Sweat-Free Sunday Is Anything But For A Novice High-Roller

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Injury-prone folks should avoid using tools like electric hedge clippers.

Easily terrified? That local “haunted house” might not be the place for you.

If a down escalator is enough to make you nervous, you might want to reconsider the idea of going skydiving.

And — as I learned all too well in the first two weeks of the NFL season — if you’re a risk-averse sports bettor, trying four-figure wagers could be a lousy idea, no matter what the outcome.

After writing a recent article on the various promotional offerings by New Jersey-based sportsbooks, I realized that — based on an honest consideration of my bottom-line financial status — I could afford to make a much higher wager than usual, without threat of the bills not getting paid at the end of the month.

I noticed that the biggest promotion of all was for a wager of up to $1,250 with Caesars Sportsbook. While this was for new customers only and I already had an account with most of the major sportsbooks, the incessant stream of TV commercials in my region since mobile sports betting launched in neighboring New York state in January had not enticed me to sign up with Caesars.

The hedging began early

Even as I launched my plan, a little voice inside suggested I put up $1,000 instead of $1,250. This, perhaps, was a warning that I was venturing into waters that were way over my head.

Still, the “risk-free” angle meant that even if I lost my $1,000 bet — also known as 100 times my usual level — I could always win on the second chance, and all would be right with the world.

Of course, that was naive, because losing the first bet would lock in a loss of $90.91 if I chose to fully hedge my second bet, in that a losing $1,000 first bet would be offset by a mere $909.09 win on a standard -110 wager on my second bet. And $90.91 is a larger one-day net loss than I have ever had.

So, as the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis liked to say, “Just win, baby!”

I tried a wager of $1,000 in Week 1 of the New England Patriots getting what felt like a generous 3½ points against the Miami Dolphins. In a mostly uneventful game, all three bounces on key turnovers went the Dolphins’ way in a 20-7 win — and a big loss for me.

Back for Round 2

The next step, I thought, was to contemplate the worst — a Week 2 selection that also crapped out, leaving me $1,000 poorer.

A key error on my part was thinking that because, logically, I could afford to lose that amount, it wouldn’t really bother me. But for most of us, logic goes out the window when it comes to gambling. So I was in a grim mood in the 24 hours between my placing of the first bet and kickoff — and the end result didn’t improve matters.

As Week 2 arrived, I got to thinking seriously about whether I should just hedge my next bet entirely and slink away with that guaranteed $90.91 loss rather than “letting it ride” and trying to win the $1,000 second-chance bet. It was only late on Saturday night, after I felt I had completed the “five stages of grief” and accepted that I could be out the $1,000 investment, that I arrived at the answer: If I added $1,000 to one of my other existing sportsbook accounts and made the opposite $1,000 bet,  I would be extricating myself completely from about 90% of the risk. This was the better move for me.

After checking in with a colleague, I posted an extra $1,000 to my DraftKings account. My Sunday NFL wager on Caesars was to give 2½ points with the Patriots, so all I had to do was find the same number on DraftKings with the underdog Steelers.

But as I looked for a line on the game, I noticed that instead of the Steelers getting 2½ points, at DraftKings they were getting 3 points. Worried that the line — which was only 2 points earlier in the week — would on a moment’s notice drop back to 2½ points, I quickly grabbed the extra half-point at +3.

A ‘sweat-free’ Sunday

So now, not only had I avoided the dreaded potential $1,000 loss, there was a tiny chance of a lucrative “partial middle” — that is, a 3-point win by the favorite would be worth $909.09 on Caesars as a cover, while I would break even on the DraftKings bet, thanks to the slightly better line.

So I followed my pick of the Patriots — yes, them again — and my bet on the Steelers as well. It was another low-scoring affair, with the Pats never trailing.

An early 3-0 lead was ideal, and 10-3 and 10-6 were potentially manageable. But after a third-quarter touchdown gave the Patriots a 17-6 lead, the “dream” of that partial middle seemed to be on life support.

What were the odds that the Steelers would score the next touchdown and then, with hapless quarterback Mitch Trubisky, also convert a needed two-point conversion? Far better than I dreamed, as Trubisky’s short pass led to the magic score of 17-14.

The teams exchanged a series of four punts in the fourth quarter, leaving the Patriots with the ball and 6:33 remaining. I couldn’t bring myself to follow the play-by-play, so instead I just watched the NFL Red Zone channel and prayed I would never see a Pats or Steelers uniform again.

A 16-yard Patriots run drew a TV highlight because it got the team within field-goal range with 2:23 left in the game. Just after the two-minute warning, a five-yard run to the Steelers’ 20 produced a first down.

From there, the Pats were able to take three kneel-downs by quarterback Mac Jones and run out the clock on a much-beloved (by me) 17-14 victory.

It’s not over ’til — what Yogi said

I cautiously checked with a colleague that this means I win that miraculous $909.09, and the answer was “yes.”

About an hour later, I checked my Caesars account, and there was exactly that amount of profit to my name.

And on DraftKings — wait, why is my Steelers +3 bet listed as “suspended”? And why has my extra $1,000 disappeared from my account? I didn’t win that +3 points bet, but I didn’t lose, either, after all. I should have gotten the wager refunded. What gives?

An online conversation with DraftKings went smoothly, at first. Then came the shocker: In my haste to ensure getting the +3 point spread, I failed to notice that my bet actually was for the exact same point spread for a Week 3 Steelers-Cleveland Browns game coming up on Thursday!

The odds, so to speak, of the Steelers having an identical point spread for both games were rather long. But there it was.

It was explained to me that, of course, DraftKings couldn’t accept a wager on a game that had been completed just because I’m telling them it’s the wager I meant to make. And eventually, I realized something: Had the Steelers beaten the Patriots or lost by only one or two points, I would have believed that I had successfully hedged — only to find out that I lost the $1,000 bet on Caesars and had won nothing at all on DraftKings.

But in the moment, I was just focused on the fact that all I was asking for was to walk away from a $1,000 bet on Steelers-Browns in Week 3 that I never intended to make.

In my favor was the fact that it’s not as if some external factor had changed, to where I was trying to escape from a +3 Steelers-Browns line that had become extremely unappealing. And the coincidence of the identical lines also could earn me sympathy.

Going against me was the fact that the mistake was mine, not the operator’s — and there was the curious and noticeable consideration that a $10 bettor mysteriously woke up to wager $1,000 on a single game.

Still, the DraftKings representative seemed sympathetic and promised to send a notice to the review committee. An hour or two later came this reply: “Thanks for taking the time to reach out to us via chat today. I am following up with you regarding the Steelers bet that was accidentally placed for Thursday’s game instead of today’s. After consulting with my team, they have denied your void request at this time due to the bet being placed as a user error and not a technical error. While I know this was not the answer you were looking to receive, I hope that I was able to help clear things up for you. ”

On the hook for $1,000?

So now I have a $909.09 win on Caesars on Steelers-Patriots, and nothing on DraftKings except a $1,000 bet on the Steelers +3 against the Browns on Thursday.

Am I ready to let it ride, after all this tumult? Hell no! I should just place a $1,000 wager at Caesars on the Browns -3 points, again at -110 odds. If I do that, then I have my $909.09 win, but would lose $90.91 on Thursday as my penalty for a careless bet, for a net win of $818.18.

But wait: The line on the Browns-Steelers game at Caesars is 3½ points — meaning that if the Browns only win by exactly 3 points, which I have learned is quite possible, then I lose $1,000 on one bet and break even on the other.

So what I should do is shop around for a Browns -3 line, and if I can’t find one, I should accept DraftKings’ cash-out offer — currently $835.40 to walk away from my $1,000 wager.

The latter scenario would leave a net profit from this saga of $744.49. Then again, if the line somewhere goes to Browns only 2½, then I could play that for $1,000 and if … ah, forget it.

Even with a nice, lucky payout on Sunday, the whole experience has been utterly draining for me. Take me back to my $10 bets, and I’ll redirect my winnings to something I’d actually enjoy.

No sharp utensils, no haunted houses, no skydiving excursion. More like New York Mets playoff tickets, where the only danger is of a broken heart. I suppose we all choose our own risks, after all.

Photo: David Dermer/USA TODAY

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