There are lots and lots of ways to gamble. You can shoot craps at a casino. You can go to the racetrack and bet on the ponies. Or you can go to a restaurant on South Fourth Avenue and order seafood.
In the past I have said that I don't gamble because I understand mathematics. That sounds pretentious and it's somewhat misleading because I know several people who are at least as good at math as I am who gamble all the time. I guess they believe that their understanding of math somehow gives them an edge that others don't have. And that's why Las Vegas has lots and lots of big, new, shiny buildings.
I saw a documentary about a guy who bets exclusively on NBA games. It's how he earns his living and it's a really good living. He's constantly crunching numbers and looking for the slightest edge. But the oddsmakers in Vegas are so good at what they do that even when the guy is having a great year, he only wins about 57 percent of the time. In fact, his average year sees him winning about 53 percent of the time.
A friend of mine—a really smart guy—saw the same documentary and decided to give it a try. For reasons too esoteric to go into, he decided to go strictly with men's college basketball. It was painful to watch. No matter how well he did one night, the next night he would do commensurately bad. It was as though he was living the formula for e—(1+1/n) to the n power—and it kept pulling him toward the center. He actually ended up making a few bucks, but not nearly enough to live on. He said that the mental strain was too much, that he had had no fun whatsoever, and that he had learned his lesson.
A couple years later, he decided to try his hand at buying his way into those big Texas Hold 'Em tournaments. Now, he has really learned his lesson.
I would never, ever do Vegas-style gambling. The odds are in the House's favor to begin with. They do things to increase their advantage AND they kick people out who win too much.
There's one thing that I find intriguing and that's the Over/Under bet. For those who are unfamiliar, the oddsmakers will create a proposition based on the total number of points scored in a game, or look at a team's schedule and they try to determine how many games that team will win in the upcoming season. Some see this as a sucker bet because diehard fans are going to bet with their hearts and not their heads. That's probably true in many cases, but it's not automatically a bad thing.
I'm going to give you a few examples and you figure out how you would bet (if there were actually a way for you to bet and you were crazy/willing enough to do so).
• The Arizona Wildcat football team with an Over/Under of 5.5 wins. It's good for the oddsmakers when they can put the over/under at a half-game. That way, there will be no pushes (ties), only winners and losers.
I've long been a cockeyed optimist about UA football. Of course, that means that I get let down a lot. Last year's team was God-awful. They had to hammer a listless Arizona State team in the Territorial Cup game just to get up to three wins. They stank out loud. But I have this really weird feeling about this year's team, like they're going to blow by five wins, go to a bowl game, and save Coach Rich Rodriguez's job.
But, you know, I wouldn't bet on it.
• Here's one: Donald Trump, Over/Under: exactly one Presidential term. This one you could bet over, under, or exactly one. There are some interesting possibilities. If he runs again, he could lose in the primary, lose in the general, or get reelected. He could choose not to run again. He could die or get impeached. Personally, I think he might just quit, a la Richard Nixon. Maybe wake up one day and say to himself, "It was a lot more fun just being rich and stupid than being rich, stupid AND President."
A few more quick ones:
• Number of potholes hit while driving north on Thornydale between Cortaro Farms and Tangerine. Over/Under: 86. Have you driven that obstacle course?! Maybe there's something to Ally Miller's conspiracy theory about Chuck Huckelberry and her Supervisorial District.
• Number of times Tucson City Council candidate Felicia Chew will sing in public again before people start looking at Regina Romero and saying, "All things considered, maybe Regina's not so bad." Over/Under: 1.
• Number of stupid-ass hikers who have to be rescued at great risk and expense because they don't know what they're doing, they didn't take enough water, they got lost, it was too hot, etc. before somebody passes a Stupid-Ass Hiker Law. Over/Under: Apparently, a billion trillion bazillion. It should have been a law decades ago.
• Number of time Congresswoman Martha McSally will say the words "President Trump" while on the campaign trail in 2018. Over/Under: ½.
• It has been more than a year since a female artist or group occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Number of weeks before that streak ends. (Taylor Swift just dropped a new single last week.) Over/Under: 3 weeks.