Easy money – just a fantasy for the college gambler

It didn’t matter that the Panthers couldn’t overcome Favre on Monday night. By the end of the first week of the NFL season, I was already 5-10. That 11th loss was just an extra nail in my coffin. Out of 16 games, I only picked five of the winners. Thanks to my worst week ever, I would be out a whole…$0.

There are people over the years who haven’t been as lucky. America is full of stories of bookies banging on doors and bricks flying through windows. Gambling has even brought down high-profile athletes like Pete Rose and former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson. But it couldn’t happen here, right?

I consider myself a lucky amateur when it comes to picking pro football games. If I had money down, it’s a given that I would choke. Hell, I can’t even cope with a point spread.

I used to take part in the whole fantasy-football experience; picking my players, watching the statlines and screaming at head coaches to just give my running back the damn ball and get the touchdown (I mean, the receiver they threw it to isn’t on my team; ergo it is a bad decision).

I gave up on it when the reality of fantasy football tried to pounce on my empty wallet. I’m not about to drop $29.95 per team to remind myself how much I suck. Hubris is much cheaper than that (take that ESPN!), even at the bulk rate (who would need to buy more than one team anyway? A little neurotic, if you ask me).

Both the idea of picking winners and the fantasy sports craze have been stuck in the consciousness of sports, and with this comes the ugly head of gambling, which has come out of the smoke-filled basement and into the friendly lights of cable.

ESPN has found a ratings hit in the “World Series of Poker” in the last three years, the “World Poker Tour” has helped the Travel Channel and even the celebrities are helping on Bravo. With the successes of Robert Varkonyi, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer in the WSOP (relative no-names before the tournament) people are beginning to believe that they, too, can win big money easily. This dream has led more people to Binion’s Horseshoe Casino as a blind pilgrimage.

To put this in perspective, in 2000 there were 4,780 entrants in a variety of events, according to casinodailynews.com. This May, there were 2,576 people in the championship event alone; triple the number in 2003. Overall, there were 13,000 gamblers feeding a pool of over $25 million.

The one stat I didn’t see plainly stated was how many people went home empty-handed or worse off than they started. That’s the part that stays in Vegas.

With this “easy” money floating around, it’s easier to get hooked on the fast track to riches. Double a dollar eight times and you can cover a textbook or two. Eleven times and you can cover tuition for the semester. Twelve times; the year.

Making a few bucks on the side is a nice thing. At least that’s what 35 percent of male athletes and 10 percent of female athletes essentially proclaimed in an National Collegiate Athletic Association gambling study.

Some of you may be thinking this is a football thing and it doesn’t apply to Chico State, or this is a big school/Division I problem. The only problem is, the least number of responses came from the big schools. The most? Division III. Chico State is a Division II school. In other words, it’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s not in the best shape.

So take this as a word of caution: scratch a lotto, but don’t burn yourself.

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