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Last Updated: October 14, 2009

October 14, 2009

Long Time No Newsletter

My last newsletter was sent out in December 2008. There are a combination of reasons behind the long period of absence. Many times I have I have considered dropping the newsletter completely. Part of the reason I had a newsletter in the first place was so I could write about non-gambling topics from time to time, which I now do in my blog. However, I get asked about the newsletter now and again, and pretty much all of those queries come with requests to bring it back. Whenever I go to the player club at the Palms, I seem to get the same lady who gives me a guilt trip about it. So, better late than never, here it is. I will try to send out a new one at least once a month.

What's new on

Ask the Wizard

Here's an excerpt from the most recent Ask the Wizard, #238.

(Q:) This pertains to the aggregate payout in Let in Ride and how the $1 side bet is affected. When a table posts an aggregate payout of say $50,000, is this just for the standard three bets that you make to start the game OR does this actually include the $1 side bet as well? Over the years I have heard conflicting info. ? Pete M. from Glendale

(A:) I asked two Las Vegas casino executives about this. The first one said their policy on all games with a jackpot-based side bet is to first pay the primary bets (i.e. not the side bets) to the full odds. The aggregate cap only applies to the side bets. In the event the side bet wins exceed the aggregate maximum, then winners are paid on a pro-rata basis, according to their win. For example, if the aggregate is $50,000, player 1 won $50,000, player 2 won $10,000, and player 3 won $100, then each player would get paid $50,000/($50,000+$10,000+$100)=83.19% of what he would get without the limit. The second casino executive, with another company, said the same thing except they pay the side bets in full and pro-rate the primary bets.

The 2009 NFL Season So Far

While I try to understand almost every form of gambling, the form I personally enjoy the most is sports betting, especially football. It should not come as a surprise to some that I am almost exclusively an underdog bettor. From 1983 to 2008, underdogs have covered the spread 51.47% of resolved bets.

How have the underdogs done through week 5 this season? Awful! Against the spread, the underdogs are 33-42-0 so far. Against the money line, they are 21-54-0. Thus far, no big underdogs have won. The biggest upset to date was the 6.5-point underdog Lions beating the Redskins in week 3. I would be singing a different tune had the Bills held onto a 5-point lead as they received the kickoff with two minutes and six seconds left in the fourth quarter against the 11-point favorite Patriots in the Sunday night game in week 1. How hard can it be to take a knee and then kill the clock? That was just a disgusting ending for me, and a harbinger of what has been an ugly season so far betting underdogs. The underdogs had a chance to redeem themselves in week 3, when the 49ers's were up by 4 against the 7-point favorite Packers, with seconds left. However, Brett Favre just had to make a successful Hail Mary pass to ruin my hope of a decent underdog victory.

The following chart shows the winning percentage against the spread and straight up for every year since 1983. For 2009, the results are only through week 5. Looking at 2003-2009, it is worth asking if betting underdogs is a good play any longer. Over that period the underdog record is nearly 50/50 at 806-804-40, give or take depending on the exact point spreads you use. I still believe that square bettors love favorites, but perhaps there has been a lot more sharp action the other way the last five years to offset that. It seems to me that deteriorating conditions in blackjack and video poker have caused a lot of professional gamblers to turn to sports betting instead, resulting in more competition.

To add insult to injury, for the first time since 2005, I am handicapping again. Of course, the first time I tried I had to pick the worst year going back to 1983 for underdogs. My mostly underdog picks went 42-53-1, which is truly embarrassing. I kept a record of it all on my web site (link removed). This time, I decided to keep my picks out of the public eye. I know records of privately made picks are worth squat, but I don't think anyone will think I'm lying when I say I'm 8-11-0 so far. In the contest I'm in, I am in last place out of six people. The other five are picking a lot of favorites and totals.

The upside to all this is that I borrowed money from my gambling bankroll to make a down payment on a house in June, so I have less money to lose. I was expecting to take advantage of low housing prices, which I hope won't keep getting lower. The football betting pales in comparison to the risk I took on the house. It has only been 75 games so far, not counting one "pick" game. The season is still early, so maybe things will get better.