Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tough Table

I’m a sports fan and particularly enjoy following basketball and football. As a kid, baseball was the number one game for me, but its appeal lessened considerably following the strikes, the ballooning of salaries, and free agency causing nearly half of the players to move to different teams from year to year. So these days I mostly just follow college b-ball and pro football, and will spend leisure hours watching both when I can.

I’ve mentioned here before how I’m not really a gambler by nature, and so rarely, if ever, bet on sports. Most recently talked about the subject in a post last spring titled “Confessions of a Non-Gambler.”

I did bet on baseball game this summer. I was in the MGM sports book watching the games go by, and just for kicks took a random shot at a Mets-Yankees game, placing a bet on the underdog Mets. They were at home, had a decent pitcher starting (or so the stats suggested), and would pay $26 for my $10 bet should they have beaten the mighty Yanks. They lost something like 9-1, natch, duly punishing me for my frivolity.

So I rarely bet on sports. And I never, ever got interested in the “fantasy” games that are so popular and which were given privileged status (like betting on horse racing) in the finalized regs of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. There it is said that “participation in any fantasy or simulation sports game or educational game” is allowed with a few provisions (e.g., the prizes have to be declared up front).

ESPN Pigskin Pick'emOn the eve of this year’s NFL season, though, I did decide to join in Dr. Pauly’s football pool, in which one picks winners for all of the games every week (straight up, no spreads). The top four finishers (out of the 40 who are playing) split the prize pool. You can follow the standings, too, by going over to ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em game and checking out the group Pauly’s Pub.

As Week 1 played out, I saw I’d hit 11 of the 16 games. Was feeling pretty good about that until I checked the standings and saw how that had put me near the bottom of the list. Everyone else had 12, 13, 14, or even 15 correct! Sheesh.

The next week I only picked 9 of 16 correctly, but everyone else struggled, too. Still my team name -- More Cowbell -- was appearing in the bottom half of the group.

This past week was a breakout week for me, as I hit 13 of the 16. Was most proud of having picked Detroit to beat Washington -- that’s right, I picked a team that had lost 19 straight games to win, and they won. Kind of felt like hitting a two-outer, there.

Still, though, my 33-of-48 performance thus far lands me right in the middle of the pack, tied for 22nd and looking up at folks like Lance Bradley of Bluff Magazine who sits with a gaudy 40 correct picks, including 15 this past week. Yeah, he picked Detroit, too.

Am starting to think I’m at a tough table here. A bit like what happened the other day at my usual PLO25 six-handed game. Took a seat and saw a player across the way with nearly a hundy, an obvious sign the dude had a clue. Sure enough, within a few hands it had become apparent that he was the one with the edge, raising more than other players, showing a bit more savvy after the flop, and basically keeping everyone else in a defensive mode.

How do you respond in that situation? Do you leave to find a better seat elsewhere? Or do you stick around, taking the presence of an obviously more-than-worthy foe as a challenge? And if you choose the latter, why do you play it that way? To prove yourself? To improve your game? Or out of a stubborn unwillingness to move and/or accept you might not be the best?

Sometimes, of course, you find yourself with a couple or three tough spots at the table (though not so often at six-handed PLO25 games). Then it becomes more obvious that remaining in your seat -- when there are always plenty of seats at other tables available -- is an even more meaningful decision. How do you play it?

More often than not, I react like the amateur I am and stick around. Partially out of curiosity (can I beat him?), but mostly because of stubbornness. And like that bet on the Mets game, it often doesn’t work out so well.

More Cowbell!There’s no leaving Pauly’s Pub, though, as we’re locked in for the duration. Not that I want to, anyway. ’Cos I think I can beat these guys. I got a fever. And the only prescription is...


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Blogger Pauly said...

Don't worry... everyone up top will choke. It happens every year. It's the November games that count the most. If you can peak around Halloween and have sensational weeks through the first week in December, you'll be in a good spot.

9/29/2009 11:57 AM  

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