I hate Dustin Johnson. He owes me $10,000.
I should probably back up.
Prior to the 2015 US Open (the golf one), I barely knew of the existence of Dustin Johnson. I follow golf enough to know that he’s a pretty successful, top 10 player as of late, but I couldn’t remember specifically following him through a tournament. I certainly couldn’t remember rooting for him, nor could I probably pick his likeness from a lineup of pastel-panted, polo-wearing wood-swingers. He was just a current pro golfer to me.
But gambling on sports changes the way you think about athletes, for better or for worse.
I am not a man of many vices, thankfully. At least, not a man of particularly volatile ones. My drinking has diminished considerably, I’ve smoked maybe five cigarettes my entire life and have no knowledge of street drugs whatsoever. My addictions are caffeine, television, sub sandwiches and pretending I’m a nice guy on the internet.
With regard to smoking, I know I dodged a major bullet there, because I am admittedly a natural-born smoker. Most of my family members smoke, I was raised in a second-hand fog (every Christmas photo looks haunted), and my Anxiety forces my hands to be fiddling with anything within reach at any given time. By all accounts, I should be a chain smoker, and I’ve always been fairly cognizant of this weakness. I think the invention of cell phones helped me out, though. Now, if there’s an uncomfortable lull in conversation or I need to mentally check out of an anxious situation, I’ll get on my phone where maybe I would have stepped out for a smoke or just pummeled a guy to death with my bare hands.
I’ve been self-medicating my OCD and Anxiety tendencies since childhood in one way or another, and I’ve just been lucky enough to make the right decision more often than not (although my liver may tell you otherwise). I try to remain as logical and self-aware as I possibly can, trade bad habits for good ones when I can, and generally just try to be the person that my cats think that I am.
So anyway, back to gambling.
Gambling is one of those things I flirted with for many years, and my results were as to be expected. Once or twice a year, the Missus and I would go to a casino in the city we were vacationing in, lose about $100 and have a great time. This is a typical casino experience for a typical couple, right? No big deal, no problem. In later years, I would make small bets here and there, but nothing serious. I know some people lose $500 on a single hand of blackjack without blinking, but that’s not me. $500 is a ton of cash, which is another reason I shouldn’t be doing any of this in the first place.
Last year, something happened that effected each and every sports fan in America, whether you gambled or not. It was the pervasive, omnipresent appearance of online sports betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKings. They boasted huge jackpots, one-week Fantasy leagues and pools ranging from one cent to thousands of dollars. Best of all, the whole thing was 100% legal and safe.
Well, whatever. But that’s what they told us, at least.
Holy shit, the ads were everywhere, which should have been the first warning to those of us that hopped on board as to who was really reaping the benefits of legalized Fantasy pools. Every televised sport featured these ads, and they were plastered onto every flat surface and website in the world for a solid nine months.
I don’t gamble online, but that was only because I felt most of it was illegal and dangerous. With DraftKings assuring me that everything was on the level, I’d be a fool to not sign up! Look at all the cash everyone was winning! I want a piece of this sweet action!
In the world of Gambling, I’m the ‘I Have A System’ Guy, in that I have no ‘system’ whatsoever. I’m basically a rube in a sea of sharks when it comes to these pools; the pros with actual systems see me coming from a mile away with my change purse and clean me out before I even know what hit me. The next time you think you have a ‘system,’ ask yourself the following: “Could I gamble for a living? Could I pay my water bill and buy Christmas presents with nothing but casino winnings?” If the answer is no (and the answer is no), then so much for your stupid system.
I’m mainly saying this out loud for my own education.
So, over the last year, I’ve put around $500 into my DraftKings account. Some nights I win money back. Most nights I lose everything. I had broken even long enough, however, to take a chunk of winnings into the aforementioned 2015 US Open, where the top prize was one million dollars.
Some of you might not know this, but I sometimes analyze and create statistics for a living. Not Sports statistics, but numbers and data nonetheless. I really wanted to win that $1 million, and for all intents and purposes, I had the skill and on-the-job experience to be one of those ‘system’ guys, if only for a single tournament.
The fun (or diabolical hellfire) of a DraftKings pool is to put together a team under a certain salary cap that you believe will maximize your chances of winning to the extreme. The better players cost more money, so the risk comes in taking chances with cheaper players you feel will best maximize your salaried dollar. It can literally be as flippant or as technical as you’d like it to be.
Well, for the 2015 US Open, I was going all in. I put every last penny into the $1 Million Pool, and spent the next two weeks putting my statistical analysis skills to good use. I was intelligent enough to be one of those guys, and I knew it. I crunched numbers, researched previous tournament trends and player data. I broke each player down by the run they were on and how well they performed at this particular course in the past. I even looked at recent news stories about the players in the field to see how their personal lives were doing. I was taking this seriously, and drafted my team with a careful precision you can only conjure when $1 million is on the line and you’re trying to avoid doing your actual job at all costs.
Two of the five players on my team were Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, and you can look this up if you don’t believe me, but they were 1st and 2nd heading into the final round of the 2015 US Open. I had somehow put together a team that not only consisted of the two tournament leaders, but three other randos doing well enough to have me high into the money on Sunday afternoon. To the tune of a cool $10,000. I’m not kidding. If everything stayed the way it was with only 9 holes remaining, I would have won at least that much. Johnson and Day were absolutely on fire that weekend.
But…here’s the thing about Analytics. You can crunch a lifetime of numbers and stats in an attempt to predict the future, and sometimes you’ll hit the nail on the head, but it’s not psychic. Human beings are unpredictable, and past behavior is no guarantee of future behavior.
Dustin Johnson started to choke, and Jason Day got slammed with a bout of vertigo. Vertigo! I’ve never seen this happen to a pro golfer in a major tournament in my entire life. He couldn’t see the ball. He couldn’t look down without stumbling. He needed his caddie to take the ball out of the cup. He basically couldn’t function anymore. He fought valiantly, but started to slip further and further down the leaderboard.
They both chunked it, Jordan Dumbass Spieth won the US Open (his 2nd Major in a row), and I finished 100% out of the money. After a year on DraftKings, they had $500 of my money, and I had nothing.
Stupid Dustin Johnson. Stupid Jason Day. Stupid vertigo. You know what? I’m glad LeBron starched your wife on national television. Okay, I’m kidding. I’m very sorry, I’m just mad is all. I’m sure he lost a lot more money than I did that day.
…Why do I do this shit to myself? I’m smart enough to know that this is how gambling works with nearly everyone on the planet, and I’m smart enough to know that, statistically speaking, I am absolutely one of those people. I’m a normal man with normal logic and normal outcomes. At what point do I have to accept that this is out of my hands? That something akin to an addiction has overridden every logic sensor in my brain that tells me this is a terrible idea? Putting my cash into a timeshare or Radio Shack franchise would be a more stable investment.
So, I’m done. I closed my DraftKings account and walked away. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m just…bad at this. I’m undergoing a year of self–improvement and dammit, I’m not going to be that dude. I’m not going to let stupid, pointless vices control me. I’m not going to defy the odds at the craps table, or have an uncanny knack for picking the loosest slot machine in the casino. I’ll never be able to take the data given to me by DraftKings and put together a team better than every other team assembled by every other smartass on the planet.
I mean, to do that, you’d need to find a way to analyze years of data. To not only create a team that will be the most successful yet efficient at the same time, but also a team that isn’t selected by anyone else. Assuming there’s about 100,000 people in any given sports tournament, and the field of players can range from 30-100, and the salaries are anywhere from $4000-$15000, you’d…hang on, let me grab a piece of paper, here…and taking into consideration average points per game in tournaments past…okay, hang on…haaaaaaang on….
Okay, I think I’ve got a system here.
I’m back, baby!
Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
FRIDAY: FULLER HOUSE FRIDAY (EPISODES 2/3).