Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Do We Prefer To Gamble?

After a bit of a break from our world-famous drafts, Kavanaugh and I ran through another one this week. Here's what transpired:

FranT: Why don't we do the next draft on the best types of gambling? We'll leave that as the open-ended question, and we'll each take five choices. What do you think? If you like it, you can pick first. 

Kavanaugh: That sounds great. With the first overall pick, I'll take the unofficial sports bet. By that, I mean anything that requires money and isn't bet against a book, but is bet against another person or people. Included in this type of bet are fantasy football, survivor pools, March Madness brackets, Super Bowl squares, and every "I'll take the Yankees, you got the White Sox for 5 bucks"-type bet you've ever taken in your life. 

All of these are fun and increase the intrigue of the given sport you're betting on. I also have this theory -- and there's an entire blog to be written here but I'll keep it short -- that it's not really the money we want in a lot of these bets. What we want more than anything is to be right, and the money just puts consequence behind that wager. That's what makes this stuff so exciting. So while I'll often make fun of "Fantasy Football Guy" or "March Madness Guy", I'm all in on both of them as well as all other unofficial sports bets. 

As a side note, my buddy Doyle and I have a great long-term unofficial bet. Started in 2012, we bet $100 on who would have more championships in the next 10 seasons. He took Kevin Durant, I took LeBron, so I'm up 2-0. If nothing else, it will give the winner a reason to re-connect with the loser and collect the $100, should we fall out of touch in the next eight years. 

FranT: Nice strategy, taking five different types of gambling with your first pick. I figured you'd take March Madness brackets ('tis the season) or fantasy football with the first selection, but I'll let you have both of those and the others that you mentioned. I suppose it's my fault for not putting more rules in place.

All kidding aside, with the second overall pick, I'm taking horse racing betting; I guess that should include on- and off-track wagers. The Sport of Kings has appealed to gamblers for hundreds of years, and with good reason.

'Toga! (Photo via wikipedia.com)
There's nothing like going to a beautiful track like Saratoga or Churchill Downs and pretending like you know which three horses to throw into a Trifecta box. The great thing is that sometimes you win!

One more quick story: The day after our high school senior prom, our buddy Mark and I woke up with hangovers and realized how much money we had spent in Manhattan the night before. An easy solution: It was Kentucky Derby Day! We decided that we'd start boozing again (we were old high schoolers) and win all our money back at the OTB. It didn't quite work out, but still.    

Kavanaugh: Haha, yeah, I really built an all-inclusive deal for myself on that first pick. Whatevah. For my second pick, I'm going ultra-specific: I'll take Roulette. 

While some gambling can involve having a little knowledge or skill, this one requires neither, and that's why it's great. Pick a box for some decent odds, or pick a number for some terrible odds but great return. The suspense of that ball-spin is exhilarating, and what's more, Roulette is conducive to being fun and social. Whereas blackjack (which I love) and poker (which I hate) require attention and etiquette, with the 'lette you can just put a chip down and start clapping or yapping with your buddies, as evidenced at your bachelor party. 

The fact that you can lose everything or double it just by putting it down on a color makes Roulette devastatingly enticing -- I couldn't even stay away for more than 2 picks! 

FranT: Fantastic pick! I'll never forget playing Roulette at my aforementioned bachelor party in Atlantic City. We constantly put money on "31" and made fun of Mike Piazza the whole time, only to find out that the dealer was Mike's cousin, Paul Piazza. Couldn't have scripted a funnier scenario.

With my own second pick (fourth overall), I'm taking the "over" bet. We've all heard that nonsense about defense winning championships. But if you don't have a rooting interest in a certain game, there's only one way to go in an over/under situation. No matter what sport we're talking about, you should always want to see points. The over bet allows us to put a wager on that. 

Kavanaugh: Good call on the over. I don't know if I've ever bet an under, but I can't imagine it's any fun rooting for things NOT to happen. It's like me rooting against all the Boston teams all the time -- it's more relief than actual joy if it goes your way. 

For my third pick, I'm going to take the challenge bet. This includes any wager where you can control the outcome and measure it against someone else's performance, or versus someone else's pre-set determination of success/failure. It can take civil forms, like betting with a friend on golf scores or free throws. More often, though, it takes ridiculous forms like seeing who can eat more pizza, or challenging someone to do/eat something gross by putting five or 10 bucks on the line. When you think about it, anytime you hear yourself saying "Losers drink!" during a game, you're technically involved in a sudsy challenge bet. 

Jerry's bet with Elaine that she can't stay away from Puddy is a good example, and it nets Jerry $50 every time Elaine "backslides." Ken's leaf-raking bet with your brother is another good example, albeit a flawed one on Brian's part. But I don't think 10-year-olds have been known to turn down many challenge bets. 

FranT: Historically, I've cleaned up on challenge bets. In high school, I drank a whole bottle of ketchup, which I thought would be okay but it wasn't. During college, I ate a fish eye that I knew wouldn't be okay and then it wasn't. The ketchup challenge ended with me barfing, and the fish eye challenge ended with two witnesses barfing. Both times I made 20 bucks. So, yeah, good pick. 
With my third selection, I'm going in a different direction. I'm also taking Roulette, but I'm going with the Russian variety. Russian Roulette is undoubtedly the most badass form of gambling there is. Like, you lose your life if you lose the game. High stakes for most of us.

In researching Russian Roulette, I found out that novelist Graham Greene wrote in his autobiography that he played the deadly game by himself several times as a teenager. Umm...what a rush?

I've written before about Robert De Niro's Pyrrhic victory in the Russian Roulette scene of The Deer HunterThat scene is one of the best in movie history, and it's been parodied pretty well also.

I obviously would never play Russian Roulette, but it's the highest-stakes form of gambling there is. In my (sick, twisted) opinion, it had to make this list.   

Kavanaugh: Love that movie, specifically the Russian Roulette scenes. I also love Russian Roulette as a simile for anything where you could come out unscathed but are also very likely to suffer devastating consequences. Credit card roulette is good too, but it can be almost as devastating if you draw the "bullet." I've actually never played it.

Here's something I have played: scratch-off. Gimme that in my four-slot. I love it for its simplicity and availability. Roulette only exists in casinos. March Madness brackets come around once per year. Even challenge bets don't pop up everyday. But wherever you are in America, you're no more than 10 minutes away from an opportunity to win some money via scratch-off tickets. That moment when you read the "ways to win" (not sure everyone does) and begin scratching is a thrill that's worth the $2 at the bodega. 

FranT: My grandmother is absolutely ADDICTED to scratch-offs. Sure, she also loves slot machines like all old cooters do, but scratching like a fiend is the highlight of her day. Fortunately for her, she experiences the highlight of the day about five times per day because that's how often she goes out to buy a new round of scratch-offs. 

My fourth pick (eighth overall) is the proposition bet. The prop bet is best-known for its popularity during the Super Bowl, when people bet on things like the duration of the word "brave" during the national anthem. A popular prop bet at the last Super Bowl was the over/under on the amount of times Eli Manning would appear on TV. I like this type of novelty bet because it reminds me of idiotic wagers I've made with friends throughout my life. After all, there's always something stupid to gamble on. The prop bet just formalizes the idea of the side bet.

P.S. Credit card roulette is amazing. We need to play the next time we go out together.

Kavanaugh: As much as it kills me not to take my favorite casino game, blackjack, my last pick goes to the spread. While I hardly ever actually place real sports bets, the very existence of the line provides me with plenty of intrigue. 

Every NFL Sunday, the spreads are always a great subplot to the wins and losses as well as the fantasy stories. The same can basically be said for college football Saturdays. And even if you don't place bets, you always know someone who has action on a game, and watching a game land on a 5-point differential when the spread was 4.5 is truly fascinating (for a sports nerd like me). It's also fun to laugh at your friend if he was on the wrong side, or hit him up for a drink if he was on the right one. 

So apologies to Aunt Bernadette, who's in right in saying that the blog has been sports-heavy lately, but I can't help but be intrigued by sports gambling (as evidenced by my first and last picks). Can't wait for my first Vegas trip! 

FranT: I agree with all your points about the spread. It's also interesting to guess the lines before they come out. You feel like you know a lot about sports if you get a bunch of them right. 

For my last selection, I'm picking the type of "gamble" that you sometimes take when you fart. My buddy Dan took one of these gambles last weekend and it ruined his night when he lost. 

Losing the fart/poop gamble might be as bad as losing Russian Roulette, and winning is one of the best feelings in the world. As an added bonus, you usually need to find a bathroom just to discover whether you won or lost. I'm sorry if I'm grossing you out, but this type of gambling is completely natural and the stakes are easy to understand. If you win, you feel like a new person. If you lose, you feel like a four-year-old again -- a four-year-old who just sharted himself.  

Any final thoughts, Brian?

Kavanaugh: Hahaha, now that right there is the ultimate roll of the dice.

Honorable mention: Blackjack, Keno, Guts...

Here are the final draft hauls:
Kavanaugh: Unofficial sports bet, Roulette, Challenge, Scratch-offs, Point spread
FranT: Horse racing, Over, Russian Roulette, Prop bet, Fart/poop

Now, we want to hear from you. We've posted a poll on the right side of the page. What's your favorite type of gambling? (Don't be shy about selecting "Fart/poop.")

If you want to subscribe to How Blank, just type in your email address on the right side of the page. You'll get a notification every time we post new content.

Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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