Our British friends may not know this, but sports gambling was illegal in America until quite recently outside of Nevada. Then the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government could not regulate gambling, and so states are set to legalize gambling everywhere. We here at Carty Free decided to celebrate (mourn?) by previewing each weekend this season with a Picks Column, a friendly competition between one staffer who loves gambling and one who knows nothing about it.
I (Joel) love to gamble. One of my favorite childhood memories was going to Saratoga, a race track in upstate New York, with my father and a friend and her father. We read the racing form in the morning (I loved looking at the numbers, the jockey’s records) and in the second race, my friend and I asked our fathers to put $2 for us on a 2-6 exacta, which required we pick the first and second place horses correctly, in that order. The race ended and...we lost. The race finished with the 2 horse winning, the 3 took second, and the 6 third. This is typically when you’re supposed to rip up your ticket and complain.
But my father said to hold on, it looked like the 3 horse had bumped another horse and might get disqualified. Then, the big board started blinking on the 3, and said the race was under review. So we waited and waited, and finally the 3 horse came off the board and our little $2 bet turned into $153.20. So. Many. Baseball cards. And the stress and the win! You might be surprised to know, but gambling wins create a big dopamine rush that can lead it to being addictive. For me, I wouldn’t call it addictive, but that did begin a life long love of gambling: poker, blackjack, March Madness pools, over/under on 37 minutes until the pizza gets here?
Bryan on the other hand, knows nothing about gambling. Lucky for him, betting markets are pretty efficient! Also he knows a bunch about soccer, which is the actually important part. We’re gonna keep a running budget starting with a fake $10,000, and make three picks a week: we’ll pick one Spurs related bet, we’ll each look for a match where we think the odds makers have it wrong, and we’ll each find a stupid prop bet to “gamble” on.
Now, I, Joel, fully expect us to lose fake money. For one, we’re going to be making picks before the morning of the match, and lineup choices can affect outcomes a lot. Two, prop bets are very stupid for making money but also very fun. Three, you have to be really really elite at sport gambling to make money on it after the vig. Seriously, don’t do it unless a) you have a real edge and deep pockets or b) it’s part of your entertainment budget because it makes the games more exciting (and honestly we don’t really need another reason for Spurs to make us sick for 90 minutes every weekend).
Spurs (“Home”) v. Fulham (Away)
All odds from Odds Checker. Spurs to Win: 2/7. Draw: 9/2. Fulham to win: 9/1. For Bryan, that means that if I bet $70 on Spurs, I’d get back $90, winning $20. If I bet $20 dollars on a draw, I’d get back $110, winning $90, and if I bet $100 on Fulham, I’d get back $1000, winning $900. Yeah, we’re going with dollars here.
Joel: 538 is projecting Spurs to win this match 79% of the time, draw 15%, and lose 6%, which argues for picking Spurs. But 538’s numbers are still naive and don’t know that Fulham added Jean Michael Seri, Aleksander Mitrovic, Andre Schurrle, and Andre Zambo Anguissa, while Spurs added months to their new stadium opening and zero players.
Still, continuity matters, and boy do Spurs have that this year! Fulham added a bunch of guys who are good but also who haven’t really played together. Spurs on the other hand know where everybody is going to be on the pitch, well, except for Serge Aurier who himself doesn’t seem to know where he is on the pitch most of the time. Nonetheless, assuming Eric Dier and maybe Moose are ready to go in midfield, I’m assuming Spurs will control the match, wear down Fulham, and expose their back line, winning more than 77% of the time.
Bryan: So, before I make my pick, Joel got to tell his story about how he is a “good” gambler or at least a knowledgeable one. Let me tell my story of how I am a bad gambler and also an idiot. The year is 2008 and it’s not particularly complicated to do off-shore betting over the internet here in America. So, I put $100 into an account on Bodog or something and proceeded to bet on Spurs matches. In case you don’t remember, 2008 was the two points from eight games season. I just could not bring myself to bet against Spurs because I am a stupid main and do not use my brain to bet. So, I went along betting about $10 or so on Spurs to win or occasionally picking a scoreline that we would win by. By the time I finally got up the nerve to pick Spurs to lose, Harry Redknapp had been hired and we beat Bolton Wanderers. I’ve never placed a bet since.
Also, I’m not good at math, Joel, but I do know how odds work. Thank you very much.
Anyway, now that I’ve sufficiently lowered expectations, I’m going to toss $100 into the Halftime/Full-Time market. For those of you that are new to betting, that means I’m picking which team will be ahead (or whether they will be even) at both half time and full time. My gut tells me that this will be a Spurs win, but we head tells me it won’t be as easy as we’d like so I’m going for Draw/Tottenham. So that’s a draw at halftime, but Spurs to win it in the end at 11/4.
Bouncing Around the League
Joel: I’m gonna go with $100 on Brighton to win at 22/5. If Spurs had had Brighton’s incomings this window, I’d have been ecstatic. Yves Bissouma is young and good and could have replaced Mousa Dembele eventually. Alireza Jahanbakhsh is apparently quite good (though buying from Alkmaar is fraught as we sadly know). And they bought a left back from Leipzig in Bernardo. That’s good! Manchester United on the other hand, well, they seem ready to implode.
538 says Brighton have a 22% chance of winning this match and the odds say 18% is all that’s needed to break even on this bet. I think even 22% is low given Brighton’s business this offseason and United’s turmoil (yes I’m aware this is opposite logic from my Spurs pick!) Of course, United Devil Magic means De Gea is going to make 3 great saves, United will lose the expected goals battle badly, and win 1-0.
Bryan: I appreciate that Joel is going to make well-thought-out bets that include numbers from 538 and will likely include lots of things about xG and xGA. I will probably not be doing that, which, again, probably makes me a very bad gambler and an idiot.
So, Newcastle travel down to Cardiff for the early Saturday kickoff this weekend and if that doesn’t sound like the worst 7:30 am eastern time game ever, I can’t think of what else might be. Cardiff are bad and they’re going to be bad, but if they want to come close to Premier League survival, they’re going to need results at home. Unfortunately for them, most good results are going to require them to score goals. Newcastle are also bad and I don’t think much of their strikers, so my dumb bet is $100 on Draw 0-0 (or under 0.5 goals, whatever) at 13/2.
Joel: So the Top Six matchup this week is Chelsea hosing Arsenal. A London Derby where meteor is the only winner in our hearts. Arsenal still seem to be...figuring things out, though City are so good who knows. Chelsea still seem to be...figuring things out. But Chelsea’s midfield is going to run roughshod over Arsenal’s it seems to me and Arsenal’s backline is not well-equipped to handle competent strikers. So, let’s do a stupid $100 bet on Alvaro Morata to score first at 4/1. I will regret this as Morata’s headed ball sails over the crossbar.
Bryan: I really enjoyed watching Wolves play in the first week of the season and I particularly enjoyed Ruben Neves. The Portuguese midfielder looked like the best player on the pitch not named Richarlison in the opening match against Everton. One of the things I love about Neves is that he scores very good goals and he scores them from a long way out. Leicester's midfield still includes Adrian Silva and he is not good. So, I'll check $50 on Ruben Neves to score from outside the penalty box at 7/1. There's no way this one comes in, but I just want you all to get a taste of my gambling genius.