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As I See It

25 March 2002

During the course of the year, I do a variety of radio shows that are fun, and I hope insightful, for listeners. One that I do is with Carl Foster out of Miami on a Fox station every Friday afternoon.

This week, the crew was in Las Vegas for a taste of March Madness, and the show was broadcast live from the ESPN Zone at New York New York, on the Strip.

I am aware of, but have never been in one of, these trendy themed food factories. But I was asked to come on down and do the show from the restaurant. I agreed, knowing full well that I had probably made an error in judgment.

Throughout my career, whenever there was a big event like March Madness, my refuge was being behind the counter. I no longer frequent sportsbooks in the casinos much, making sure to really stay away at busy times. Now I know why.

Admittedly, I live in a sort of vacuum, and needed a rundown on how joints like ESPN Zone operate. For openers, the crowd was lined up to Gallup, New Mexico. To enter, you had to pay a cover charge of $8, and there was a minimum of $20 per check when you ordered. I don't know if those are standard charges or imposed just for big events like this, when demand is so high. But it was like a stickup without using a gun.

If you carded everyone there, I believe the crowd might have been down to about four people. And when the games started, every basket was met with a loud outburst, especially if the favorite scored.

You could have made Connecticut -14 over S. Illinois and the favorite would have still been on every parlay ticket.

A bookmaker's greatest savior is having a captive audience when the bettors have a Corona in one hand and four twenties in the other. They are betting third and fourth generation numbers and loving it.

Looking back on the experience, it was unique and memorable. I believe I will give the Sports Zone the F&L treatment - that is, first and last.

Looking at the Tournament, it has been very good to me so far. Like in every exercise, there are lessons to be learned, and those that get reinforced. That is one of the reasons you don't bet into bad numbers if they show against you.

This is especially true when you get down to the round of 16 and below. The oddsmakers have made adjustments and so should you. At this level, there ain't no Cinderallas, and the numbers you bet into do not leave much room for error. You will see all of your hard work go for naught if you give up your cash by betting into bad spots.

Two prime examples of how careless bettors get zapped by bad numbers were the Oklahoma-Mizzou and Maryland-Connecticut matchups. The Sooners were favored by 6 / 6½ and won by 6, while the Terps were favored by 8 / 8½ and won by 8.

No matter which side you bet, you should have either won or at the very worst gotten a push on both games. If you were on the losing side of either of these games, you have to look for another profession, or maybe just get a Corona before you make your pick with the rest of the crowd.

It's tough enough winning 53 out of 100 to eke out a profit. If you insist on betting foolishly, you need to raise that ratio to 57 out of 100 just to stay even.

The moral of this column is that whatever sport you bet into, you absolutely must have more than one out, or you might as well just mail your money in to the B.M. It would save you both time and grief.

Stay smart,

Jimmy V.

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