Writers note: The comedy world lost an icon this week with the passing of Norm Macdonald. I wrote about him and some of my favorite bits of his here.
A short memory. You need to have it. It seems pretty basic, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. We just watched an NFL week one in which purported preseason division winners Green Bay and Tennessee stepped out and got absolutely crushed. League doormats like the Texans, Bengals, and Panthers all won. What is real? What isn’t? Before I was a sports gambler, I was a poker player. That’s where I learned to have a short memory. The human nature of the game is, when you lose a big hand, to go onto tilt. Going onto tilt means that you start to play recklessly and without a strategy. It took many years to shrink my memory and let the hand I lost go.
I forget the name of the casino; it might have been Hollywood Casino in Joliet. I was running hot at the table. There was another guy at the table whose entire game was playing loose and carelessly. We had competing stacks but didn’t clash in many hands. About seven hours into my game, I had a little over $4,000 in front of me, when I rolled into pocket kings. The careless player made a bet into me. I raised him to around $100. He called. The flop came, and it was random useless cards. He overbet into me to such a level that I knew I was holding the best hand. I decided to let him trap himself with the knowledge that he was probably holding an ace (ace-king, ace-queen, ace-suited) and I could get out from under the hand if the ace showed up on the turn or river.
The turn came up with nothing. The guy pushed all in for his final $2,900. He bet nearly $3k into a pot that only had $1,200 in it. This was a desperate play to get out of the hand in the most over-the-top way possible. I knew it. He knew it. I felt confident that he hadn’t rolled into a set because he wouldn’t have thrown everything at a hand he was desperately trying to get me to fold. So I called him.
I did it all right. I played it out in my head correctly, and he had exactly what I thought he did. I flipped over my kings, and he sheepishly said “nice hand” after flipping over an Ace-3 suited. There was seven grand in the pot. I had bet 7/8 of my stack on nothing but an overpair in my pocket. I nailed it. I did everything right.
An ace hit on the river.
The guy kicked his chair back, screamed loud enough for the entire floor to hear him, and stalked around the table like he had just murdered someone in front of us. When he sat back down, I said “nice hand.” And then I let it go. I still had $500 in front of me. I still had 100 big blinds. There was nothing I could do to change the hand. So I insta-folded a couple of hands, then locked back in and started playing again. I walked out with $1,200 and not $0 because I took the time to reset, rethink, and recenter myself. I didn’t let myself get on tilt. And I kept going.
Never let one week get you on tilt in gambling. If you lost money in week one, then forget about it. If you focus only on your losses, you will never be able to clearly make your plays and win.
Have a short memory.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Indianapolis Colts
Over on my other website, I put the Rams all the way up to three in my Power Rankings this week. I know they were playing a team that is already sputtering out of control and into mediocrity, but I saw what I needed to see from the Rams to believe they are the second-best team in the NFC, behind only Tampa Bay.
Those that have been reading and listening to me across platforms for the past few years know that I don’t think Carson Wentz is good. I thought his MVP season was an aberration, like when people think they see Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. The Rams’ defense is pretty good, with the potential to be very good. The problem is, they are playing a veteran quarterback who has now been given an offense that maximizes his skills.
Last season, with Philip Rivers under center, the Colts were not a great gambling team at home. In fact, they were 3-5 at home against the spread last season. That’s pretty impressive when you remember that three of the eight games they played last season at home were against the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans. I do not believe that Wentz at this age was better than Rivers was when he was short arming everyone last season.
I regret not making a preseason bet on Matt Stafford to win MVP, but I will not make the same mistake in this game. I’ll take the Rams on the road.
Buffalo Bills (-3.5) at Miami Dolphins
Speaking of home spread covers last year, do you know who the best team in the league was at that? Yep, it was the Miami Dolphins. They were 7-1 last season at home against the spread. They were also 7-2 last season against the spread when they came into the game as an underdog. This plays into an interesting theory that has played at the ends of the gambling internet but doesn’t break through to mainstream so much: Miami has one of the best home-field advantages in football.
Seattle has the 12th Man, Pittsburgh has the Terrible Towels, Chicago has the playing field that high school teams would find abysmal. The average temperature in Miami in September is 86 degrees. In October, it falls all the way to 83 degrees. The relative humidity of these months are 70% and 65%. The perceived temperature, or how it feels outside, doesn’t drop below 90 degrees until Halloween. It doesn’t drop below 80 at any point during the season.
Unless you are practicing in this type of weather full-time, you can’t get a feel for how your body is going to feel throughout the process. It’s the equivalent of doing yoga, then deciding that you are going to jump into a hot yoga class. Your lungs tighten up. You get tired easier. And by the end, you are wishing you were just better off being fat on your couch, enjoying food that isn’t shamelessly promoted towards vegans.
I still have a weird feeling that the Bills win this game because they are the more talented team. They also might get away with it because they are playing in Miami after coming out of training camp in the middle of summer just a few weeks prior. But I like the Dolphins getting 3.5 points because this game really does feel like a field goal is going to be the difference, which means that half-point is all the difference in the world.
Minnesota Vikings (+4.5) at Arizona Cardinals
I didn’t get a lot of predictions correct last week, but I was definitely correct on one: The Vikings suck. I wasn’t buying in on this being a sleeper team. The Vikings became a sleeper team because there are too many people on the internet who are trying far too hard to be clever and smarter than everyone else. Sometimes you just need to be a regular football fan. Regular football fans that don’t live in the greater Minneapolis area could see this dumpster fire coming from a mile away.
Needless to say, I’m taking the Cardinals and because I feel good about them winning by at least 6, I’m going to alt. line this up to -5.5 and get the slightly better odds.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Don’t overthink it. One team beat a very good Cleveland team. The other lost to the Raiders on Monday Night Football. The Ravens are the snake bit team of the season. I’m staying in shape because I expect to get the phone call to be their next running back to be signed after Le’veon Bell falls into a Sarlaac Pit, and Latavius Murray gets eaten by a gator.
I’m taking the road favorites again, which feels weird, but again. Short memory. Don’t overthink it.
Detroit Lions (+11.5) at Green Bay Packers
If you rooting for the demise of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, then you are currently digging a celebratory grave. If you look at the fact that the Packers have sucked for a couple seasons when they have to leave the midwest, maybe it’s a bit justified that they lost in retrospect. Now, not to the level of no-show-act that they performed in Jacksonville against the Saints on Sunday. Someone has to win this division, though.
I can say with some certainty it won’t be the Lions. They gave five hard-played minutes at the end of a game that the 49ers spent 55 minutes dominating before stepping off the gas. Detroit was down 21 going into the 4th quarter (and it was 41-17 at the two-minute warning), and that stat is much more likely to happen often than the Lions putting up 16 points in the final frame.
Where you want to go with this bet ultimately depends on how much of a bounce-back you think the Packers will have. If the wheels are falling off this team, then take them to win (-590) and maybe parlay them with another easier game this week to get better odds. If you think week one was an anomaly and the Packers are fine, then alternate spread the game down a couple of points (-8.5 is sitting at -140 currently) and take the win that way.