Deep down, most people who bet on sports are convinced that they're a genius. Thinking that you can beat the system is the ultimate display of self-indulgent degeneracy. I have no illusions about my abilities (or grotesque inability) to pick winners because I lack the resources of a major betting syndicate. I'm just a piker with an insatiable appetite for action.
I'm intrigued by prospect of "living to bet." What would it be like if retired to a Caribbean Island or a became an ex-pat in Central America and spent my days grinding it out as a sports bettor?
That question spawned a social experiment... for one week, I would do nothing except drink and bet on sports.
Drinking and gambling, eh? The good life, as it's called. Fitzgerald penned a book about the vacuous tribulations of the uber-wealthy, whose only cultural function was to attend lavish parties and consume gin until they drink themselves blind. But my Objectivist version of the life of leisure was a legitimate attempt to redefine the art of living. I gladly eased off the work pedal for the first time in months and no longer obsessed over book sales, or cranking out content for multiple sites, or scourging up freelance work in a parched environment. Instead, I threw all concept of responsibility out the window.
The last week had its highlights: I listened to a lot of music (my new favorite band is Juno What?!), still wrote every day (during unforced, jovial, and relaxed sessions, which were fun as hell because I dabbled in topics ranging from sports betting, finance, and revolutions), read a couple of books (re-read The Smart Money and almost finished Griftopia), watched documentary films (Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove, Athene’s Theory of Everything and The Mona Lisa Curse), consumed copious amounts of rum with my girlfriend, and bet a shitload of money on basketball.
The only lowlight? Betting a shitload of money on basketball.
I enjoyed the retirement phase and embraced doing nothing as I lived the life a functioning alcoholic (swapping addictions because who can think about painkillers when you're rip-roaring drunk?). The daily grind of gambling was a fucking chore. I didn't mind the legwork and research -- that's a major part of the buzz as the excitement, anticipation, and tension built up as I scrutinized a pastiche of information. The widespread sensation of euphoria rushed through my body when I eventual made an astute wagering selection.
In the last few years, what used to be a ravenous love affair with sports betting had become a coarse, listless, co-dependent relationship. Each bet used to be like riding a rollercoaster for two hours while jacked up on cocaine. But not anymore because watching each game was more like being prisoner on a cruise ship adrift in stormy seas that's inducing you to puke your nads out.
When did the betting experience become so pitiful? Nowadays, a little bit of my soul decayed when I hang on every shot, every rebound, every shitty foul call. For every second that ticked off the clock, I took another step closer to being a high-risk candidate for a heart attack.
The adage fit: gambling on sports is a tough way to make an easy living. It's also a particularly dangerous means to generate income if you have an addictive personality. Over the long haul, I can't beat the appalling 11-10 odds that the bookies, casinos, and shops offer me. Although, anyone can get hot in the short term. I've seen it. I've lived it. It feels like your bulletproof.
Besides, I vowed to snap the dismal losing streak by any means necessary. It was easy to say fuck it. I welcomed my little experiment with rum, Objectivism, and point spreads.
I detailed my seven-day journey and split the 7,200+ word exegesis into two parts. So if you want a glimpse into the raw, unfiltered, and personal rum-inspired betting diaries, then continue on reading about my gambling misadventures...
Throbbing head. Stomach ache. The empty bottle of rum jeered me. I barely remembered the previous evening after I got super sloppy before the Jets game even started, as accurately depicted from Change100. Chicago Bob came over to watch both of the playoff games. His Bears got stomped in the first game and I was already schwilly before the Jets game kicked off. Man, what a fucking joke... the Jets crushed my hopes two years in a row. Luckily, I had enough sense to bet Pittsburgh.
My hangover seemed petty considering the emblems of death that I saw in the video of the bomb that went off in Moscow's airport killing score of travelers. That sobered me up enough to want to write about my own mortality. When I emerged from my office, I quickly succumbed to the intoxicating influences of rum.
I made one NBA play. San Antonio -5 against Golden State. I almost bet Portland, but they were my bailout team that I exclusively bet on at the end of the night when there's no other games left on the schedule. San Antonio was the smarter play and the Spurs won by double digits.
For the first time since I left for the Bahamas, I turned a profit. I made as much money as I would researching and writing an short article. The rare achievement, albeit just one win, gave me an inflated sense of self-worth. My head swelled and I felt invincible, like an oligarch on his first night in power.
I didn't sleep much and unsuccessfully tried to drink through insomnia around 3am, which just made me cranky on Tuesday morning. I usually wrote better when I was pissed off, so I locked myself in the office until mid-afternoon until it was time for a well-needed cocktail.
I made two NBA plays involving local teams because I could watch both games on the boob tube. That would end up a bad idea. When am I gonna learn? I bet on too many TV games.
I liked the LA Clippers +7.5 in Dallas but when I got my bet in, the line had moved to +7. Of course, as it was planed by the evil sports betting conglomerate, Dallas won by exactly 7 and I pushed the bet. But why the hell was I betting the Clippers? Note to self: make NBA picks before I start drinking in the afternoon.
The other game was fugly. I bet Utah +8 against the mentally-shaky and sometimes-distracted Lakers playing at home. Sigh. I picked the wrong time to bet against the Zen Master's crew. Utah's off-night shooting cooked my goose and almost four Lakers scored 20 points each in the romp. I turned off the game in the 4th quarter, called Kobe an asswizard, and banged my head against my office door.
I went 0-1-1 for the day (1-1-1 for the week in the NBA). The only winner was the fucking betting shop. Somewhere in Costa Rica, a former wiseguy was laughing his ass off while he counted my money.
Insomnia seemed worse when I didn't pop pills. With consecutive nights of little to no sleep, I flipped out when I got heard a bit of bad news. Yep, I did not take it well. With a pounding headache accompanying an irksome hangover, I did the most sensible thing -- I poured myself a cocktail at 9am. Lots of rum. Lots of pineapple juice. Hey, the juice is loaded with vitamins and rum is the nectar of the gods. As the saying goes, "Avoid hangovers... stay drunk."
I consumed the second cocktail out of sheer life tilt. By the third one, I needed to regroup otherwise I was going to ruin the day with self-loathing misery.
I stepped outside and slid on my sunglasses to shield the annoying brightness of the California sun. I didn't know how tipsy I was until I opened the door of the coffee shop. I blurted out my order for chocolate chip pancakes and read a chapter of The Smart Money, a memoir by Michael Konk, who detailed his involvement with the "Brain Trust" as a runner for legendary Billy Walters. I recently tweet'd that I had a wish where I'd love to be in Tito Puente's band for one week, well, another wish of mine is to work with Billy Walters for a full football season.
I went home, crunched some numbers and sipped more rum. It wasn't even noon and my BAC had surpassed legal drunk levels. I eased off the hooch, read financial blogs, crunched more numbers, and I finally came to terms with my recent downswing after cranking out Eight Voices on the Sea of Troubles. I put all that misery behind me and focused on the future...my bright future because the NBA was calling out to me.
After a couple of hours of research and one phone call, I had five plays for Wednesday night: 3 NBA games and 2 college hoop games. If sports betting is like printing money, then I gotta accelerate the production process, right?
I went 2-1 in the NBA. I had San Antonio at -4, and they were beating Utah all the way, but sweated that game all the way down to the last possession. New Orleans at -1.5 seemed like a gift against Golden State. I didn't even watch that game as New Orleans won by almost 10 points. The only trouble I ran into was Oklahoma City. They should have beat lowly Minnesota by almost a dozen points, but the game go tout of control and they won by a single point in OT.
I had a break-even day in college hoops. My girlfriend and almost a dozen random friends graduated from Northwestern. They always preached, "Never bet the Cats...they will break your heart every time."
Naturally, I bet against Northwestern on New Year's Day when they took on Texas Tech in the (INSERT NAME OF PENIS PILL) Bowl. Tech won, but failed to cover and I got properly screwed by Northwestern.
You always remember the bad beats, but although that atrocity occurred during football season, my bias against Northwestern spilled over into basketball season. Northwestern invaded Gopher land to play Minnesota and it was a no brainer. I happily faded Northwestern, laying 5 points. The always-disappointing squad from Evanston lost by 11.
Easy money, right? It was more like printing money.
I was really interested in watching undefeated San Diego State take on BYU in Mormonland. They were two nationally ranked top dogs squaring off on CBS's College Sports channel. I couldn't tell if SDSU was over-hyped, or if they were really a solid team because the Mountain West Division was not exactly a powerhouse conference. I bet San Diego when the line moved to +6, but that extra point didn't help me because BYU prevailed 71-58 buoyed by the Jimmer's 43 points. The game was a lot closer than the score, but SDSU fell apart in crunch time but lost their mud in the last ninety seconds of the game.
I finished 1-1 for a break even day in college hoops. I finished 2-1 in the NBA (3-2-1 for the week). I posted a winning day, albeit a modest win, but it still felt much better than losing.
My girlfriend religiously watched American Idol on Thursday nights, so sweating a full card was problematic for a couple of hours. Vapid Reality Show 1, College Hoops 0.
With no NBA plays, I found a trio of NCAA games to my liking: Miss St. +7, Illinois -4.5, and St. Mary's two ways (+2.5 and +125 on the moneyline). One of the best things about living on the west coast is that games come on much earlier. It's truly a gambler's delight. The Vanderbilt/Miss St. was televised on ESPN2 with 7pm ET tip off, which translated into late afternoon for me. I didn't have to sit around and wait for action!
Well, sort of. We ran out of ice, but Change100 was ensconced in four-tabling SNGs on FT, so I walked two long blocks through the slums of Beverly Hills to the 7/11. A homeless guy out front hit me up for spare change because it was his birthday, but I scoffed at his lame hustle, walked inside, bought a bag of ice and Famous Amos cookies, then passed one of the girls from The Hills on my way out. Fucking Hollywood, man.
I waited until 4:30pm to mix the first batch of cocktails for the day, then cranked up some Grateful Dead, and watched the Knicks/Heat game on mute. When I checked the Miss St. score, I was thrilled to see the Bulldogs up by 1 with 10 minutes to go, so I made a second batch of rum drinks.
Vanderbilt took three point lead with three minutes to go. I nervously made laps through the apartment and cursed under my breath so the hipsters upstairs wouldn't think that they lived above a fucking mental case. I turned off the game and switched to the Knicks instead. I didn't bet the Knicks or any NBA games -- I was simply a fan enjoying my team play against LeBron James. The Knicks prevailed and it felt soothing to watch a game without any financial implications entwined to the outcome.
When I switched back to the Miss St. game and I got fucking ambushed. Vandy led by 5 with 6.5 seconds left, but I was getting 7.
"This isn't happening," I screamed, thinking it would distract a Vandy shooting the front end of two free throws. He nailed the first one and second one. Miss St. was down by 7, but I had one last chance to win. Instead of Vandy allowing Miss St. to chuck up an uncontested trey at the buzzer, they played tenacious defense and blocked the final shot.
The final? 81-74. Push. Fuck. Me. Cue the Nelson voice from The Simpsons.
Illinois lost by 3 in Indiana and I flushed that turd goodbye. I won't spare you the bad beat story. I deserved to lose that frigging square pick too. Why didn't I bet the home dog?
I was banished to my office until my girlfriend finished American Idol. During that exile, the line in St. Mary's moved to +3 and +135. I had already bet them with the points and the moneyline at worse numbers and hit them a second time.
I returned to the living room for the televised BYU-St. Mary's game. Change100 asked me a legitimate question: "Where the hell is St. Mary's?"
"Somewhere in California," I said. "How should I know? You're from California, so you tell me, blondie?"
That was weak attempt to spin fact that I had just bet $400 on a team that I had no idea where the school was located.
St. Mary's was the final game (NBA or NCAA) on Thursday's schedule. I imagined a thousand down-and-out bettors, on the butt-end of a miserable night, making a desperate decision to chase their losses with Gonzaga, which probably looked like a sparkling diamond on a pile of dog shit. With less than five minutes before tip off, the line move for a third time in my favor when a cascade of last minute money got bet on the other side (Gonzaga). Not one to give up free money, I pounced on St.Mary's -- now getting twice as many points when the line opened at +2.
By tip off, my enlightened self had bets getting points at +2.5, +3, and +4, along with a trio of moneyline (ML) wagers at +125, +135, and +155. Yep, I faded the menagerie of losers and bet the dog, St. Mary's, even though I still didn't know where they were from, but didn't care enough to open up my girlfriend's iPad and look it up.
St. Mary's played BYU tough in the first half, but the 2nd half was too close for my comfort. Painful. Excruciating. I loathed nail bitters that caused me temporary insanity because I blurted out random obscenities like a Turret's kid on speed.
I paced. Back. Forth. Back. Forth. I kept a watchful and pessimistic eye on the clock, which couldn't move fast enough. St. Mary's led by a point, but Gonzaga had plenty of time to pull off brilliant comeback.
Then it happened.
Gonzaga seized the lead and it felt like I got kicked in the ribs. The Zags tried to pull away, but I caught a couple of lucky breaks including their best player fouling out -- on an offensive charge of all calls. From that moment on, everything went St. Mary's way. With the score tied and ten seconds on the clock, St. Mary's marched down court and drilled a clutch basket as time expired. St. Mary's won by two points. All of my bets hit.
Holy shit... all six of my bets hit.
I ran around the apartment like Kirk Gibson rounding the bases in the 1988 World Series, fist pumping and all. My girlfriend was happy that I was smiling for the first time in days (and equally relieved that she didn't have to deal with a surly drunk pissed off at the sports betting world). I whipped up a batch of celebratory cocktails then checked on my accounts. I almost doubled up my roll on one site with six total bets (including three ML wagers) on St. Mary's.
Despite my egregious lack of collegiate geography (still don't know where St. Mary's is located), I finished 6-1-1 for the day, while I improved to 7-2-1 overall in NCAA. For the week, my NBA total remained at 3-2-1.
The losing streak hath ended. Fini. Demons exorcised. With nothing haunting me anymore, my betting ju-ju was fully restored. I felt excited, rejuvenated, and full of hope, but none of that false hope propaganda that Obama promised to the sheeple. I'm talking about real hope. Plus, I didn't need a bailout to weather the shit storm. I rebuilt my bankroll at the perfect time with the Super Bowl upcoming and March Madness around the corner. Ben Bernanke and his shylocks at the Fed can kill my ass, because I was back in the game.
Thank you, St. Mary's.
Stay tuned for Part II...