So, as you might have read last time, Nora got swept up in her office’s NFL gambling pool.
She isn’t the only one. According to the American Gaming Association, over 11 million Americans bet on the NFL in 2019 as part of a sports pool, squares contest or paid fantasy contest. About 31% of people who bet on the NFL do so through pools, slightly up from the year before, when the U.S. Supreme Court opened a path for all states to get into the bookmaking business. Overall, 54 million people – nearly one in four American adults – participate in a betting pool annually.
Football Love + Gambling Aversion = ?
Nora loves football, but not in a day-to-day type of way; she doesn’t ever know or care who is winning or which players are injured. Her love is more of an appreciation of how a game forms the perfect background to accompany student credit checks, and school spreadsheet manipulations.
And she doesn’t like gambling. She’s never bought a lotto ticket or darkened the door of a casino. She’s naturally cautious – with her safety and her money – and knows that it’s rigged to the house’s benefit. She’s not morally opposed to betting in moderation though.
Nora might not have gotten caught up in the office betting hype, except a close-proximity colleague kept winning, and seemed to have fun doing it. So in week 9, she ponied up the $2 entrance fee.
I typically do a basic daily skim of NFL game results and standings and superstar injuries, so Nora asked me to pick winners and losers for her first entry in Week 9.
Since the betting line isn’t taken into consideration in her pool, I employed my highly-scientific technique of picking the favored team when it was predicted to win by 4 points or more, and the underdog otherwise.
Seemed solid at the time, but out of 13 competitors, ‘we’ came in dead last, with 6 correct picks. Nora forwarded the results email to the family with this pep talk:
Final embarrassing results. Okay team, we need to start researching now. I have the form and we will do it tonight before homework, before ice cream, before dinner, before bathroom time. We need to up our game.
My ‘Reply All’ response:
Nailed the Monday Nighter! Woohoo! Wait, did you say before ice cream? Them’s fighting words.
Upping our game the following week (Week 10) meant turning over the picking to Grey. The result? Only 4 correct picks, tied for last. Although we had company – it was Upset Weekend, with the winner only picking 8 games correctly.
Which got me thinking: Maybe we can compete with having a quarter flip pick every game. We would certainly do better than four.
We rocketed to 7 correct picks (no surprise: half the games), but it was Favorites Weekend, and the winner had 13 correct.
Every week, Nora changed her picks advisor, like George Steinbrenner on speed, with middling results. Stepfather in week 13 put her in the middle of the pack. Same for college roommate Fiona in week 14.
Week 15 was the final betting week, as school would be out after that. Nora had run through all her NFL-knowledgeable friends and family and it was late in the school day on Thursday, when Thursday Night Football would be played. Her picks were due in 30 minutes.
Into her office walked one of her students. “Hey Andre, what do you know about football?” She flashed the picks sheet.
“I got you,” he responded confidently. He filled it out in minutes without a glance at his phone, including a prediction of 40 combined points for the Monday nighter (for tie-breaking).
The Kid is Alright
Fast forward a few days and Nora was tied for first place with two other educators, with one game – MNF – to go. All three had the same Monday prediction, so it would come down to the combined points prediction. Nora (Andre) had 40, versus 44 and 69. If it was a defensive battle, Nora would win.
I went to bed on Monday with the Saints up on the Colts 20-0 at the half. A promising start, but I knew Jacoby Brissett wouldn’t be shut out.
The following morning, I lunged for my iPhone and pulled up the game. Final score: 34-7! One more point and Nora would have had to share her winnings with her colleague. Two more, and she would have been out of the money entirely.
There were 18 entries in week 15, so at $2 per entry, Nora was suddenly $36 richer.
What to Do with Sudden Windfall?
“Are you taking us all out to eat…at McDonald’s? Or paying .002% of Pippa’s tuition bill?” I asked.
“First, I’m giving half of it to Andre,” she replied.
“Are you sure?” I said. He had zero skin in the game, and giving him half would leave Nora with $18 – only $4 more than she had paid in 2019 betting pool entry fees. I could feel my McNuggets dinner slowly slipping away, replaced by a checkout line snickers.
And was she worried about hooking an impressionable youth on the thrill of gambling, perhaps introducing a lifetime of mirthless slot machine button-pushing in windowless casino halls?
No, she was not. “Andre is going places,” she said, “don’t worry about him.”
Perhaps I was projecting. Maybe I was the one who had gotten caught up in this gambling thing.
Nothing to do but quit cold turkey. Until September anyway.