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Best of Andrew N.S. Glazer

Gaming Guru

 

Do You Want Advice, or Confirmation?

12 February 2000

©1999 by Andrew N. S. Glazer

I recently received the following question through the "Ask Andy" feature of my website:

"Why is the betting line on the Texas vs. Texas A&M game so low--only 2.5 points? Texas is a much better team. Thanks, Tex."

My response was:

"Usually I don't like giving sports betting advice, but in this case I don't mind because I had already been thinking about this one. My suspicion is that the bookmakers expect the public to think that the tragedy at Texas A&M will inspire the A&M team, and thus held the line down.

"The books may also actually expect that this inspiration will happen. Texas also certainly won't run up the score. So that, combined with the rivalry, and the game being at Texas A&M, adds up to a small line.

"My instinct is to stay away from betting this game, because the emotional factors will be running so high, and also--this may sound funny--out of respect for what happened to those 12 students."

The response I received was:

"You are a better bettor than I, but I am still going to put some dough down on my Longhorns. I know that it is a bad idea to bet on your own team, but I know more about the Horns than any other team. I like this bet a lot. I am looking to make a little extra Xmas money here."

Tex, as you can see, didn't really want advice; he wanted confirmation. He wrote to someone he perceived to be an expert, received advice, and ignored it, because it ran contrary to what he had wanted to do.

Sadly, Tex is far from alone.

Most of the time, when people seek gambling advice, they don't really want it; they want confirmation. They want to be told what they want to hear: either that they are right, or that they can become rich through gambling.

This principle, which may well apply even better to requests for advice outside the gambling world, explains why many con men get rich by selling worthless systems: their purchasers WANT to believe that secret systems actually exist.

If you want to be a successful recreational gambler--that is, someone whose losses bear a reasonable relationship to the amount of entertainment you get out of gambling--you can do it in one of two ways. You can lose a lot of money and learn from your mistakes, or you can ask some advice (or just read a good book), and then FOLLOW IT, even if it isn't what you wanted to hear.

Actually, attempting to earn extra Christmas money via gambling is a bad idea no matter who you're getting your gambling advice from; unless you're a professional, your gambling figures to cost you money. But if you ignore well-intentioned good advice, you'll probably be putting a lot of coal in stockings.

You sports bettors out there should NOT interpret this column to mean you should sign up for one of those 900 number sports selection services. The vast majority of the 900 number tout services are not "good sources," regardless of what sort of fantastic records they CLAIM to have picking winners.

Most sports pick sellers are just Average Joes preying on the fears, hopes, and broken dreams of sports bettors who have already figured out, the hard way, that they can't win on their own. One of the more successful touts several years ago had his four-year old son make the selections.

In the hope that you'll believe me about this, let me add that I'm not knocking the "competition" to build myself up. I don't sell sports betting selections. Never have, and probably never will.

By the way, Texas A&M won 20-16.

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer:

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer: