"How much do you have on the game?" Change100 asked me. "A dime? Two times? You can tell me."
She knows about my vexing issues with sports betting. It got kinda ugly last year without really getting ugly. It's true. I was betting up to three dimes on the NBA playoffs and during March Madness. At one point last March, MiamiDon turned to me while sitting at the sportsbook at Red Rock and said, "You got balls, man."
And that's coming from a guy who only has one testicle.
When I accepted a job with PokerNews to cover the 2007 WSOP, I had just gotten unstuck betting on the NBA playoffs. I was in the hole two and a half dimes and I won a big bet to more than break even. I was a blithering zombie all week, on mega-sportsbetting-tilt (MSBT) after a brutal series of losing game after game after game. I went something like 2-10 that stretch. I was the mush. Everyone should have been fading my picks. But it was the last game that mattered the most. I glimpsed into the abyss and saw my fate. I told myself that I was either leaving Vegas down six grand or even.
That's when the gambling Gods hath shined goodwill upon my battered soul. Call it luck. Or fate. Karmic balance? Perhaps, good will towards men? It didn't matter. I won that decisive bet and got unstuck. When an atheist in the middle of a losing streak all of a sudden gets unstuck, he believes in God for that brief second before he cashes the ticket.
After that miraculous victory, I was floating about two feet above the ground. Schecky pulled me aside and seriously asked me if I bet on baseball. He was worried that I was going to blow my entire Poker News salary betting on the boys of summer.
"Baseball? Only a degenerate would bet on baseball," I told him as the green and red lights of the Caesar's Palace sports book flickered in the background like fool's gold.
I rarely make promises anymore, mainly because I try to be a man of my word. Promises get me in trouble. But I made one that day in front of Schecky and Change100. I really made it for myself, but I also knew it would get my boss and my girlfriend off my back.
"I promise that I won't bet on any sports until the NFL season starts in September."
That was the beginning of May 2007. I cut out sports betting cold turkey, which was easy to do during the summer. Seriously, only total degenerates bet on WNBA and on baseball. I stayed clean, even when I got several tips from Nolan Dalla and other professional sports bettors. The only big bet I made all summer was whether or not Erick Lindgren could do his infamous golf prop bet. I've finally collected the last batch of payments on that sensational win. But that was prop betting, much like lime tossing with Otis, where I emerged the victor in that late night activity.
I found myself in London at the start of the NFL season, covering the WSOP-Europe. The Empire Casino showed the NY Jets and New England Patriots game on the big screen. The Jets got whooped that game and afterwards, the whole cheating scandal emerged, which did not deter the Pats since they ran off 18 straight wins and secured another berth in the Super Bowl.
The opening day of the 2007 NFL season also marked my return to sports betting - but with a milder and more subdued approach. I made another promise, again this one for myself, that I would cap every sports bet that I make. I came up with $200. I figured if I lost two $200 bets a week for 17 weeks, the most I could lose was seven dimes. Although it's possible to lose 34 straight bets, I knew that was nearly impossible.
London had betting parlors or betting shops all over town like William Hill or Ladbrokes. There was one on the corner where my hotel was located. I passed two more on my five minute walk pass Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. There was also a betting shop around the corner from the casino. I spent a lot of time in there during my two-week assignment in London. I was betting on four or five football games a weekend, but making much smaller bets, usually under $100. That was just to get a taste.
After that initial rush of gambling on sports again, the morbid addiction which had been festering underneath my skin was finally released. It's fascinating how you obsess over things you cannot have. But once I made that first bet and filled out a betting slip at Ladbrokes, I was no longer jonesin' for big action. For the first time in a while, I felt as though I had a firm grasp on my gambling demons. The insatiable desire, the need, the want, the longing for action had been quelled... for the moment.
But then I started betting on Swedish hockey because a friend of mine in Stockholm (who used to play pro hockey in Sweden) was doing nothing but following along with the Allsvenskan Swedish hockey league while playing online poker. He did the research and I made the bets. I went on a rush betting on something I had no knowledge about and at the end of a two week stretch, I turned 200 Euros into over 2K. I decided to hit and run. I have not bet on Swedish hockey since then. I bet on a couple of NBL games (Australian hoops) when I was in Melbourne and Sydney in October, but that was just small bets to keep things interesting. Of course, I took my winnings betting on Swedish hockey and pissed all of that away betting on the stock market.
Life is funny like that. I used to work on Wall Street and did my homework. I bought a stock which I thought would be a winner. It was a loser, another "dog with fleas" in the vernacular of those slicked back hair and suspenders-wearing Gordon Gekko types. I can't pick a winning stock no matter how much research I do, yet I can get lucky betting on Swedish hockey.
Jimmy Carter said it best, "Life's not fair."
My return to NFL betting coincided with the blogger gathering in Las Vegas in December. That was the weekend when my brother and I had been going to Vegas for almost a decade, so we could bet on football. I had most of my other gambling addictions in check for the trip. I avoided losing large sums at Pai Gow. I ignored the craps tables, like an abusive ex-lover who tormented me by her mere physical presence in the casino.
I stuck with poker and sports betting. One I think I'm good at, and the other I think I'm pre-destined to have good luck in. I'm still trying to figure out which is which.
MiamiDon and I faded the majority of Waffles picks and for the first time I tested the elasticity of my $200 cap on any single game. For one game in particular, the infamous Slump Buster, I wagered multiple $200 bets on that game at the IP Sports Book. I knew that I was pulling a squeamish move but there was so much value there.
I couldn't ignore what the gambling demons were whispering into my ear. Yes, those foul temptresses were egging me on as I was thrown in the middle of a moralistic crossroads. Do I ignore my own word? Or do I stay strong and be a man of self-discipline and integrity?
I punked out because I'm a sleazy coward enticed by greed and the Dionysian lifestyle than taking the safe path of moral rectitude. I won the bet(s) and my rush continued for the rest of the season, despite my obvious exposed character flaws. I know that the NFL is rigged, yet I was still betting on it, like those total fools still playing on Absolute poker.
That's when I found myself in Australia again for the NFL playoffs at the beginning of January. Australia is a country where almost anything goes. You can bet with the local bookies, which I did and I also used the rest of the funds in my BoDog account. Johnny Mushrooms also offered to let me use his BetFair account. I went 6-3 in the games leading up to the Super Bowl and I lost one game by a half a point (damn Jaguars). I hit a big bet when I took the Giants... with the points and $200 on the money line against the Jessica Simpson-jixed Dallas Cowboys. Everything I had won up until that point covered my entire week in New Zealand including airfare and accommodations for both Change100 and myself.
And then there was the Super Bowl. I was ambivalent. I'm a Jets fan (but also root for the Giants) and I can't bring myself to root for anything having to do with a New England team. The only exception was the Hartford Whalers who are no longer in Connecticut. I knew that the Pats dominated mostly every team in the league, but the Giants were hot. Hot teams are tough to ignore in the playoffs. But I also knew that Eli Manning had moments of goofballness in the pocket and threw too many interceptions. Heck, less than seven games into the season, I walked into my local diner in New York City and a cabal of old Jewish guys sat in the back booth lamenting Eli's play from the previous game. They were ready to string him up right there and run him out of town... but Eli got his shit together and turned the season around.
My cell phone rang five minutes after the Super Bowl after ended. It was Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot calling from a party in Breckenridge, CO. He spent the day skiing and watched the game with some friends.
"How much did you win?" he said as soon as I answered the phone.
"Almost $800," I said. "I won the coin toss and the over/under of how long it will take Jordin Sparks to sing the National Anthem."
Senor told me he knew I had it locked up when she dragged out the end. Senor is a dieheard Boston sports fan living in Rhode Island. He was also shocked that his Pats blew a perfect season by losing to Eli Manning of all people and the NY football Giants. If the Pats were going to get knocked off by a Manning, everyone thought it would be Peyton Manning and the Colts, and not Eli the Cracker and the Giants. Of course, the rematch between the Pats and Colts never happened. But the Giants got a second crack at the Pats, and by now, you know the result.
I bet the Giants +6 for the first half, and I locked them in at +13 overall. Both hit. I also won the coinflip and the O/U for the national anthem. I took Jordin Sparks and the over at 1m42s. It had gotten moved up to 1m48s by game time. She was well over two minutes. I've been lucky for the duration of the NFL playoffs and literally won two coinflips before the game even started.
"How much did you bet on the national anthem?" asked a curious Change100.
"$200," I said. "Do you wanna bet me that Tom Petty will open the halftime show with American Girl?"
I wish she took that bet, because he did.
So I've been on a rush betting on sports. Of course, I'm only betting small amounts of $200 max. That's my limit and I'm sure if I was betting higher, I'd end up losing most of the bets. You play for the rush, but over the long term, booking small wins is far more profitable than taking the huge swings with bigger bets. That's where greed comes into play and blinds you. It's those moments where you have zero visibility and lack clarity where you often make those poor decisions that cost you your bankroll and your dignity.
"If I just bet a little more..."
That's what greedy motherfuckers do. They focus on what they didn't win, what they could have won, what they should have won... instead of what they did win.
That's the struggle I woke up with this morning. Sure, I paced around endlessly around Change100's apartment during the game, wishing that I didn't impose restrictions on my betting limits. But those rules are in place for a reason. It's my safety net. It's my methadone. I'm betting enough that it gives me a little rush, but not enough where I pissing away my paychecks at the sports book. Lucky for me that has never happened, and I'm making sure that doesn't happen by sticking with the betting limits.
Weak minded individuals need that rigid discipline because during the depths of a depraved gambling bender, you lose all cognitive function and rationalization. You become a fiend for the rush, the worst kind of action junkie on the planet. I've had moments where all I could think about was the next game and how the hell I was going to get unstuck, temporarily borrowing money from my poker bankroll or my savings account to place a bet. And it's never a small bet. The notion of small ball is ridiculous when you're in a hole. You're focusing on one big bet. The Big Fuckin' Lebowski. The one shining moment where you rise up and wipe out all of your loses by winning a monster bet. Of course, more often than not, you lose than bet, and you're fucked twiced as harder as you were before tipoff, or kickoff, or the first pitch.
I could have walked away with a few grand, instead of $800. But then again, I think about the travel value of $800 and and how I could use that money to buy a ticket to Europe right now for a week long trip at the end of the month to Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
"You make more money betting on sports than writing," joked Change100. "Maybe you should keep at it."
But the NFL is over so it's onto the NBA and college basketball. I really like the Jazz and the Magic tonight.
Alas, the Giants are the Super Bowl champions and Gisele is the latest jinx. First it was Jessica Simpson aka Yoko Romo and now Gisele becomes the scapegoat for all of New England. Giselle has better tits than Bill Buckner, but she'll become the center of seething anger from callers to sports talk radio shows all over New England this morning. I'm sure by now, Gisele has dumped Tom Brady (if he hasn't impregnated her first with his potent sperm) and she has given that cracker Eli Manning no less than three rim jobs. He deserves it.
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