Beautiful Losing

  • Denver 102 Atlanta 87
  • Oklahoma City 96 Miami 85

Two underdogs win outright.

A 2-0 night, and suddenly I don’t know who I am anymore; 20 bets in and for the first time, I’m in the black. My hypothetical stake has grown to $1025. Up an I-stink-therefore-I-am 2.5%.

On one hand, it’s a negligible return–indefensibly poor, if you’re adjusting for the level of risk and/or the number of wagers. A cartoonish $1.25 per bet.

On the other hand, I’m giddy. Life is relative; I’ve tripled my stake from where it was a week ago. The direction is encouraging, but what’s more heartening is the idea that maybe, just maybe, NBA wagering isn’t inscrutable/choate/effable.

Of course it’s still early days. Of course I’m just 10-10 over 20 bets. But I reached the .500 mark by going 7-2 against the spread after a 3-8 start. What’s changed isn’t the kind of game I’m choosing, it’s the side of the bet. Rather than backing superior teams come hell or high spreads, I’m taking the points and getting paid off by lesser squads that are losing, but doing so gamely.┬áBecause in the NBA, at least for me, at least of late, it’s looking like the bullies don’t pay, but the losers do.

I wrote a few posts ago what my results would have been had I wagered the same amounts on the same games, but taken the points every time. Through tonight, and throwing out three spreadless money line wagers, I would have gone 14-3 against the spread with that approach, nearly quadrupling my original stake. I’m elated by this, not rueful over what might have been. I’m a writer, not a gambler, and this is about thinking my way through the mysteries of wagering. Maybe I’m onto something.

We’ll see in the guesses to come.



Under 2:30’s flat grey sky, I plead Vegas, caffeine, and road teams afire.

Wednesday’s early lines are out, and I’m putting hypothetical money down:

  • $165 to win $150 on the Nuggets visiting Atlanta in a pick ’em.
  • $165 to win $150 on Oklahoma City getting 6.5 in Miami.

Because the Hawks lack depth, the Nuggets will have a day’s rest, Atlanta won’t, and Denver’s fathomless horde of perimeter players should overrun Teague and Hinrich.

Because Miami lacks depth, Oklahoma City is too young and aspirational to pack it in early a la San Antonio, and Ibaka and Perkins should hurt the Heat inside.

I suspect both games will be close; the former because the Nuggets can’t keep hitting everything from everywhere, and the latter because the Thunder won’t let Miami get away. So I’m wagering on Karl over Drew, and the guts of OKC over Miami’s glamour.

On Thursday, perhaps I’ll know I was right the first time, and should have stayed away from the vicissitudes of Very Good versus Even Better. But oh, the points, the points…

We’ll see.

Go Thunder. Go Nuggets.

Go West, Young Man

Two bets tonight:

  • $110 to win $100 on Sacramento getting 11.5 in San Antonio
  • $110 to win $100 on Portland giving 4.5 in Charlotte

Glad I skipped the games I did last night–injuries to Billups and Channing Frye affected both outcomes. But then I missed both bits of news because I never really considered wagering on either contest–I didn’t like the spreads, and I didn’t have confident guesses as to what might happen. Denver might just be turning into something not seen in the NBA outside of San Antonio–a deep, complete, unselfish team. Frye or no Frye, that was an impressive road dismantling of a Suns squad that’s scrambling for wins every night. The Nuggets are 6-2 sans Carmelo Anthony, who’s discovering what Miami’s stars already know: fantasy basketball stats aren’t enough against the league’s top echelon. Dallas kicked its transition game into high gear to rout the Melobockers Thursday night, largely because New York no longer has any depth, nor any starters capable of playing both ends of the floor.

Tonight’s nervousness stems from Stephen Jackson’s return to physical health (if not sanity), and what appears to be the eternal war between Sacramento’s talent and psyche. But I’m betting that Charlotte is still a team that will play as if it were sandbagged by management (it was), Portland will expend a lot of energy to win on the road (as moderately good teams must), and Sacramento will cosmetically cover up the truth: that San Antonio plays the kind of heady, devastating team basketball the Kings never will.

Small bets, still underwater, still learning, and only a 25% chance of a meaningfully negative outcome for my stake tonight.

Go Kings. Go Blazers.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

I’ve done so badly that Go The Other Way is emerging as the basis for a wagering theory. There’s more to it, but the encouraging news is, there’s useful data to be had even in the few posts I’ve put up here, small samples and utter futility notwithstanding. Stuff that seems to align with data prior to when I started this thing. There’s even a chance I might be seeing…2011 NBA reality.

It’s not done yet, but I’ll write about it soon. The working title is Toying and Destroying.

Unfortunately, none of the games tonight fit the bill, so no hypothetical money is riding on anything Saturday.

The temptations passed are Denver getting 1.5 in Los Angeles against the Clippers, and Minnesota getting 4 against Washington at the Verizon Center.

It’ll be fun to see if I guess right on those (I know, I know–for a change), but they’re not the kind of game I’m looking for (I know, I know…).