Lies Damned Lies

I have been around gambling and Advantage Play (once I understood what it is) my entire life. From sitting at the kitchen table playing poker for pennies, to playing horse on the driveway basketball hoop, playing golf with friends and enemies, to working in casinos and, naturally, handicapping and making my own bets. I’m here to tell ya, ain’t no one telling the truth!

“There are Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics”
– Mark Twain

You here it all the time when you ask a friend how they did betting whatever it is they like to bet. The conversation goes like this:

How’d you do when you were in Atlantic City last weekend?

Oh, I broke even!

Uh, huh.

Friends, no one ever breaks even. Okay, theoretically it’s possible, I will allow that. But it rarely happens. I often hear from fledgling bettors who bet two games, won one, lost won, then declare they “broke even.” Nope. You lost the vig. Or the juice or the commission or whatever you want to call it.

The standard vig for a sports wager on a side or total is -110. This means, as most of you know, it takes 11 dollars to win 10. Or any multiple or fraction thereof. If you made two $11 bets and lost one, you won $10 but lost $11. Close, but no cigar.

Breaking even is a fallacy you should dispel and not lie about to yourself and others. I liken it to playing golf, shooting a snowman, and carding a five! Those of you who know golf, know you will never, ever get better at the game if you do not report what you actually shot. The exact same is true for betting sports. If you lose, act like a grown up. We all have our losing days, I promise you.

There are days, let’s say a long Saturday of handicapping and betting college basketball, where my bets and bankroll swing through the positive and negative territory and occasionally get back close to where I started. I call this the “Round Trip.”

Let’s say I bet eight games all day, won four, lost four. If all those bets were at standard -110 vigorish, then I could not possibly have broken even on the day. Sure, I won half and lost half, but the vig ensures my bankroll no longer has the same composition it did when I started the day. Nope, I’m down $40, assuming my betting unit is $110.

Mind you, the Round Trip is not the same thing as Break Even. Break Even is a convenient white lie we tell ourselves, and others, that we’re no worse off for the wear and tear. But your bankroll is a little worse off.

Another thing I do with friends who wager and who know what it’s like to make a few bad plays, is discuss the worst play of the day. This can be a humbling experience – but the truth shall set you free! It’s kind of like the Bad Beat Table at poker tournaments. Players who busted out on some crazy fluke want to tell someone about it – often paying a fee for the privilege.

The point is, always be honest with yourself. We can’t win all of our bets. And we are better off acknowledging this sooner than later. Call it the Round Trip if that’s what you made, but never call it Break Even.

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