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I go to Vegas in September or October each year on what’s essentially a blackjack trip. I also make my annual sports bets. Most of them are silly “homer” bets (e.g., the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, Maryland Terps to win the basketball and football championships) regardless of the odds. A few are legitimate bets based on who I think will actually win (e.g., Buffalo winning the Super Bowl). Last Thursday was the start of the NFL season, and because my Vegas trip is delayed until December, I decided to do all my sports betting via MGM’s online betting portal. I never do this sort of thing because it risks gambling addiction, betting your mortgage money, etc. In fact, I don’t even visit the MGM casino in nearby Maryland for the same reason. If I’m going to bet, I do so only if I take a week off from work, invest money in a plane ticket, and invest time on a 5-day trip. It’s a good way to control the process. This is the only reason I didn’t place money on Usman to lose his UFC title a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to place the bet but didn’t, and it cost me some money. In the big picture, that’s smart.
When I entered the portal, I saw that I had a free $5 credit to bet. MGM does that for people to encourage them to bet. On a whim, I decided to bet that $5 on a crazy parlay on the game that night (Bills at Rams). If I lost, I’d make a deposit and place all my bets for the year. If I won, however, I’d be able to make all my bets with the winnings, still banking about $300.
First, I selected the Bills to win by 2.5 points or more. That’s reasonable. After all, they’re my pick to win the Super Bowl. Next, I picked the total points scored to be less than 47.5. That was a bit risky. It relied on one of the two teams to get manhandled. No one expected that, but I went for it. Third, I picked Cooper Kupp to score a touchdown. That was my safety valve. After that, I picked Stefan Diggs to get a touchdown. Again, I think that’s risky based on my fantasy football experience with the guy. Teams always focus on shutting him down, so he’s hot and cold. However, he’s also a fellow Good Counsel High School Falcon and a fellow University of Maryland Terrapin, so I trust him.
This brought me to odds of +2000. If I won, my $10 would turn into $200. That seems good, but on a hunch, I thought Bills quarterback Josh Allen was going to run in a touchdown. Is that a smart pick? Nope, but I’m betting with house money. The potential reward of a larger payout justified the risk of losing someone else’s money, so I added it, doubling the odds to +4000. The bet was now set: A $10 bet pays $400.
I could describe in great detail the drama of the game with respect to this crazy parlay, but I’ll save you that and just say I was on the edge of my seat until the last 30 seconds or so of the game. Even after Allen somehow got a touchdown run, I was two minutes and 15 yards away from a Rams touchdown and extra point that would have lost it for me. Von Miller came through, and I made $390.
The Smart Play
The smartest gambler makes sure he sets a floor to his losses, and a winning gambler makes sure that floor is a positive number. I immediately transferred $300 to my bank account leaving $96 in my account after a processing fee. That was plenty of money to make my annual picks, so I expected to make my picks and then make another small transfer to my account. However, after I had made all my bets (e.g., $5 on the Washington Wizards to win the NBA championship pays $1,255), I had $35 left. I noticed another promotion for a UFC bet — adds a bit to your payoff if you win — so I made a crazy parlay on three underdogs to win their fights Saturday night. A $10 bet would pay $296.10 if all three fighters won. I then looked at some other bets. I picked Maryland to cover the 27.5 point spread against Charlotte. Maryland won 56-21. Winner! I took that $5 win and picked Hawaii to beat #4 Michigan at Michigan. Sure, there’s no chance that will happen, but a $5 bet it pays $225.50. I was on the fence between that pick and instead picking Georgia Southern to beat Nebraska, but Hawaii being the crazier bet had a bigger payout.
They weren’t all stupid bets. I bet $5 on the Washington Commanders to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by 3 points because Washington is my home team, and bet $5 on a parlay that pays $21 if the Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals, and Eagles all win in week 1.
In any other context, this looks like addiction and/or desperation, but remember, I’m playing with house money. I have nothing to lose, and in fact have already banked $301 and used some of the house money to place bets I would be paying out of pocket if I hadn’t won Thursday night. No matter how stupid these bets are, I’ve already won, and that won’t change because I won’t deposit any more money into the account.
The Weekend’s Results
As I said, Maryland beat their spread, which just led to an insane bet for Hawaii to beat a top 5 team on their that team’s home field. It was 21-0 Michigan at the end of the 1st quarter.
A questionable decision on the first of my 3 UFC fights killed my parlay as quickly as it began, so I did what an addict would do and placed a new bet. I wanted to bet on Kevin Holland, but as soon as Li lost, the betting for Holland’s fight closed (even though the fight hadn’t started), so I was forced to be on Nate Diaz. The payout would be less, but based on a $9.55 bet on Diaz, I’d get back that $10 I lost on the parlay plus another $1.49. (This definitely looks like addictive behavior, but remember: house money!) Diaz won, so I did indeed get my money back, and Holland lost badly so that bet would have screwed me. Hooray for technicalities! I end Saturday night with $41.49 of house money in my account.
On Sunday, due to Cincinnati’s best efforts to lose their game to Pittsburgh, I lost my 1 pm parlay when Miami, Philadelphia, and Baltimore came away with wins, but Cincy lost in overtime. That $5 bet would have paid only $21, so I’m over it. The real question of the day was my homemade parlay. I bet $15 to win $203.77, which required Tennessee (-5.5), Minnesota (-1), Las Vegas (+3.5), and Denver (-6.5) to cover their spreads. As of the end of Sunday games, I had already lost 2 games, leaving last night’s Denver/Seattle game. Because I had already lost that parlay, I spent $10 on a new one. It was complex, having five requirements. I came close, but Denver failing to win by 7 killed it. I now have $15.00 left for next weekend, but because I’ll do stupid things bound to fail, that will probably evaporate, and my sports betting will be done for the year.
Well, not really. My Vegas trip will be the week before Christmas. I fly home on Christmas Eve. I’ll have only one full day before my friends arrive, so I’ll have only about 15 hours to gamble before they pull me away towards fattening foods and goofy shows. Honestly, it’s about time I do that sort of thing again. Maybe I can convince them to zipline or ride the Stratosphere rides. Every year I plan to see Penn & Teller but never do. Perhaps I’ll finally see them.
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