Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Gambling Law: Sheldon's Political Donations Pay Off.

U.S. Now Says All Online Gambling Illegal, not Just Sports Bets. Bloomberg.

The decision by the US Department of Justice is a reversal of a 2011 interpretation that limited the poorly designed Wire Act to sports betting only.  This makes any and all gambling online illegal and will be challenged in court, especially by States that offer online Lottery sales based on the 2011 guidance.

This is also something that Sands owner, and huge Republican donor, Sheldon Adelson has lobbied for years to achieve. He's often argued, wrongfully, that by forcing gamblers to go to a casino they are somehow "protected" from the lessor Angels of gaming, prostitution, graft, theft etc.

This despite the fact that has been proven wrong by first person accounts, exposes, etc. Sheldon also claims that online gambling is a lure for children, while his casinos are not. Something that has also been shown historically to be untrue. 

What this ruling really does is attempt to eliminate a potential competitor for an industry who is seeing demand for it's product steadily erode over time.  Sands is uniquely unqualified to take advantage of any online gaming boom, as opposed to CET and MGM, so he's staunchly against it. He's an old man shouting at clouds.

Of course, in many states gambling in all forms, minus the lottery and on-track animal races, is illegal yet the biggest online gaming occur within their borders.  Texas, for example, has strict laws against gaming but has one of the largest illegal gambling markets in the US.

A better solution would be to repeal and rewrite the Wire Act, modernizing it and realizing that it's language is wholly incapable of regulating in a digital world. The Act itself is fatally flawed through it's failure to contemplate the current online marketplace.

Sadly, given what passes for leadership in politics this will not happen and gambling in America will continue to move in the black, offshore market, online causing either massive resources to be wasted running down individual gamblers or wasting Millions trying to hunt-down offshore book owners who reside in countries lacking extradition agreements.

Sheldon may be happier, but the actual affect of this will be akin to a raindrop hitting the ocean. Too much of the current online gambling market is occurring in unregulated areas.

At some point we're going to have to take a long look at how gaming is regulated in this Country, ridding the discussion of bad actors like Adelson and his compatriots would be a good start.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Horse Racing: Takeout, not lack of betting options, is the real problem here.

And it's not going to get any better soon....

Racing Roulette, and why it will never work. Bill Finley, Thoroughbred Racing News

A roulette-based horse racing wager can never succeed with a 15.43% takeout. Yes, it was created to appeal to people who might be at the track for the first time and are confused by the pari-mutuel process. Anyone can understand roulette. A few small players and newbies might play it for fun, and, perhaps, it’s worth keeping around for that reason alone.
But no serious handicapper is going to go near a bet where the value is so poor. If $3,000 is bet on racing roulette, $2,537 is returned to the winners. Over the long-term, with a real roulette game that handles $3,000, $2,845 is paid back. That’s quite a difference.
The shame of this is that racing roulette, if it could be done properly, is actually an excellent idea.

To fully understand the folly of this thinking take a look at the following Twitter thread by California Horseplayer advocate Andy Asaro

You CANNOT currently lower the takeout on any wager to 5.26%.  It won’t/can’t happen.  12% is about as low as anyone can currently go.  Maybe 10%. And again it comes down to the TOC fully participating in any reduction because of SB1072

By my way of thinking this boils down to two issues:

1.  Takeout in horse racing is non-competitive with other forms of gaming, and it's been on the INCREASE for the last several years as handle declines.

This, ironically, is the same strategy being deployed by the larger casino groups as their gaming declines. Make the hold higher, the odds worse, and milk the remaining gambler for all their worth at the expense of the owners.

In the end what this does is destroy the value proposition for gambling. Most intelligent people, or at least those with an understanding of math, understand the rather simple concepts of "house edge" and "track takeout". They also understand odds, probability and the fact that the only people who make money, long-term, in casino or horse-betting are the owners of the casinos and tracks.  This math has been solid for a long time, it is rarely changed.

The problem occurs when someone in this value chain gets overly greedy, is not content to let the baked-in house advantage be enough.  This is why you see takeout rising across the land. It is also why you see casino odds getting worse and worse with no end in sight.

Why do they do this?  Because they CAN.  The fact is that most people who are placing a wager of any type are doing so because they either saw it on TV, or in the movies, and think that they can go and "beat the odds" without fully understanding what the odds really are.

One fix for this: Would that the horse-racing "media" (i.e. NBC, Fox, etc.) do a better job explaining to the potential bettor the damage that can be done by breakage (simplified: rounding down on payouts) and takeout.  Have you EVER heard Eddie Olcheck mention either?  Nope, and you won't because there's precious little horse racing media that is not beholden to the tracks, the horse owners and the establishment trainers.

Which, conveniently, leads us to...

2. Track owners, horse owners, trainers etc. place little to no value on the horse player, and in some cases hold them in contempt.

Hall of Fame Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is famous for suggesting that horse racing would be better off without the horseplayer. There are many in the community who feel that to be true. They point to Meydan, heavily subsidized by the Royalty, as evidence of this.  What they ignore is that there IS horse betting going on in the UAE, it's just handled off the books by bookies instead of track windows. It's understood, and allowed, provided it's done under the radar.

In America without betting the horse racing industry would be a thing of the past. Yes, they could rely on slot revenue (or, slot warfare as Twitter user and Horseplayer Inside the Pylons terms it.) in perpetuity, thus limiting and destroying any track in a State not willing to make the expansion, or they could look at real reform, or running in front of small crowds, with seven figure purses going the way of 3:2 blackjack.

Horse racing needs the horseplayer like casinos (still) need the dedicated gambler whether they like it or not. The two have a symbiotic relationship that can either be healthy, or unhealthy depending on management behavior.

Ironically, the decrease in track handle is widely believed to be a major issue for tracks everywhere despite horse players not being "central to the success of the industry". 

Think about that for a minute and then ask yourself why management holds the attitudes that they do/

The only answer you can come up with is that they're not that bright, not that creative and not that serious about solving the systemic problems that exist.

All three are true.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Year in Gambling: Looking back at 2018

Every year I like to come back here and reflect on what happened over the previous year. 2018 was a fairly large year for me as I went on 10 trips to a casino (either Vegas or my local) and while the year was up and down, I did have several positive things to show for it.

1. Video Poker is my jam. - It doesn't seem to matter what casino or in what city. If it's available, I'm playing video poker.  And 2018 was a good year for that as I've now added three Royal Flushes to my ledger, including two more in Lake Charles including my first at Golden Nugget Lake Charles and my second at L'Auberge, which was also a hand pay on a progressive of around $1,700.

I also hit my first Royal in Vegas at the Long Bar at the D, where their progressive maxes out at $1,199. No tax form but those did spare me from what would have otherwise been a pretty tough year.  As it stands, I'm down slightly, but not horribly.  I was severely dinged by slots this year, as I seem to have no luck on them.  While I was playing them more frequently to begin the year I've severely curtailed my play at the end of the year where I'm now up to almost 90% video poker. While that doesn't guarantee profitability, it does seem to limit the losses.

2. My luck on slots sucks. - As stated earlier, I'm on a brutal run on slots. My only significant win being a "major" jackpot on Dancing Drums at the Cosmopolitan. It's all timing, and mine sucks. Even Buffalo Gold, which provided me a brief run of hope, has gone South in a hurry. Any and all Buffalo games are just a money suck now, which has me avoiding them.  Which is too bad because I really enjoy them when it's paying out.  My low point on Buffalo was a $1.40 total bonus win on a $2.40 bet.  Ouch.

3. Table games haven't been much better.  - I want to play more 3-card, blackjack and Pai Gow Poker, I really do. But my luck on them of late has just been brutal. It's been a minute since I've gotten a decent 3-card hand, and the dealer keeps beating my by one in blackjack. I'm thinking about playing more craps in 2019, I do need some break from video poker monotony.

4. PGP is noticeable now. - I am really noticing it on my Vegas trips.  The Strip is rapidly turning into a gambling wasteland as slots are getting tighter, video poker odds are getting worse, three zero roulette is becoming more prevalent and 6:5 blackjack continues to be the scourge of the land. The worst bit?  The scum is starting to creep downtown.  Even El Cortez has installed red light/green light drink monitoring. It's a sad day in Clark County, NV when even Fremont is racing toward the bottom.

5. Despite the mess, offers are becoming more plentiful. - I'm even getting free room offers from Cosmo of all places.  I've no doubt that I'm viewed as a low-margin player, but I'm starting to see the benefits of increased soak time on the machines, and not always losing.  With all of our trips I'm now booking Vegas using points on flights, and free rooms. With those factors flying out to Clark County is making the local seem less and less attractive.

6. The Sports gambling revolution is passing me by. - Currently, I live in Texas, one of the more backwater states when it comes to gambling.  Now, I don't think that Texas has any business in the casino industry, I think they'd make a hash of it, but online horse and sports betting, legalized and taxes, should at least be on the table.  Being able to bet multiple tracks through TVG or TwinSpires would help as well. Yes, there are still the offshore books, if one is so disposed. But legalized gaming is much preferred to the unregulated type. As it stands Texans are going to have to hope that Louisiana and Oklahoma get it right.  Relying on those two states is somewhat scary.

7. I had a bad College football season, and (surprisingly) a good NFL one. - If you've followed on here for any length of time you know that this is a reversal of form for me. All year I could never seem to get any traction on college ball, but had good results in the NFL.  Even last weekend when I called all underdogs worked out well (4-0). If only I had made the bet. 

And that's the story for 2018 methinks.  "If only I had made the bet".

Ciao 2018.

NFL Playoffs: The Underdogs have their day(s).

Three out of the four road underdogs won last weekend in the NFL Playoffs, and even Seattle, who didn't win, covered the 2.5 point spread (losing 22-24 to Dallas).  I had stated elsewhere prior to the games that I thought an all-underdog parlay would be a good play.  It would have hit, ironically, I wish I had posted that bet here, and actually made it.

But I spent the weekend at the beach with the wife, taking a break from what has been an up and down gambling season.  OF COURSE a huge parlay that I might have made would have hit.

Colts vs. Texans: Colts Win 21-7

The score of the game makes it seem closer than it actually was. To say the Colts dominated the fraudulent Texans is an understatement. This had more the feel of a 42-3 thrashing than it did a game won by two scores.

With the Colts we learned that Andrew Luck is totally healthy, T.Y. Hilton is an elite player, and they have a good offensive line and a smart, talented defense.  This team gets the Chiefs next, so they will have their work cut out for them.

In the Texans we learned just how hollow 11-5 can be. This is a team that should have finished around 8-8 save for two games where they were gifted wins and a schedule that broke perfectly for them.  This Texans team lost to every good team they played this season. Further, there's every reason to suspect that Bill O'Brien is in out of his depth as a head coach. DeShawn Watson has regressed, the offensive line is slightly better than last year but that's faint praise, and the defense, which was supposed to be this team's rock, looked very porous and it's clear that big changes are needed.

Seahawks vs. Cowboys: Cowboys win 24-22

The image that I'll take away from this game was Allen Hurns lying on the field with his foot on back to front.  That was an awful injury and I wish him the best in his recovery. This was a win that probably secured Jason Garrett's job as a head coach as well. Jerruh seemed very happy after the win.

If Ezekiel Elliot is right then the Cowboys should always be in the game. He's a star RB in a league where having a star RB is given diminishing weight.  But the Cowboys feed off of his performance offensively and that always makes for interesting game play.  Next week the Cowboys get the Rams, which could become a battle of two very healthy, and very good running backs.

As a 49ers fan I hate saying this, but Pete Carroll should be up for coach of the year based on what he did with a totally revamped roster of mostly young players. Gone is the Legion of Boom, completely and totally, but their new defensive backfield plays smarter, is athletic, and features young, rangy players with a ton of talent. Offensively they still go through Russell Wilson, and he's in need of a better running game and more targets to hit, but they're still OK.

Chargers vs. Ravens: Chargers win 23-17

There's a lot to unpack in this game. From Tony Romo talking on-air about a pissed Philip Rivers to fans booing the Ravens anemic offense. It wouldn't surprise me all that much to see the Chargers make a run.

Melvin Gordon might not be totally healthy, but he was good enough.  For once the Chargers did not fold down the stretch and give up a late lead. Philip Rivers' greatness at the QB position is not totally appreciated by NFL fans.  They get the Patriots next, which is such an interesting matchup that I might even dedicate a blog post to it.

The Ravens on offense were offensive, but it's not entirely Lamar Jackson's fault. Their game-plan seemed off from the jump. Nor was bringing Flacco in the right answer. The Ravens need to move on from Captain Mediocrity and despite the fact that the lost the game, Jackson is their path forward. They also need to find a better O-line, that would help.

Eagles vs. Bears: Eagles win 16-15

The defining moment in this game was the partially blocked, double-doink FG attempt as time was running down that clinched the win for the Eagles. The reasons for the loss go much deeper than that FG try.

The Eagles keep rolling, proving once again that Nick Foles is the QB of record for the Eagles, not Carson Wentz. And watching Darren Sproles play ball is a good thing no matter who you are rooting for.  Next up are the Saints, and I'd be more than a little worried were I Drew Brees and Co. because the defending champs don't yet seem ready to relinquish their crown.

Bears fans are mad at Cody Parkey, some irrationally so, but its hard to analyze and easy (especially for Barstool employees) to rant and rage uncontrollably.  Why did the game-plan call for so much passing from a game-managing QB?  Where was the Bears' run game all night?  What happened to the Bears D in big moments? That said, the talent on this Bears roster is stupid good. I thought all year that they were a year ahead of schedule, next year could be "the one" for them, which is why their loss feels different than the others.

Next weekend is that dumb weekend that everyone (wrongly) calls "the best weekend in football". It's not, but you're going to get four games that might be competitive at least.

We'll take a deeper dive into them all later in the week. Probably won't have the same set-up for an all-underdog parlay unfortunately, but I'm sure there will value somewhere.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Horse Racing: Sham! (Grade 3 - 01-05-2018 Santa Anita Park

Saturday at Santa Anita we're apt to see one of the more important early Derby Preps as the newly minted 3YO class (all horses are given a birth date of 01/01 for racing purposes regardless of when they were actually born) stretches out to two turns, many for the first time.

2019 Grade III Sham 1 Mile, Dirt. 3YO M

1. Sueno (20-1) Jockey: Kent Desormeaux     Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
2. Gray Magician (4-1) Jockey: Flavian Prat
3. Savagery (10-1) Jockey: Joel Rosario
4. Easy Shot (30-1) Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
5. Coliseum (1-1) Jockey: Joe Talamo
6. Gunmetal Gray (5/2) Jockey: Mike Smith
7. Much Better (6-1) Jockey: Dreydan Van Dyke

There's a lot to unpack in this race. Is Coliseum the monster that some think he is or is Gunmetal Gray just a better horse?  Can someone outside pull the upset? Also, this is the 5th leg of a very difficult Rainbow 6 sequence and the third leg in a difficult Pick 4. Are their plays there you want to consider? Is this your single? (No, it's not)

First off, I see this race as more wide open than many of the other prognosticators looking at it.  To my mind, Coliseum, Gunmetal Gray, Gray Magician, Savagery and Much Better all have a shot to win here, and the people who are taking stands against Coliseum are using some dodgy logic to do so.

That said, Coliseum does not stand head and shoulders above this field and Gunmetal Gray is the most likely candidate to get the win, having ran faster, more often and against better competition in the past.  Those are your top two then. Coliseum and Gunmetal Gray, both should be included in your vertical exotics and in your horizontals if you're playing either the Pick 4 or Rainbow 6. I cannot find any argument to leave either out.

The second tier of contenders in this race all have flaws, but also have the ability to win, if the conditions are correct. Gray Magician is making his stakes debut, coming off a win, a third running behind Derby Contender Improbable and a couple 2nd and 3rd in MSW at Del Mar. He'd need to improve to win here, and certainly could, but for me he's a play in the bottom of my vertical exotics. I will probably omit him from my horizontals and take the chance he's not the horse to beat me. I've of the same mind about Savagery, who seems to be a good horse but to me his best races will be as a sprinter running 7F or less. Joel Rosario will give him a good ride, and he should factor in the pace, but I can't see him lasting against this field. He'll be at the very bottom of my exotics.

The "other" Baffert horse in this race peaks my interest quite a bit.  Much Better ran like he was shot out of a cannon in his first race, and then was inexplicably moved to the turf for races 2 & 3 where he did not run as well.  Maybe the connections were bored?  I also like Red Hot jockey Dreydan Van Dyke at Santa Anita.  He is going to be my long shot horse for win purposes, will feature prominently in all of my exotics and will be in my horizontal bets.

The third tier of this race are toss out horses. Sueno is a good horse, but lacks the quality of the runners above him, and Easy Shot might have a future as a stakes runner later in his career, but he's ran twice, finishing 4th at 5 1/2 furlongs. Maybe I throw Sueno into the bottom of a Superfecta just in case something silly happens, but I think 3rd or 4th would be the cap for him.


$10 Win 7 - Much Better

$0.10 Super 7,5,6/7,5,6/7,5,6,1/7,5,6,1

I'll also play the Rainbow 6 and the late Pick 4 but I have not finished my handicapping on those as of yet. As I said, they're tough.

Horse Racing: It's January, So Let's Start the Triple Crown (Over) Hype!

In horse racing there are two seasons, Triple Crown season and everything else. Sure, for people who follow the sport there is much more than that, the Summer races, Fall and Saratoga, the Classics (where we find out if the current 3YO crop is any good when they face older horses for the first time) there's also The Breeder's Cup, which is the "true" championship of horse racing, the Pegasus Invitational, Meydan, Royal Ascot and a host of other International races that get short shrift, but for the general public it's the Triple Crown and everything else.

Part of this is the fault of the horse racing industry itself, over-romanticizing a horse winning three races against restricted competition and then acting as if they're the best thing ever, part of the problem lies with the media who cover the event, acting the same and not fully explaining why the Whitney and the Travers, later in the year, are really better determinants of a horses quality than the Triple Crown.

Even the three races themselves aren't the biggest paying races on the calendar. (I'd rather run a horse in the Travers for example, over the Belmont) In some cases (The Preakness for example) the race is run only as a last gasp to keep racing viable at a track that should have been torn down long ago.

But the Triple Crown IS important. It sets the tone for the year and it gives us a first glance at horses that may, or may not, go on to win some of the bigger world wide races later down the line. It also provides us with a gonzo betting race that's almost impossible to handicap, but which enjoys huge pools every year.

This year is no different, as already we're seeing a promising group of young horses begin to distance themselves from the field. Surprisingly, not ALL of them are trained by Bob Baffert.

1.Game Winner - Not only has he won all four of his races but he's won in impressive fashion, and he already has a win over a horse who looks to be competition for him, beating Gunmetal Gray in the Grade 1 American Pharoah.  He's the son of Candy Ride, with AP Indy in the bloodline on the other side. I thought his win in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile was a great race, although other's were less impressed.

2. Improbable - Another Baffert runner, this one also boasting the exact same connections as Justify, will make this horse decidedly unpopular with the public. That's too bad because he's a beautiful son of City Zip who also has AP Indy on the other side of the breeding line. His win at the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity was a run away, but the competition in that race is questionable. His biggest problem is going to be the specter of Justify, and how his reputation was ruined within the horse community by the circumstances in the Belmont (and butt-hurt bettors) as well as the WinStar/China Horse Club perceived shenanigans afterward.

3.Coliseum - The "third" Baffert entry that I think has a real chance. Yes, he's only raced once (and won, impressively, but we're going to find out a lot more about this colt Saturday in the Grade 3 Sham where he faces Gunmetal Gray, another horse we'll talk about on here and my longshot in the race, the Baffert Trained Much Better (How I'll also mention next)

4. Much Better - Another Baffert horse, but few are giving this one a chance, which I think is a mistake. Much Better ran his first race on dirt, and won handily, then was inexplicably moved to turf where he didn't like the surface as well. He moves back to the dirt for the Sham, where I think he'll do "much better".

5. Maximus Mischief - This Butch Reid trained colt has ran thrice, and won all three. His best run was in the Grade 2 Remsan at Aquaduct, where he ran away from the talented Netrwork Effect and outduled a horse that I really like in mile races in Tax. We'll likely see him next the first weekend in February running in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, always a key prep race.

6. Signalman - This horse has trainer Kenny McPeek written all over him. First, he was relatively cheap (a $32,000 purchase price) and 2nd, he's a grinder whose raced 5 times and has never not hit the board. His biggest disappointment was a 2nd place finish Breeder's Futurity, where Kincks Go shocked everyone winning at 40-1 over Signalman's valiant 2nd place run.  He'll need some luck, don't they all, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets in the field and messes up several bettor's exotics on Kentucky Derby Day.

7.Code of Honor - This horse was considered to be the most likely one to upset the Baffert apple cart before getting boat raced in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes by Complexity. Was that just an aberration? We'll find out Saturday in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, where he's up against a field any legitimate Derby contender should handle. I think he has the quality, but does he have the temperment, especially when things don't go as planned?

8. Vekoma - The scariest thing about this George Weaver trained colt is that he beat the aforementioned Network Effect handily in the Grade 3 Nashua, and did it while running as green as you can get. He was distracted down the stretch, trying to pull the jockey toward the grandstand and he STILL won by air.  He's only ran twice and we haven't seen him around two-turns yet, but he's a talented horse who might make some noise if he can mature a little.

9. Instagrand - If there's a "buzz" horse among the contender's it's this colt, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. He's won both of his two races going away, a 5 furlong MSW at Los Alamitos, and a domination of a pedestrian field in the Grade 2 Best Pal (6f).  He was then shut down for the season by his connections and is expected to race sometime in the lead up to the KY Derby, we just don't know when. The thing about Instagram is that he's fast. He has great tactical speed and has shown a dominating closing kick at the shorter distances. Can he carry these traits to distance? Can he rate? Time will tell.

10. Knicks Go - The shocking winner of the Breeder's Futurity back in October at Keeneland followed that performance up with a solid 2nd place finish at the Breeder's Cup Juvenile. He then proceeded to lay an egg in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, also at Keeneland right after Thanksgiving.  Was he just too tired? Do you draw a line through this race?  We'll possibly find out at the Grade 3 Sam H. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs on February 9th.

11. Complexity - I'm including this Chad Brown runner in my analysis because of his solid win in the Grade 1 Champagne. Yes, he spit the bit in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile (finishing 10th) and it is concerning that this race was ran on the same track as the Derby with a similar crowd. But Brown is a solid trainer, albeit better on turf, who knows how to prep horses for big races.  Can he bounce back? Do you draw a line through that race?  Time will tell.

One thing we do know is that many of the horse prognosticators are considering sure things won't even make the Derby field the first Saturday in May.  This time last year Justify hadn't even race yet. There will be upsets, horses who just flame out and horses listed above that just aren't as good at distance and two turns as we think they are.

What we are NOT going to do this year is start making any assumptions about the quality of this 3YO crop until they face older horses later in the year.

More importantly, horse racing is about to gear up in a big way for 2019. Starting off with early Derby Preps and then the always entertaining Pegasus.  I'll be taking a look at those horses on here soon.

Bet wisely this weekend and enjoy the year.

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