Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bill's Guide to Gambling (alternate title: How to Lose Money By Being Stupid), Part 2

[SIMILAR DISCLAIMER TO THE ONE I INCLUDED BEFORE PART 1 OF THIS SERIES, BUT SLIMMED DOWN A LITTLE: I'm about to write about NFL gambling, and criticize Bill heavily for his gambling analysis and picks. However, I understand that like Bill, I am terrible at NFL gambling, and I would never tell anyone that I had some kind of a system that was going to help me win this season or ever. Now that I have that out of the way again, let's begin.]

These ahhh dahhhk, dahhhk times for one Mistah Simmons.  DAHHHK.  The Red Sox have now gone one seasons without winning a World Series (FIRE FARRELL!), the Celtics are going to be shitty again this year (silver lining: their division will be super shitty right along with them), and now the GREATRIOTS are finally in the process of falling apart after more than a decade as a good-to-great team.  Turns out you can't just trade a pro bowl offensive lineman for peanuts and still give your aging QB enough time to go through his reads.  Anyways, to top it all off, now he's suspended  by his employer which means he can't shine light upon the world by giving it his weekly picks.  But since Grantland's readers want a picks column anyways, starting last week (and hopefully continuing indefinitely, even after Simmons gets back), that responsibility fell to Bill Barnwell.  You know, the guy who writes about football at Grantland who actually can analyze his way out of a wet paper bag if he has to.

I've heard complaints that he's a little Simmonsy in his own right, specifically in that he oversimplifies things.  That may be fair.  But here's an important counterpoint: at least he's not a goddamn moron.  How'd he do with the picks?  Oh, ho hum, just 8-4.  Small sample size of course, but let's see how the next two weeks unfold.  I'm going to guess that taking Barnwell's advice over the course of a full season would end up saving you a lot of cash versus taking Simmons's.  But hey, even though Simmons is a dipshit of galactic proportions, he's a hardworking dipshit.  Let's run through the rest of his gambling rules, and see how they played out during weeks 1 through 3.

Rule: As always, be superduperduperduper careful of the Obvious Pick.

What the Christ does this even mean?  This means nothing.  This is a post hoc face-saving device you bring up when the dust has settled and you just lost $500 in a weekend.  "Should have TOTALLY been aware of the possibility that the Bucs wouldn't just cover in Pittsburgh, but could actually win outright.  So dumb to put the Steelers in all my parlays.  That was a total Obvious Pick.  Can't believe I missed it."  (Barnwell got that game right, by the by.)

Whether it’s some allegedly hot team coming off a big win, the team that just looked awesome on Sunday or Monday night, the team that every “expert” is picking on Thursday and Friday, the most obvious candidate for your Eliminator Pool (like Chicago at home against Buffalo this week), 

Lulz.  Indeed, Buffalo did go into Chicago and beat the Bears.  Simmons, of course, picked this game incorrectly because of course he did.  BILL!  YOU DIDN'T WATCH OUT FOR THE OBVIOUS PICK!  

or the team that’s getting picked 85 percent of the time on ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em. Every week — repeat: EVERY WEEK — there’s always one Obvious Pick. Just be careful.

"Here's a rule that you don't necessarily have to follow, but you should be aware of it, perhaps even to the point of being careful about it.  But it's not a RULE rule.  Just a suggestion.  You're welcome."

Games so far this year that implicated this rule, which, of course, requires subjective decisions related to what an "obvious pick" is; I'm basing it on discussions I had with a couple of friends who love sports gambling (we'll call them J-Bug and House) during the days leading up to these weekends.  Feel free to disagree with the our consensus picks (at the time) for "obvious" games, and then go fuck yourself if it's a big deal to you.  Unless otherwise noted, home team was the "obvious" pick:

Week 1
BUF at CHI (Bill went against the rule and lost)
CLE at PIT (Bill went with the rule and won)

Week 2
ARI at NYG (ARI was the obvious pick after the Giants looked like a college team in week 1; Bill went with the rule and lost as the Giants looked like a college team again in this game)
NE at MIN (NE was the obvious pick; Bill went against the rule and won)

Week 3
TB at ATL (Bill went against the rule and won)
DEN at SEA (Bill went against the rule and won)

Verdict on this rule: the obvious games are obvious because they tend to be pretty easy to pick.  Then 5 or 6 times a season you get an upset in one of them, and tardburgers like Bill turn it into a gambling rule OMG DON'T TRUST THAT OBVIOUS GAME IT'S JUST A LITTLE TOO OBVIOUS DON'T YOU THINK???????

Rule: Always take a beat when you’re just blindly checking off games to ask yourself, “Wait, are we sure … ?”

Almost as helpful as the last rule. "When you are going to put real money that you have worked hard to earn or steal down on a game, don't just blindly 'check off' games, whatever that means, because that would be fucking stupid.  However, in the event that you find yourself blindly checking off games, go back through when you're done and then actually think about the games and re-make your picks as necessary."  Seriously, fuck this guy.

Like the Jets laying five to Oakland in Jersey this week. 

I know this was written before week 1, when we knew a lot less about all the teams in the league, but the Raiders have been terrible for a decade, lost 6 straight to finish out 2013, and were starting a rookie QB who played in a non-power conference in college.  I don't care how bad Geno Smith is, the Jets were the smart pick here, even though they did not cover.  The fact that Bill was able to talk himself into taking the Raiders, who needed all 6 of the points they were getting in order to cover, is a blind squirrel finding a nut.

When your brain is turned off, you lay the points, right? 

No, when your brain is turned off, you go to sleep, or at least stop gambling.

Who the hell would take Derek Carr and the Raiders on the road? 

Most people would agree (although Carr would then go on to cover against New England in Foxboro... maybe I'm the idiot).

But turn your brain on for a second … should that crappy Jets team be favored by five against ANYONE? 

Well, they were a fuckload better than the Raiders in 2013, and didn't have any really significant offseason losses.  They were beaten by a TEXTBOOK FAWKIN' BACKDO-AH COVAH in this game, leading by 12 inside the 2 minute warning when Carr hit James Jones for a 30 yard TD with the Raiders out of timeouts.  So yeah, I think the Jets should have been favored by 5.  (In Bill's defense, the Jets have looked horrible since and are now 1-3 overall and 1-3 against the spread.  But the Raiders are probably significantly worse.  NFL ACTION ACTION ACTION.)

Does home-field advantage matter when you’re getting booed because you’re down 17-0 in the second quarter and it looks like Tom Cruise could start at cornerback for you? Why are the Jets such an easy pick there?

I don't think they were THAT easy; me and J-Hench and Jimmy Kimmel didn't think this was an "obvious" game.  Anyways, I can't even analyze this rule because it's not a rule at all.  "Always wear your seatbelt" is a rule.  "When you're driving down the freeway at 90 mph and then you realize you're hallucinating and can't see straight, stop immediately" is just common sense.  This is more like the latter of those.

Rule: Make a plan for double-digit spreads and stick with it.

This might be the best one on the whole list.

Picking double-digit spreads is like having a 12 against a two in blackjack — there’s no right answer, but you’re better off doing the same thing every time. 

HAHAHAHA NO IT'S NOT, YOU FUCKING DOLT!  Here's how Bill came up with this: he likes gambling on football.  He thinks he's good at it.  He likes blackjack.  He thinks he's good at it.  THEY MUST HAVE SIMILARITIES!  HOW COULD THEY NOT???  WHO SAYS NO??????  I don't have time to aggregate all the data over a long period of time, but I'd be willing to bet a shiny nickel that over the long run, double digit favorites cover at very close to 50%.  That means that if "there's no right answer" and you decide to always bet for or against them, SURPRISE, you will lose money due to the house vig.  This is like saying "Picking home teams is like 12 against 2 in blackjack--just do the same thing every time" because home teams in the long run cover about 50% of the time.  If you are the kind of person who does things like this, you will lose money, because you are stupid.  Don't be stupid.

In 2014, I plan on grabbing the points unless it’s a breathtaking scenario along the lines of “The Seahawks just lost last week, they’re pissed off, and now Carson Palmer is coming to Seattle and he’s starting even though he might have a torn rotator cuff.”

I like how much he shits all over Arizona and Palmer in this article.  Watch them go 11-5 and make the conference championship game.  OTHER THAN THE SEAHAWKS NAME ONE NFC TEAM BETTER THAN THE CARDINALS.  YOU CAN'T.  

Verdict on this rule: So far this season there have only been 5 double digit spreads; favorites are 2-3 against them (PHI and SD covered against JAX; DEN, NO and NE failed to cover against KC, MIN and OAK).  Bill didn't get to pick the SD/JAX game because it happened last weekend.  In the other 4, he went 2-2 even though the underdogs went 3-1 against the spread.  Why?  Because he took all the underdogs except the Pats against the Raiders, of course.  I mean, Christ, what do you expect out of the guy?  You want him to control his impulses?  He's got the analytical skills of a 14 year old.  Of course he went against his rule once the FOOTBALL RED SOX were involved.  BUT I MEAN LOOK AT THIS PATRIOTS TEAM; SHOULD THEY BE LAYING 14 POINTS TO ANYONE????????  Jesus, I'm not sure they should be laying 4 points to anyone.

Rule: Beware of obvious choices and not-totally-reliable candidates for two-team and three-team teasers.

You should approach every tease with this mind-set: I would feel totally comfortable betting my life on this if it wouldn’t be so bizarre to bet your life on a two-team football tease. I already broke this rule in Week 1 when I teased Seattle -6 (already covered) with Chicago -7.5 at home against Buffalo (looks sooooooooo easy on paper and I did it anyway). When Jay Cutler limps out of the game in the second quarter, blame me. It’s my fault.

Holy Jumping Jesus on a Trampoline, we don't even need to go over this one.  It's just a restatement of that one "rule" we discussed 2 minutes ago that basically amounts to "try to make smart bets," but applied to parlays.  And then, naturally, he was right about the fact that he made a dumb bet in the CHI/BUF game, because even when he's right, he's wrong.  It must be excruciating to be Bill Simmons.  Actually, scratch that--it WOULD be excruciating to be Bill Simmons IF you had even a shred of self awareness.

Rule: When in doubt, always grab an underdog at home.

I love the wishy-washing of "when in doubt."  You know, if you've been blindly throwing money at your bookie or at the sports book dealer without any idea of who you are or where you are, that's a good time to start doubting yourself and asking "Wait... are you sure?"  At that point, if you are not sure, take home underdogs, BUT ONLY IF IT'S NOT A SUPER OBVIOUS PICK.

During a typical gambling season, home dogs will cover somewhere around 58-60 percent of the time. But during the Great Gambling Train Wreck of 2013? Home dogs started out hot as always (17-11 over the first five weeks), then free-fell into a fiery hell (25-34-2 over the next 12 weeks). Again, we have a solid amount of evidence that 2014 might be the Year of the Dog. 

Good use of "evidence."  To quote Simpsons superlawyer Lionel Hutz, "Well, Your Honor, we have hearsay and conjecture.  Those are KINDS of evidence."  To Bill, seeing that sometimes gambling trends repeat themselves, but sometimes they don't, is a kind of evidence.  WHO SAYS NO.

I don’t need to spell this out for you.

Yeah you IDIOTS.  Just follow Bill's rules already.  You losers.

Games so far this year that implicated this rule:

Week 1
NO at ATL (Bill went against the home dog and lost)
NE at MIA (Bill went against the home dog and lost)
SF at DAL (Bill went against the home dog and won)

Week 2
SEA at SD (Bill went with the home dog and won)
HOU at OAK (Bill went with the home dog and lost)
NE at MIN (Bill went against the home dog and won)
ARI at NYG (Bill went with the home dog and lost)
NO at CLE (Bill went with the home dog and won)

Week 3
IND at JAX (Bill went with the home dog and lost)
HOU at NYG (Bill went against the home dog and lost)
DAL at STL (Bill went with the home dog and lost)
SF at ARI (Bill went with the home dog and won)

Week 4
GB at CHI (home dog did not cover)
DET at NYJ (home dog did not cover)
ATL at MIN (home dog covered and won outright)
NO at DAL (home dog covered and won outright)
NE at KC (home dog covered and won outright)

Let's total it up.  Overall, home dogs are 9-8 against the spread.  Better than nothin'.  (In fact all 9 won outright, so you could have picked up some decent coin by playing all home dog money lines so far this year.)  Bill didn't pick the week 4 games, of course.  In the games he did pick, the home dogs went 6-6.  However, he only picked the home dog 7 out of those 12 games, and went 3-4.  And because he's a dillweed, he also went 2-3 when he went with the road favorite, making him 5-7 overall in home dog games.  I propose a new rule: if the road team is favored, just don't bet at all (if your name is Bill Simmons).

Verdict on this rule: Might be worthwhile if you stick with it.  And I guess play the home dog money lines rather than taking the points?  I don't know.  Don't listen to me.  I have no fucking clue what I'm doing.

Rule: Make a list of teams you irrationally like and dislike before the season starts, then stick to your guns those first five weeks.

HAHAHAHA.  Also a good rule, because it gives him a chance to talk about how smart he has been for years now.  (Also, "irrationally like" is a SECRETLY UNDERRATED Simmonsism.)

I broke that strategy down in 2004’s award-winning “Simbotics” seminar— 

A link to one of his columns from back then was here, but I removed it, because it was self-indulgent and dreadful (as his columns tend to be).  

for instance, I love San Diego as 2014’s surprise 12-win contender, 

The Chargers look pretty good.  They're 3-1 overall and 4-0 against the spread.  Naturally, since Bill is dumb, he did not pick them to cover in Buffalo during week 3, so he only went 2-1 in their games.

Tampa Bay as 2014’s “Nobody Believes In Us” sleeper, 

Tampa Bay looks pretty awful, although they did beat the mediocre Steelers in Pittsburgh, so that's fun.  They are now 1-3 overall and 1-3 against the spread.  Here's what Bill had to say about their week 1 matchup with Carolina:

BUCS (-3) over Panthers
My dream Week 1 matchup: my favorite still-undervalued team playing at home against 2014’s no. 1 regression candidate. Actually, this game is like a hot blackjack table. Just shut up. Don’t celebrate, don’t brag, don’t count your chips, don’t taunt the pit boss, don’t say anything.

MORE BLACKJACK ANALOGIES PLEASE!  Panthers 20, Bucs 14.  And the Panthers now look absolutely atrocious.  To Bill's credit, he did stick to his guns and pick the Bucs to beat the Rams in week 2 (oops).  Also to his credit, he then wised up and took the Falcons to beat them in week 3.  What happened to sticking to your guns?  Hey, like Jack Handy says, I'd rather be lucky than stupid.

Baltimore as 2014’s comeback team, 

The Ravens are 3-1, although 3 of those games have been at home and the only good team they played (Cincy) beat them at home.  Still, they are also 3-1 against the spread.  Bill went 3-0 in their games, picking against them in the Cincy game.

Cincy as 2014’s Slightly Undervalued Contender, 

Cincy looks really, really good.  They are 3-0, and 3-0 against the spread.  Of course, Bill took the Falcons to cover against them in Cincy in week 2, saying he was grabbing the 5 points "only because of the overwhelming Garbage Time Touchdown Potential."  Atlanta did score a garbage time touchdown; unfortunately they were down 21 at the time.  STICK TO YOUR GUNS FOR FIVE WEEKS BILL YOU SILLY MAN.

and Minnesota as 2014’s super-frisky non-playoff team. 

The Vikings are a tough team to judge, since they've lost Peterson but gained a QB who is way way better than Matt Cassel in the last couple of weeks.  They are now 2-2 overall and against the spread.  They're not winning that division, but I suppose they do qualify as "frisky," so good for Bill.  

I’m also waaaaaaaaay down on Carolina 

Carolina looks awful.

and Kansas City; 

The Chiefs are now 2-2 overall but 3-1 against the spread; they just finished shoving the Patriots' heads up their own asses on national TV.  Man, why did Bill have to get suspended last week?  I really wish I could go read his pick for that game right now, just to make me smile.  YOU THINK BILLY B IS GOING TO LET ANDY REID WIN THIS GAME?  STAWP.  JUST STAWP.

I think the Falcons, Cardinals and Jets are worse than people think; 

And yet you took the Falcons against the Bengals in Cincy.  Also, we went over this, but the Cardinals are good.

I’m petrified of the QB situations in Buffalo, Houston and Washington; 

If you have a pulse and a passing interest in the NFL, you knew those QB situations were unstable back in June.

and I’m worried that San Francisco might have a Year From Hell Season. 

I'll give him a speck of credit here, they have looked ready to melt down a couple of times.

Throughout September, I am sticking to my guns — that’s how I feel, so that’s how I am picking games with those teams.

No, you're not.  You dummy.

Next: DEFINITIVE PROOF that CANNOT BE DENIED that this REALLY REALLY ACTUALLY is the YEAR OF THE DOG. (Note: dogs went 4-7-1 last week, bringing them to 31-27 on the year.  It is not the year of the dog.)



Anybody who advocates betting on the "Nobody Believes in Us" theory should be silenced by deadly force. The media thinks Tampa Bay sucks, therefore they will be motivated! What do all the other teams have to play for except their next contract, and the desire to win a competition in front of millions of people?

Anonymous said...

also he said on his podcast "stick to your guns for the first few weeks, unless you were wrong and then switch accordingly" re: tampa bay. WOW, just wow - "do this but if its not a good idea anymore, dont do it."- tm Bill Simmons Gambling Master.

Chris W said...

No right answer to a 12 against a dealer 2? Well yeah, unless you are a smart gambler who cares about incremental advantage. But how does that relate to sports betting????

Anon said...

I think ESPN out ESPN'd itself with this one: