10 December 2012

The Feeling I Forgot

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

“It’s only degenerate if you lose,” said BTreotch. “You’re a pro if you win.”

By no means am I a pro. Never want to be. It’s too much work. Too much heartache. Besides, I love being a writer. It’s my calling. It’s my prime directive. Millions of people struggle every day with identity issues, whereas I know what I want to do and know what I’m supposed to do. I answered the calling. I’m a writer even though writers don’t make much money.

I prefer the classification as a semi-semi-pro gambler. I’ve always had to supplement my income by gambling. It used to rely on online poker to make up the difference, but the government stepped in a cockblocked that ambitious enterprise. These days I’ve been circling the sports betting world like a starved vulture ready to pick apart a soon-to-be dead carcass.

I’ve drifted away from poker and into the sports betting world because I really did not have a choice. It’s difficult being a writer these days because the public wants everything for free and those whom hire writers want to pay you pennies on the dollar. With the exception of Bluff, there’s no coincidence that some of my biggest writing clients are overseas. Finding a living wage is something that the majority of Americans struggle with every day.

I’m a firm believer in “no free money.” I’ve always been on my own. I don’t have a wealthy family to sponge off of and I don’t expect the government to give me a handout. What I want is a fair shot at making a living by investing in sports. Alas, the government often stands in my path. They can’t have it both ways. If they don’t want to pay for social services, that’s cool with me, so long as I am permitted to play online poker and make wagers on sporting events. When I win, they’ll collect a nifty tax check. If I lose, well then I’m back to where I started. No matter how the ball bounces, legalized sports betting is a win-win proposition for the government.

I flew out to Vegas to make a bet. One game, one bet. Quick trip. Raging solo.

I didn’t trust the available avenues to get down the wager. Plus, I didn’t want to bankrupt a local bookie and get blackballed. I also didn’t want to bet offshore and go through hell trying to get paid by mobbed-up shylocks. But most importantly, I was feeling a little bit like Robin Hood… I wanted to rob from the rich (corporate-run casinos) and give to the poor (me and my artisan friends), which is precisely why I flew to Vegas.

I don’t drive anymore after a nasty car accident, so making the all-too familiar drive to Vegas was out of the question. My girlfriend had to work, so I was on my own. I found a cheap flight from LAX and had a comped room waiting for me (after all those Pai Gow losses from a Vegas sojourn during March Madness). I wanted to go to Vegas with the clothes on my back, but my girlfriend thought that would be “too degen even for you.” So she insisted I bring an extra change of clothes. I always travel light, even if I’m on the road for weeks on end, so it wasn’t much of a hassle because I got to bring along a book or two to read. After all, my goal was to make a bet… watch the game… cash the ticket… then read while I wait for the first morning flight out of dodge.

Hit and run. Smash and grab.

Simple plan: go to LAX, walk on the plane, fly across bat country, exit the plane, hop in a cab, walk right up to a betting window, and make a mönsterbetten.

Simple. So easy a monkey could’ve done it. Obviously I didn’t trust anyone to do it for me. Not even a pack of coked-up monkeys.

When I arrived in Vegas, I couldn’t resist the grandiose buffet of temptations. I put in my original mönsterbetten, but then fired away at a few more games.  On the additional wagers, I was well within my reasoning (even HAL420 was in accordance)… and well within my bankroll. However, I justified my actions because I was trying to win money from evil corporate-run casinos and sportsbooks. Plus if the Mayans were right and the world is going to end, then I want the buzz of pulling the trigger on a bet. Lots of people can talk smack, but it takes a set of cannonball-sized cojones to plop down your own cash on a game.

Hunter said it best. “Buy a ticket. Take the ride.”

The gang at Ocelot Sports were riding high from a Marquez victory. No more than eight hours after Pacman got knocked the fuck out, Vegas was still buzzing about the “fight of the year” early Sunday morning. But that was old news. All I cared about was the immediate future.

I sifted through the lines at a couple of different casinos way before mostly everyone else was waking up (or going to bed). I forgot the adrenaline rush you get the moment you step into a sports book and gaze up at the big board. Reminded me of the high-flying days when I worked on Wall Street and you got jacked up from taking a step onto the trading floor.

NBA Sweat: Knicks -5, Clippers -10, OKC -10

I also added a “chalk teaser” as a hedge against a surprise day from Indiana (playing OKC). Both the Clippers and OKC easily won and covered, yet the Knicks almost gave me an ulcer. I had bet the Knicks small initially, but an avalanche of NFL losing bets almost buried me, so I continued to load up on the Knicks. More and more and more. All of a sudden, the Knicks’ wagers had ballooned to a sizable bet. Much more than I usually bet on a single game. It’s weird because this season, we’ve barely turned a profit in the NBA, whereas the NFL has been our cash cow. The tides had turned…. and I was relying on the NBA to get me out of trouble after I strayed from the path.

The Knicks were down by 5 in the second half and laying -5, but I wasn’t freaking out… yet. I needed one of those “NBA runs” when the Knicks rattled off a 15-5 clip. It happened. Just like clockwork, or rather, just like Coach Woodson drew it up. Melo, playing again after missing 2 games with a cut finger, got hot in the 4Q. The Knicks went up by 8, but then the last minute of the game became an intense sweat as the Knicks’s lead was halved to four. Luckily, the Nuggets missed a couple of shots and the Knicks hit their free throws to push the game back over 6 points.

Knicks won 112-106. I shipped a bet. A big bet. It was spread out over a couple casinos too, which meant that I’d have more than one corporate entity paying me.

Then again, all I could think about was that Teddy KGB taunt, “I’m paying you with your own money.” If I wanted to hurt the casinos, then I needed to win a game that most people were avoiding like the plague.

NFL Sweat: Saints ML +200, Cleveland -5, Jets -2.5 and -3, GB -6.5 and -7

The Knicks bet was just a means to win back a few shit-stained NFL wagers. We shat the bed on three totals: IND/Tenn, TB/PHI, and SF/Miami.

IND/Tenn was toast early on. I knew that was dunzo before halftime and had already managed to make an additional bet on the Knicks to cover that loss. TB/PHI was also dunzo early on, but the score made it look a lot closer than it was. Sure, Philly unleashed a 4Q comeback and won the game in stunning fashion… but I needed OT for a shot at a backdoor cover.

SF/Miami looked like a lock for 95% of the game. But then things got ugly. The Kaepernick faked out the Fish’s D so good that they thought he handed the ball off on third and short, but instead Kaepernick scrambled for a 50-yd touchdown. With two minutes to go. all he needed to do was get a first down and the game was over. Alex Smith would have never had the mobility to run 15 yards let alone 50. That TD put the game total to 40. We had UNDER 39. Talk about a wicked bad beat. Like a two-outer on the river.

The Saints +200 were a long shot… and missed. Such is life. I wish I really got frisky with a Carolina ML big bet, but opted to fade Eli and the G-men.

I bet Cleveland -5 offshore when the line opened earlier in the week. I didn’t like the line in Vegas, which had moved to -7. Too bad I didn’t double down on Cleveland against KC, but instead I opted for a couple dogs with fleas (trio of losing totals). Cleveland led 10-7 at halftime, but scored 20 unanswered in the second half to win 30-7.

I also had two wagers on GB… one online and the other in Vegas. The -7 pushed, but the -6.5 was a winner. Shitty way to push too. GB was up 10 but  gave up a late drive. GB kept the Lions out of the end zone, but gave up a FG. The difference was 7… which was enough secure at least one winning ticket, but the other pushed. GB never should have let Detroit get that close so late in the game… especially because their smothering second half defense only gave up 3 points prior.

Then again, two hours earlier after Detroit put up two quick TDs, I thought both bets were dunzo. I guess those Texas boys are not used to playing in the snow. Stafford went to high school in a ritzy, tony part of Dallas and played his college ball in Athens, GA for UGA. Detroit plays all their home games indoors, so Stafford doesn’t have to handle the elements like Aaron Rodgers. As a result, Stafford let a slick ball slip through his hands. GB’s D-lineman Mile Daniels picked up the loose ball and sprinted into the endzone.

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First of all, fat guys running with the ball is one of the weirdest things you’ll see in all of professional sports. Linemen are the size of Sumo wrestlers, have the strength of a Clydesdale horse, yet they have the agility of ballerinas. They rarely get to touch the ball, so whenever a lineman recovers a fumble (or gets a rare batted ball for an INT), it’s hysterical to watch them lumber their way into the end zone.

What makes Green Bay’s home field awesome is the tradition of the Lambeau Leap. It’s even cooler when it’s snowing. And it’s fucking fantastic when a fat guy jumps into the crowd and pancakes the front row.

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When Daniels picked up the ball and headed toward the endzone, it seemed like he was running in slow motion. Time had slowed down and all I could think about was “Run Forrest, run!”

I actually blurted out, “Run muthafucka run!”

I said that three or four times and jumped up and down like a raving lunatic. The entire sportsbook stopped what they were doing and gawked at me. Mostly it was cowboys (in town for the rodeo) laughing hysterical. One huge ass dude (Fridge Perry doppelganger) gave he a high five. He had bet GB too, which was refreshing knowing that the largest and meanest looking guy in the sportsbook bet the same side.

I felt soooo embarrassed. It’s one thing if I was shit-faced wasted after drinking a half a bottle of rum and eating a fistful of pills, but I was dead sober. I loathe gamblers who celebrate excessively. I also know better than to gloat or bitch-n-moan in a sportsbook. You’re supposed to take your lumps like a man, and keep your excitement to a minimum. For every person who had bet on GB, there was a dejected Detroit bettor. Like the legendary Barry Sanders, whenever you score a touchdown (or a winning bet), you stay classy and hand the ball to the ref (celebrate silently on the inside). Hey it’s a safety issue too… you don’t want to make yourself a potential robbery target by broke dicks, especially in this sluggish economy.

I made a wise move and retreated to my hotel room to watch the rest of the game, which was on NBC as part of the Sunday Night Football package.

So… you’ve gotten this far and must be wondering… “What about the big bet?”

Yes. The big bet. It was on the Jets. Seriously. I’ll pause for a few moments while you finish laughing.



Okay, seriously. I bet the Jets. I’ve watched enough Jets games this year to know they aren’t as bad as people think (yes they suck, they are the LOL-Jets, but they are not as atrociously horrible as the public’s perception). I didn’t need them to win the Superbowl, rather the Jets  had to be -3 better than the Jacksonville Jagoffs.

One casino offered up reduced juice and another offered up no juice if I bet on the Jets.

You would think that it would be hard to bet the Jets, but the toughest part was not betting more in that spot. Had the Jets whooped Arizona last week (they barely won 7-6), then I would have bet twice as much on the Jets. However, the Jets squeaked out a narrow victory over Arizona and relied upon a backup QB to get the winning score (McElroy replaced a benched Mark Sanchez). With the Jets having a three QB controversy brewing, you’d think the wise play would be PASS.

You find the most value, when others dismiss a situation because they have a tainted opinion. Sure, it’s not easy to find a compelling argument to take the Jets… especially after I saw them get their ass handed to them (live in person) in Seattle, then get embarrassed by an ass fumble against the Pats on Turkey Day, and then barely struggle to beat the worst team in the NFL (who got whooped 58-0 by the Seachickens, and yeah I’m still puzzled why I didn’t bet the Seachickens).

Despite the Jets track record, all I cared about was the future. Would they beat the Jagoffs by more than 3? My answer was yes and the line should have been 5 or more instead of -1.5 where it opened in some place.

I can’t really explain why I took a shot at the Jets, other than math coupled with a gut feeling. I just knew they were going to win and the numbers were in our favor. That’s what we do as sports bettors. We don’t bet on teams, rather we invest in numbers. How else could I explain why I bet Cleveland 3 out of the last 4 weeks?

I didn’t need to be the best in the world at handicapping games, rather I just needed to be right at that particular moment. Courage (like a blind fool) and testicular fortitude helped too. I saw an opportunity to pounce on a soft line and that’s why I flew to Vegas.

The Jets won and covered. The world made sense for a brief moment. The cosmos aligned perfectly. I hope, at least once in your life, you get to experience that exhilarating feeling of cashing a huge sports bet. You get overwhelmed by a riveting and intoxicated feeling. The feeling that I forgot. And I did it twice on Sunday with the Knicks and the Jets.

I only had three regrets…
1) I wish I showed more discipline and avoided NFL totals.
2) I wish I demonstrated more professionalism in public at the sportsbook and didn’t jump up and down like a jackass when the fat guy scored a TD.
3) I wish I bet more on the Jets.

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