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It is a truth universally acknowledged that an American man in possession of money bets on sports. Probably football. But a lot of people are betting on American Idol, too.
And so, last night, when Idol frontrunner Pia Toscano met the unyielding axe of an absent-minded American public last night, the studio audience booed. Some people at home were baffled, too. Not least among them was Adam Young, head oddsmaker at Bodog.com.
"Pia was the favorite to win the whole competition, at 2:1," he says. "She was the best singer there, and she had been a big loser for us." (Pia had opened at 30:1 odds to be eliminated last night, though she was down to 15:1 by showtime.)
If you think that Young was surprised only as an Idol fan, think again. So far, total bets on Idol make up about 25 percent the size of the total action taken so far on the Masters. Betting on reality TV: a tradition unlike any other.
Young says that this year's bunch of contestants—especially those still around—represented an unusual level of parity for Idol. But there's an undeniable trend so far in the competition: five female contestants have been eliminated in succession, leaving only Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart on the distaff side.
Alaina is one of Bodog's new favorites, at 5:2, alongside teenage country crock Scotty McCreery, whose facial expressions conjure fuzzy memories of Will Ferrell playing George W. Bush.
Gawker's Richard Lawson, who watches over this vast ash heap like the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, thinks Scotty's going to win.
Lawson says: "It doesn't trouble me, I think it's wonderful. But it should trouble the show, deeply. This was supposed to be the big restorative year that saw a new Kelly or Carrie crowned. Instead it's dopey boy novelty acts. There are six guys left, most of whom have no commercial potential, and only two girls."
"It's not necessarily the best singer that wins," Young says. "Adam Lambert lost to—uh, that guy, what's his name." Kris Allen, I say. "Exactly, Adam Lambert's a star, and where is Kris Allen right now?"
So, who's this year's Kris Allen? Perhaps Haley Reinhart, who was once 75:1 odds to win the whole thing. Now she's down to 7:1. Young says Bodog took a fair amount of action on Haley at 75:1—after she had appeared in the bottom three vote-getters for two straight weeks—so they'll take a big loss if she wins.
Lawson says, "Seasons past have been less erratic, but yeah, I don't think this year is a good year for Idol gambling."
It is, however, a very good year for Bodog, who has taken action on Idol two to three times the size of any previous year's wagers. Young says that wagering has increased as voting on Idol has increased—although most of the voters appear to be SMS-happy teenage girls. Phone-based predictor DialIdol had Pia in third last night, which lends credence to a texting-owns-Idol theory.
Says Lawson, "I would say that it's very hard to align adult brain wiring with that of teenage girls, so predictions are often wrong."
And here we are now.
Your current odds to win, from Bodog:
Casey Abrams 8/1
Haley Reinhart 7/1
Jacob Lusk 14/1
James Durbin 7/2
Lauren Alaina 5/2
Paul McDonald 14/1
Scott McCreery 5/2
Stefano Langone 20/1
Hard to believe we're devoid of smart plays when we're just down to eight. Such is Idol. Could you bet on James Durbin without hating yourself? Because that might be the play.
Aside from that, you might want to consider the Nashville Predators at 16:1 to win the Western Conference or 35:1 to win the Cup—Pekka Rinne is untouchable and still under the radar. It's all in the arbitrage, but you knew that already.
Reader Cheery Grouch writes in:
Attached is a photo (click to enlarge) of my bad beat from February 3rd. I don't know if it really qualifies, but it sure was heart-wrenching. As you can see, I had 4 out of 5 and the Wild Card. It paid $500, which was nice. 5 out of 5 would have been $380,000. Goddamnit.
Here's reader Jason:
Every year, a group of my high school friends and I attend a University of Iowa football road game. We all grew up in Iowa and are die-hard Hawkeye fans. In 2004, Iowa played Arizona State in Tempe, so naturally, this was the game we picked to attend. I had just moved to Vegas a couple months prior and a number of my friends were going to fly into Vegas to spend a couple of days, and then we would drive down to Tempe. As we were leaving Vegas, we stopped at a sports book and I placed a $550 (to win $500) wager on the game to go under 47.5. The day of the game, Iowa looked like they wanted to be anywhere but on the field against ASU. Andrew Walter looked like he was a Heisman trophy candidate and the halftime score was 27-0. Things didn't get any better in the second half, and my crew left the stadium mid-way through the fourth quarter with Iowa losing 44-0. The Hawkeyes were going to get beat, but I still had a chance to win my bet.
My friends and I got back to our tailgate spot, recommenced drinking and listened to the game on the radio. Neither offense was doing much during mop-up time in the fourth quarter until ASU put together a couple of first downs and moved the ball to mid-field with about a minute left in the game. I started getting a little nervous, but ASU's drive stalled and they were forced to punt with 30 seconds left in the game. Once I heard the announcer say the punter got the punt away I turned to one of my friends and said "Iowa may have gotten rolled, but at least I won my bet." Iowa would get the ball and run one fullback dive to kill the clock. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account Walner Belleus.
Belleus was a juco transfer that was supposed to be Iowa's next great defensive back. He wasn't. He played one season at Iowa and never did anything remarkable. Except one play against Arizona State. Belleus took the punt at his own 17 and proceed to turn into Forrest Gump by taking the punt 83 yards for a touchdown. Belleus crossed the goal line with 18 seconds left to make the score ASU 44 Iowa 7. 3.5 points over the total. Damn you Walner Belleus.
Do you have your own private Walner Belleus? You know what to do.
"What Will Charlie Sheen Do Next?" props, from Paddy Power:
To cancel the Torpedo of Truth tour 11/10
To marry both his Goddesses 12/1
To move into the Playboy mansion 33/1
To enter rehab 7/2
Get 10 million Twitter followers 16/1
To move in with Mel Gibson 40/1
To have a US Billboard No 1 Single with Snoop Dogg 4/1
To produce and release his own movie 25/1
To become a Born-Again Christian 40/1
To tweet that he is God 4/1
To go to prison 25/1
To get back with Denise Richards 50/1
To be taken back on board for another season of Two and a Half Men 9/2
To go AWOL for more than 7 days 25/1
To win an Oscar 200/1
25/1 to produce and release his own movie? Not saying, just saying. Anyone know if Major League 4 would count?