Sunday, May 18, 2008

102 degrees, feels like 102 degrees

Things heated up this weekend in more ways than one. Today's high was 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and according to, it also felt like 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Those weather guys, you gotta give'em credit for making sure we truly understand what the temperature feels like. Naturally, it is also wicked sunny, so I can still cope with the heat for now. I am sure by the end of the summer, I'll be over all this great sunny weather.

These temperatures are, apparently, about ten degrees over the norm for this time of year. Tomorrow's high is predicted to reach 107 degrees. Almost makes me feel like spending the afternoon in a nice air conditioned casino. I probably wouldn't think twice if it weren't for all the people smoking in the casinos. Apparently, it is not as bad as it used to be because even Vegas is starting to jump on the public smoking laws bandwagon, but people are still allowed to smoke in the sportsbooks and on the casino floor. It is tolerable every once in a while, but even I am prone to migraines when I spend more than a few hours around the smoking masses.

Things have also been heating up with my betting. The astute among you will have noted that I have not commented on it in well over a week. The truth is, I don't like talking about my bets when they're pending. I don't treat the money as "pending" I treat it as though I have lost it, until it is won. I discussed it momentarily with my mother when I spoke with her on the phone, and she wanted to know how it was going. I was vague and merely said that if my current bet loses, then I will be behind and if it wins I will still be well ahead.

That particular bet took about 10 days to settle and it finally won this afternoon. Originally, I went to the Hilton to bet on a hockey game, but when I arrived I noted that they had posted in-series bets for the second round of the NBA playoffs. This means, I would be betting on which team would win the seven game series, but the series had already started. Both the Lakers and the Celtics were up 2 games to none in their respective series'. They had each won their first two home games.

The line on the Celtics series was -1500 (laying $1500 wins $100) and the Lakers series line was -1000 (laying $1000 wins $100). I stared at these two lines for about twenty minutes and performed a few calculations that finally convinced me that these were better bets than the hockey game. (Turns out the hockey bet would have own and the follow up bet I would have made the next day would have won as well.) I walked back home to grab more cash. I had only brought $500 with me to bet and returned to the Hilton with $3000. I parlayed the two bets: $3000 to win $520.

The quick analysis: I was betting on the two favored teams and they each had already won two games. Thus, they each had to win two more games before losing four for the bet to win.

The longer analysis: Teams do come back from being down 2-0 in a series. In fact, it has happened 13 times out of 211 different series where this scenario has occurred. From this, I reasoned that each team had 93.8% chance of winning their series and so combined, both bets had about 88.06% chance of winning. The payout I was recieving, $3000 to win $520, written as odds, is 75 to 13. To break even on those odds, you need to win 85.23% of the time. That means my chances of winning were 2.83 percentage points higher than the payout odds. In essence, I had an advantage over the casino.

Of course, these are the slightly more refined numbers. When I was sitting in the Hilton and had to do all of this in my head, I rounded things off and came up with a little better than 3 percentage point advantage. It is rare when one can get a payout advantage at a casino, but I found one and bet a lot of money on it.

Mathematicians and statisticians are very fond of talking about these advantages as time goes to infinity. Effectively, assuming these calculations continue to hold, I could make similar bets over and over and in the long run I would make money. Similarly, if I were to stand at a craps table or a blackjack table long enough, I am pretty much guaranteed to lose because of the house edge.

What I find funny about this mathematics mentality, is that I only get to place this bet once. The calculations were enough to convince me that it was a good bet, but the betting advantage I had is not what sold me on the bet. What sold me was the 88% chance of winning. This is far more important to me seeing as I am not going to have money to be making bets like this as time goes to infinity. I've got about a year, and advantageous bets like this will only come up once in a while.

Getting back to the "getting hot" theme. As it turned out, the Lakers won their series four games to two, but the Celtics, sort of, let me down again. Their series went to the seventh game again. The home team won in each of the first six games and the Celtics hosted the 7th and final game. I didn't bother to check to see if I could hedge this bet. I probably could have come close to a small losing hedge (as opposed to last time where I had a small winning hedge). But I decided that I couldn't be looking to hedge out of all these types of bets. I wouldn't get anywhere if I did that.

Fortunately, Boston won 97-92. That puts me up $575 for the month and $1770 since I started. That means I'm still on a pace for paying about half of my total bills. I can live with that for now.

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