2018 Gambling Olympics Diary, July 8: Racquetball, Rock-Paper-Scissors and Water Basketball

2018 Gambling Olympics Diary, July 8: Racquetball, Rock-Paper-Scissors and Water Basketball article feature image


  • 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 $3,000 racquetball match between Peter Jennings and Jonathan Bales, a $1,000 racquetball set between Bales and Adam Levitan and a $2,000 Rock-Paper-Scissors contest between Jennings and 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.

5:30 a.m. PT: The House – Write, Write, Write

The alarm goes off, and it's time to write. I'm woefully behind on yesterday's recap. I sneak out of the room I share with Pete Manzinelli without waking him up, and I find my way to the kitchen in the early-morning darkness.

What have we here?

Donuts — the donuts that Bales yesterday decided he no longer wanted to eat. Don't mind if I do.

Three donuts later, I'm at my computer, pounding away on the keys and transforming my temporary sugar high into tremendous production.

The day is mine. The day is yours, too. But it's mostly mine. MINE.

I write at a wonderful and uninterrupted pace for hours because everyone else in the house is still asleep. At one point Scott, the intern for The Three Donkeys, enters the room and says something, and I think I mumble some sort of response, and then he leaves and returns to his room.

At this point in the morning, that's the most satisfying interaction I can imagine ever having with another human. Scott gets me.

8:30 a.m. PT: The House – Is Bales Alive?

We're supposed to be out of this house around 11:00 a.m. No one except for Scott has entered the living room area this morning, which has allowed me to be highly productive, but now I'm starting to get a little worried. The house isn't a mess per se, but it looks like five somewhat irresponsible guys in their 30s have been staying in it for three carefree days. We have a moderate amount of cleaning to do.

And I'm a little worried about Jonathan Bales in particular. He hasn't left his room in more than 12 hours. The last time any of us saw him, he was holding his stomach and spouting some nonsense about how donuts are the devil. That's bulls—t. Donuts are delicious. But I digress. Right now, my brain is focused on whether Bales is alive. He probably is. But he might not be.

I'm tempted to knock on his door, but is it smart for me to do that if I'm not wearing my hazmat suit? — because BALES COULD BE DEAD.

In Vegas, getting ready for a night on the town. pic.twitter.com/LP39dhc9wp

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) July 7, 2018

Bales probably isn't dead. But if he is . . . maybe I can get his spot in the Gambling Olympics.

Eventually Adam Levitan, Manz and Scott emerge from their caves nocturnum and decide to go get coffee. While they're out, Bales finally leaves his room.

Maybe next year I'll get his spot.

9:00 a.m. PT: The House – What Is Our Schedule?

Peter Jennings wakes up shortly after Bales, and they start figuring out the schedule for the day. We need to be out of this house relatively soon, although we can probably push that back a bit. We can get into the Gambling Olympics house as early as noon . . . although we just got word that now we can't check in till 1 p.m. How annoying is that?! People who don't honor their Airbnb check-in/-out schedules really frustrate me. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!

There are various schedule and transportation concerns, especially now that we have only one car and six people with Scott, but chief among all the questions is this: When are the Three Donkeys going to play racquetball today?

Jennings and Bales have a racquetball bet that they've planned to settle today, and Levitan also has a deal in place allowing him to play against Bales right after his match with Jennings. Almost everything today revolves around these matches and when they might be played.

As Jennings and Bales are working on the schedule, Manz and Scott return from the coffee shop. Where's Levitan? He's taken the car and gone to a sportbook to exploit a soft 20-1 futures bet on the Washington Mystics that was pointed out to him by Z, a sharp sports bettor whom Jennings introduced us to last night.

When is Levitan returning? At some point. Maybe before 11:00 a.m. Our schedule is basically nonexistent. And no one really seems to care.

10:00 a.m. PT: The House & Lunch

Gradually we clean the house, and Levitan eventually returns. We get a call from our contact saying that we really must be out of the house around 12:30 p.m., so we put as much as we can into the trunk of the car, and then Levitan, Jennings, Scott and I go to lunch while Bales and Manz wait at the house for an Uber.

I wish I could say that something eventful happened at lunch, but nothing did. That's fine. I ate a sandwich. It had turkey in it and some other stuff. You're welcome. In retrospect, this section probably doesn't need to exist.

1:00 p.m. PT: The Gambling Olympics House

After lunch, we drive to the house where the Gambling Olympics is to be held. Having seen pictures of the place online, we have high expectations . . . and yet as we approach the destination we can't help but think that we might be in the wrong location.  Maybe Levitan accidentally entered the wrong address into his phone. The neighborhood seems sketchy.

We're now just three houses away from where the map on Levitan's phone is taking us, and I swear I just saw the RV from "Breaking Bad" sitting in the yard of a house we just passed. Are we really in the right place?

Yes, we're in the right place. Look. At. That. House.

The location for the @ActionNetworkHQ Gambling Olympics Main Event. Opening ceremonies tonight, first events tomorrow pic.twitter.com/8AzDK725AU

— Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball) July 8, 2018

Regardless of location, the house is amazing. This is a great place for the Gambling Olympics. Let the games begin!

3:00 p.m. PT: Racquetball – The Details

Bales, Levitan and Jennings leave the house to play racquetball.

While the Bales-Levitan match is notable, the Bales-Jennings match is the one drawing the most attention. Almost all of the details for this match were worked out during a 40-minute negotiation.

Bales and Jennings competed against each other in a $2,000 pull-up prop last Thursday. Bales won. If Jennings had won, he would have gotten to wager $1,200 against Bales at even money that he can shut out Bales in the first game of this racquetball match. But because Bales won the pull-up competition, he was able to reduce his risk in the shutout prop to $1,000.

Additionally, Bales and Jennings are wagering $2,000 on the total match, which has three sets (15 points in the first two, 11 in the third). For first serve, they are of course playing a best-of-seven Rock-Paper-Scissors contest.

Jennings is the superior racquetball player, so in exchange for taking this disadvantageous prop Bales gets the benefit of facing Jennings later in a best-of-101 Rock-Paper-Scissors contest with $2,000 at stake. Although Bales is giving Peter +110 odds, Bales is confident in his skills. After all, he’s a massive +175 favorite to win Rock-Paper-Scissors in the Gambling Olympics.

As for the Bales-Levitan match, that is the result of another bet that they renegotiated once it had started. Bales was clearly going to win that prop, so he bought Levitan out at a pretty steep price. In exchange, Levitan gets the right to play an exhausted Bales in racquetball right after he has played his best-of-three match against Jennings, but Bales will get a 3-0 head start, and the game will go to 17 instead of 15. Bales and Levitan are playing for $1,000.

But, frankly, all of this is secondary to the larger issue of WHAT THE HELL IS JENNINGS WEARING???

Imagine dressing like this for a racquetball prop. pic.twitter.com/C0z6PKjXru

— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) July 8, 2018

I don't know if I can continue to work for this company now that I know Peter dresses like that in public. Fortunately, he now knows that what he wore is entirely unacceptable for a normal human.

Imagine @adamlevitan ruining your sex life with your wife pic.twitter.com/axrwIK7IeZ

— Peter Jennings (@CSURAM88) July 9, 2018

Of course, Jennings might still continue to wear Kylo Ren's workout clothes, but at least we know that he won't be getting away with it without paying a penalty.

Also, Peter, we need to work on your phrasing: "Imagine @adamlevitan runing your sex life with your wife." And you tweeted that WHILE IN LAS VEGAS. Just think about that for a minute. You're on dangerous ground, my friend. I think you might've just stepped on a land mine.

3:15 p.m. PT: Racquetball – Bales Makes the Best of It

Bales makes out just about as well as he possible can. In the first game, Jennings starts out 2-0, but Bales is able to score a point through his aggressive style. He's risking $4,000 total in racquetball today, and he's already won $1,000. Considering that he's the worst of the Three Donkeys are racquetball, that's pretty good.

But he has no chance to hang with Jennings over a best-of-three match. Jennings wins rather easily in straight sets (15-5, 15-6). He wins the $2,000 match prop, so he comes out $1,000 ahead after playing racquetball with Bales.

The Bales-Levitan match is a hard-fought affair. They play regularly in Philadelphia, where they both live, so they know each other's styles, strengths and weakness well. Plus, they're playing only one set. The intensity is palpable. This seems like a match Levitan should win, and maybe on another day he would have, but "Levitan missed a horrible shot" (per Jennings). Bales wins, 17-14. That 3-0 head start he negotiated: That literally paid off.

Bales-Jennings Results: Bales wins $1,000 shutout prop, Jennings wins $2,000 match prop
Bales-Levitan Result: Bales wins $1,000 match prop

3:30 p.m. PT: The House – Mooney & the Oddsmaker Arrive

While most of the participants will first arrive at the house tomorrow, a couple of them have planned to arrive today. Michael Mooney shows up with a photographer. He's covering the event for the New York Times, so there's some discussion about the propriety of his participating and reporting on the Gambling Olympics.

To avoid the possibility of any conflict of interests, he withdraws from the event and is replaced by Justin Phan of The Action Network, who happens to be in town along with Ian Hartitz because they went to UFC 226.

Sean Koerner (Oddsmaker) also arrives. He's affable and easy to talk to — but he's also all business and entirely about winning the event. It's not a surprise that at +500 he's one of the favorites. Very quickly, Oddsmaker joins Manz, Phan and Hartitz in a practice game of Beer Pong.

And by "practice," I actually mean PRACTICE. They are drinking, of course, but they are also working on their shots and sizing each other up. The event doesn't start till tomorrow, but the contest has already begun. Manz opened as an +800 underdog, but he's gotten so much money that the market has radically shifted: Manz is now an absurd +100 favorite. Meanwhile, Koerner is available at +800, even though HE WON A 32-PERSON BEER PONG TOURNAMENT IN COLLEGE.

Manz and Oddsmaker are watching each other intently throughout the practice session.

I can't believe I get paid actual money to write about this.

5:15 p.m. PT: The House – Donkeys & Dinner

The Donkeys return, and they order three of the largest pizzas I've ever seen for the 11 of us here.

While guys are eating, they start playing a few of the Gambling Olympics games, namely Acey-DeuceyYahtzee and Connect Four. These preliminary practice sessions are intense. The Connect Four games between Manz and Jennings are particularly notable: Jennings is supposed to be a good player, but Manz is consistently beating him. Although in some circles he might be regarded as a self-obsessed wannabe tool — read his Poker breakdown to get a sense of what I'm talking about — the truth is that he's prepared as much as he can for this event.

Manz is now the biggest underdog in the field at +1400 — but he's a live dog. He really is.

The practice sessions continue and a great energy is flowing through the room. Laughter abounds. And then, just when I think this can't possibly get better, it does.

The party is complete: Z arrives.

10:00 p.m. PT: The House – Rock-Paper-Scissors (Bales & Jennings)

Bales and Jennings are yet to play their $2,000 best-of-101 Rock-Paper-Scissors contest, so they decide to do that now, before the Main Event starts. All 12 of us head outside and clear some space for what promises to be the most epic of events . . .

. . . and then Jennings proceeds to negotiate a buyout. Even though he's getting +110 odds, he believes that he's at a massive disadvantage since Bales (per their previous agreement) gets to control the pacing of the game. Plus, Jennings really doesn't want to shoot Rock-Paper-Scissors upwards of 100 times.

Eventually, Jennings and Levitan settle on this arrangement.

  • Jennings buys Bales out of the $2,000 best-of-101 contest with $400.
  • In exchange, Jennings gets +120 odds in a $200 best-of-seven game.

With these details sorted out, we settle in for the anticipated contest.

I'm the official scorekeeper on the laptop, and I deputize Oddsmaker to be my second. (Side note: He better get used to being No. 2 to my No. 1 . . . the NFL season is coming, and I'm taking my in-season rankings game to another level.)

On the first shoot, both Jennings and Bales put out paper.

One the second shoot, all hell breaks loose. Jennings clearly puts out rock. He puts it out decisively and on time. Bales, however, is a little slow on the draw, and something weird definitely happens with his hand. In the middle of his throw, he has a clear fist, which seemingly starts to morph into a scissors before turning into paper.

To be clear, I'm not saying — and no one else is saying — that Bales changed his throw based on the rock that Peter presented. We're just saying that Bales, during his throw, seemed uncertain about what he wanted to put out there, and that resulted in a delayed throw that wasn't as clean as it could've been.

Bales feels that he should get credit for the throw. Jennings immediately appeals to Koerner and me. We both think the throw should be invalidated. After more conversation, Jennings offers to go from +120 to +115 odds if we can move on. Bales reluctantly agrees: This is just a best-of-seven series. Every throw counts. But he'll move on.

Jennings and Bales do a few practice throws to work on their timing, and then we get back to the contest: $200, +115 odds for Jennings, and best of seven.

To keep safe the strategic moves of both legends, I'm not divulging exactly what they threw, but here's how this game goes down.

  • Throw 1: Draw
  • Throw 2: Jennings
  • Throw 3: Draw
  • Throw 4: Draw
  • Throw 5: Draw
  • Throw 6: Draw
  • Throw 7: Jennings
  • Throw 8: Jennings
  • Throw 9: Jennings


There's really nothing to say. Peter feels like he was lucky to get out of the $2,000 game with a $400 buy-out . . . but he just swept Bales, 4-0. That's strong.

Result: Bales gets $400 buyout in best-of-101, Jennings wins $230 in best-of-seven

10:15 p.m. PT: The House – Rock-Paper-Scissors (Bales & Z)

The action has started. Jennings doesn't want to play Bales anymore — he feels he ran hot in his best-of-seven win — but there's electricity in the air.


Jennings offers to stake Z against Bales. This could be a great game. Z is sharp . . . and, oh my, Z has just said that HE'S NEVER PLAYED ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS BEFORE. He knows how to play — he understands the principles of the game — but he's never actually done it. This is amazing.

The world's greatest self-proclaimed Rock-Paper-Scissors expert vs. a sharp thinker who has never played the game: I live for scenarios like this.

  • Bales gives Z (or Jennings) +105 odds.
  • Jennings and Bales are both risking $100.
  • Best of 11

Once again, I serve as the scorekeeper with Oddsmaker is my second.

  • Throw 1: Bales
  • Throw 2: Draw
  • Throw 3: Bales
  • Throw 4: Draw
  • Throw 5: Draw
  • Throw 6: Bales
  • Throw 7: Z
  • Throw 8: Z
  • Throw 9: Draw
  • Throw 10: Bales
  • Throw 11: Z
  • Throw 12: Draw
  • Throw 13: Bales
  • Throw 14: Draw
  • Throw 15: Z
  • Throw 16: Bales

Bales win, 6-4, but Z shows well. Fantastic performance for his first time.

Somehow, someway, Z will become a force in the sports-betting community.

Result: Bales wins $95.24

10:30 p.m. PT: The House – Three-Point Contest in the Pool

After the destined-to-be-history Rock-Paper-Scissors games, Jennings wants to get in the hot tub, so the party transitions to the pool, which comes complete with water basketball equipment. Within five minutes everyone is attempting long-range shots, and a couple of minutes after that a game has been created.

Everyone puts $10 in a pot except for the sharp-shooting Jennings, who puts in $20. There are 10 people participating, so the pot is $110. With the exception of Jennings, everyone is risking $10 to win $100. Everyone shoots one shot per round, and whoever makes the most shots gets the pot.

It's a tough shot. The hoop is far away and the ball is waterlogged. Oddsmaker has set an over/under of 15.5 on the number of group misses before someone gets a basket. Ironically, Koerner shoots fifth, and he makes his shot. That guy sucks at creating lines. He's the stone worst.

I wish I could be him.

Koerner's the only person in Round 1 to get a basket.

Nice work if you can get it.

Result: Koerner wins $100.

10:45 p.m. PT: The House – Three-Point Contest (Koerner vs. Jennings)

Phan is impressed with Koerner's shot and wants to see him in a head-to-head shoot-off with Jennings, who agrees to the bet: At even money, both Phan and Jennings are wagering $100.

The contest ends quickly: Koerner misses, Jennings gets a swoosh, and Koerner bricks his response shot. Jennings wins, 1-0.

Phan wants more action. He believes in Koerner and wants the opportunity to earn his money back. At the same time, he needs better odds. Way better. Jennings gives Phan +200, so he risks $50.

The second game was much more substantial

  • Round 1: Koerner – miss, Jennings – make
  • Round 2: Koerner – make, Jennings – miss
  • Round 3: Koerner – miss, Jennings – miss
  • Round 4: Koerner – miss, Jennings – miss
  • Round 5: Koerner – make, Jennings – miss

Koerner wins, 2-1.

Result: Phan breaks even, Koerner wins a lot of basketball equity

11:00 p.m. PT: The House – The Calm Before the Storm

Everyone is starting to settle in for the night. There's a little less laughter. A little less consumption of alcohol. A little more strategy talk between teammates.

We're less than 12 hours away.

This is the calm before the storm.

The world will never be the same.

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