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“I’m Pat fucking Tillman!” Those were the last words shouted by Army Ranger, Pat Tillman, before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. By now, we all should know the facts about Tillman: He was an NFL star for the Arizona Cardinals who gave up a lucrative pro football career to join the Army soon after the 9/11 attacks. His reason was very basic; he thought it was the right thing to do. Together with his brother, Kevin, the two men became Rangers and were sent to fight the war in the Middle East.

“American cultural rituals for $400, please.”

ALL GEEKED UP.

“What are football fans as the NFL begins a new season?”

That is correct.

This weekend is just like Christmas and perhaps better than sex for millions of NFL fans. Starved since February and teased by the NFL draft in April and a meaningless preseason in August, their long national nightmare is over. It is Week 1 of the NFL season. time at last for fantasy leagues, tailgate parties and much wagering.

A gent with the Twitter handle “Live4Sundays” expressed this as the opening kickoff neared: “Thank God for the ticket! No NFL fan should be w/out it … 15 hours of sittin on my ass Sundays are here again!”

Ah, yes, the Ticket. The $400 you’ve won will buy you the NFL Sunday Ticket satellite TV package, bringing you every game. You’ll have $100 left over, but you’ll need to spend another $35 for RedZone. That’s a highlight show gone mad, bringing you every scoring play in real time and streaming fantasy statistics in real time.

You’re left with $65, which ought to be plenty for bevvies and chow. Unless, of course, you’re sittin on your ass for 15 hours. In which case, $65 will not be enough.

There's an ancient roulette scheme that's probably about two hours older than the game itself. It's a strategy known as the "martingale system" and was apparently popular in 18th century France, but it's something that occurs to pretty much everyone who gives any serious

Gamblor was correct in both of the games last week, going 2-0, but unfortunately it wasn’t confident enough in either pick to wager any money, so it’s take for the week was absolutely nothing.  Of course, as I keep mentioning, Gamblor’s picks are only theoretical during the postseason.  Which is rather unfortunate because it has done quite well, having put together a record of 7-3 so far for a weighted win percentage of 84.1% and a theoretical profit of $456. However, considering its performance last year during the playoffs (I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but trust me, it was bad) I’m not quite ready to let it off the leash in January just yet.

The only true guarantee in sports gambling is that there’s no such thing as a sure thing.  Time and time again this has been proven to us by the casinos, as teams that seem like guaranteed locks somehow find a way to shit the bed and fail to cover – or lose outright.  Unfortunately, that’s the way the system works – or there wouldn’t be a system at all.  If you’re like most gamblers out there, including me, you’ve ended the season down a few chips thanks to all those sure things that turned out to be duds.  I’m convinced that this year’s Superbowl will turn out to be yet another cautionary tale of how the house always finds a way to win.  We’ll probably see Peyton Manning deliver a stellar performance but get handcuffed by shady officiating, and the Saints will score a late touchdown to cut the Colts’ margin of victory to just less than the spread.  That kind of shit happens all the time when Vegas is involved.  But occasionally, every once in a blue moon, the tables turn, and the casinos are the ones who watch in horror as a single freak bounce of the football costs them millions and millions of dollars in the span of a few horrifying seconds.  Which brings me to my feature for the week:

Gamblor had a quiet week last week, going 2-2 for a small loss of $31.  The computer, like many bettors, anticipated that Arizona would put up a much bigger fight against the Saints.  As I’ve said before, Gamblor’s gambling season is over – the playoff losses and gains are completely theoretical.  I haven’t filled in any historical data so I have no idea whether the process actually works once the regular season is over.  And with fewer games each week, Gamblor has less to say anyhow.

Hopefully some of the readers this week include folks who have found their way over from walterfootball.com courtesy of the Punch-Out video I passed on.  It was submitted by a group called Team Awesome as an entry in the Nintendo Short Cuts Showcase contest, and didn’t even receive so much as an honorable mention.  And now it’s got more than twice as many views as all of the ten original finalists combined.  So in honor of Team Awesome, I thought I’d use their fine work as an inspiration for this week’s feature.

(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)

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Given how violent of a game football is, fistfights are actually relatively rare.  With all the protective pads the players are wearing, there’s not all that much point.  These days, when looking to cause serious damage, most players have learned to lead with their head.  But there have still been a number of cases of fisticuffs that have, for one reason or another, made it into the legends and lore of the NFL. 

Gamblor finally scored a big victory against Green Bay last week and had an incredible week overall, going 3-1 with a truly amazing weighted win percentage of 97.0%.  Sadly, its profit of $487 was completely theoretical – as I mentioned last week, Gamblor isn’t designed to run during the playoffs.  It’s just as well; I lost my voice cheering at the end of the Cardinals game – if I’d actually put down the $470 that Gamblor was angling for I probably would have had a heart attack – especially when Rackers missed that 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn’t even have the courtesy to at least hit the post!

(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)

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I’m very excited about my feature this week because it’s inspired by one of the playoff games we’ll be watching.  I’ve actually been saving this countdown all season in hopes that we’d see this matchup, and soon enough you’ll understand why I consider our number one entry in today’s feature to be the greatest athletic accomplishment in the history of organized sports.

Gamblor finished its season in style, making the second-largest number of weighted picks in its entire 14-year (theoretical) history and finishing with a weighted win percentage of 57.5% and a profit of $153.  Its overall record was actually terrible at 5-11, but it hit its

The spread for the Buffalo game is -8.5.  Yeah.  A 5-10 team is an 8.5 point favorite over a 14-1 one.  So of course Gamblor thinks this spread is about the most ridiculous thing it's ever seen and wants to bet the farm on the

The computer had a nice week last week, going 9-6-1 against the spread.  Well, it was almost nice.  If I hadn't dropped $340 on Pittsburgh, I'd have been up $40.  Yeah, Gamblor's biggest bet of the year missed.  It was pretty brutal to watch the

Fucking hell.  I need to keep reminding myself that in the long run this program has actually still made money for me.  But another weekend like the last one and that won't be true anymore.  Gamblor went 7-9 and dropped $90, missing its biggest bet

UPDATE:  Hooray!  Gamblor got off to a great start this week, nailing its second-largest bet as Cleveland dropped Pittsburgh last night.  The 10.5 points that Atlanta is getting against the Saints has tempted it into a moderate hedge bet on the Falcons, and the drift

UPDATE:  The line in the Arizona game finally got posted - the Vikings are favorites by 3 points.  Whisenhunt says that who's starting at quarterback will be a game-time decision, but it seems pretty clear from this line that Vegas doesn't believe Warner will be

UPDATE 2:  The line on the Houston game has moved down to 3.5, so I went ahead and took a longshot at hitting a middle – if Houston wins by 4 points, I’ll win $9.25.  If they win by more than 4 points, I’ll lose fifty cents.  If they win by less than three points or lose outright, I’ll lose twenty-five cents.  Sure do like those odds.

UPDATE:  Wow.  Anyone who witnessed the end of the LSU game against Ole Miss would most likely agree that even though my countdown was limited to NFL coaches, Les Miles’ blunders at managing the end of the game for LSU really belong at the very top of the list.  Unbelievable.

Miami surprised everyone on Thursday night, and since then there has only been minor movement in the lines.  Baltimore is getting another half point, though the computer’s bet amount only increased by less than fifty cents.  The Broncos announced that Chris Simms is starting, so the books have finally posted a line for that game (Denver +5).  My estimated spread on the game was off (I had it at +3) and that’s enough of a move to affect Gamblor’s bet by quite a bit.  Since I don’t have access to my data matrix via this computer, I can’t rerun the simulation.  I WILL run it on Monday and count it towards the season total, win or lose, but I won’t have an actual bet on that game.  I suspect that Gamblor would like to risk about $10 on the Broncos.

Last week was a tough one. The computer’s record overall was just fine at 8-7, but it missed its biggest bet of the year on a Dallas squad that normally waits until December to underachieve on such an epic level.  In my midseason summary last week I mentioned last week that the flip model was due for a major correction, and it accomplished that in one very expensive fell swoop.  The total losses for the week were $159 on a weighted win percentage of 31.3%, which means that without the Dallas loss, it actually would have been a profitable week (see a summary sheet here).  Much like Bill Belichick, Gamblor picked a spot where it thought the odds were in its favor, gambled, and came up short.

Most of the talk of the football world this week has been about the New England Patriots coach’s decision to send his offense back onto the field on fourth-and-two from his own thirty yard line instead of punting.  And you’d think that as someone who relies on cold hard statistics to make his gambling decisions, I would join the ranks of those who have defended Belichick’s decision as a wise percentage play that unfortunately didn’t pay off.  But I’m actually firmly in the camp of those who view Belichick’s decision as a the worst coaching mistake of his career.

(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)

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I don’t buy all that crap about how the odds (based on previous attempts) of making the first down on 4th and 2 were better than the odds of stopping Manning from 70 (or 30) yards out.  In going for it on fourth down, Belichick made two huge mistakes.  The first was that he provided the wrong motivation to his offense.  Normally, in a fourth-down situation, the psychological motivation for the players is the prospect of succeeding. That’s why there’s a reasonably high rate of success.  Whether they’re deep in enemy territory and gambling or they’re behind and chasing a lead, failing doesn’t really change their situation much – there’s nothing to lose.  In the Colts game, the Patriots offense’s primary motivation was a fear of failure.  And as with any sport, when you start worrying about blowing it, you usually do.

UPDATE 2:  The half-point movement in the Monday night game has convinced Gamblor to put down a small ($5.12) hedge bet on the Cleveland Browns. UPDATE:  The biggest news is that the  line in the San Diego game has slid all the way down from

You're in the wrong place - the picks for Week 9 of 2010 will be posted HERE on Thursday morning. You really should go read them because Gamblor is absolutely KILLING it this year. Enjoy! GET THE CURRENT PICKS HERE! Gamblor had another lackluster performance

UPDATE:  The Giants line continues to see wild movement - it has shifted all the way to +1 and now the Eagles are considered underdogs.  Gamblor now likes the Giants well enough to bet above the $5.00 minimum on them.  I'd have rounded up anyhow,

Fantasy football has been described as "Dungeons & Dragons for jocks," so in the spirit of Halloween, Shi Ne (a.k.a. the Sports Report Girl) has joined us for a countdown of five monsters from the D&D manual -- and their real-life NFL counterparts.

You’re in the wrong place – the picks for Week 7 of 2010 will be posted HERE on Thursday morning.  You really should go read them because Gamblor is absolutely KILLING it this year.  Enjoy!

GET THE CURRENT PICKS HERE!

UPDATE: There were two major moves in the lines since Wednesday. Pittsburgh surrendered another 1.5 points to Minnesota, closing at -5.5. Which means Gamblor really adores Pittsburgh now, even more than it already did. And (in my sportsbook at least) they took Green Bay at Cleveland off the board for a while and when it came back it has moved a full 2 points – from +7 to +9. While that’s not very encouraging (it reeks of panic) on a gut level, Gamblor sees this spread as being a little closer to where it belongs, and thus it upped its bet a little bit. Here’s a revised, printable summary sheet in pdf form. Good luck this week!

UPDATE 2: I’ve got something special lined up for my Halloween feature next week, including an appearance by a very sexy special guest, so be sure to stop by!

Last week turned out to be a mirror image of Week 5, in that the computer put together a winning set of picks (8-6) but prioritized its bets poorly so it lost a little money. Three of its correct picks came in games where it didn’t have any actual money on the line, and it missed its top pick (Giants). The morning session was a disaster, as Minnesota managed to piss away a seventeen point lead in the fourth quarter and I got cheated out of a push on yet another failed goal line stand – this time by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the afternoon featured a very nice turnaround, as Gamblor hit on its #2, #3, and #4 bets – including a huge upset in Oakland that nobody in their right mind would have predicted. Effectively the computer broke even, coming in with a weighted win percentage of 50.8% and losing $10 due to the effect of the juice. A summary of last week’s performance is here.

Last week, if Tom Brady had injured himself on the first series of the second half, I’d have injured myself from laughing so hard about it. And I wouldn’t have felt ashamed for it, either. Aside for the pain, Tom Brady would have been fine – he’d have to suffer another miserable winter convalescing in Brazil with his supermodel wife, but that’s about it. I’ve got nothing against Tom Brady. No, I’d be laughing because it would be a very fine comeuppance for Bill Belichick, who courted disaster by sending his star player back onto a snowy field to risk injury in a game that the Patriots were leading 45-0. Apologists for Belichick have zeroed in on the fact that the Patriots haven’t really been in sync as a team and suggested that playing more minutes together would help their offense develop a rhythm they haven’t had since 2007. That’s horseshit. With the way Tennessee’s secondary had completely given up, there’s nothing the Patriots could have accomplished at Foxboro Stadium that they couldn’t have accomplished on a practice field running seven-on-seven drills against their second-team defense. It was an incredibly arrogant and stupid coaching move to send Brady back out to pile up points against a defense that had already been thoroughly humiliated and would be looking to lash out. And lash out they did – defensive lineman Tony Brown got flagged for roughing the passer on the very first play of the second half.

WELCOME!  If you’re here looking for the picks from Week 6 in 2009, you’ve come to the right place.  But you’re probably not.  So instead, go see my 2010 Week 5 picks here.

What are you waiting for?  GoNow!

UPDATE:  Some minor changes, but nothing worth writing about.  Updated summary of wagers is here.

After two disappointing weeks in a row, the computer found its footing again and had a decent week. Although Gamblor’s picks were 6-8, it prioritized very well – hitting its #1, #3, and #4 picks. This was strong enough to finish with a weighted win percentage of 53.8% and turn a small profit of $15 (a summary sheet is here). If either of the two games that ended with goal-line stands (one that succeeded by the Arizona Cardinals and one that failed by the New York Jets) had turned out the other way, it would have been much better. Having Detroit cover through the back door against Pittsburgh was a nice treat, and instead of regretting the fact that I managed to sneak in a bet in on Jacksonville just in time to lose it, I’ll share the joy of other gamblers and laugh at how much money Vegas threw away by setting an insane line in an Indianapolis game that contained no surprises whatsoever. Although those goddamned Seahawks continued to make me look like an ass, the trends I outlined last week did a good job of proving my point that trends shouldn’t be trusted. If you’d bet on all five of the trends that I discussed (including the ones that overlapped each other), you’d have gone 4-6.

Despite my passion for the subject of politics, I figured I’d make a conscious effort to refrain from preaching in this column. Of course, with Rush Limbaugh having been considered to take part in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, that might have ended up being pretty difficult. But Jon Cummings has already got that subject covered for Popdose, so instead I’ll share my thoughts about the Nobel Peace Prize. Last week, when a clearly astonished Barack Obama was announced as the winner, many conservative Americans felt the same way that Vikings fans would feel if Brett Farve had been awarded the MVP before the season had even begun. The president is like America’s quarterback – he doesn’t call the plays (Congress does that – which shows you how dysfunctional a team would be if the plays were called by a committee), but he executes them and ultimately gets credit or blame for the team’s performance during the season. For those who thought the U.S. should have signed the veteran McCain to the starting job, seeing Obama receive the Nobel prize causes all kinds of conflicted loyalties.

WELCOME!  If you’re here looking for the picks from Week 5 in 2009, you’ve come to the right place.  But you’re probably not.  So instead, go see my 2010 Week 5 picks here.

What are you waiting for?  GoNow!

UPDATE: The only line that changed was the Raiders line – which moved down to +14.5 from +16, which means the computer thankfully wants to risk just a little less on the Raiders. Some of Gamblor’s bet amounts changed due to fluctuations in the models, but nothing more than a few cents either way. There’s STILL no line for the Seattle game, but the computer sees these teams as pretty evenly matched so it will be taking the points in this one regardless of who’s getting them. A final summary sheet is here.

Last week was the worst in Gamblor’s season so far, both in terms of weighted win percentage (29.9%) and money lost (-$70.33). My own picks were fine, going 8-6, but the computer’s finished at 5-9. Surprisingly, I don’t feel all that bad about it. The computer is going to have some bad weeks, and I’d prefer that they happen when there’s not all that much money on the line. Plus, its biggest pick (Detroit) was looking pretty damned good up through halftime and until about 4 seconds into the third quarter. I’m still up $120 for the season so far, and the season’s weighted win percentage is still at a perfectly healthy 57.9%, so I’ll shrug off last week and move on.

About once a week, the predictions of the Hedge model and the Flip model coincide and both models agree on an underdog in one of the games. This means that the outcomes from the various simulation schemes range from less than 55% to sometimes as high as 90% in favor of one team. But this isn’t an indication of supreme confidence, all that it’s actually showing is that the statistics for one (or both) of the teams are pretty volatile. So far this has turned up four times this year, and it’s gone 2-2. Nothing special. But the weighted win percentage is out of this world at 78.5% (both of the winners were big bets and both of the losers were little ones). If we look back through all of last season, the weighted win percentage was still pretty incredible — 71.1% over all seventeen weeks. This week, unless the spread moves quite a bit, both models will be agreeing on Atlanta as an underdog of 2.5 points at San Francisco. So with these kinds of percentages, why don’t I consider this to be a special situation and put down a huge bet on Atlanta?

Simple. The “Agree” bet doesn’t provide any real advantage. Sure, in 2008 it came in at 71.1% – but in 2007, it performed at a simply awful rate of 37.4%. In 2006 it was strong again, at 65.3%, but in 2005 it was a bottomless pit of despair at 36.2%. Throughout the lifetime of the data back to 1998, this particular situation performs at a weighted win percentage of 55.0%, almost exactly identical to the Gamblor’s overall performance with the weighing scheme I’ve chosen to use. The fallacy of betting based on — or against — trends is what I’ll be talking about in this week’s feature.

(To watch this video, right-click and hit €œplay€)
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Top 5 NFL Betting Trends You Should Be Wary Of:

Trends are a very dangerous temptation in sports betting. In my opinion, paying attention to trends against the spread in the NFL makes about sense as looking for trends at a roulette table. They don’t exist. If the ball has landed on black nine times out the last ten, the likelihood that it will land on red (or black) on the next spin is not altered in the slightest. For every arcane trend you can find that virtually guarantees a victory for one side, you can find another equally cromulent trend that will tell you the exact opposite. You should no more trust an ongoing trend to continue than you should bet against it under the assumption that Vegas has spotted the trend and is taking measures to reverse it. With that in mind, here are five NFL trends you should know about — and then proceed to completely ignore:

5. Playing Surface. I haven’t programmed Gamblor to make predictions about the over/under, but everything it needs is there. I’m just not sure whether it’s possible to gain any kind of edge. A lot of gamblers believe that paying attention to field conditions can be pretty lucrative, particularly when concerned with the over/under. The 3-0 disaster between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins at a sodden Heinz Field in 2007 was a classic example of how a messy field can shut down scoring in a football game. Since the Arizona Cardinals moved into their new stadium in 2006, the games have been played on a grass field that grows outside in the perfect Arizona sun and then gets moved inside the dome for the games. It’s a unique situation which has led to a 19-7 record for gamblers who bet on the over. This week, the Cardinals are hosting the Houston Texans. The Cardinals defense is remarkably porous, having only held opponents to less than 17 points just eight times in their last 67 games (from 2005 to present). Houston has a potentially explosive offense and a similar philosophy of indifference when it comes to stopping their opponents. The over/under on this contest is at 48 points, which is on the upper end of the range — but still rather appealing considering the way these teams match up.

4. Teams Coming Off a Bye. When I first programmed Gamblor, I tried to give a lot of consideration to teams that were coming off a bye week. I thought that these teams would play better as a result of the rest, or that bettors would overcompensate for this and there would be an advantage in the opposite direction. I was wrong on both counts – statistically, the bye week had no impact whatsoever on teams that were playing, or the teams they were playing against. This week Atlanta, Philadelphia, Arizona, and Carolina all had the previous week off. Of these, Philadelphia has been red-hot in their return to action, going 11-0 straight up and 9-2 against the spread. Philadelphia has been looking great so far this season, but this trend is running headfirst into two other trends as the Eagles host the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

3. Big Time Underdogs. There are only three or four games every year where the spread exceeds two touchdowns — so the fact that we’ll see two such games this week (Oakland at New York, Tampa Bay at Philadelphia) is quite an unusual occurrence. Shocking upsets are very rare in this situation, but a lucky play at the beginning of the game can be all it takes for the underdog to keep things close enough for the spread to factor in, and laying so many points as a favorite leaves a lot of room for a backdoor cover after the starters have finished playing. It’s always very stressful to bet the underdog in what’s expected to be such a lopsided game, but underdogs playing on the road that are benefiting from a spread of more than 14 points are 14-4 since 2005. Tampa Bay is getting a 15 point boost in Philadelphia, and the Raiders are getting 16 points against the Giants. I’ll be nervous if the spread drifts any higher for either game because I’ll interpret that to mean the books are trying to scare money off of the favorite — but for spreads of 16 or more, the underdog has covered the last seven times in a row.

2. Winless Teams. There’s a philosophy that teams who have made it four or more games into their season without winning yet tend to get great value against the spread, because nobody wants to bet against such a worthless crew of losers. Plus, the winless team will be playing their hearts out against an opponent that is most likely phoning it in. The philosophy behind this makes sense — and the numbers back it up quite well. Since 2000, teams with records of 0-4 or worse are 52-28 against the spread. With a win percentage of 65.0%, that’s a pretty seductive trend. This week Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Kansas City, Tennessee, and Cleveland will all be striving to lock down their first win. I wouldn’t really say that any of them have a realistic chance of winning outright, but everyone except Tennessee is facing a spread of 9 or more (and the Titans line, which is only 3.5 against the Colts, looks an awful lot like a trap!).

1. Hello, Good-Bye. The incomparable Walter alerted me to this one, and it’s pretty hard to ignore. It’s been 2-0 so far this season, and it’s been 33-6 since 2000. So what’s this magnificent trend? It’s to bet on favorites of 6.5 or more points in their last week before a bye. A spread of 6.5 or more points indicates that the favorite is expected to fully dominate the game. And with nothing on the immediate horizon to distract them, players can focus entirely on the game at hand. Furthermore, the players know that if their coaches see them dog it against a clearly inferior opponent, they’ll be doing nothing but running drills for the next five days. This week, the Cowboys are headed to Kansas City to face the winless Chiefs and although the Cowboys’ season has been pretty disappointing thus far, they can avoid a lot of punishment in practice the following week by putting together a solid win over the Chiefs.

Gamblor is loving underdogs again this week, and frankly, I’m glad. Favorites have been ruling the season so far (34-27 against the spread). It’s very unlikely that we’ll ever see a repeat of 2005, known as the “year of the favorite,” when favorites covered the spread at an astonishing rate of 55% and many sportsbooks flirted with bankruptcy. So you can expect the underdogs to bounce back with a vengeance as the season wears on. Here’s the summary of bets for Week 5. Good luck!

big_fan_377x566[1]As the financial divide between fan and athlete grows with each year, our superstitions are becoming all that we have to identify with our favorite teams. We rarely get to the stadium these days, because we can’t afford tickets. And when we do, too often we find ourselves sitting next to some polo shirt-wearing bozo who arrives late, yaps on his cell phone, and leaves early to avoid traffic.

So we hold fast to our lucky jerseys, rally caps, and gameday superstitions, because we know that the slightest deviation from the rituals will, through a macabre act of synchronicity, cause our team to lose, crush our dreams and bring shame upon our community. We want – no, need – to think that, in some way, we have a positive impact on their team’s performance.

But what happens when an average fan’s actions genuinely hurt the team? This is the heart of Big Fan, the new dark film by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler). It stars comedian Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) as Paul Aufiero, a 36-year old parking attendant who still lives with his mother – his childhood bedroom decked out with New York Giants memorabilia (the late-80s vintage “SIMMS 11” New York license plate was a great touch).