“Ninety percent of our betting handle on BCS futures comes from recreational bettors,” Tony Miller, sports book boss at the Golden Nugget, told me as part of an article I wrote for Grantland.com last week.
This fact made perfect sense to me, since for the casual fan, a future bet offers not only the chance for a big win, but also season-long action plus the physical ticket can be a conversation-starter back home and a Las Vegas souvenir.
Most bettors lose in the long-run. Yet, upwards of a trillion dollars is bet worldwide each year on sports, and often it’s hard to find a seat to play the popular machines on the casino floor. Obviously, reasons other than profit drive the desire to gamble.
The broad answer is simple: escape. The detailed answers are less clear. Many are bored by their lives, doing the same things day after day – things that are far from exciting. So they crave adventure.
Then there’s the minority who approach gambling as a job. Jobs are work – exactly what the majority of gamblers are trying to escape. But the profit-seekers embrace the work as what separates them from the losers. The very best operate as elite professionals, similar to top lawyers and accountants. Others come close to having what it takes, but either fall just short of the required talent, or allow their emotional needs to get in the way.
Not having to deal with people and authority is a big part of the occasional escape craved by the recreational gambling. But for many pros, their intolerance to social stresses makes the significant tradeoffs required to be a professional gambler worth the cost.
Yet, some are unwilling to accept the tradeoff, unable to go without the affirmation from others. Winners win from bookmakers, and make the market tougher for other bettors – not the recipe for appreciation from those groups.
Winners who share insights gain a following and respect, but these trolls would never sacrifice profit to smarten up the suckers.
Nothing is wrong with a self-interested gambler. In some ways, the outlaw who is so good he doesn’t have to take the garbage or ask for help is the gambler’s ideal.
Think Billy Walters and Phil Ivey. To some, those guys are heroes. They are to me in some ways.
Heroes are not needy. Selfish people should not expect appreciation. Thinking otherwise is illogical – and often this lack of logic is the telling sign of a lack of profit.
The tradeoff only makes sense if there’s a payoff. Tell them that the next time you run into this type online. Just don’t expect them to thank you.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]