I put my money where my mouth is at the sports bookby J.W. Miller on 09/17/18
How many times have you made a casual statement about your favorite team’s chances, and somebody responds “Put your money where your mouth is!” That’s usually enough to wither your conviction like an ice-water shower. The last time somebody said that to me was in late March, always a dangerous time for Kentucky basketball fans, and I wound up treating my golfing pal Dave and his wife Rita to dinner. Did I mention that Dave is a Kansas State grad and had proprietary information about the game? He must have for his Wildcats to beat my Wildcats, but, hey, it was a good meal and the Lovely Miss Jean enjoyed it.
But now, such bravado has been monetized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that allows individual states to take bets on sporting events. And one of the first states to go all in is our little community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Mississippi had a leg up on the competition with its long history of gambling - legalized and otherwise - that began as an economic stimulant during the Great Depression. In more recent years, plush casinos have thrived along the Redneck Riviera, and they had long prepared for the opportunity to offer sports gambling.
So, naturally, it was incumbent upon me, as point man for sporting deplorables, to investigate this newfound outlet for stupidity while helping the local economy. I took the opportunity two weeks ago when Charles Connor, Layne and I celebrated another anniversary of the Lovely Miss Jean’s 29th birthday. A casino in Biloxi houses one of our favorite steak restaurants, and the casino next door had one of the first sports books to open in the state.
So, after a wonderful dinner we wandered over to the Beau Rivage and sought out its sports book. This is strictly under "research," you understand? We were ushered into a large 245-seat room with tables and chairs and two-dozen large-screen televisions that carried various live sporting events and a huge tote board that listed odds. The clientele looked a little more intense than the one-armed bandit crowd. Several were marking tout sheets and others watched games, the winners clearly distinguished by their cheshire cat grins while the losers were chewing on their cocktail glasses, not realizing that the ice had melted.
Just outside the room was a bank of computer terminals manned by smiling young men and women who were present to explain to us novice Jimmy the Greeks how it all worked before they were happy to take our money. My son was more interested in the craps tables because he fully expected to see the ghost of Roger Moore in his white tuxedo jacket tossing a few winners to the croupier’s call of faites vox jeux. Of course, I was more interested in how many different ways I could invest in Mississippi’s economy.
Consulting a rack of various printed sheets, I learned that I could place different bets on a single live or upcoming event or a “future” bet on a particular team’s season. The over-under on Kentucky football victories was 5.5, which seems low until you realize that the guys who set those numbers are named Guido and sit around picking their nails with a stiletto. Like Dave the K-State guy, they usually have inside information. But I made the trip for another reason and that was to put my money where my mouth is.
As readers of this erstwhile epistle well know, I follow three teams, one in each of the major sports. I am a somewhat educated Saints fan, having spent ten years on the Benson payroll. I am a devoted Red Sox fan ever since my father introduced me to the skill and ability of Ted Williams. And, I am a rabid and often maniacal Kentucky basketball fan. All three deserve my support, so I walked haltingly to the first available betting window and opened my wallet.
I had taken similar action many times at the racetrack, where I would throw down a few bucks on a horse with a good pedigree, shiny silks or a jockey whose name I could pronounce. More often than not, betting for me was like hitting a golf ball into a lake and deciding I could have lessened my frustration by simply throwing the ball into the water. But these bets had some cred to them.
The Saints, before their two lackluster opening matches, were picked by Sports Illustrated as the best bet in the NFL at 15-1 odds. The Red Sox have the best record in baseball and could set a record for victories in a season, which makes their 12-1 odds to win the World Series a no-brainer. And my beloved Wildcats are once again loaded with freshman talent but also have some upperclassmen this year to provide necessary experience. They are at or near the top of everybody’s NCAA Final Four list, which explains their relatively modest 4-1 odds.
So I did it. I plucked from my wallet three Benjamins and laid one on each team to win it all. If I had waited until today, I might have taken the Saints' bet and laid it all on Kentucky football to win six games. But even that night, I walked away with the haunting feeling that my son, who won $31 by channeling James Bond at the craps table, was the night’s big winner.