Monday, June 05, 2006

Betting To My Balls


I like poker for a lot of the same reasons I like investing; if you make wise risk vs. return decisions, you are paid off in the long run. If you are the first one to notice a good opportunity in the stock market, there is minimal risk to being early; it's like betting a great draw on the flop. But you do have to look at it over the long haul.

My dalliance with sports betting is obviously short-term, relegated to the occasional cheap bet when I'm in Vegas. This week I suffered a slight case of short-term remorse. My bet in Vegas last week was on Matt Kenseth to win the Coca Cola 600. This week Kenseth prevailed at Dover. I'm not exactly prophetic as Kenseth is having a great year. I just suspected that he was better than his odds, which will undoubtedly and unfortunately start reflecting what I knew last week.

I say I only had a slight case of short term remorse. It's because I just finished reading The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers and the Death of Their Las Vegas. This is a great book that chronicles a sports betting season from three perspectives: the guys setting the line at the Stardust, a newbie, and a professional. The reason why I got it in the first place is that the professional is poker player Alan Boston.

I remember the first time I noticed Alan Boston. I was walking through the crowded tournament room during the 2005 WSOP when I heard someone say, "This is going to be hard for me. I'm doing this without Percocet and Red Bull today." When I turned around to see who said it, there was Alan Boston, shooting me a mischievous grin. For the remainder of the WSOP, I usually got a song from Boston when I passed.

I actually was stressed reading the book. As Boston would lay out upwards of 70K on a day's worth of games day after day, I started to sweat. I laughed at myself. I was worried about the outcome of bets placed more than five years ago.

I like making risky bets with a good probability of high returns. I can back my research with money. I have that passion. But my frugal nature prevents me from betting to my balls; that and the lack of balls. I wonder sometimes how my fiscal conservatism impacts my ability as a poker player. On the professional circuit I have certainly seen a prevalence for betting to the balls among top players; whether on a poker felt, the craps and black jack tables, or the sports book. Reading Otis' post reminded me of that this week. It is a common enough trait among players that I wonder sometimes if it is a necessary trait. You must play without fear. I get that. I rationalize that playing without fear of losing your buy-in is different than playing without the fear of losing your entire bankroll. I can't do the latter...and maybe that means I'm really fooling myself about the former. Or maybe the pros do the former so well that the latter becomes meaningless. There are a few nits like me among the pros, but admittedly few. Although I'm fairly certain the Chris Ferguson has never put so much as a nickel in a slot machine or a dime on a game. I suspect he maintains tighter controls on his bankroll than the Federal Reserve.


I am cheap. One of my first articles for Woman Poker Player Magazine was entitled, "I'm Cheap and I'm Proud." In it I claimed that when I died, my tombstone would read "She Got Good Value." My recent underwear purchase will serve as a good example. I normally buy underwear twice a year in quantity at an outlet mall forty-five miles from my house. A few weeks ago, my jockeys were telling me it was time. But things had changed since my last visit; gas prices. I actually worked out on a spreadsheet that for the quantity of underwear I was purchasing, factoring in the gas, it was cheaper for me to drive ten miles to the mall to a department store offering a 25% sale than driving the forty-five miles for the outlet's standard 35% off. The fact that I also found a clearance rack with a few pairs my size for an additional 15% off was icing on the cake. I would go through the same exercise when I was making six figures in high tech. It's almost more philosophical than financial.

I relish betting in poker when I'm getting good value, but I don't think I'll ever be able to bet to my balls. Is this just practical, a leak, or both?


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12 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

"Is this just practical, a leak, or both?"

If you are suffering from 'leaks' Miss Amy, then I think you are buying the wrong kind of underpants. I'm just sayin.....

Who's your buddy? :)

7:15 PM  
Blogger amy said...

I guess you owe me that for outing your Dorothy poker fantasy:)

5:45 AM  
Blogger Pokerwolf said...

"Is this just practical, a leak, or both?"

It's practical, for lack of a better term. "Survival instinct" is probably what I'm looking for.

Look at it this way. Unless you have catastrophic results, you'll never bust. It's true that you're giving up the chance of a "big score" (unless you win a satellite and then win a major tournament, that is) but is that more important to you than not-going-bust? I somehow doubt it.

Pros don't care if they lose all of their money. That goes against the grain in our culture, which is what makes them special in their own unique fashion.

5:47 AM  
Blogger PokerShrink said...

Posting the underwear is definitely a tell.

6:39 AM  
Blogger KGBlovesOreos said...

"Is this just practical, a leak, or both?"

It's practical. If you start to rationalize that risking your entire bankroll for sake of a shot at "the big score" is worth losing all that money, you cant win in the long run. Yes, people do get lucky here and there, but the smart ones just slowly work their way up the ladder. Rung by rung.

8:52 AM  
Blogger boston said...

Hey Miss AMY:

Boston will not attend this years WSOP, so I shall not be able to honor any requests. Glad that one appreciated my serenading. It is one way I can open my mouth without a 10 minute penalty. Be good.

10:11 AM  
Blogger amy said...

Well I, for one, will miss you from the field. Somehow I doubt that I will become Phil Hellmuth's "sunshine, his only sunshine. So I will miss the serenades as well. I hope you will be spending your time wisely, overlooking the chilly waters of Maine and nowhere near the hot, dry desert.

Best,
Amy

2:25 PM  
Blogger Haley said...

Amy, when you did your 33%-vs.25% spreadsheet evaluation, did you also include an allowance for your time spent at the computer?

Haley :-D

7:22 PM  
Blogger boston said...

Yes I shall be in Maine. Yes, I shall be much happier, but not totally. Sadly, the Wsop used to be a convention of gamblers. A place where old faces would meet once a year. The poker craze has eliminated that. But last year, I felt like we were all a herd of cattle. Harrahs branded us all sucker. It will be the first Wsop I miss in over 15 years. Sucks, because it used to be such a great event. It is now quintessential, corporate, greed. For an old school romantic like myself, nothing can be worse.

5:10 PM  
Blogger amy said...

I hear you. I just finished writing a chapter for a book and I closed it with a section about how I was mourning the lost intimacy of the WSOP. It wasn't that long ago that I would sit on the Binions bleachers with less than a dozen people watching a final table. I would spend my mornings in the coffee shop at the Golden Nugget and have some old timer share my table and tell me great stories from back in the day. Last year convinced me that those days were gone. When I was in Vegas in April, I stayed at the Nugget again trying to recapture those memories, hoping to be revisited by the ghosts of gamblers past.

But I am off to the WSOP again. And I will have to wait until August for my trip to New England. I suspect I will sorely need it by then.

8:19 PM  
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