Da Bears, +6

Early this year, I got the app on my phone for sports betting, via the Oregon state "lottery," with God-knows-who. I let them take $50 out of my bank account and started wagering a little. I've placed more than 100 bets since then, and I still have $34 to play with.

At first, I was playing $5 a bet, but then I realized, I was not in this for money. It's more about following sports more closely, and learning the crazy world of sports gambling. So I dropped the bets to $1 each, which is the minimum you can play. That way I can be all over the board. On a rare occasion, I'll feel so feisty that I up it to $2.

There's a lot you can bet on. There's the usual money line (who will win), spread (who will win if one team is spotted an extra X points), and over/under (how many total points will be scored in a game). But there are also countless "proposition" bets – who will score first tonight, whether Bob will score more than X points, who will win the first half, who will be the league champion when it's all over months from now, on and on.

And you can "parlay" things, too. That's placing a bet where you need two or more outcomes to go your way in order to win. The Oregon app is pretty limited in how much of that you can do, but you can bet, for example, that the Jets in football will "beat the spread" on Sunday and the Manchester soccer team will win its next match outright.

There are odds for each wager. If you bet $1 that the favorite is going to prevail outright and you win, you might win only 67 cents, or 31 cents. If the underdog prevails outright, you might win $1.25 or $1.60.

The biggest drawback to the Oregon app is that college games are off limits. I think that has to do with trying to attract the big NCAA national basketball tournaments to Portland. If your state allows sports book on college games, I believe that puts you out of the running for hosting those events.

Anyway, except for a short time at the start of Covid, when literally the only sport going was Korean baseball, there are all manner of pro sports on which to gamble. Basketball just ended, but baseball is still in progress, here and especially in Korea, and football is in full swing, not to mention golf, soccer, tennis, fighting, and many other games.

You're not on your own in choosing how to bet. There are innumerable sports betting websites, and even a daily TV show, to help you make your choices. And the language and culture of gambling, once taboo, have found their way into mainstream sports journalism. The announcers will sometimes allude to the odds as well as the score.

With people betting on every possible proposition in every game, sports must be getting pretty badly corrupted. In order to make money for a shady gambler, a referee doesn't need to affect the outcome of the game any more; he or she needs only to call a lot of fouls, or refrain from calling them. LeBron doesn't have to lose the game; he only has to pass more and shoot less in a particular quarter. Sometimes you see games where the teams are going at it vigorously even though the outcome is already decided, because the teams are trying to "beat the spread."

In short, you don't have to gamble, but if you don't follow what the gamblers are doing, you're missing out on some of what's going on in the game.

Me? I have been losing some in football and tennis, but lately I have done pretty well with weirder bets. I had a couple of winners in golf, where the app (unlike the sport) pits two players against each other. One of my sources feeds me strange tips on European soccer matches, where I don't even know what country it is, but he's right more often than wrong. And Korean baseball has been good to me. They're just now heading into their playoffs. (Beware the bullpens.)

Tonight I don't really need the Bears to beat the Rams, but I need them to lose by less than 6. I need the Rays to beat the Dodgers, twice. Justin Herbert as offensive rookie of the year is looking good, and the Raiders need to end the season with 7 or fewer wins. If wrong about all of that, I'm out $4. But it has me paying attention.

I need a gambling nickname, like Jimmy the Greek. Can't think of a good one. Jackie the Pole just doesn't do it.


  1. Gee, professor, doesn’t every city need a “Professor” in the rackets?


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