Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Groove. Or, getting back into it.

Football season is coming and that means a whole new chance to make bad football picks for the coming year.  To try, hopelessly, to break the magical 53% barrier that is necessary to book a profit against the vigorish of the sports books.

I've already started looking at schedules and games for the 2016/2017 season and even taking a peek at the early lines.

One change from last year, I'm swearing off fantasy football (and daily fantasy) to focus on old-school sports betting this year.  As a reminder, I don't always make the bets that I post, they're for tracking and entertainment purposes only. (In my day job it would not be wise for me to risk gaming in a manner that's anything but 100% legal.)

That said, I will be making some trips to Vegas this year so many of the bets that I talk about I WILL be actually making.  So that's one change.

As an aside, if you haven't read this article about and RJ Bell's pick-selling operation you should. As always, my mission is that you don't need to buy picks, you can do just as poorly on your own.

The good news is that we're getting closer and closer to legalizing online gaming across the country so pretty soon lurking about the shadows (or posting picks for entertainment) will be a thing of the past.

I cannot wait for that day.

Until then, I will keep working on my week 1 "Five" and try to avoid my early season slump this year.

Happy Gaming!

Friday, June 3, 2016

BadSports: If Baylor won't self-regulate, the NCAA and Big XII should regulate for them.

You should not be shocked that Baylor is now refusing to release recruits from their Letter of Intent pledges in the wake of Art Briles' firing, and the scandals that have rocked the athletic department.

Baylor Recruits Still Waiting to be Released from their Letters of Intent. Bruce Feldman,

He is not optimistic that Baylor will relent and "do the right thing." Last week he tried to get Baylor to release his son. Then on Tuesday, Grobe called and said if the Cobbs still aren't satisfied after they meet the new coach in person (Wednesday night), he'd sign the release. 
However, after meeting with Grobe, Collis Cobb informed him and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett that his son's mind is made up that he no longer wants to go to Baylor, since there is too much uncertainty about the program. 
"Bennett told us that we'd have to follow through with the appeal process," Collis Cobb said. "What I took from that is they're not going to release anybody."

This should not surprise anyone.  At no point, up to an including now, has Baylor demonstrated that they've learned any lesson, that they're willing to clean up their house and that they are ready to act in a fair, honorable fashion.

This is an athletic program that has lost not only their way, but the guiding faith that supposedly makes it against the rules for non-married students to kiss on campus (Rape, or sexual assault by Football players notwithstanding).

While I have little sympathy for, as Baylor alums are harping, the "players there who did not sexually assault co-eds (they contributed to the 'see something, do-nothing' culture that thrived under Briles) my concern does extend from the victims (who I hope all receive fat financial settlements from Baylor at least) and to the players who signed letters not realizing that they were agreeing to play for a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to whom all of this came as a shock. (To be fair, however, I do doubt that few of them are wanting to leave due to concern over sexual assaults, and more out of fear that the team is going to suck, and suck royally, over the course of their careers.)

That aside it appears through all of this that Baylor has still not learned their lesson. Lest we forget, this is the second time a Baylor program has faced allegations of covering up, and ignoring, serious criminal offenses. So while it's easy to write this off as "Something that festered under the current administration" it's starting to get pretty clear that there's something rotten on the East bank of the Brazos River and it's festering.

In the above article Collis Cobb states that he hopes Baylor will "do the right thing" and release his son from his LOI. To me this seems like a false hope because there's little evidence that Baylor has had any proclivity toward 'the right thing' athletically for a while now.  Because of this, it's time for both the NCAA and Big XII to step in and begin to make things right.

First, the Big XII.  It's an open secret that the only reason Baylor was included in the initial Big XII was due to the political pressure of then-Texas-Governor (and Baylor Alum) Ann Richards. In fact, Baylor always seemed like the "odd man in" considering that Texas Christian University (a school of similar size, make-up, but with a far better TV market (Ft. Worth vs. Waco) was left out, as was the University of Houston. With Ann Richards (sadly) gone it makes no sense for the powers of the Big XII to act as if Baylor serves any further function within the conference. They should begin preparations to eject them immediately.

Pushing out Baylor and adding back in BYU, Cincinnati and either UCF or UH makes way more sense than allowing Baylor to stay. They've proven that they are incapable of handling big-time college sports and should be immediately shown the door.

Second the NCAA, who gave Southern Methodist University the so-called "death penalty" for paying athletes, should consider the same for Baylor Football. I realize that the common-perception is that the NCAA will "never" issue the death penalty again, but I can think of no better reason for doing so than for an institution that now has a police blotter that included teammate murder, drug dealing, and several convictions and indictments for sexual assault.

While paying players is against the rules, the violations for which Baylor is charged (and, in some cases, has been convicted of) are against the law.  Baylor is not being accused of illegal cash payments, they're being accused of covering up allegations of rape and sexual assault, of failing to suspend players and conducting sham investigations designed to allow players to play, and wins to keep coming.  If they are found guilty of these things they should lose the ability to contest athletic events for a couple of years.

I realize that these prescriptions may seem harsh (and unfair to Baylor alums and fans) but apparently harsh is the medicine that Baylor needs.  In their charter, they are a Baptist University that promotes Christian morals and missions. They've clearly lost their way, falling victim to idolatry as they worship at the feet of the Idol that is McLane Stadium.

The Isrealites, having constructed a gold cow to worship while Moses was in the hills, were forced to burn their cow, pour the ashes in a nearby river and drink from it, which made them all sick, in repentance for the act. In the same vein Baylor needs to see their athletic department burned to the ground, and the ashes poured into the Brazos, while Baylor leadership and students become sick from the loss.

The good news is, on the heels of that the Jewish nation built the Tabernacle, which was used to house the Ark of the Covenant, which was installed in the Promised Land after they spent time in the wilderness as punishment.

Baylor needs to have their athletic program torn down, burned and the ground salted from which it sprang.  After they spend some time in the wilderness they can begin to rebuild.  Hopefully whatever they wind up with is built on stronger, more guiding principles than what they have now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sports Betting: The Media Does Not Understand How it works.

Vegas has released their O/U win totals for the 2016 season today and you're already seeing a ton of stories like the following:

Las Vegas Projected Win Totals for the Texans, Rest of the NFL. Matt Young.
Now that the NFL draft is over, we have a better feel for what every team is going to look like come September.
That means it's time to make some friendly wagers. Point spreads for the first 16 weeks of the regular season already have been published, and now we have projected win totals for each team, thanks to the folks at BetOnline.
That sounds great except for one BIG thing....

The O/U numbers released by the bookmakers are NOT how many games the books are projecting the teams will win. Neither are point spreads Vegas telling you which team they think will win.

The reason for lines, the ONLY reason for lines, is to try and balance the dollars bet on both sides of the wager. In other words, Las Vegas doesn't necessarily think that the Texas are going to win 8.5 games. What it means is that they think 50% of bettors will bet that the Texans will win more than 8.5 games and 50% of bettors will bet that they win less.

THAT is what lines do and THAT is why they are set.

Could it be that the bookmaker in question thinks the Texans will win 7 games? Sure, or even 9, or 10, but that's not why the line is set where it is.

It's amazing how often members of the media, even so-called "betting experts" who give out betting tips (usually on talk radio) get this simple concept wrong.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby Betting Spread (Exaggerator)

The first Saturday in May.  Spring has sprung and the 142nd Kentucky Derby will be ran.  Off of last year's Triple Crown winning performance by American Pharoah it's easy to think that attendance and interest will be at an all time high. I won't be at a track on Saturday, but I will be at one on Friday and I'll lay my bets then.  Here's what I'm thinking.

1. $20 Win - Exaggerator. If you didn't see this horse close in the Santa Anita Derby then you should probably go find the video. All he did was pass some very stiff competition as if they were standing still. It was the most impressive closing quarter that I've seen from a 3yo this year.  As such, I'm backing Exaggerator heavily and will be using him in all my exotics.

2. $10 Win - Creator. I've a superstition about betting the gray (don't do it) but I'm going to break that here as I think this is a horse on the come. Not a ton of confidence, but would feel pretty silly leaving him out.

3. $10 Win - Outwork. If this was a beauty competition, not a race, Outwork is your winner hands down. He's also pretty fast and comes from the stable of Mike Repole who is brash, kind of annoying and typical New Jersey, but who has a history of putting forth winning horses. Besides, it feels like Pletcher is due.

4. $1-Tri Box - 3 (Creator), 11 (Exaggerator), 13 (Nyquist), 15 (Outwork) - Basically my top 3 plus the race favorite. $12 bucks into the track's till.

5. $2  - Supr - 11 (Exaggerator), 13 (Nyquist), 5 (Gun Runner), 2 (SuddenBreakingNews)

6. (Added) $2 ATB Whitmore. Given the Buzz on this horse, and if the odds are right, I feel like I'm going to regret leaving him out.

Every year I try to hit the Derby Superfecta Straight up, and every year I fail.  It's quite possibly the hardest bet to hit in horse racing.  Yes, I could box it or key on a certain horse but I do that in my Trifecta.  Besides, there's a ton of fun in just taking a $2 shot at something that could pay out on the thousands.  I have, in the past, hit a straight Superfecta before. Not at the Derby however so we'll try and try again.

Good luck in whatever you do Saturday, and support Texas Racing if you can by going to a track and placing a bet, watching the races and having a good time.

Horse Racing: Kentucky Oaks Betting Spread. (Taxable)

Here are the positions that I'm taking for the 2016 Kentucky Oaks.

1. $20 Win - Taxable. - This is my main horse in this race and I'll be keying her in all of my exotics as well. She's lightly raced but I like her outside position, her works leading up to the race and I think Jockey Corey Nakatani and Trainer Steve Asmussen will take this daughter of Tapit to the winner's circle.

2. $10 Win - Land Over Sea - Another horse that, on paper, might not make much sense to bet but this is a wide open race and I think you're going to have to take a price. Any time I can get John Velasquez at 5-1 or better I jump at the chance.

3. $10 Win - Cathryn Sophia - I'm somewhat tepid about this pick but I'm running under the theory that you can draw a line through this filly's last race. Up until that point she felt unbeatable.

4. $1 Tri - 14 (Taxable) with 13 (Land Over Sea), 12 (Cathryn Sophia), 11 (Rachel's Valentina), 3 (Lewis Bay), 2 (Weep No More)

I might make the Tri bet a straight box b/c I'm not entirely comfortable putting all of my eggs in the Taxable basket.  That said, if I do that I'll cut the box to four horses, eliminating Lewis Bay and Weep No More due to cost ($24 vs $60 or $120) which I think might get too step for the potential payouts.

Friday, April 29, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Thoughts.

The morning after the most interesting 1st round in the history of the modern era there's a lot of stuff on which to comment.

 - San Francisco 49ers: Also known as "my team". So I freely admit my bias here.

Let's get right to it.  I do not like the Buckner pick. On a team that has nothing resembling an offensive line to draft a questionable motor guy in Buckner, who just happens to have played his college ball at Oregon, is just more proof that Chip Kelly doesn't understand the difference between college and pro football.  I do like the Garnett selection, but I'm not sure if the team needed to jump back into the first round to get him.

The team, and local media, are trying their best to but a brave face on this but I've a bad feeling that what we're seeing here is the continued destruction of the team under inept GM Trent Baalke and a new head coach who's player evaluation begins and ends in the Pac-12.

 - Laremy Tunsil: I feel sorry for him.

Not for taking a bong hit, and being stupid enough to allow someone to record him doing it, but for obviously being surrounded by people who are petty and more concerned with themselves than him. We act as if these guys are sage, savvy veterans who are going to make decisions befitting their high-profile status when, in fact, in most cases they've been coddled their entire lives and (sometimes) develop a reliance on some fairly awful people.

On what should have been Tunsil's biggest night he had to sit in the public eye and watch people make fun of him for using a "gas mask" bong, question his password habits, and be roundly treated as the "worst person in the world" by gas-bags like Mike Mayock and Todd McShay.  Oh, and he admitted to taking money from Ole Miss.

If this IS a troll job by #HailState then it's one of the better ones ever.  Still, I feel for Tunsil and I hope he goes on to have a great career with Miami, except for the few occasions when they play the 49ers.

 - Ole Miss: Maybe the worst draft night ever.

Yes, they had three players get drafted in the first round, but two of the three went way later than they should have due to character issues and LaQuan Treadwell dropped due to his horrific injury suffered two years ago.  Nkemdichie could either be the steal of the draft, or a character bust. I'd say the odds are 50/50/

Oh, and one of their former players admitted in a press conference that they had been violating NCAA rules.


 - Houston Texans: My "hometown" team which means that I'm forced to follow them due to the NFLs ridiculous TV rules.

I like the Fuller pick. I would have preferred Treadwell because I think he's a much better WR, and that his speed is going to come back as he gets further and further away from the horrific injury he suffered in 2015. I also disagree with the "experts" in the media who say that the Texans need a "burner".

The Texans already have a deep threat receiver in Hopkins. What they need is a possession-type receiver because their TE play is atrocious.  Fuller is fast, and will "take the top off" of opposing defenses, but there's a question as to whether he'll catch what Oswieler throws his way. This is not the first time the Texans have rolled the draft dice on a slot receiver with questionable hands. It's never worked out in the past, maybe it will work out here.  One thing you don't want is your first round pick to be described as having "Ted Ginn hands" which is what happened to Fuller.

 - Sports Media: Mostly a group of older guys who are considered experts because they've offered bad analysis for a long time.

It was a bad night for the media.  Especially ESPN.  Of course, there was the usual stuff, Chris Berman saying that the Ohio State having three players taking in the first ten picks had "never happened before" (when in fact it had happened 12 times before) to Mel Kiper throwing his now-annual (and no longer entertaining) draft-day fit over the Cowboys taking Elliot and the aforementioned 49ers trading up to take Bennett, to Todd McShay chastising Laremy Tunsil for "throwing Ole Miss under the bus" as if there's some college football code of Omerta that Tunsil violated.  But the NFL Network wasn't without it's flaws as well. Notably Mike Mayock, who is rapidly transitioning from a solid draft analyst to a know-it-all scold, luddite character who, at first, piled on Tunsil (before having to back-track some) and then advised all football players to get off social media.

The legacy news folks hate (is there a stronger word than hate?) social media and internet outlets. If they had their choice they would shut them all down. In a media world where the message is massaged and unquestioned (often, as we're finding out, with the consent and advice of the teams) open forums such as social media and the internet run counter to everything they believe in. The worst thing to people such as Mayock, Kiper and McShay is not the action itself, it's the public being able to openly (and publicly) question their takes on it.

Here's the facts.  Despite assuring you something to the contrary. Kiper, McShay, Mayock et. al. are just as clueless as to who is going to work out for a team as the rest of us. Yes, they study a lot of film and are paid to do so, they have access to the Combine and pro-days that the regular fan or, the common internet reporter doesn't. They have resources and support teams and all of the bells and whistles.  And if you do a simple You Tube search there are hundreds of videos of them getting it 100% wrong on player after player, just like the rest of us.  They provide some good analysis, and can offer some insight, but they are not an authority on the matter just as I am not.  I could be 100% wrong about Fuller and Bennett or I could be 100% right, or 50%. Only a body of work spanning a few years will prove that out. (This is also why I don't do draft grades, silly.)

 - Houston Sports Media: Even worse than the National Media, if you can believe it.

Houston, the town where I live and work, is not a good sports town. As a matter of fact, it's a horrible sports town for college and a pathetic one for pro-sports.  Yes, the fans are loyal to the Texans, but to a fault. They're willing to accept mediocrity and continue to fill the stands when there's ample evidence the owner is quite content to finish 8-8 as long as the revenue numbers are in the black. The NBA and MLB only exist when the hometown teams are doing well, but College sports might as well not exist, unless UT-Austin or aTm-College Station are doing well in football.

That's not on Houston's media.  What is squarely on them is plain bad reporting. The worst offender is John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. In 7 of his 8 mock drafts he had the Texans picking Baylor WR Corey Coleman. Now, McClain is a Baylor grad and admitted, on AM 610, that a large reason for him doing this was a big dose of "Sic 'em".  That would have been OK if he would have said that's who he WANTED the Texans to pick, not who he thought they WOULD pick.

Because immediately after Cleveland selected Coleman McClain went on Twitter and said that he had heard all along that they were targeting the receiver, which means that all of his mock drafts were rubbish. At best.

At the worst they were a smokescreen for a Texans team who can rely on some at the Chronicle to provide unquestioning coverage.  Yes, McClain has some fun on Twitter saying the team is "pathetic" and "the worst he's ever seen" but that doesn't ever line up with his more mainstream media appearances.

When the Texans were melting down during the 2014 2-14 debacle McClain would tweet that the offense was awful and Schaub was 'playing terrible' and then, the next day, write columns and make radio appearances saying that Schaub wasn't the problem with the offense. This despite the fact that he clearly was. (To be fair though, that team had a load of problems and was a mess all around)

Look, I understand that you can't insult a team repeatedly and expect to have any access to them, and in the new world of team and league owned media they really don't need legacy reporters at all.

Which is why honest reporting is so crucial. Why dissenting opinions are so necessary.

Since their inception the Texans have operated as one of the most mediocre teams in the NFL. They rarely take chances, risks or anything that suggests that they have a burning desire to win.  Even their appearance on Hard Knocks was JJ Watt, O'Brien cursing and meh.

The thing is, I'm not sure that Houston fans have done anything to deserve better.

 - Today and tomorrow: Rosters are not built in the first round.

Now it gets interesting.  While the Rams are done until Saturday there are teams with huge talent gaps that need to knock some balls out of the park today.  Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston. Cleveland and Tennessee still have a ton of picks which will allow them to do so, and Jacksonville seems to be a team on the rise.

Rick Smith and the Texans have a horrible track record when it comes to finding players who can play the game of football in rounds 2-4. If they ever want to get better, these next picks are key.

Which leads me to the 49ers, my team.  Concerns about the first round aside one of the defining characteristics of the Harbaugh era was his ability to find gems in rounds 2-5. With GM Trent Baalke calling the shots there's little evidence this is still the case (granted, we have a sample size of one year so the jury is still out). One year could be an aberration, but two starts a trend. And if the 49ers don't take steps to shore up their o-line, DB's, WR and LB corps then it's going to be another long year.

Oh, and they need a QB as well.

If the 49ers walk out of this draft with Buckner and Christian Hackenberg I might have to burn a hat. (I won't burn my Ronnie Lott shirt though, some things are timeless).

Enjoy the weekend.

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