I bet you I was a liberal arts major
May 23, 2008 6:48 AM   Subscribe

As mentioned before in this post, my house is running a jello wrestling night. Now that we have the logistics set up, I would like to make some extra cash on taking bets. What is the best way to do this?

I have been crunching numbers trying to figure out the best way to make this work. Traditional horse racing betting can only make the house money if there are more than two parties to bet on. While just saying "The winner will get 1.5 return on a winning bet" implies that the number of bets on the two wrestlers is even.

So what is the best way to do this?

Ideally I could sit with a laptop and a spreadsheet and enter in people betting amounts and have it change the odds which I can "lock" right before a match. And of course, the house (us) would take a cut.

Has anyone ever done something like this?
posted by Blandanomics to Work & Money (10 answers total)
I would just take a comission.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:53 AM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding a commission or percentage.

You're at Temple?
I would do it as quietly and under-the-table as possible. Running bets and wagers is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.
Of course, we're talking Philly, so ymmv.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:07 AM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: Generally proposition ("prop") bets ("like so-and-so will win the match" or "so-and-so will win the match by pin") are given in a +/- format, based upon a standard $100 bet. A "+" line is what you win with a $100 bet, a "-" line is what it you must bet in order to win $100. Thus, the favorite (in a one-v-one event) is always given on the minus line, which can be a bit confusing to beginners.

So at any rate, you might see (home team always in CAPS):

CHICAGO to win: -180
Boston to win: +150

So if you bet $180 on Chicago and they win, you win $100. If you bet $100 on Boston and they win, you win $150.

Now here's the catch, as I'm sure you've noticed: These don't always add up to even odds. In fact, they never do. A pretty standard prop money line might look like this:

Coin toss comes up heads: -105
Coin toss comes up tails: -105

Thus no matter how the coin toss comes up, the bookie will always make some money because he's paying out less than 50% of the money on a 50-50 proposition. This "commission" that the bookie takes is called the "vigorish" or the "vig" and if you have your lines set up and you're careful to take roughly even amounts of bets on the favorite and the underdog, you should always make money.

And P.S. liberal arts majors are some of the most degenerate gamblers I know. :)
posted by ChasFile at 7:16 AM on May 23, 2008

If you're gonna take money, just say house gets 10% (or 5%, or whatever) of all winnings.

But personally, I think that's a silly way to increase the chances of you getting in trouble. This is the sort of event that colleges typically frown upon, and while they can't shut you down just for the wrestling, they could shut you down for the gambling. A donations bucket is a much better way to get some money back for the party. Sorry to go off topic, but my 2 cents.
posted by inigo2 at 7:19 AM on May 23, 2008

How we always did it is we put a big jar up front and labeled it the "Donations for Decorations" jar. Cops can bust you pretty hard for selling cups, b/c you are essentially selling booze [probably to minors] w/o a license. They can't bust you for asking for donations to cover decorations.
posted by ChasFile at 7:24 AM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the posts so far. I should mention that we are not located on campus.
posted by Blandanomics at 7:34 AM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: Jello wrestling: Fantastic idea
Taking bets on it: Horrible idea

If you're going to do it, I'm Nthing the commission approach.

That said, here are some things to consider:

Likelihood of getting caught. Bookmaking is difficult to catch... but you're doing it in conjunction with a jello wrestling party. You're begging to have the cops show up. If they show up and see you running a little gambling operation, they're going to arrest you because they have no idea if this is a little thing or just the tip of your gambling iceberg.

The consequences are something else to consider. You probably see this as no big deal. The odds that a prosecutor will agree on that point are slim. More likely, the prosecutor is going to see this as a gateway to more serious gambling problems, and is going to want to "nip it in the bud". You have decades of people gambling away their life savings and children's college funds to thank for that. Depending on your career goals, a gambling conviction could really put a kink in that as well.

And all for what? Is the official gambling really going to make the event? It seems to me that the wrestling itself will be more than enough to sustain a pretty awesome party. The book-making is going to be a pain to administer -- put out a donation jar and call it a day.

If you plan to go through with it, be prepared for someone to make a bet they're not happy with the next day and want to start some trouble over it. A talk with the local prosecutor could probably secure a slap on the wrist for someone willing to out a gambling operation. You might limit the amount anyone can bet at any given time to make that look like not such a great idea.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:33 AM on May 23, 2008

Gambling seems needlessly risky and complicated for the money you'll make. You'd probably do just as well charging (or raising) the cover, or by selling overpriced drinks.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:13 AM on May 23, 2008

Alternately, if you're dead set on the gambling environment, people buy tickets, gamble with said tickets, and cash them out at the end of the night for prizes. Video game arcades and raffles are gambling of this nature, and are never prosecuted.

Prizes could include plastic cups commemorating the event, boxes of Jello signed by the wrestlers, and other goofy stuff that is within your budget.

Don't get yourself busted, this could become the event that everyone looks forward to every year.
posted by explosion at 10:44 AM on May 23, 2008

I agree that running a gambling operation is a wee bit dodgy. The best option is cover charge or do what my friend did, which was sell the food items to the audience. The method was used by a friend who managed a female spaghetti wrestling team, which made its money by selling the plates of spaghetti afterwards and a cover charge to the event. YMMV
posted by jadepearl at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2008

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