Learning in Atlantic City: Taking My New Knowledge to Sportsbooks

Over the past two days, you’ve followed my journey from sports betting neophyte to diligent student (words I never thought would come from my mouth). But now the time has come. I need to put my newfound confidence to the test. And what better place to start than “America’s Playground,” Atlantic City?

Getting to Atlantic City is simple, though it could be a lot simpler. There are no direct trains, so I had to take the bus. I’m glad I did, because I caught the excitement of my fellow riders and was rapt with anticipation of the riches surely awaiting us. Excited whispers filled the bus, as well as the fairly strong odor of booze. I’m sure that some guys on a bachelor party were on the bus with me.

To many good-time bettors who go to Atlantic City or Vegas or any other casino, the goal is to have fun, not make money. Obviously, these are the people who lose money, because they make poor choices, lose some money, then bet more money in an attempt to win back the money they previously lost and end up losing everything. I can’t let that happen to me. So, I’ve got to be disciplined.

It’s a funny thing, discipline. Theoretically, it’s very easy to grasp. You simply have rules that you need to follow in order to succeed. If you don’t follow the rules, you fail. Easy and clear-cut. But putting self-discipline into practice? That’s much harder.

First, though, I want to tell you about arriving in Atlantic City. I stayed at the old Madison Hotel, about a block from the Boardwalk. It’s a fairly well-kept hotel, despite lacking many of the amenities that the big casinos have. Nevertheless, I was glad that I opted not to stay at a hotel with a casino. It gives you an opportunity to remove yourself and do some good thinking and evaluating. However, it was really striking to see the juxtaposition of the gleaming casinos and dilapidated buildings. On the Boardwalk, all the façades shine and beckon with dancing lights, but take a few steps inland and you’ll see many empty lots and even abandoned houses. For example, just across from my hotel was a vast expanse that could’ve easily accommodated either a small casino or a large hotel.

After checking in, I realized that in order to experience Atlantic City properly, I’d be spending a lot of time walking up and down the Boardwalk. Fine by me. The sights and sounds were enough to let me know that I certainly wasn’t in Manhattan anymore. I witnessed seagulls flying and calling out, and excited groups of drunken gamblers. I heard shouts of “we’re doing so good” mixed in with equally loud shouts of “I’m so wasted, bro.” Seeing a variety of people like this made me realize something: My foray into sports gambling is unusual. Most of the other gamblers were there to participate other gambling that have been legal for decades, as opposed to only 13 months for sports gambling in New Jersey. What I’m saying is that it still isn’t in the public consciousness that sports betting is a reason to go to Atlantic City. Many people still consider Vegas to be the only place to really do that.

When I started wagering, I employed some of the new strategies I’ve learned, along with a few I knew would help me out, like roster analysis. That means evaluating the most recent performances and individual trends: how the athletes perform against certain opposition, whether they’re better in home or away games, and much more. Using the data I found in various American models helped for baseball and UFC, but for soccer, I had to take a different approach. In evaluating the soccer matches, I had to do old-school number crunches and more traditional scouting tactics on competing teams, understanding what their lineups would be, what tactics they would be using, whether the manager had a reputation of being attack-minded or defensive-minded, etc.

Additionally, something that helped considerably with my UFC betting was simply watching videos. It’s rudimentary, and technically involves zero data, but it is still incredibly effective. By watching video, you get a sense of what the fighters do in the ring: how they behave, attack, defend and everything in between. This also works well in other sports when trying to figure out how teams or individuals will play.

In addition, I set some rules for myself: No drinking and no playing parlays. I made the first rule because I didn’t want to see myself choosing foolishly because I was drunk. I made the second rule for myself because, as I detailed in the last article, parlays are a money vacuum that you will never conquer.

Of course, I found that I had a problem: I always end up breaking a rule. Thankfully, I kept the first one. But being the good ol’ rebel that I am, I broke the second one within an hour of arriving, and I placed a $20 bet on a 7-leg parlay on English Premier League soccer. I bet on Liverpool to beat Norwich City (happened), Manchester City to beat West Ham (happened), Bournemouth to beat Sheffield United (they drew), Watford to beat Brighton & Hove Albion (Watford lost 3-0), Tottenham to beat Aston Villa (happened), Wolverhampton Wanderers to beat Leicester City (they tied), and Arsenal to beat Newcastle United (happened).

Part of the allure of a parlay is that you can win a lot of money. For example, I bet $20 and would’ve won $819.75 had the parlay paid out. This mirage deceives countless people because they become enamored with the possibility of winning large sums of money and fail to realize the minute possibility of hitting such long odds. Just by a standard parlay calculator, I later found out that the odds of hitting my 7-leg parlay were 100-1. NOT GOOD.

Why did I go against my own advice, then? I made it very clear to myself that I was not going to do it, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the result of my actions. Looking back, I think I was enamored with the idea of winning big in Atlantic City. I think I broke my rule because of the seductive allure and excitement of the experience. The aroma of success is very intoxicating yet fleeting. Everyone thinks that they can achieve it, but very few are successful. Thankfully, I didn’t make another parlay bet.

After that, I stuck to placing smart bets that I knew were going to win. I’ve found that this is the key with sports betting: it’s not about betting on the underdogs and winning a lot of money. It’s smarter to bet on slight favorites and increase your bankroll that way.

But there’s another part of betting that I learned about: luck. Despite setting rules for myself, doing research on matchups and evaluating chance, the ever-present factors of good and bad luck are constant. In fact, it’s because of bad luck that I left Atlantic City with a deficit.

I bet $20 on Wolverhampton Wanderers to beat Leicester City. The match was very even, but Wolves scored a goal. However, the English Premier League instituted VAR (Video Assistant Replay) this season, and the goal was disallowed for a handball. The game ended in a draw, so my $51 gain turned into a $20 loss, all because of a new rule. Also, I placed two bets on the Newcastle United-Arsenal match, a $20 bet for Arsenal to win and a $10 bet for Arsenal to win by two goals. Arsenal won the match, but only by a single goal. The reasons why it wasn’t a two-goal win? Henrikh Mhikitaryan skied a golden chance over the crossbar and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a shot at his second goal of the match because he lost a race with the goalkeeper.

These are just two examples of how, even when you do your research and are sure that something will go your way, unknown forces conspire to work against you. Unfortunately, it can’t be helped.

By the end of my two-day sports gambling bender, I realized that I actually did respectably well. I started with a stake of $300, and I left with a total of $262, a net loss of just $38, or a small 12.7%. My overall win-loss record was 7-8, about 46.7%. Not so bad. However, when you consider that the goal of sports betting, or betting in general, is to make money, so I can only interpret this as a negative.

The experience of betting in person was unexpectedly thrilling. I found this out time and time again throughout my weekend there. The excitement that’s in the air, the flashing lights, sharing the experience with fellow casino attendees, all brimming with joy — it’s all part of a wonderful experience that makes betting even more fun than it already is. I struck up conversations with fellow sports junkies in the sportsbooks and they helped me to be more successful in my betting. However, these conversations can also work against you. For instance, I had a discussion that helped me settle on betting on a draw between Crystal Palace and Everton. However, I had another conversation which convinced me to bet on UFC featherweight champion Valentina Shevchenko to score a KO in the first round. That was a really bad idea, as the fight went the full five rounds, and Shevchenko won by unanimous decision.

Putting the good and bad stuff aside, however, I loved my experience in Atlantic City. Seeing the people, whether they’re first-timers, regulars or lovably degenerate gamblers, the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk were great and it surely won’t be the last time I go (though I might consider staying at a different hotel). But now is the time to truly put my skills to the test. I’ve done all the theoretical learning, as well as have some boots-on-the-ground experience, so now it’s time to really test myself.

Sin City, here I come.

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