We made it.
Another season of professional football has arrived and with it, another year of the The Hypothetical SuperContest. Oh man, it feels good to be back. Last night, the Patriots and Steelers rang in the gambling new year, with Pittsburgh completing an unbelievable backdoor push that did not go unnoticed by the great Al Michaels.
If you’re new here, there’s a good chance that you didn’t understand any parts of that previous sentence other than “Patriots,” “Steelers” and “the great Al Michaels.” No worries mate, you will soon. In the mean time…
WELCOME TO THE HYPOTHETICAL SUPERCONTEST 2015
Now, if you’ve been following The Hypothetical SuperContest “since the jump,” as the kids say, feel free to skip right ahead to the end of this section. But if you’re a new reader, novice gambler or would just like a quick refresher on how this experiment works, I constructed a quick Q&A with myself last year that I believe should answer most of your questions:
What is the SuperContest?
What a great question to start with! Every year, the LVH Hotel and Casino hosts the SuperContest, advertising it as “The World’s Ultimate Pro Football Handicapping Contest.” The LVH publishes spreads for each week’s football games. Contestants then pick their best five bets each week. Those who post the best records in their picks against the spread over the course of the season win a share of the prize pool (last year the winner took home $736,575).
What makes this particular SuperContest “hypothetical”?
In order to enter the actual SuperContest, you have to pay $1,500, which is approximately $2,000 more than I have to spare at this particular juncture of my life. So instead of actually entering the SuperContest, I write a blog about it, in which I pretend to be a part of the competition and track the results of my picks.
So this is all pretend? You can’t make any money. Why do you do this?
Because I love to gamble. And I love to think about gambling. And because I don’t have American currency to gamble with, I must risk something much more valuable: my credibility. Any idiot can pick five games against the spread and go 0-5, losing a ton of money while hiding his shameful decision making skills from everyone he knows. But it takes a special kind of idiot to tell the entirety of the Internet “THESE ARE MY PICKS, AND I THINK THEY ARE GOOD.”
I am that special kind of idiot.
Why should I trust your opinion on gambling on football?
Totally valid question. Last year I finished a disappointing 40-45 ATS, but in 2013 I picked my way to a record of 46-37-2, which is pretty good. So I have proven in the past that I am not completely awful at this. Just saying.
With that said, you can totally not trust my opinion on football. I get it. I hardly trust myself half the time. And I rely a lot on .gifs to select my teams.
Fair enough. Do you have any specific goals for this project?
Sort of. The dream is to pick so well that I would have been in the money of the actual SuperContest, where the top 30 get paid. But the main goal is to make pretty good picks and entertain you. I try to go at least 3-2 every week, maybe have some 5-0 magic sprinkled in there, and pray to the gambling gods that I avoid the 0-5 week.
But this is really just about fun and giving me an excuse to keep track of my picks.
Cool idea man. I am really going to enjoy reading your Hypothetical SuperContest column this year.
Thanks man! I like to think that you will too.
Alrighty then! Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get hypothetical! Here are the Week 1 lines as listed by the SuperContest. Home team gets the asterisk.
So this is a list of the “spreads” of each game this week, as set by the LVH SuperContest. For the uninitiated, the spread is a nifty tool invented by God so that degenerates like me could gamble on every football game under the sun. We can use last night’s Patriots-Steelers game as an explanatory tool.
Going into the game last night, the dominating storyline was that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were in full EFF-YOU mode after the #deflategate debacle. Meanwhile, the Steelers were missing fantasy God Le’Veon Bell to suspension and were sporting a defense most thought to be shaky at best.
With this knowledge, if I were to bet on who would win this game, I would want to bet on the Patriots. Unfortunately, I would have a hard time finding someone that wanted to bet on the Steelers to win. Thus, the spread was invented. Last night, the Patriots were listed as favorites at -7. This means that a bet on the Pats only cashes if they won by more than 7 points. Conversely, a bet on Pittsburgh would cash if they won outright but would also hit if they lost by less points seven points. If you were watching last night, Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown in the end zone with two seconds left ensuring that the Steelers would lose by exactly seven points. Because the final score landed exactly on the number, both sides got their money back. This is known as a “push.”
Get it? Got it? Good.
On to the picks!
Raiders* (+3) over Bengals
Over the course of this column, I have been in love with multiple professional football players. While RUSSELL HUSTLE BUSTLE WILSON has long held my romantic attention on Sundays, he was joined last year by the likes of JJ Watt, Sammy Watkins and Zach Mettenberger’s facial hair. This year, my initial adoration is aimed at Amari Cooper.
The day before the NFL draft, my Pops asked me if I had any thoughts on what would happen. I expressed my love for Cooper and made the following declaration: “If I could make a bet right now that Amari Cooper gets drafted by the Raiders and have over 60 yards receiving Week 1, I would put $60 on it.”
I seem to make this mistake every year, but I like the Raiders a lot right now. Derek Carr is a gunslinger, which I like, even if he’s not a very good one. And Amari Cooper is truth. Add Michael Crabtree and Khalil Mack, who got a 91 rating in Madden this year (!), and I’m ready to paint my face silver and black.
Bears* (+7) over Packers
Washington* (+3.5) over Dolphins
Lions (+2.5) over Chargers*
Each week, the CBSSports Experts make their picks against the spread. I have always had a problem with these men being marketed as “experts,” seeing as last year only two of seven had a winning record on their picks against the spread, but I’m guessing that the distinction of “expert” is one bestowed by CBS as opposed to self-anointed.
Anyway, surveying the picks of these “experts” last year, I found an odd trend that I found a bit funny: Whenever the “experts” were unanimously on a side, that side would always lose. Although this trend evened out a little bit last year, it still holds true for Week 1. Over the past two years, the CBSSports “experts” have stood united on six games and won none of them. This year, they are unanimous on three.
Now, I don’t feel great about these picks. I’m pretty confident that Washington will be the worst team in the NFL and I think the Dolphins are pretty good, so only getting +3.5 there feels gross. Also, professional bettors have been all over the Chargers this week, so that one is a bit nauseating as well. And dear God why would anybody bet against Aaron Rodgers ever?
But this is a system that has paid off for me in the past, and thus I am hesitant to question it. Bring it on experts. I don’t believe in you at all.
Here’s to keeping streaks alive.
Eagles (-3) over Falcons*
This is a sucker bet. It absolutely REEKS of sucker bet. Public bettors are all over the Eagles, while professional bettors are putting big money on the Falcons. There are reasons to like Atlanta here: The Falcons have won seven straight home openers and Matt Ryan is 39-15 for his career in the comforts of the Georgia Dome.
But I like the Eagles this year. A lot. Maybe it’s my homerism, but I think Philly has a chance to be one of the top three teams in the league, and simply put, top three teams don’t lose to the Falcons.
Normally, this is where I would end the column, signing off with my corny yet simple and effective post-script of “Happy Sundays.” In the spirit of celebrating the 2015 football season, however, I am excited to share with you two new wrinkles to the Hypothetical SuperContest this year:
New Wrinkle 1: A Shot at SuperContest Reality
While surfing the gambling Twitterverse I came across this tweet:
@RJinVegas aka R.J. Bell is a Vegas gambling expert and ESPN radio host, according to his Twitter bio. He is also the founder of pregame.com, which is hosting a free version of the SuperContest that anyone can join on their site. The winner of this contest will have a choice of two prizes: $1,000 cash, or a free entry in next year’s SuperContest, and entry that costs $1,500. I shared this information with TwH uberlord Rory Masterson, leading to this exchange:
(Editor’s Note: Generally speaking, I like to hedge against risk. The more I think about this, however, the more the invitation to the SuperContest appeals to me. If you can beat a handful of clowns in picking football games, that could translate to a sample size a mere few thousand larger. Maybe.)
The debate is still ongoing, but I feel very strongly that if I am blessed with a season of picks good enough to win this contest, I’ll take my chances and enter the real SuperContest next year. Hopefully, next year this column will not be hypothetical.
New Wrinkle 2: Chance the Gambler
Last year, I spent a few weeks allowing random chance to dictate my picks. I threw darts, or played quarters, or flipped coins and let fate bring me glory or shame. This year, instead of using randomness to determine my picks a few times, I will actively compete against them. The plan: Each week I will make my picks based on past performance, line movement and whatever mood I am in at the time. After that, “Chance the Gambler” will make his picks based on random chance. At the end of the year, I will either have proof that the effort I put into studying football is worthwhile or evidence that none of us know anything, and if you’re going to bet on football, it’s probably best to flip a coin and go from there. The presence of Chance the Gambler also gives me an excuse to embed a Chance song once a column, which is one of my favorite things to do.
This week I kept it simple. Chance the Gambler asked Facebook and Twitter for a set of five random numbers between 3-32, with each number corresponding to a selection in the SuperContest.
Facebook came through:
Twitter failed miserably:
Side Note: follow me @tylerlauletta if you’re into that.
Chance the Gambler’s selections are as follows:
Chargers* (-3) over Lions
Broncos* (-4.5) over Ravens
Bears* (+7) over Packers
Panthers (-3) over Jaguars*
Buccaneers* (-3) over Titans
And there you have it folks! Eat, drink and be merry. Gambling is back. Life is good. I’m already looking forward to seeing you guys again next week.