Category: Psychology

Gambling Thoughts

I’ll preface this by saying I’m not really breaking new ground here. 

Other day Louis was talking to me about the idea of creating a gambling program where someone could be exposed to an extrememly high number of past games with spread knowledge in a short amount of time to make them a better sport gambler.  Something akin to the idea that you become a better poker player by playing lots of hands, so internet people have an advantage because they play so many in so rapid an amount of time. 

I think there is a little bit of merit in this, but limited.  First of all we will throw out the idea for the moment that such a program could be created in the foreseeable future.  You would need some Matrix-like thing going on where the person uploads game data into their brains at a rapid rate.  But if such a program existed, the question arises, would it have the results Lou thinks it would.  And to an extent I think the answer is yes.

The main problem is that Vegas essentially already has something like Lou’s hypothetical idea with those simulations they run in computers.  That, after all, is often how the spread is figured, they are running advanced machines to find out what the difference in a game is likely to be.  I cannot decide if Louis’ idea should be described as being (A) different from or (B) being more finely tuned than these simulations.  The idea is different from the simulations in that he wants to figure out future score totals in relation to the spread instead of creating a spread itself, but at the same time, is that not just saying that he wants an outrageously accurate score indicator?  In either case, the task is tough.

But Lou does have one obvious advantage, and that is that Vegas has a set of handcuffs on it, namely, the betting public.  If the public thinks one way strong enough, Vegas is going to often yield to that in making a line.  This is evident in setting the line itself, and in subsequent adjustments.  Teams like the Lakers and Cowboys will routinely get more respect in regards to the line simply because the bookies know where the action is going to go.  I was on a site the other day that noted that the Lakers over the last 10 years weren’t even close to breaking even against the spread, even though, they’ve obviously been very successful.  As mentioned, the public’s influence will also transfer to line adjustments.  A recent example of this was the Packers/Cards Wild Card game this year where the line opened at Cards -2.5.  By kickoff of that game 80% of the betting public (Allen “three Benjamins” Gowin) was on the Packers, and the line had to be moved to Packers -2.5. 

And it is here where Louis’ slim hopes lie at getting rich off his Matrix program.  If Vegas strictly set spreads without the betting public in mind, Louis’ plan could not work for him, as they would be using the most in-tuned sports minds and up-to-the-minute programs and data to set the spreads.  It is in Vegas’ act of covering its own ass that salvation lies for the merit in Louis’ idea, when the sports public forces Vegas to at times make a road team a favorite against a defending conference champion. 

As a brief note at the end, this could encourage a group to take a game, throw a ton of money on one side to pop the line in a certain direction, and then once the line moves a decent amount, throw an absolute shit ton of money on the other side.

Thursday Links

Lots of inspiration this week…

Follow-ups and excerpts from the Marvin Harrison story.

Jason Fagone also wrote an awesome story on Tim Tebow a few months back.

All these humanizing details tend to take the edge off the fact that Tebow’s entire role-model persona doesn’t work unless he can convey that, fundamentally, he’s better than you: stronger, more capable, more at peace, just basically happier. This is what the people who make fun of Tebow are skewering—his cult of personality. When Obama invited the Gators to the White House earlier this year, the sports blog Deadspin ran a picture of Tebow’s “steely-eyed Manshake” with the president under the cheeky headline our two greatest leaders make a pact to save the world.

But in Gainesville, in close quarters with 52,000 other students, where there’s already a statue of him, seven feet tall, carved from an oak tree—”Tim Treebow”—he’s universally adored. I try to find people to talk shit about him. I fail.

Ichiro! did an extensive interview last week and among other things talked about negativity and not getting fat. He’s probably my favorite active player and it’s not solely because he carries his bats in a briefcase.

A lot of people for a long time have thought that you can’t do this forever. A lot of people were thinking by now Ichiro would be a three hitter, he would be hitting 40 homeruns a year, but you can still do everything you did before. Are you in any way surprised that you are still doing these things and what is your reaction when people say Ichiro is going to move on and become this?

Probably for my style of baseball the key to maintaining it is not to get a gut.

As far as what other people say… The thing is a lot of people who comment about other people, especially people who say negative things about other people, they are not really in positions to be able to evaluate other people in the first place. If we input that information into ourselves more than necessary only negative things will come of that. So it is really about knowing yourself and not being controlled by people who have no value or say. I guess now that we have talked about this I guess you can say that is one key to where I am now is that I have not been swayed by what other people have said.

If you could trade places with anybody in the history of the game for one day who would you like to trade with and why?

(Becomes very animated)

There’s not really a certain who that comes to mind but I think I would like to become a really fat player. (Raucous laughter) Maybe not necessarily fat, but a really, really big player and the reason for that is when I see really, really big players able to perform in baseball I always think to myself how are they able to do that? Because I think to be able to be a good baseball player you have to be able to control your body and for them to have really big bodies and to perform well in this very difficult game of baseball, I am very curious.

Some other people say, ‘You are so small, how come you are able to perform on the baseball field?’ but to me it is only natural because with me I am able to control my movements and my body. For me it is the opposite. Big guys? How are you able to do it? That is a big mystery. (much laughter)

The first half of this Chargers mailbag reads like someone made it up. Actual answer to one of the questions, “I’m going to assume you’re joking. I can’t tell anymore with some of y’all.” Some highlights out of context:

There is a rumor floating around that several Chargers were “partying” .. Saturday night and well into Sunday morning before the game. Can any of this be confirmed?

Regarding Marty, I thought he was just plain stupid. Push come to shove, I take Norv…but I wish he was our offensive coordinator. That is his destiny in life, and that’s ok.

…and Kaeding???The boy can’t seem to handle pressure in the play-offs,that scares me going forward because he’s so darn good in the regular season,how do you justify a switch?I can’t think of a good question,because honestly,I think we’re as good as any team out there,I’m just confused as heck by yesterdays game,GO BOLTS…ALL THE WAY IN ’10…God,I hate baseball season….

I’ll skip this excerpt on this one, but Joe P. telling stories about Buck O’Neil = awesome.

Some NBA action…

Good Josh Smith

And bad Josh Smith (more accurately, why is Jeff Green not in the dunk contest?)

Lastly, here’s a collection of Jack Nicholson enjoying the Lakers this season.

Chop Karma

So let’s all relive a recent situation I found myself in.  In my big pay league, there is a 100 dollar entry fee.  The prize breakdown is 400 given to the team that finishes first during the regular season, 100 given to the team that finishes second in the playoffs, and a cool half grand given to the first place playoff team.

Going into the final week, me and another kid were the only ones who could win the regular season.  By the end of the night Sunday, things were pretty close, but did not look good for me.  I was leading the kid I was playing by a bit but he had Rodgers and Driver going Monday night and I only had McGahee.  In the other match-up, it was a similar story, as the kid I needed to lose was only down by a few points and had Ray Rice, Flacco going.  The kid he was playing had the Packer D.

At that point, Lou reviewed my predicament and said something along the lines of, “you know, I bet he would still take a chop at this point if you offered it.”  I thought it over Sunday night and Monday morning decided to test the waters.  I sent him a message telling him to contact me if he was interested in “some sort of chop.”  At this exact moment, I now have CHOP KARMA in my favor.  I know that this kid is going to get the message, and if he either ignores it, or refuses, chop karma swings dramatically in my favor.  This is especially the case given the fact that he was odds-on to take the title down.

Our villain, though, is a crafty one.  Apparently realizing the full implications of such a decision, he almost immediately contacts me noting his desire to work out a chop.  I proposed two primary chops.  250-150 or 300-100, the winner of the reg season getting more money.  I personally preferred the 300-100, but he pushed for the 250-150.  Now, if I had been a prick and insisted on 300-100, chop karma would have swung 180 degrees away from the direction it had been a short while ago and slammed directly in my opponent’s favor, with him easily winning the title.  Knowing this, I of course had to accept the 250-150 proposal or I would have lost in a crushing defeat.  Accepting the 250-150 chop was the only chance I had that the football players I had never met on my team would score more points than the football players I had never met on my opponent’s team.

And so it came to pass.  Flacco threw three interceptions (obviously all to the Packer D), and I wound up winning the regular season by four points.  I hated to do this to Flacco, but I’m pretty poor at the moment and needed some money.


Arizona @ San Fran (under 44.5)

When it comes to over/unders I am a proponent of looking at what type of game style the home team likes to get involved in, and while the 49ers can get frisky with the Smith-Davis combo, I think in his heart, Singletary is a low-scoring, defensive minded type of guy.

Buffalo @ Kansas City (over 37.5)

Two weak defenses and a couple of offenses with a ton of guys who have something to prove.  I definitely like the over here.

Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago

The problem with this line is that the Pack are like -125 or something.  Felt obliged to throw a third pick in, let’s see if I can come across something better in the next couple days.

Thursday Links

It’s not every day that I get to start off a post talking about whale penis. Apparently, someone thinks it’s comfortable.

Some analysis of the unheralded Saints offensive line.

Brett Favre – Tecmo Bowl Hero

It turns out that yes, NBA players gamble during games. And some of them don’t want to pay up.

How The Roots became Jimmy Fallon’s house band:

We called him back, but it was a crazy Mexican stand off. We said, “OK, we’ll consider it,” but he thought we were bluffing, then of course we thought he was bluffing. It took about three weeks for everyone to put their guns down and take each other seriously because time was ticking. He needed to get a band, and we had three weeks to convince each other we were serious and finally put our guns down and be serious about it.

Matt Taibbi is one of my favorite writers. This is too funny to be made up:

…apologize for the long absence, have been on some other stuff. Among other things dealing with a lot of disgruntled Cleveland Browns fans who are pissed that I compared Eric Mangini to Augustus Gloop, the pudgy kid who was drinking from the chocolate river without permission in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I thought Browns fans would find this funny, but apparently not. I got one letter from someone who expressed the feeling that if I were ever to have kids, he hoped “they would be born with Achondroplasia.” So I’m sitting there scratching my head, wondering what Achondroplasia is, and right on cue, two minutes later, he sends me a link to an X-ray picture of someone with the disease. I have to admit, I burst out laughing when I saw the picture — not because the disease is funny (it isn’t, not at all), but just because someone was feeling so crappy about their football team that they felt compelled to dig that horrifying thing up to send to some writer bashing their team. I mean, I totally understand the guy.

Wade Phillips – Overcommunicator

Patrick Crayton is willing to say what the Dallas Cowboys coaches wouldn’t: He’s been replaced in the starting lineup by Miles Austin.

Crayton just wishes somebody would have told him that. He figured it out Monday, when Austin worked opposite Roy Williams in two-wide receiver sets.

Awesomeness from Chuck Klosterman. Think about this the next time Ron Jaworski starts bashing the wildcat. Read the whole thing:

Whenever an innovation fails to result in a title, its unorthodoxy takes the hit; every time a football coach tries something unorthodox, he is blasted for not playing “the right way.” But all that “not playing the right way” means is that a coach is ignoring the eternal lie of football: the myth that everything done in the past is better than anything that could be invented in the present. As a result, the public arm of football — the conservative arm — bashes innovation immediately, even while adopting the principles it attacks. The innovators are ridiculed. And that kind of reaction is reassuring to fans, because it makes us feel like football is still the same game we always want to remember. It has a continuity of purpose. It symbolizes the same ideals and appeals to the same kind of person. It feels conservative, but it acts liberal. Everything changes, but not really.

The 2009 Dodgers NLCS. Epic Fail in words and pictures.

Instructions for replicating the best burger ever.

This makes the Troy/FIU game look completely legitimate. There’s a video too.:

Here’s the setup — Going into the last day of the Maranhão State League second division season in Brazil yesterday, two clubs sat atop the league with the same number of points: Viana and Moto Club. On this decisive day, Viana hosted Chapadinha, a club they had a scoreless draw with the last time they played, and Moto Club took on Santa Quiteria. Both games were scheduled to take place at exactly the same time and both Viana and Moto needed a win to take the league title.

Everything went like normal until word reached Viana — who were up 2-0 on Chapadinha 35 minutes in the second half — heard that Moto Club were winning their match, too. Then things got a little fishy. And by that I mean Chapadinha players began to WALK OFF THE PITCH and as Viana proceeded to score nine goals in the final nine minutes of the match to win 11-0. A bit odd, no? I mean, watch the video above. It’s like watching someone play FIFA with the difficulty set to “special needs”.

Lastly, Mrs. Jose Lima is also better at the internet than you.

2009 NFL Week 4 Early Leans

1-2 last week, would have been 2-2 or better had I listened to myself and those around me on New England and Detroit. That, friends is progress. First some news & notes around the league:

In the good coaching column:

Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions

We’ve got to get to the point where a Week 3 win isn’t celebrated like a playoff win. We’re a 1-2 football team. Nothing more. We need to get this win behind us and get ready to play a great game every week. We need to expect to win every week, not just hope to win. Hope is not a good strategy.

Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers

On Limas Sweed

“I don’t have a doghouse,” Tomlin said. “A doghouse is something you have when you let things stew and don’t take action. He lacked a little detail in preparation last week … Young guys have to earn their opportunities. They have to make coaches confident with their ability to execute details of their assignments. He didn’t do that to my satisfaction last week and didn’t get any playing time on offense as a result. I took action, but I don’t take any baggage into this week.”

The indifferent:

Jeff Fisher – Tennessee Titans

Fisher’s steady demeanor serves the Titans well and he’s probably as well equipped to hold an 0-3 team together as anyone. But he’s a big piece of why the team is there.

A hands-on special teams coach who was a punt returner himself, his plan for the return games after the Titans lost Chris Carr in free agency have proved completely insufficient. Kick returns are down from first to 29th, punt returns from 14th to 26th.

And the bad…

Jim Mora – Seattle Seahawks

Easterbrook makes a great point. When you’re throwing your kicker under the bus in week 3, chances are you’re not having a good season.

Chicago leading 25-19, Seattle reached third-and 2 on the Bears’ 29 with 33 seconds remaining, out of timeouts. The Green Men Group threw super short on third down and then super short on fourth down, both incomplete, game over. Both calls were super-short routes intended to pick up a first down. But look at the scoreboard clock. What about the end zone? To top it off, a busted defensive assignment on the third-and-2 left tailback Julius Jones split wide covered only by linebacker Lance Briggs, no safety in sight — a perfect opportunity for a go route by Jones. But Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace never even look Jones’ way; and maybe Briggs was out on Jones because Chicago correctly guessed a super-short attempt was coming and crowded the middle. After coaches called ultraconservative passes when a deep strike was needed, coach Mora the Younger had the temerity to blame the loss on kicker Olindo Mare, who missed two field goal attempts, while hitting four. Since NFL place-kickers average about 85 percent success, Mare would have been expected to make five of six, which still would have left the Seahawks trailing when the double-whistle sounded.

Eric Mangini – Cleveland Browns

Benching a quarterback — like Mangini did Sunday with Brady Quinn — sends a message to the entire team that Quinn isn’t the right option. He has shown that he can’t put points on the scoreboard in this offense, and his failure to generate big plays down the field in the passing game were enough for Mangini to give him the hook.

But as a coach, the locker room expects you to stick with your decision because once you start playing musical chairs with the quarterbacks, the season is gone from the players’ perspective. Mangini must show this team that the decision he made was done for the right reasons, and by giving Quinn the rest of the day off on Sunday, he was telling his players that a lack of production will send you to the bench. Even though Derek Anderson wasn’t productive when he came into the ballgame, Mangini has to show confidence in him by providing an entire week of practice with the first unit and allow this team to rally around him — because you just can’t go back to Quinn after sitting him down.

Over/Under 16 games as head coach for Mangini???

Lastly, I want to focus on this:

Yesterday in the NFL, there was a clear gap between teams — the Bucs, Rams, Chiefs and Browns have no chance to win at all — and what’s disconcerting is that those teams are a long way from being competitive. Is the NFL becoming like baseball? To me, there are 10 good teams, 10 average teams, eight bad teams and four teams with no chance.

For the record, Carolina’s been as bad as the four teams listed so far this season as well. I’ve been doing a lot of betting on the teams listed above on the idea that the talent difference between two pro teams is usually not vast enough to justify double digit spreads, especially for a home team. Clearly, that’s not the case and it’s time to start treating these more like college games.

Early Leans:

Baltimore @ New England -2
New York Giants -9 @ Kansas City
Cincinnati -4.5 @ Cleveland
San Diego +6 @ Pittsburgh

Already bet Cincinnati as their line has already moved all the way to 5.5 or 6.

Thursday Links

“We only get one chance at this, with no do-overs. Life is, in effect, a non-repeatable experiment with no control.” – Tim Kreider

The NFL and Nature

The NFL has become so fast and efficient that last season, teams each scored 22.03 points per game, the highest since 1967, while all the league’s 32 teams combined for 11,279 points—the most in NFL history.

The game has become less cluttered. Offenses averaged just 3.09 turnovers (interceptions and fumbles) per game, the lowest of all time by more than 10%, and offensive lines allowed just 4.04 sacks per game—also the lowest ever. Even place kickers set a new mark: They made a record-high 84.5% of their field-goal attempts.

Some football thinkers believe these numbers speak to a temporary period of offensive dominance in the NFL—just one more high point in an endlessly fluctuating historical curve. But if you venture a bit beyond the particulars of football, to the principles of science, there’s another argument to be made: that the NFL’s high-speed, high-scoring offenses are a reflection of one of the laws of nature—the tendency of all things to evolve toward efficiency.

From this week’s TMQ: “Stats of the Week No. 7: Cleveland has one offensive touchdown in its past eight games.” I wonder if the Cleveland announcers will be like Oakland’s last year? Touchdown Raiders Offense!

Gus Johnson again had the best game of the day in week two. Last year I changed my fantasy team name to “Going with Gus” for a week, but it was because I was starting this guy. I could be convinced to put the stopwatch away. Gus & Steve Tasker have Cleveland (+13) at Baltimore this week. Just saying…

49ers fans are wondering about Mike’s stopwatch too.

Nice to see Tom Brady back on the Patriots injury report.

If this is a sport, how can we set lines and bet on it?

Note to all coaches: If your team is underperforming, paying off disgruntled fans is always an option.

Lastly, this is the coolest bookstore ever.

Thursday Links

Roger Federer being “Artful and Efficient

In a similar vein to the last post about overconfidence, what causes slumps?

Rarely, even in a slump, does a performer truly lose all the time; it just feels that way. By bringing attention to what the trader (read: athlete) is doing right, the focus shifts from one of performance outcomes to the process of following one’s own best practices. It’s the [equivalent] of seeing the ball when you serve.

As a rule, slumps don’t just end; they have to be broken. Ironically, it’s when performers let go of their need to perform well that they suddenly gain fresh access to the skills that produce elite performance.

The Bears offense is going to be really good. Why didn’t Minnesota trade for that Cutler guy?

Lastly, Brazil @ Argentina in a World Cup qualifier this weekend. Argentina has been struggling and is missing several first choice defenders. Anyone know where to find this one on tv?


Some relevant Sunday reading from Malcolm Gladwell.

Most people are inclined to use moral terms to describe overconfidence—terms like “arrogance” or “hubris.” But psychologists tend to regard overconfidence as a state as much as a trait. The British at Gallipoli were victims of a situation that promoted overconfidence. Langer didn’t say that it was only arrogant gamblers who upped their bets in the presence of the schnook. She argues that this is what competition does to all of us; because ability makes a difference in competitions of skill, we make the mistake of thinking that it must also make a difference in competitions of pure chance. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. As novices, we don’t trust our judgment. Then we have some success, and begin to feel a little surer of ourselves. Finally, we get to the top of our game and succumb to the trap of thinking that there’s nothing we can’t master. As we get older and more experienced, we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments, especially when the task before us is difficult and when we’re involved with something of great personal importance.