Prop Bets and Drunken Monkeys

I have to knock out this article fairly quickly. In less than two hours, I will be taking my seat in the Drunken Monkey Open.

It's a private poker tournament with a buy-in of just a buck fifty, and it has a unique perk that I will get to in a minute.

If you are a beginning poker player, or even if you know what you are doing but are unwilling or unable to put your own money up yet, freerolls are a great way to earn money, and most of the players are terrible. You can fold your way into the money in some of them.

But there are two downsides to playing freerolls. One, they can be quite time consuming, as some sites will allow and get thousands of players. Most of them will be long gone by the end of the first hour, but it still can be a drain.

Secondly, there's a limit to how much you can really grow and improve by just playing freerolls. There's a very simple reason for this, and it's the same reason why you will be a better basketball player in 30 days playing one-on-one against Kobe Bryant than you will be playing 30 straight days against your fat uncle Murray.

There is a better way, and it is through private freerolls. There's approximately 90 billion poker forums on the web, and I belong to all of them, just to get passwords to the freerolls they host.

Since they are private and you have to jump through a couple minor hoops to get in it, the fields rarely hit four digits and sometimes don't even don't even hit three.

So there's less players to wade through to get to the money, but the tradeoff is that your opponents jumped through the same hoops and so are quite a bit better than your average public freeroller. But this is a good tradeoff, because it makes you a better player. Just click on the "private" tab of any poker site, peruse the tournaments' names, and with Google's help, you can work your way to the site or forum hosting the tourney.

Most of them have unimaginative names, like the Wednesday Poker Tournament, so when someone bothers to call their private games something with panache, like the Drunken Monkey Open, I take notice.

Even though it's not technically a freeroll, the Drunken Monkey Open has a cool perk. I don't know if it has something to do with contractual obligations, but two pros, Scott Clements and Keith Sexton, will be playing in it ... and only 30 people have signed up for it thus far.

Scott Clements, whom I have seen on TV before, has tournament winnings of over a million in less than three years, and that was before he won the World Poker Tour North American Championship for $1.5 million in October.

Sexton is less known to me, but he has been runner-up in two WSOP events and a loads more WPT and WSOP cashes.

And I will be playing these guys tonight, for less than half the price of a pack of smokes. This is what makes poker great.

But how can I be talking about poker with the Super Bowl in just a couple days?

Each year, the various sportsbooks try to dream up new, inventive ways for you to bet on the game. Wagers made up out of thin air, like the goofy one-off bets you make with your friend that he can't eat five double cheeseburgers or whatever, are called prop bets.

The prop bets surrounding the Super Bowl are legion. There's tons of them, but this year, the bookmakers apparently decided "Screw it, were gonna do some bets just for larfs." Consider the prop bets surrounding the halftime performer, Tom Petty, at BetUS:

Smokes a joint during halftime show +2500
Has a wardrobe malfunction +10000
Streaks field during play +50000
Will smash a guitar onstage +5000
Will curse during performance +8000

What the numbers mean is that, if you bet a dollar that Tom Petty will smash his guitar onstage and he does, you win $50. If you bet a dollar that he will streak and he does, it's $500. I think I have that right. I'm a pointspread guy.

So do the odds, when compared to one another, quite make sense? I think the earnest analysis at Vegas Watch, where I picked up the scent, is both hilarious and captures my initial thoughts on the matter:

"I'm confused as to how the joint prop is the most likely. Tom Petty cannot smoke a joint during his performance. It's just not a possibility."

I can't add to that. Actually, I can. According to the odds, the folks at BetUS think it is more than three times more likely that Petty will smoke a joint onstage then just carelessly let the f-bomb drop.

It's not possible, is it? Bookmakers make money on this stuff; it's their livelihood. They know things before the rest of us do. Do they know something here we don't? Now I'm trying to decide how establishment Tom Petty is. I guess he's more capable of making a "f-you, status quo!" gesture like that than, say, Hannah Montana.

So I broke into BetUS offices to see if I could dig up any inside information. I couldn't, but I did discover they apparently decided on this wager awhile ago, before Tom Petty was decided and announced as the halftime entertainment. Here is the list of toke-up odds they were prepared to give other entertainers, in its entirety.

Tom Petty: +2500
The Cast of High School Musical: +40000
GWAR: +100
Menudo: +25000
Amy Winehouse: -2500

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