Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eight Voices and the Sea of Troubles

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Something supernatural occurred the moment that my plane landed in the Bahamas. My buddy Storms failed to convince me that his cooler abilities were responsible for hexing me, even though he was coincidentally present when something amiss affected games that I wagered, whether it was the Knicks, Ravens, or Butler.

Fucking Butler.

My blood continues to boil thinking about the poignant bad beat on Butler. Storms and I were the only ones on the island who bet on that "added game" at the Atlantis sports book, and we even moved the line a half a point. Instead of blowing our winnings at the Coral Lobby Bar, we looked like chump stains and tore up our losing tickets. Butler failed to cover, shit, they didn't even win the game. We got our testicles stomped by a mid-major squad that barely had a winning record.

Why the hell was I betting on Butler in the first place?

The answer is complex, disturbing, yet predictable.

If I saw more than three episodes of LOST, then I could come up with a witty allegory linking sports betting and Hurley's numbers that would explain the downswing in Bahamas. However, something unearthly happened on the island, and I'm unable to pinpoint the whats and whys. Until I can find some answers, I'm wandering the vast wasteland trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered betting life.

I ended 2010 riding an emotional high with a heater. Everything I bet was golden. Silver futures. NFL. NBA. College Hoops. European Team Handball. I even bought the fucking dip! It was one of those streaks that bettors dream about. During the streak, I heeded sound advice from Buffalo66 on college hoops, and an acquaintance who works in a major off-shore sports book down in warmer climates clued me on any major lines moves in the NFL. I devised a half-baked system for NBA games (always betting against Washington on the road, and betting on the Knicks on the road especially when they are dogs). I also reduced the amount of bets on NFL games to only two every weekend: one big bet and a small bet. In poker terms, I played fewer hands, but aggressively played the ones I selected.

With positive aspirations for the new year rattling around my head, 2011 started off just how it ended -- en fuego. I planned on doubling my bankroll at the sports book in the Bahamas. Instead, the streak was halted, when I slid into a sinister black hole of suck.

If I could have one special power it would be the ability to peek into the future. I can't tell you how much I'd abuse that special ability for evil purposes by gambling on the financial markets and on sporting events. Although I hated all of the sequels to Back to the Future, my only favorite scene/storyline is Biff getting his hands on a sports almanac from the future, which he uses to become one of the most successful sports bettors in their alternative universe.

Man oh man, if I could only have the ability to see the future for one week -- I'd quickly amass a fortune until all of the bookies and sports books cut me off, then I'd have to pull a Billy Walters and hire hundreds of runners to make bets for me in Vegas.

Accessing the future for my own financial gain is an unattainable pipe dream. I meet people all the time in Vegas and in poker circles who claim that have foolproof systems for blackjack, roulette, the horses, stock options, etc. I've met lots of shit-talkers, but I've never crossed paths with a legitimate psychic who can accurately predict the future. Believe me, I scoured the world for a seer and found lots of charlatans, but came up empty.

I experienced a clairvoyant encounter one late night after I ate too much Adderall and had a lengthy conversation with Oma, aka the ghost of Change100's dead German grandmother. My favorite place to write in our apartment is the dining room table that belonged to Oma. If you put your palms on the table, you can feel it vibrating with energy, which is the primary reason why I love writing at it. Oma's spirit is heavily attached to the table because it was the center of many of her happiest memories. Almost one hundred years old, the heavy table is made out of solid oak and it's a bitch to move. They definitely don't make furniture like that anymore, and these days you're stuck with Ikea's disposable crap made for pennies in a Chinese sweatshop out of balsa wood.

When I'm sleep deprived or jacked up, I can feel the presence of my girlfriend's dead grandmother. Oma always started conversations in English, but then trailed off into German. I didn't understand what she said and politely asked her to return to English. I'm not going to lie to you -- I've tried to angle shoot a ghost. I pestered, prodded, and grilled Oma about the future. Unfortunately, she was unable to tell me the outcomes of the next day's basketball games. I sensed that she was uncomfortable with my devious questions. I didn't want to upset her because the last thing I needed was a German spirit haunting me the rest of my life. I dropped any gambling talk during our other encounters. We mostly talked about her childhood in Munich and how she didn't like it when I made Nazi jokes (although she loved the Gestapo Knock-Knock joke, wich is only effective if you can do a perfect German accent).
Knock. Knock.
"Who's there?"
"Zee Gestapo"
"The Gestapo who?"
"Vee vill be zee onez asking zee questions!"
Unable to get ghosts to spill the beans about the future, I found myself back to square one and just another lowly piker. I take out my gambling frustrations in literature where I dream up alternative dimensions where time travel is possible and I earn millions betting on games that I already know the final score. Maybe I'll eat a shitload of speed one weekend and write a Philip K. Dick-inspired pulpy-sci-fi screenplay that is a hybrid of Time Cop meets Bringing Down the House -- the Gambling Police from the MGM/Mirage Junta are leaping through worm holes to track down an eclectic group of rogue time traveling gamblers (including ringleader Seth Rogen, a random hip-hop artist to play the wise-cracking sidekick and be the token black guy, and a well-known British actress in the role of the bald-headed savant pre-cog).

The Bahama Incident has been bothering me ever since I returned to California. Maybe it's because I was on the fringe of the Bermuda Triangle that my betting mojo is all out of whack? Maybe I lost all of my run good and it got transferred to my girlfriend? I'm thrilled that she shipped the PCA Ladies Event for a well-needed score, but while she was experiencing the winner's high, I was slumming the the loser's doldrums. I blew through two dimes as my bankroll got decimated and I got beat down like a Russian dissident. Every single wager was a heart breaker and the brutality did not let up. I hoped that the losing juju remained on the island, but somehow, it lingered and the losing streak carried over into the following week. I couldn't hit a bet last week and my mood grew from grouchy to sullen. When I finally nailed a much-needed slump buster, it was a total suck out with a fortuitous break (two missed free throws from an excellent shooter). In the ensuing days, I struggled with a string of .500 days. Breaking even on paper (6-6 in the NBA) is nothing to be proud about because all of the juice adds up in the long run. Sure, I finally stopped the heavy bleeding, but I'm still dragging ass while ensconced in a break-even malaise.

The blood trickles ever so lightly.

Just like in poker, whenever I'm mired in a sports betting losing streak, I reverted back to basics (A-B-Cs of gambling), and carefully scrutinized m betting history to identify and plug any leaks. I accounted 25% of my losses to overzealousness, greed, and junkie tendencies when I bet on games that I had no business betting. But it's harder to say no than you think, when I'm in a distorted reality. It's difficult to refrain from action during a losing streak because when I finally win bet, I instantly try to kick-start a new streak and attempt to get some rhythm going with an additional bet. At the same time, never underestimate the gripping effects of walking away when you're chasing a loss. That's a sign of a problem gambler, and that's what separates the Big Dogs from the annoying yapping poodles -- knowing when to push your edge and knowing when to walk away.

I chalked up 25% of my recent losses to poor bet selection and impulsive decision-making, but was I really variance's bitch on the other 75%? Or was I just getting bad intel?

It doesn't matter if it's the lottery, stock market, roulette, or sports betting because everyone who is a frequent participant in a gambling event feels as though they have a rock-solid system that will make them a winner over the long term. The demoralizing aspect of losing never deters them, in fact, it makes them even stronger in their blind conviction that the gambling gods will finally even things out for them after years of futility and they'll hit a monster score. Casinos make billions of dollars every year in slot machine revenue on gambler's misguided faith.

That gambler's philosophy is why my grandmother played Lotto twice a week from the time that New York installed it to the day she died. While on her death bed in the hospital, my grandma still inquired about her numbers. Gambling is truly in my blood; Lotto was last thing on my grandma's mind before she entered the hugest lottery of them all: heaven, hell, or purgatory.

I was raised Catholic and we're supposed to believe that our time on Earth will determine our fate in the afterlife. We supposedly in control of our destiny. Our moral or immoral actions will lead us to in one of three places: heaven, hell, or purgatory.

I had many internal discussions on the afterlife, including inventing a controversial theory about purgatory and reincarnation. My theory is this: we are not actually alive, but rather, we are dead and Earth is purgatory. Our current consciousness is in a state of purgatory and we're all old souls (or to simplify things, we're ghosts) living out a temporary existence in our current forms before the powers to be determine if our collective soul is going to heaven, or going to hell, or doomed to roam purgatory for the rest of existence (albeit in a different vessel). Essentially, depending on how you view your existence, purgatory can be also be heaven on Earth or hell on Earth. But if you're caught in a dead end job and unable to escape from the grapples of your mundane existence, then you've officially been exiled to perpetual purgatory.

And no, I'm not on speed or psychedelics at the present moment, but, I will admit that during one mind-melting incident at the set break of a Grateful Dead concert, I formulated my theory of existence -- that Earth is actually purgatory and we're just lost souls in a waiting room.

Some day I hope to find out if I'm correct or if I'm totally wrong. In the meantime, I gladly bet on meaningless sporting events to cure the tedium in life's waiting room. If we're reincarnated spirits hanging out in physical vessels awaiting a transformation into a more superior form of consciousness, then why would I waste my time doing anything else except partying it up and gambling nonstop?

You just witnessed the philosopher inside my head jump behind the wheel of the bus, as he made a solid existentialist argument why I should engage in bad behavior and just be. That convincing fucker gets me into a lot of trouble, but I'd get into more if I wasn't engaged in an on-going battle against a cabal of eight voices in my head....
1. Gordon Gekko is the slick-haired snake oil salesman who may or may not be a plant from the devil and a distant cousin of Stuey Ungar. Gekko is compulsively clad in striped shirts, polka dot ties, suspenders and a belt. He constantly pressures me to bet more and take bigger financial risks like attempting to corner the cocoa market.

2. The Philosopher is a doppelganger for the Dude from The Big Lebowski. He's always convincing me to say "Fuck you!" to the Man, goof off and get stoned while pondering life's deepest mysteries. He frequently parties with aliens and encouraged me to learn Mayan so I can converse with them via my third eye.

3. The Moralist looks just like Fr. Duffy, my high school theology teacher. He's tall, lanky, wearing a black suit and white priest collar. Whenever I screw up, he waves his wrinkled finger in my direction reminding me that God will condemn me for my sins. I usually don't have to worry much about Fr. Duffy because the committee inside my head is mostly atheist, so they tie him up and toss him in a utility closet so they don't have to hear his incessant sermons.

4. The Artist is a mix between Salvidor Dali and Andy Kaufman. He sports a funny mustache, carries around a couple of pet ocelots, wears a white jumpsuit, and talks in foreign accents. The artist is constantly brooding with vicious mood swings but he's responsible for creating grandiose images in my head that I try to replicate in word form. It's not easy painting the word picture with keystrokes, yet somehow, the artist nudges me to create something out of nothing even though it's a painful process for me to extract and execute his concept. When I say I have five or six major projects inside me, it's really the artist scribbling down a "To Do" list on a blackboard inside the hallways of my mind. The artist calls me a sell out when I take a quick buck for less than what I'm actually worth as a writer. He calls me a fraud when I can't think of anything original to say, and he's the one who encourages me stray away from the herd.

5. Gaia influences my nurturing side. She looks like Meryl Streep circa the 1970s, although I have no idea why, it just is and she has perfectly shiny hair. Gaia is part siren, part muse, and part Mother Earth. Gaia-Meryl speaks to me in contrasting yet impeccable accents. She gets on my case when I treat women like shit in my scribblings or when I buy bottled water. She also reminds me to call my mother on holidays and not to use the c-bomb in the company of other women.

6. My ever-important Legal Counsel sounds like President Bartlett from The West Wing. Yep, I have Martin Sheen's voice with Aaron Sorkin's rhetoric rattling around my brain when I'm bombarded with complicated legal matters. He talks me out of the Fortune Bonus in Pai Gow and tells me not to speed more than 10 miles over the posted limit when I'm "driving dirty." My internal attorney also talks me out of foolish pursuits including get-rich-quick schemes or writing a book about the Mexican drug wars.

7. My Id is a mixture of Homer Simpson, Bluto from Animal House, and Holden Caufield. That amalgam is the reason why I'm wasted most of my waking hours and think everyone is a fucking phony. My id acts like a cocky fraternity brother who gives me guff when I want to leave a bar and go home early, and he questions my manhood when I consider declining a third hit of liquid sunshine.

8. The Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) is controlling my super-ego because he's the guy who secretly governs everyone else. The CSM (similar to the character from The X-Files) manipulates the other voices, who in turn influence and tell me what to do, but all along, I think it's the other voices who are responsible, when in fact it's the CSM's master plan all along as he lurks in the shadows. Maybe he's God's messenger? Or a microchip implanted by the CIA? Regardless, the CSM is mastermind who drew up the plans to Take Over a Politically Unstable Country in Six Easy Steps, but used Gekko as a proxy to persuade me to take decisive action in trying to corner the cocoa market. The CSM is the one who confirmed alien existence, but tricks the Dude into telling me about the aliens. The CSM is the most dangerous voice inside my head even though I barely hear him talking. He whispers mostly. When he speaks (it's in a pronounced British accent and I suspect he was a former Shakespearean actor) all of the other voices listen attentively. I had not heard much from the CSM in the last few weeks aside from last Sunday morning when he matter-of-factly uttered, "Bet the Packers of Green Bay and buy cocoa futures."
That's an accurate run down of the eight prevailing voices inside my head, sort of inspired by the canceled FOX sitcom Herman's Head (a Freudian-inspired comedy featuring a protagonist who battles with his inner personalities). My life is doubly complex which is why I have a committee of eight trying to steer me on the proper path in life. More voices exist, like the one Spanish-speaking woman dressed up like Charo who yells out the most random things. I probably should learn more Spanish to figure out what she's saying, because who knows, maybe she's giving me tips on college hoops? I have no clue why she's there or what her purpose is, but until I can figure that out, I just drown out her voice.

I'm still in a rut and unable to break free from the shackles of a losing streak that has haunted me since I stepped foot on Paradise Island. Despite my conversations with ghosts and the voices inside my head, I have been unsuccessful devising a system to see into the future. For now, I rely on my instincts, sift through stats, listen to tips from friends, and filter out all of the chatter inside my head to figure out who I should bet in the Super Bowl.

Green Bay or Pittsburgh, that is the question, right?

Shakespeare summed it up best: "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles."

Art Image by Banksy


  1. According to the entry - you're forgetting all the players on all the teams are purgatory residents also. Probably with girlfriends whose grandmothers will talk about point spreads if not winners or losers (which all in purgatory are). Therefore, all are out to cause the greatest problems for the almost straight bettor - constantly.

    Like the entry.

  2. I'm mired in a slump too, which is why I'm shopping for less juice.

    I've become pretty numb to the losses, sometimes I don't even sweat the games. I guess I'm not betting enough to get the Charlie Brown stomach aches.

    When I'm on a cold streak I prefer to concentrate on other areas (like ponies or fantasy) where some proper focus seems to straighten out your ch'i.

    March madness is coming soon!

  3. Gold. Pure gold.

    Keep 'em coming Dr.

  4. Sports betting is like poker. Variance will affect you, you'll run hot, run cold, lose games by the hook, win them by the hook, etc, etc. The difference is that in poker, when things aren't going great, you can fire up your lap top and hammer out 1000's of hands a day, and variance will be back on your side in no time. In sports, there are obviously much less "hands" to play, and it takes longer to right the ship.

    My NCCA-hoops strategy is pretty simple. Try to avoid betting on road teams at all costs. There is much more +EV w/ home teams.

    For the Super Bowl: Assuming you followed football closely for the last 20 weeks, you should have your mind made up within a couple hours after seeing the line. (or even before you see it, as you should have a number in your head already) Too much research can lead to bad decisions, influenced by the hordes of "experts" on TV/Radio giving you their asstardian "analysis". Trust your gut. All the reasearch you need was already done in the countless hours you spent watching games all year.

    What does my gut tell me? The game line is too sharp, and the teams too talented to pick a winner. Stay away. I am taking the under. The number in my head moments after the Steelers game ended was 39. It opened at 46, and I got a 3/4 chubby. Of course, I didn't pull the trigger at 46, and now I am stuck at 44.5. But I am slowly hammering at it, and next week when more money starts flowing to the books, maybe it will move back up a notch or two.


    ps- "Lost Vegas" was excellent!! GREAT read! nh

  5. Betting on sports is the quickest route to living under a freeway off-ramp that I know of.