ship and jump on the Spurs bandwagon for a little ride and bet them heavy in Game 6 of the NBA playoff series, thinking they’d easily rebound after two straight losses and get their shit together. Hey, that’s what great teams with great coaches do. Seemed like easy money to fire large on the Spurs, and get it all back in one swoop. Fortunately, that temptation was resisted, as the Spurs went down in 6 games to Oklahoma City.
Disaster avoided, once again. The plan seems to be working.
Today brings a light betting card. I like only two games:
KC +125 — lost $200
PHI -130 — won $400
I stubbornly bet KC (aren’t they the world champions of baseball?) playing at the New York Yankees. Mistakenly thinking the wrong team is favored here (I forgot the pitching matchup — obviously that’s key), I figure these are the types of games where true champions prove themselves. They win games they are supposed to win, when the public team with all the tradition is wrongly laying something like -135, even though they were in last place. This was a disappointing loss, going to 7-3 to the Yankees. Pretender Royals. Fucking frauds.
In the other game, this was one of the best values all week, the superior Phillies laying a reasonable price to the struggling Braves at home, who were coming off a win. Remembering my research for the 2BET article, where I identified the Braves as the worst home bet in all of baseball (at the moment), I stepped up my wager for a rare double play here, since the betting card was so light, which gave me a profit for the day of $200.
Funny side note: Since I dumped $1,000 the day before, all out of the online site, I had to make another deposit at Stations to fund my online betting account. Just two days after putting $1,000 across the counter, I peeled off another $1,000 to the same guy who had seen me several days in a row. As I was showing the supervisor my card and counting out the money, he said, “back again, huh?” Priceless. I also noticed there seems to be a steady line at the counter of players constantly reloading their online accounts. Gee, I guess not too many people seem to win.
Friday, May 13th
My typical sportsbetting day consists of waking up whenever I feel like it, doing my handicapping research early, writing if I feel so inclined (which has suffered since I’ve been investing more time in handicapping and am depressed given it’s a presidential race between Trump and Clinton), running 2-4 miles around noon, eating lunch, doing errands, reading at least part of one book (this is a routine, and I encourage everyone to make yourself to do this — it’s the best part of my day), then enjoying the evening at home, that is, if we don’t go out to dinner. We also walk the two cats (we have them trained). Marieta and I also go for a nightly bike ride, which is about 2.5 miles. Then, around 10 pm, I spend the next 3 hours watching cute animal videos on YouTube. There’s a reason why I tell you this….
CIN/PHL OVER — lost $200
STL +115 — lost $200
ARZ +130 — lost $200
COL/NYM OVER — won $180
SDI +120 — lost $200
When I left on out bike ride at about 8 pm, I was winning 4 out of 5 bets. A couple of the games had two-run leads. So, that was a nice bike ride. I didn’t even think once about baseball or gambling while I was out there enjoying the ride.
When I got back home and refreshed the computer, all three of the games had somehow imploded. I ended up going 1-4 on the night, for a loss of $620.
My early retirement has been delayed by at least another day. Hopefully, things will turn around over the weekend.
Saturday, May 15th
If ever there was a day of atonement, this was it. Breaks that didn’t go my way the previous couple of days fell in my favor. Base hits I needed at key moments dropped into the outfield. Relievers that I needed to step up, some with 2.0 WHIPS somehow mowed down the side protecting the fragile one-run lead. Indeed, they say breaks and the luck factor balances out, which I suppose is true, if not in life, at least in poker and sports bettting. The next two days are a testament to the gambling gods playing no favorites:
CIN +150 — lost $400
LAA +150 — won $600
SFO +125 — won $250
COL/NYM UNDER — won $200
STL/LAD UNDER — lost $220
SDI +125 — won $250
They say baseball is a streaky game. Well if that’s true, then so is baseball betting. After a shitty day, the tables were turned and I went 4-2. Better yet, the dogs barked. I could have added another $600 to the score, actually a swing of $1,000, had CIN won its game, but that’s where I caught a bad break. In a 3-2 ballgame, a riveting collision at home plate in the top of the 9th seemed to produce the typing run. I had men on 2nd and 3rd and no out, yet somehow didn’t fucking score since the next three batters turned into statues. Strike out. Foul out. Then, the runner was thrown out the plate to end the game. Real bad beat on that game, and like I said, a swing of a grand. It hurts to lose those. It hurts to see a grand fucked away in the wind.
Still, this was a very good night. Remember my bike ride that I told you about? Well, it looked like a break-even night when I left the house cycling around the lake on a perfect 75 degree night with the lovely Marieta. Then, just like the evening before, I came back home and turned on the laptop while lounging out of the back patio, just as I’m doing right now a day later. One of the games I though I’d lost somehow ended up as a win. Down by a run late in the game, Pujols of the Angels )I think that’s his name — he used to play for St. Louis) slammed a three-run homer in the top of the 9th inning, which gave me that $1,000 swing back in my favor. I really liked the Reds and Angels big on this day, and since they were both listed at +150, I couldn’t pass on betting them both for a double-sized wager, and hoping for a split. That’s exactly what I got, producing $200 in profit just for those two games.
Overall, this was a very good day, with much thanks to Pujols, which turned a $680 profit.
WEEKLY WIN/LOSS: +$1,320.
SEASON WIN/LOSS: +$5,320.
Addendum: It’s now a new week. I would have written and posted this report much earlier, but Sunday (today) ended up being my best day of baseball in years. Sunday, I posted 9 wins and 1 loss, and eight of the wagers were on moneyline dogs! Best game of the day was OAK coming back and slamming a 2-run homer in the top of the 9th, with two outs, resulting in a one-run victory. That’s to say I had some luck on my side. Sunday’s win was probably the most astonishing day I’ve ever enjoyed in baseball (eight underdog wagers! — all cashed!). About $2,500 in profit.
The grind continues. For the time being, I’m sticking with the system. It seems to be working.
By the way, I’ve always despised those self-absorbed selfies of chip stacks and poker players tweeting their chip counts at the end of the first day of some $200 tournament out in bum-fuck Missouri. So, here’s my revenge: