Thursday, February 17, 2011

Betting on the Golden Boy

I am in the middle of listening to Chad Millman's Behind the Bets podcast.  As we are in between the Super Bowl and the college basketball tourneys, Chad decided to talk to a friend who is a self-styled expert on Oscar betting.  Yep, there are wagers to be had.  Vegas sports books cannot take bets on such things because the Nevada Gaming Commission prohibits bets on events that are judged/voted, which are seen as more subject to manipulation.  The casinos can take bets on who might fumble first but not on the Super Bowl MVP.  But they do set the odds anyway, and off-shore betting sites (that would be online folks) do take such bets.

This podcast had some fun stuff in it, such as the guy recommending one bet on Toy Story 3 to win best animated movie.  The odds are 1/33, which means that you must bet $3300 to win $100.  That seems like a stupid bet unless you take seriously the idea that it is really free money: that Toy Story 3 is not likely to win but certain to win.  This is the kind of bet the "sharps" take all the time, like betting that the Super Bowl will not go into overtime.  The odds are stacked so that you have to bet a lot to win a little (the opposite of a long shot), but the betting pros don't mind betting a lot on a narrow gain if it is a sure thing.  And there are more sure things in Oscar betting than on a football field, like Colin Firth winning best actor, against 1/33 odds.

The most amusing but also most wrong part of the podcast: with the two guys agreeing that you have to bet on Best Director and Best Picture because why else watch the entire broadcast?  One needs action to do so.  Chad went on to say that we don't really care about the outcomes because we do not identify with the producers who get the big bucks out of this.  A surprising assertion from a guy who writes about sports--we do not identify with the owners of teams, but we root for particular teams with which we identify.

The reality is that we also identify with movies--that we find some movies to be better than others and we feel bad when others denigrate our favorites.  We feel better when our favorites do well.  The logic of identification (relying on social identity theory and folks like Donald Horowitz's logic of invidious comparisons) applies to any way we distinguish ourselves into groups and that our self-esteem then hinges on how well our group does and how well those things we identify do.  I remember the outrage I felt (and many others did) when Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love (and I liked the latter, but identified more with the former).

Overall, a very interesting podcast, including tips on how to bet on American Idol and how to parlay the obvious winners for the Oscars to bet better odds.


Unknown said...

Interesting... and yes; Colin Firth better be walking out with a statue for best actor

Brandon Valeriano said...

How do you feel about Saving Matt Damon now?