February 1, 2010
About a year ago, Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn told 60 Minutes that he has never seen anyone “over a stretch of time” stay ahead of the casino, and he certainly never saw anyone that walked away while winning big.
“The only way to win in a casino is to own one,” Wynn concluded.
Obviously Wynn has never seen the Washington Nationals play.
You mean to tell me that if I spent a summer in Vegas betting only against the Nationals or a winter betting only against the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Lions or Washington State University Cougar football program, that I would lose all my discretionary income?
It’s been two full years since I officially entered the real world as a college graduate with a degree in print journalism. I have earned exactly $0.00 as a result of that degree. But forget the money for a second, because for every rich sports reporter, there are 100 more who are willing to work part time at Target during the holidays. Every single one of us that ever got into the reporting part of the business did it for one reason and one reason alone: not because they loved to write (although that helps), but because they saw it as an opportunity to become involved. You’re not just a fan anymore. You have access to free stat sheets, interviews, Diet Cokes and sandwiches.
Vegas can give me the opportunity to finally start earning some valuable sports reporting experience (albeit unorthodox) in return for my attempt to accurately prognosticating athletic events. If I have to work at an In And Out Burger to support myself I will…this is journalism.
The mission plan is simple: For one year to bet on (and blog about) an average of one sporting event daily. No more than $20 a day, no less than the minimum (which I believe is $5) per bet. There will be another stipulation to follow, however, what I have in mind is still very tentative: I’m thinking on betting on favorites, and favorites only.
Akin to NASCAR opening its season with the showcasing of it’s Golden Goose, The Daytona 500, Fish Food will advent a year of betting and blogging during a certain celebration of time that has become such a national phenomenon that Gambler’s Anonymous deems it their busy season: March.
And when I say March, sports fans, you imagine: buzzer beaters, office pools, One Shining Moment, a #12 seed beating a #5 seed, Greg Gumbel’s Soul Glo, creating jobs in the television-equipped garage in order to curb the wife’s henpecking tendencies, and calling in sick because you live in Carlsbad, CA, and your alma mater, Syracuse, tips off at 9:07 AM PST on the opening Thursday.
I’ll even give you a sneak preview of who I will be laying action on nearly two months ahead of time: The four No. 1 seeds.
And when my year is over, even if I come out only $1 ahead, then I will frame that sonofabitch (that I hope to be autographed by Wynn himself). I’m going for the research aspect; to answer some faqs, to shed light for the Average Joe who happens to be in Vegas during the NFL’s Championship weekend and feel inclined to bet on the games. These are the guys who are drunk from the atmosphere, and bet $50 on the Saints (-3 ½) to win the NFC Championship, and by not betting on Peyton Manning (I bet the under, 39, in the game), theoretically bet Against Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship.
Here are the valuable lessons I already learned during a recent rendezvous in Vegas, in which I brought a $200 gambling allowance ($100 of which I mistakenly bet on the NFL’s most difficult weekend to gamble on).
1. The golden rule of gambling: always bet with your head and instincts as opposed to your heart, or what your favorite ESPN pundit tells you to do. While it might be widely known as the golden rule of sports gambling, in Vegas it comes with an asterisk because the point spreads can so often neutralize it. I said back in December, that if Minnesota were in the NFC Championship game against the Saints, I would bet on the former because I thought they could run the ball to win.
My Father said to stay away from the game, citing that the point spread was to close to call.
At least one of us was actually thinking.
Because my heart, imagination, ego, a nicotine buzz, whatever you want to call it was thinking for me, “Perhaps there is something supernatural going on with the Saints right now. Something tells me this is their year!”
And that is how you lose in Vegas, my friends.
Lesson learned. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
2. Never, ever, ever, ever bet against a legend while he is currently playing A.) at the highest level we will ever see him play along with B.) a healthy, talented supporting cast, and C.) while he’s performing on his home turf.
Of course I am referring to Peyton Manning. I figured the Colts would win, but I was sure the Jets running game and defense would continue to somewhat dictate the rhythm of the game like they had been doing against the likes of quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers. Those guys are very good, but Manning, who is ESPN’s white knight at the moment, is great.
Looking out for No. 1
I ran this whole idea by a beloved family member, of whom I will keep anonymous. Here is the email reply I received:
On Vegas: I think the idea is good; but needs lots and lots of thought and planning. Betting $5 a day for a year is $1800. Vegas is a real cesspool for a lot of really, really bad, corrupt people who take advantage of and kill nice people. Check the murder rates, they are not good. I am not saying it would be bad; but I would plan out your idea a bit and through it out to a few friends to see what they think. The gambling world is pretty mafia ridden and very, very corrupt, as I said before. Just an arena that you may not want to delve into. You have time to think about this; so take it slow (if you want my advice :-).
When I read this email, I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. But at the same time, I see where this family member is coming from: the temptation culture in Vegas can make even Times Square look like suburban Salt Lake City in some ways. For instance, porn is not distributed freely in Times Square the way it comes in droves, at every angle, from those card-snapping dude-bros on the Vegas strip.
Before I commit to this “project”, I am going to have to lay down a few fixed ground rules to help keep me from regressing toward any sort of serious gambling problem. This way, I can give myself the best possible chance not only to succeed journalistically, but also to stay out of any kind of trouble that looms the same way whiskey did over Bad Blake’s country music career. Until I come up with a mission statement, here’s what my instincts are bargaining for:
1.) It’s for the writing:
I will now become a committed blogger. The gambling just gives me the right to sit and watch a game on a television. If I win, great. If I lose, then I only paid $5 to watch LeBron James thunderdunk a time or two on a television with a larger circumference than a swimming pool. The Fish Food blog, with the exception of the occasional sick day, or trip out of town for holidays or whatever, should have no less than 300 entries in pertinence to gambling with my $5 a day allowance.
The goal, ideally, would be to submit 365 entries in 365 days. But today, writing from New York, in February, who knows? I don’t even know where my internet access will come from, or what my real world schedule will look like.
2.) Quality of living:
I am a lot of things. White Trash is not one of them. If I have to position “The Club” on the wheel of my beige ’94 Corolla every night, then I may need to re-think about that full-time elementary school janitorial gig back home in Mayberry, Washington State.
I’ve lived in the back of my old pickup truck before (MLB spring training, Viera, FL, 2008). I’ve slept on an air mattress when I was living in Hartford, CT, while interning at The Courant for a summer. Even here in New York, I’ve put up with living an hour away from my everyday job, East Queens to the upper, upper West Side of Manhattan and back by subway, because its an “eat off the sidewalks” clean and serene neighborhood in Queens.
While I have dealt with my fare share of what normal people would categorize as extraneous obstacles that stand in the way of reaching my own little exalted station in life, I still have a rational side. I have no qualms with reeling the pole in from the lake of dreams at once and for all at any moment. Hemingway’s old man Santiago went 80-something days without catching a fish. The difference between Santiago and I is this: he would go out searching for his catch, whereas my opportunities seem to find me. And when opportunity knocks, you know the rest.
So if I can’t find a respectable place to live in Vegas, then I’m willing to submit that all of this was just one big delusion of grandeur.
Worst case scenario; I’ll still be able to put some action on the tourney.