- The 2018 Gambling Olympics is a two-day, 12-person contest taking place in Las Vegas on July 9-10. The buy-in is $2,500, and the winner gets $10,000.
- Before the Main Event, some participants will compete in preliminary contests, such as a 6-mile run by Jonathan Bales.
The total prize pool for the Gambling Olympics is $30,000, with $10,000 being paid to first, $6,000 to second and $4,000 to third. The winning team also receives $10,000.
Before the Main Event, several participants will engage in a series of prop bets, some of which are already scheduled and more of which will undoubtedly arise from the moment.
You can read about the completed props in my previous Gambling Olympics journals.
Before, during and after the Gambling Olympics, we will provide extensive coverage via participant profiles, event breakdowns and live in-person analysis. Be sure to follow all the action in the Gambling Olympics section of the site.
6:23 a.m. PT: The House – The Text from Bales
Jonathan Bales randomly texts me at 6:23 in the morning and says there’s something in the bathroom that I should see. I assume he dropped a donut-plagued deuce in the toilet and didn’t flush it so that I’ll discover it. That guy is such a joker. It’s lucky I have this hazmat suit.
In Vegas, getting ready for a night on the town. pic.twitter.com/LP39dhc9wp
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) July 7, 2018
I fall back asleep. Maybe this is yet another of my totally normal and not at all bizarre dreams involving Bales and a bathroom.
7:30 a.m. PT: The House – Bales Wants to Run
My alarm goes off, and I go out into the living room. Bales is there, and — for some indiscernible reason — he’s in the mood for a nice 6-mile morning run on a local high school track. Our local sources tell us that, with the cloud cover and relatively low temperature (it’s only 94 degrees right now), today is as good of a day as any to run around a quarter-mile track 24 times. On top of that, Bales is hoping to finish his jaunt in no more than 66 minutes. That’s such a random number to pick. Maybe he’s a big fan of 11-minute miles.
Adam Levitan is dubious about Bales’ ability to accomplish such a feat — especially given the beer and donuts he consumed yesterday and how physically drained he seems to be — but we’re all good friends and supportive of Bales’ abnormal desires. We pile into the car, and Levitan drives us to a high school about 15 minutes away.
8:15 a.m. PT: The High School – Five Idiots Wandering Around for 25 Minutes
Bales is oddly specific, saying that this high school in particular is the one where he wants to run. He’s evidently done research. It’s almost as if he came to Vegas planning to run 6 miles. Weird.
We get to the school around 8:15 and then spend the next 25 minutes trying to figure out how to get onto the track, which is at the back of the sports complex and surrounded by a labyrinthian-like series of chain-link fences. Eventually we find our way to the track after learning that, sometimes, fences have unlocked gates.
On the track is a coach, who is with a few members of the track team. We’re worried the coach might ask us to leave, but then we notice he’s wearing a Raiders pullover. We’re going to be fine. Peter Jennings walks over to him and explains the situation: We have a friend who feels compelled to run 6 miles today, and he’d like to start at 9 a.m., while the weather is still tolerable.
The coach is totally fine with it. He thinks it’s hilarious that Bales wants to attempt 6 miles after a night of consuming beer and donuts and not getting much sleep. Other than believing Jon Gruden is a franchise savior, saying the Raiders are going to win the AFC West, and trolling Pete inadvertently with a little too much praise for Amari Cooper, the coach seems like a great guy.
8:55 a.m. PT: The High School – Manz Blazes 400 Yards in 59.5 Seconds
While Bales is warming up (aka waiting till 9 a.m.), Pete Manzinelli wonders aloud how quickly he can run one lap, which is 0.25 miles, or 402.325 meters . . . or maybe the track is only 400 meters, or 0.24855 miles. Either way, Manz is looking for action, and Jennings obliges. If he can run one lap in 60 seconds, Jennings will give him $100.
Manz immediately removes his shirt to reveal an intimidating physique. He quickly loosens his legs and gets in position. Jennings and Levitan both get out their phones to keep time.
“On your mark. Get set. Go!”
Manz is off. He doesn’t have the smoothest of gaits, but the dude moves fast. And he’s not letting up. He’s about at the halfway mark, and it’s almost exactly 30 seconds. He’s coming around the curve and is now in the final stretch with about 10 seconds left. I don’t know if he’s going to make it. Levitan is counting time: “55, 56, 57, 58, 59 . . .”
— Peter Jennings (@CSURAM88) July 7, 2018
Technically, he does it in 59.5 seconds. Of everything I’ve seen up to this point over the last few days, Manz’s spur-of-the-moment 400-yard sprint might be the most impressive.
Result: 59.5, Manz wins $100
9 a.m. PT: The High School – Bales Does His 6-Mile Run
Bales starts his run right at 9. Jennings and Levitan both keep time while I create a spreadsheet to track his per-lap and per-mile progress.
Spoiler alert: Bales does 6 miles in 63 minutes and two seconds.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) July 8, 2018
In Lap 7 he decides to walk for a little bit to catch his breath. “I’m so dead,” he says. He might feel dead, but he’s very much live. Meanwhile, Levitan is tilting so hard. It’s almost as if he has thousands of dollars riding on this. By the end of Lap 8, Bales has maintained a sub-nine-minute pace for two miles.
after 2 milez: 17:22 pic.twitter.com/Er85BlDpq3
— The Manz 😎🃏💰 (@PeteManzinelli) July 7, 2018
As long as he doesn’t collapse from the heat or accidentally s—t himself while running — which is a real possibility, given all the beer and donuts in his system — Bales should hit his mark.
Bales decides to walk a long portion of Lap 9 to give himself a break, which gives Levitan a sliver of hope . . . and then the sprinklers come on. The Levitan tilt is in full effect.
— The Manz 😎🃏💰 (@PeteManzinelli) July 7, 2018
Even though he walks most of Lap 9, Bales finishes it in just under three minutes, and then he grinds out the next three laps combined in under seven minutes, giving him a cushy required time of 38:50 for the second 3-mile set. Levitan is drawing dead. Bales is a lock.
For the latter half of the event, he continues his strategy of medium-paced jogging intermingled with purposeful walking. Not until Lap 19 does Bales take longer than four minutes to complete a lap, and even then he manages a time of 11:50 for Mile 5. He’s crushing. Never is the victory in doubt.
On Lap 24, Bales has a celebratory beer, because . . .
- He’s earned it.
- Those beers we bought yesterday aren’t going to drink themselves.
- We’re pretty much out of water.
— The Manz 😎🃏💰 (@PeteManzinelli) July 7, 2018
Bales crosses the finish line with two minutes and 58 seconds to spare. The man is a legend.
Result: 63:02, Bales wins thousands in pride equity, Levitan loses his dignity
10:30 a.m. PT: The House – Las Vegas Has a WNBA Team
We’re back at the house. Bales is showering away the beer-infused sweaty disgustingness of his run, and Levitan mentions to the rest of us that tonight the Las Vegas Aces are playing at home. He’s never been to a WNBA game and would like to go. We all think it’s a great idea. Manz starts looking for tickets online.
Jennings and Levitan are pretty insistent that we should get courtside seats . . .
Alternate headline: Imagine going to a WNBA game and sitting in Row N.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) July 8, 2018
. . . but Manz can’t find any: There are none available. Jennings and Levitan are incredulous. How is this possible? The Aces play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center — Yanni performed there 12 years ago, so you know it’s a legit venue — and Levitan calls the box office to try to buy tickets unavailable to the general public, those reserved for the high-rollers. No dice. The first person he talks to doesn’t even know the Aces are playing tonight. The second person says that the only tickets they have to sell can all be found online.
Bales gets out of the shower and says that he’s up for going to the game. We bite the bullet and buy five tickets in the middle of Row N. We are such peasants.
11 a.m. PT: The House – Betting on a WNBA Game
When Levitan first mentions the idea of going to the game, Jennings immediately wants to put money on the Aces, but he’s never bet on the WNBA. Fortunately, Levitan is a WNBA expert. He says that Aces power forward A’ja Wilson (the No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft) is already one of the top players in the league. He also says the opposing Connecticut Sun are down two starters and playing their fourth straight game on the road. Finally, he says the Aces might have the third-best home-court advantage in the league. Tonight, it’s No. 1, because we’ll be in the f—king building. The Aces are winning this game.
Levitan has sold us. He’s already bet the spread, moneyline and first-half spread. Jennings, Bales, Manz and I make similar investments. While Bales, Manz and I use offshore books, Jennings calls “his guy” to get action. Given that he’s never taken a WNBA bet from Jennings before, the bookie is suspicious. Does Pete have some sort of edge or inside information? Jennings says, “I’m in Vegas and going to the game.” Action taken.
Collectively, we’ve invested into this game the cash value of a non-luxury used car. For the rest of the day Levitan checks line movement to see if we are on the sharp side of the bet. His obsession is almost endearing.
Noon PT: El Dorado Cantina – Fish Tacos
After some discussion, Levitan and Bales (and everyone else) agree that it would be a good idea for Bales to stop drinking so much beer and eating so many donuts in such a short period of time, especially given that he just ran 6 miles. He just looks beat.
Bales decides to take a nap while the rest of us go to lunch. Jennings finds a place with literally thousands of great reviews online: El Dorado Cantina. Here’s how the restaurant describes itself on its website:
El Dorado Cantina is an upscale Las Vegas Mexican restaurant like you’ve never seen before! Our gorgeous 181-seat restaurant and lounge serves authentic Mexican cuisine that beautifully represents the vast culinary traditions of various regions of Mexico. We believe in sustainably-raised products, which means that all of our beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and fish originate from carefully-selected farms in the U.S. and are free from antibiotics, pesticides, and steroids.
That sounds great, right? And technically that description isn’t inaccurate, but as we pull into the El Dorado parking lot we realize the following description would’ve been much more informational:
El Dorado Cantina is literally in the same building as and separated by a mere brick wall from Sapphire, the world’s largest strip club. Absolutely no one should give a f—k what our food tastes like or what goes into it. We know why you’re here.
Eating at El Dorado Cantina is like reading Playboy. Maybe you actually do like the articles, but you probably like the nudity more. And maybe the food at El Dorado Cantina is good, but the cuisine isn’t the establishment’s big draw.
That said . . . we’re here just for the cuisine. When Levitan realizes that the restaurant is actually attached to the strip club, he wants to go somewhere else immediately: #Germs.
But we’re already in the parking lot, we’re hungry and we don’t want to find another place. I mean, El Dorado has good reviews. Maybe the food is actually good? We go inside the restaurant.
gettin in the rite head space 4 the gambling olympicz pic.twitter.com/eJvrDDleBo
— The Manz 😎🃏💰 (@PeteManzinelli) July 7, 2018
Thirty minutes later, I have to say that the food is pretty good. I order the Mahi tacos. As we’re finishing up the meal, Levitan says, “Imagine eating lunch at a strip club and not going to the strip club.”
Manz says, “Imagine ordering fish at a strip club.”
Not just fish, Manz. Fish tacos. I ordered fish tacos at a strip club. Whatever it was that Freud said about the unconscious mind and its relation to fish tacos and Vegas strip clubs, he was right.
1:30 p.m. PT: The House & Red Rock Canyon
After lunch we return to the house, and then Levitan and Manz decide to go for a hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It looks like they’re having a great time . . .
levitanz & i went on a spiritual retreat 2 get our mindz focused b4 the gambling olympicz 🌵🙏🌵 pic.twitter.com/ldf43BUWKG
— The Manz 😎🃏💰 (@PeteManzinelli) July 7, 2018
. . . a GREAT f—king time:
— Jonny Garbarino (@johnnykumquat) July 8, 2018
Meanwhile at the house, Bales’ stomach is punishing him for all the beer and donuts he consumed. As I always say, there’s a price to pay for a beer-and-donuts joyride . . . and that price is paid by the toilet. Bales is 100% lucky this didn’t happen to him while he was running.
Since Levitan and Manz are gone and Bales is otherwise occupied, Jennings and I sit in the kitchen while he does laundry, talking about sports betting, the future of the industry and all the plans we have for The Action Network.
And since this was basically a business meeting, we can expense all the Coors Light we drank while talking. We’re all business all the time.
5 p.m. PT: The House, the Ride and the Noodle Shop
Jennings leaves the house to meet up with a sharp sports-betting friend named Z, who is on an extended stay in Vegas from Singapore. Jennings says that he’ll do dinner with Z before meeting us at the 7:30 game, which now Bales isn’t sure he’ll be able to attend: His stomach is still reminding him that it wasn’t built to function as a beer-and-donut garbage disposal. Bales tells us to get dinner without him. If he’s feeling up to going to the game in an hour or so, he’ll let us know and catch an Uber.
Levitan and Manz return from their Jim Morrison-esque journey into the vermilion desert wild. We decide to get food at Mandalay Bay, so after getting ready — which seems to take way longer than it should, but you don’t look like Manz without developing some meticulous grooming habits — we summon what we hope is a self-driving Lyft car . . . but it turns out be just a regular vehicle operated by a normal-looking human. Manz is visibly disappointed. Levitan says he can’t wait for the day till technology makes humans obsolete. HE SAYS THIS TO THE DRIVER.
We get to Mandalay Bay around 6:45 (Vegas traffic is the Mona-Lisa Saperstein of transportation patterns), and we decide to eat at the first restaurant we see: The Noodle Shop. It’s a Chinese restaurant that specializes in . . . noodles. We’re f—king culinary savants. We sit down and order right away, and then Levitan gets a call from Jennings. He’ll be at the restaurant in a few minutes with Z, who is taking Bales’ ticket: He texted Jennings to say that he’s skipping the game.
After meeting Z (who is indeed incredibly sharp), we eat a fast dinner and then head toward the Events Center. It’s almost 7:30, and we’ve got a game to win.
7:30 p.m. PT: Mandalay Bay Events Center – Sun (10-8) at Aces (7-12)
What does it matter that the Aces are one of the worst teams in the league? What does it matter that they’ve been dead last in the standings for three consecutive seasons? What does it matter that they’re always underdogs? THEY ARE WINNING THIS GAME. Or, if they don’t, they’ll at least cover . . . because our non-luxury used car depends on it.
I grabbed the line at +4.5. I think the other guys got it at +3.5 and +4. I’m not saying I’m sharper than Jennings, Bales, Levitan and Manz put together, but that’s the conclusion you should reach.
After taking a photo with a cardboard cutout of the GOAT goddess A’ja . . .
you haven’t lived until you’ve sweat a wnba wager live pic.twitter.com/ScpJpJNEiM
— Peter Overzet (@peteroverzet) July 8, 2018
. . . we head into the game and find our seats.
The Aces get off to a hot start, outscoring the Sun, 22-15, in the first quarter thanks to A’ja’s 12-point effort. With 2:45 left in the quarter, they lead by 10 points. In the second quarter the Sun do their damage, outscoring the Aces, 25-19, but A’ja makes a shot near the end of the half to put the Aces up by one point. The half ends with the Aces ahead, 41-40.
D—n right, they cover the first-half spread.
The third quarter, however, is maximally painful. The Sun outscore the Aces, 36-24, and with just 1:12 left in the quarter they are ahead by 12 points. Levitan literally stands up and looks at us as if to say, “Hey, I can’t take this. Let’s go.” Fortunately at this point A’ja hits a free throw to stop the bleeding.
The Aces enter the fourth quarter down by 11. This is the crucible. If they’re going to make a run, now is the time. Moriah Jefferson makes a shot. A’ja makes a layup. Jefferson and A’ja trade two-pointers with Sun forward Morgan Tuck. Kayla McBride scores five points to Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike’s two. Last year’s No. 1 pick Kelsey Plum makes a driving layup, and all of a sudden the Aces are trailing only by two with 5:41 left. The Suns call a full timeout.
We have ourselves a game.
At this point, we have no voices. We’ve been clapping and cheering and screaming at the refs for maybe an hour. In attendance were Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan . . .
— Las Vegas Aces ♦️♠️ (@LVAces) July 8, 2018
. . . and NBA champion Quinn Cook . . .
— Las Vegas Aces ♦️♠️ (@LVAces) July 8, 2018
. . . and past WNBA star, current Spurs assistant head coach and future NBA head coach Becky Hammon. This is the greatest moment in the history of the universe (probably).
Out of their timeout the Sun score five straight points to get an 87-80 lead with 4:16 left. A lesser team might crumble right now. Maybe a team without the awesome home-court advantage we provide. But not this team. WE WON’T LET THEM FAIL. Voiceless, we raise our voices.
The Aces score 12 straight points. The Sun don’t score again till there are just 51.1 seconds remaining. Ballgame. Thanks to two clutch Jefferson free throws and tough team defense, the Aces maintain their lead.
Result: 94-90, Aces win the game and five fans for life
9:30 p.m. PT: Mandalay Bay Sportsbook – The Afterglow
After the game, Z wants to swing by the sportsbook because — of course — he has some futures bets he wants to place. While he’s doing that, the rest of us hang out at the bar and bask in the sweet WNBA afterglow of triumph.
Z meets up with us, and he talks with Levitan about his methodology of betting futures and props. They talk specifically about WNBA futures. Levitan looks likes he’s about to orgasm . . .
. . . Levitan looks like he just orgasmed. Z tells him that the Washington Mystics have 20-1 futures at one of the sportsbooks in town. The Mystics have the league’s third-best record (12-6) and look like a locked-in playoff team.
Levitan plans to go to that sportsbook in the morning to get down some action.
Life. Is. Good.
10:30 p.m. PT: The Las Vegas Strip – “It’s Gonna Be a Great Summer”
Brandon Adams texts Jennings to say that he has a prime table at the Bellagio piano bar, so that’s where we’re going. Z has a car, so he offers to give us a ride. Unfortunately, Z’s car isn’t from the future, so instead of flying to the Bellagio we spend the next 45 minutes stuck on South Las Vegas Boulevard. Drunk pedestrians are moving down the Strip faster than we are. This is my own personal “Office Space.”
To pass the time in the car, we watch videos from Gus Hansen’s Instagram account on repeat. This one is undoubtedly our favorite.
And this one is a close second.
At the end of almost every video: “It’s gonna be a great summer.”
With entertainment like this, I could probably stay in Z’s car all f—king night. You don’t even need to be drunk to find this hilarious. But as it happens, we are definitely not sober.
11:30 p.m. PT: Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio
We get to the Bellagio, park the car and find our way to the hotel lobby, where just past Chihuly’s world-famous ceiling display of glassblown art we find Adams, who indeed has a great table at the Petrossian. And, naturally, he’s not alone: With him at the table are three women. I look at Jennings, who says one word.
Jennings joins Adams and his companions at the table while Manz, Z and I walk with Levitan to the poker room, where he’s hoping to get into a game — at 11:30 on a Saturday night during the World Series of Poker. We get there and about 30 people are on the list already. Levitan puts his name down, and we head back to the piano bar.
When we get back to the table yet another woman has joined Adams. Four women, two guys: You gotta like that ratio. There’s one empty chair, which Manz takes so he can serve as a top-flight wingman to Adams, who is engaged in a fairly continuous conversation with one of the women in particular. Levitan decides to go back to the poker room and see if he can somehow get a table. He texts back quickly and says that he got a seat. That bodes well. It’s gonna be a great summer.
Z and I hang out in the lobby near the piano bar and talk about NFL futures, combine and draft props and predictive analytics in general. After about an hour of talking, we notice that two of the women have left the table, so Z and I join the rest of the group and continue talking there.
Jennings is doing A-plus work as a wingman. He’s like a conversational point guard, passing the ball around the arc and making sure everyone gets a chance to shoot. Jennings talks about how great Adams is at reading people, and the woman with whom Adams has most engaged in conversation seems dubious, as if she doesn’t want to be talking with someone who can read her. A few minutes later, someone ask Z where he’s visiting from, and Pete jumps in, saying that he’ll give $100 to anyone who can guess on the first try where Z is from.
Adams doesn’t know Z at all. He met him literally just an hour ago. Z has said maybe 20 words to Adams since we sat down at the table. Adams looks at Z for a few seconds — really looks at him — and says, “Singapore.” Jennings hands him the $100.
The doubting woman looks at Adams as if she’s just seen the face of God.
1:30 a.m. PT: The House – Scott the Intern
Shortly after Adams’ demonstration of interpersonal insight, Jennings, Manz and I decide it’s time to return to the house. Z offers to give us a ride, which we happily accept. Jennings sends Levitan a text. He’s still grinding poker.
When we get back to the house, we are greeted by Scott, the intern for The Three Donkeys. Although he’s been working with the show for months, this is the first time that anyone with The Action Network is meeting him in person. He’s an imposing presence. Standing at 6-foot-9, he played college basketball for Elon.
Levitan — who is on the shorter side of the spectrum — has feigned displeasure with Scott’s reported height. Shortly after we meet Scott, Manz sends Levitan a text: “Just met Scott. Fake news. He’s like 5’10,” maybe.”
Levitan responds with one word: “Stop.”
Within 10 minutes, Levitan is back at the house. Poker wasn’t great, but it was good enough. He walked away from the table with more money than he had when he sat down.
It’s now a little after 2 a.m., too late to write if I want this piece to be up to my usual substandard standards. It’s time for bed. I’ll have to save the writing for the morning.
In the words of Milton, “Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.”