Friday, November 25, 2016
I signed up for my Bovada account and deposited $500 into my account using paypal. I was not pleased to find that the charge for depositing the $500 was $39.35. I expected some charge but 8% seemed a little excessive. My chagrin was lessened when I received a $250 welcome bonus which was half of my deposit. I scanned over the conditions covering accepting the bonus. I noticed the funds wouldn’t be available for withdrawal until I had made an undiosclosed number of bets. This seemed reasonable to me and I accepted the bonus and was on my way.
I fed the game statistics into the prediction program and on November 8th the program spit out its first prediction, the Denver Nuggets getting 4 points at Memphis. I went to Bovada to place the bet. I clicked on the game, selected the amount I wanted to wager ($11), confirmed the bet and I was in. Why wager $11? Sports betting with the point spread normally charges a 10% penalty for losing bets. This is called ‘the vigorish’ and allows the gambling house to make money when an equal number of bets are made on both sides. It also means that the gambler must win 11 out of every 21 bets or 52.4% to break even. The notation on the betting sheet is -110 meaning 110 is bet to win 100. In the case of the Nuggets game the notation said -105 which meant that I only had to bet $10.50 to win $10. Some of the games are listed as -115 meaning $11.50 needs to be wagered to bet $10.
This changing of the odds adds an unwanted level of complexity. I just want to bet $11 to win $10. I would prefer that Bovada change the point spread instead of jacking with the odds to balance the betting. After some thought I decided I would just bet $11 per game and collect more or less than $10 depending on the betting odds. In the case of the Nuggets game my $11 wager would bring me $10.48 for a victory instead of $10. In the succeeding two weeks I’ve seem games listed as high as -120 which is tantamount to keeping an entire dollar on each winning bet.
I won my Nuggets wager and was $10.48 richer. The next day my prediction program said the Los Angeles Clippers was an easy cover giving 10.5 points at home to the Portland Trailblazers. I went to Bovada, placed the $11 bet, the Clippers easily covered, and I was now $20.48 ahead of the game.
My program didn’t give a prediction the next day but I noticed my account had been credited an extra.$1.47 which was listed as a ‘rollover’. This has continued for the past 2 weeks – every other day I get credited between $1.30 and $1.50 as a ‘rollover’. I found this confusing so I wrote to the Bovada customer support who replied within 24 hours to tell me the rollover was part of my $250 welcome bonus that I receive after passing ‘milestones’ which are still undefined as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to complain about getting an extra dollar or two credited to my account so I stopped asking.
The next day I went to enter the point spreads into my computer at 6 am and there was only 1 game of the 8 on the schedule with a listed point spread. I entered in the point spreads from freeplays.com and ran my prediction program which gave me a possible wager which I couldn’t place until after work when Bovada finally published the point spreads and opened the betting on NBA games. I wrote to Bovada customer support again and again they wrote back within 24 hours to let me know that ‘Lines are put up and taken down at our Book Managers discretion.’ It seems that the basketball lines are normally published in the afternoon with only a few games available in the morning. Since I’m at work when the lines are available this means I have to wait until I get home to run my prediction program and place my wagers. The problem with this is if I have a delay or internet problem I’ll be out of luck to make a pick in the short window of time I have to get a wager in for most games.
I won my first 5 wagers and 9 of my first 12 but hit a cold streak after that and my record stands at 11-9 as I write this on Sunday night. I have to admit all the little things that bothered me about Bovada bother me a lot more when I’m on a losing streak but ultimately it was winning wager that convinced me to question my commitment to the online gaming idea. Today my prediction program spit out two picks. I ran my program in the morning and made a bet on the 9-3 Hawks giving two points against the 5-7 Knicks in New York. That pick went down in flames when the Knicks not only covered but won by 10. The line on the Bulls-Lakers wasn’t published until the afternoon after the Hawks-Knicks game was over. I reran my prediction program and the computer picked the Bulls to win and they were getting points, I went to the site to make my pick which is as easy as clicking a button and entering the wager amount (in my case $11). I noticed two odd things about the line. The Bulls were getting a half point which is useless since there are no ties in the NBA and the odds were -120 so my $11 wager would only bring in $9.17 if I won. I made the bet and checked the score before I went to bed. The game was at halftime but Bovada had me already winning my bet! Why? Because when I clicked on the button to place the wager the line was only available for the first quarter which ended with a 30-30 score meaning I won by the half point the Bulls were getting!
This Sunday afternoon misadventure showed me that online gambling requires more of an attention span than I can spare right now. Having to check to see when the lines are up, adjust my thinking for the changing money payouts, and then having to make sure the line is for the entire game instead of the first quarter of first half is way more work than I bargained for. Having too many things to keep track of is sure to cost me money in the long run when I fail to notice an odds change, miss bets, or bet on the first quarter. I’ll finish this season until I either lose my $500 stake or the season ends but next season I’ll be back to making mythical bets only.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
The promos and premiere for season 7 of The Walking Dead held the promise of unprecedented action...
The initial episode was done in a flash forward/flash back vein, beginning after the clubbing with Negan trying to convince Rick (the main character and leader of our survivors) that he and his crew’s only choices in the new world order was to either work for Negan by giving him half of everything they own, make, or scavenge or be clubbed to death by Lucille. Eventually we discover that Negan’s victim was ex-soldier Abraham whose last line in the show was to tell Negan to ‘suck his nuts’ while getting his head bashed to a pulp. It looked like Glenn had once again escaped the baseball bat fate that had been hinted at in previous episodes. Unfortunately, after one of Rick’s crew (Daryl) takes a swing at Negan, the punishment for this transgression became clear when Negan spun around and suddenly bashed Glenn to a pulp as well.
...but a promising start led to plenty of talk and inaction.
Episode 2 brought a lot of talk and little action...
Ezekiel is a former zookeeper whose relationship with Siva has led to his adoption as the leader which he encourages with his Shakespearean intonations learned from his community theatre experience. He and Carol are attracted to each other enough that Carol has agreed to live near the kingdom if not in the ‘kingdom limits’. There was a minimal amount of zombie kills and one fistfight and that was it for the action.
Another episode with all talk and no action but we get to learn all about Dwight...
In this episode we learn that Dwight can make a mean egg sandwich and returned to Negan with his wife after stealing Daryl’s motorcycle and crossbow. Dwight’s life was spared in return for his wife leaving him and becoming Negan’s wife although Dwight did have his face scarred with a hot iron to show everyone who was in charge. Other than that, the entire episode was about Negan’s attempts to cajole or scare Daryl into joining his crew. Daryl refuses even though all he has to do is say ‘I’m Negan’ when asked who he is. This was another episode with minimal zombie action (Dwight is attacked by some wayward zombies while chasing down an escapee from Negan’s compound) and totally devoted to character development.
Character development is all well and good but having two straight hour long episodes primarily devoted to it makes for some dull television watching. When I saw the teasers for Sunday’s fourth episode of the season I had hopes for the plot moving forward in an action-oriented sense – the episode was 90 minutes long and featured Negan and his gang (also known as the Saviors) heading to Rick’s Alexandria community to take half their stuff. I thought at the least there would be some random violence on behalf of Negan against the Alexandrians (most of whom are as disposable as red shirts on Star Trek) and at most a gun battle between the Saviors and the Alexandrians.
This was about all the action in episode 4...
Instead of action, the showrunners of The Walking Dead seem to be angling for character development and tension. Every episode since the season premiere has been heavy with the threat of violence on the part of the Saviors or Negan which is defused when the parties being threatened give in. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is more cartoonish than threatening with his constant jokes and veiled threats making his extreme violence in the season premiere seem more an outlier than his standard method of operation. Negan and the Saviors are thoroughly unlikeable and it will be a pleasure to watch them get there comeuppance which needs to happen sooner than later. I get it. They are sadistic thugs. OK. Can we stop showing me how sadistic they are and get on with the action? Please? This lack of action seems more appropriate to some British drama that should be on Public Television instead of the zombie apocalypse. Seeing the sagging ratings (Episodes 3 and 4 were the first episodes in three years to have under 12 million viewers) makes me feel I’m not alone in being pretty bored with what should have been a great seventh season. I’m not ready to give up on the show yet but with the fall segment of the season over time is quickly running out to rekindle my enthusiasm before the show take a two month break.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
It's time once again for America's most prolific beagle bloggers - Daisy and Baxter to take over the Broken Pawn. Our normally optimistic beagles glee at celebrating their birthday has been shadowed by a recent run of depressing news.
Here I am in my new Amazon camo coat! I'm not thrilled with my Wal-Mart coat but I loved getting Ribeye Steak from the Dollar Tree for my birthday!
I love our birthday but it’s so depressing getting old, Baxter. I had an assortment of ailments just before Hank and Kathy were supposed to go to Chicago last week. I had a yeast infection in my ear and an eye infection and sinus congestion all at once. I’m getting older and I’m pretty depressed about it too. I hurt my back in the summer and had to ride around in a wagon instead of walking. I liked riding around in the wagon but I like walking too. Bill and Marilyn down the block got too old and they both died this year. It was so sad. I loved visiting with them on their porch when the weather was nice. I feel bad for Abby the Cairn Terrier that lived with Bill and Marilyn. She must be so lonely. Don’t worry Baxter. Bill and Marilyn’s daughter Becky moved into their house and stays with Abby all the time now. I miss Bill rubbing my big head and saying “Hi Baxter old boy”. I hate people getting old. I miss them too but Hank says we’ll see them again someday so I try not to think about it too much. So if you don’t think about things like death what do you think about Daisy? Right now I’m thinking about how to accessorize my new coat from Wal-Mart so it doesn’t look so Wal-Mart. Maybe I can repurpose some of my old outerwear and say it’s a retro classic look. What do you think about instead of getting old Baxter? I think about food! YUM!! What else is there to think about? Yesterday I was thinking about how nice it was last week when Hank went to the KFC and brought home a famous bowl AND a chicken pot pie! YUM!! The famous bowl was quite tasty. There was mashed potatoes, corn, cheese, and CHICKEN!! LOTS OF BITE SIZE CRISPY CHICKEN CHUNKS!! YUM!! I LOVE BITE SIZE CRISPY CHICKEN CHUNKS!! Yes. Baxter. The famous bowl was the perfect meal for us. Hank could eat the mashed potatoes and corn and cheese and share the chicken with us. I thought the chicken was very tasty. Very tasty! YUM!! The chicken pot pie wasn’t nearly as good though. Too much savory sauce, peas, and carrots and not nearly enough chicken for Hank to share. The chicken was all shredded and mixed up in the pie. It’s better for us when there are solid chunks of chicken so Hank can just give them to us.
We love going to the duck pond. Kathy feeds the ducks and geese while Daisy and I enjoy the smells! Sometimes we get to see the blue heron!
Even though Megan's more of a cat person, we got along famously!
Katie pets me and gives us beef stick treats! YUM!!
I don’t like getting older when it means hurting my back or you getting sick, Daisy. I don’t like that part but we’ve had six great years to spend with Hank and Kathy, Baxter. And six years of walks and beef stick treats, too! YUM!! Don’t forget that since we walk at least 3 miles a day we’re in top physical condition. That’s right! We should have lots more years of walking… …and visits from our friends… …and trips to the duck pond… …and beef stick treats… OH BOY!! BEEF STICK TREATS!!! YUM!!!
Friday, November 4, 2016
We had arranged for Daisy and Baxter to stay in the Happy Tails facility in Marshalltown. Happy Tails allows all the dogs to hang out in a large common area and in order to stay there, Daisy and Baxter had to pass a ‘sociability’ test. Kathy and I thought Daisy and Baxter would be rejected since they are always so yappy around other dogs but they passed with flying colors which both surprised and delighted us. One of our friends was going to watch Harry and the rest of the pets and we were on our way or so we thought.
On Tuesday I was petting Daisy before going to work and I noticed that she had some dark goo in her ears. It looked like when Tuffy had ear mites a long time ago. Kathy took Daisy to the vet, who said that it was just an ear infection and would clear up in a few days with the right medicine. The trip was still on and we were scheduled to leave on Saturday but on Friday morning Daisy had some yellow goo in her eye and was back at the vet. This time the vet said that Daisy had an eye infection and sinus congestion and shouldn’t be boarded because she was contagious. And that was the end of our trip to Chicago.
I still had the week off and suddenly I had a lot of free time on my hands. I planned to write a couple of blogs, eat at some local places I don’t normally get to, take Kathy to see the Jack Reacher movie 'Never Go Back' (an OK action flick better left for Redbox), and play plenty of 1 minute chess. When I set my personal best on the one-minute chess pool on the Internet Chess Club on October 8th, I switched my attention to the FIDE Online Arena chess site. Why the FIDE chess site instead of chess.com, lichess.org, and the many other chess sites that are available? Since FIDE is the official world chess federation the ratings in the FIDE Online Arena are official and so are the titles they give out for online chess achievements. The titles are called ‘The Lower Rating Band’ which means they are meant for lower rated players like me. I liked the idea of getting an official FIDE title and thought it would be a fitting meager accomplishment to my many other meager chess accomplishments so last month I headed to the FIDE website and downloaded the FIDE Online arena software.
The Arena software is written in Java by a company called Premium Chess. The software is functional enough even though it doesn’t offer features like chess variants and inspecting other players’ games that seem to be standard on most websites. One inane feature it does have is prerecorded applause that plays at a super loud level after you win a game. I signed up for the free membership and played a few sample games. There are only a few hundred players online at a time as opposed to the thousands on other websites so it is slightly harder to get a game. While playing I noticed I couldn’t premove (make a move in advance to save time). I went to the preferences page to allow premoves and found out saving preferences was restricted to paid members. This is quite a disadvantage since premoving and automatically promoting a pawn to a queen (instead of picking the queen from a menu) saves important seconds on the clock in a one minute game. After a few days of playing with this disadvantage I paid for an Online Arena membership on October 12th and had access to the full features of the Online Arena. Once I was able to auto-promote pawns to queens and make premoves my Online Arena results improved noticeably and with my new membership I was able to play official FIDE games and go after one of the lower rated titles. My rating in the unofficial (or training) games was around 1850 which told me that the level of competition in the Online Arena was a cut below that of the Internet Chess Club where my all time high rating is 1620 and a cut below lichess.org where my one minute rating is nearly 2000.
I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get rated challenges and how tournaments worked as far as ratings and when I had a question I would send an email to the Premium Chess company and would receive a detailed response the next day. I quickly found out that the players in the FIDE rated pool are stronger than the training section I was restricted to before I paid for the membership as my 1850 training rating translated to around 1600 in the ‘bullet’ section for games with less than 3 minutes per side.
The guidelines for getting a FIDE online title are very clear. You need to maintain a rating in Bullet Chess (under 3 minutes), Blitz Chess (3 to 10 minutes), or Rapid Chess (10 minutes or more) for a consecutive number of games. The titles (and ratings) are Arena Grandmaster (2000), Arena International Master (1700), and Arena Master (1400) and the number of games are 50 for Rapid, 100 for Blitz, and 150 for Bullet. It seemed I would easily be able to maintain the level of 1400, need serious improvement to get to much less maintain a rating of 2000, but the 1700 level would be something I could attain. I managed to nudge my rating over 1700 on October 15th and the counter started on my title chase. It looked to be smooth sailing as my rating climbed to 1779 after 27 games. I wasn’t playing especially well but no matter how inept I played my opponent’s surpassed my ineptitude. These two games are a prime example.
I don’t feel very much different with my new FIDE Arena International Master title except for feeling 30 Euros (or $33.73 in US dollars) lighter in my wallet. I don’t consider it a waste of time or money either since by the end of the 150 games I had to stare down the prospect of failure which is always a fun thing to look back on as long as one is successful in the staring down and at least I can say I did something on my vacation. The FIDE title is one of those things like the Broken Pawn’s Chess Journalist of America award that sounds really good in casual conversation with non-chess players as long as I don’t provide too many of the details (like the self-nominated aspect of the CJA award with only 2 nominees). Similarly if the topic of being a FIDE Arena International Master comes up I doubt I’ll be showing off too many of the games I played in the three week journey to the title.