One of my favorite experiences has always been going to Las Vegas on an NFL Sunday. Looking at all of the potential wagers, reading up on all of the games, talking with my friends about what they see, and placing a few bets while drinking that stale coffee at an abandoned Blackjack table is a great way to start a day. The best part of any weekend in Vegas though, is sitting at the little bar outside the sportsbook at the Venetian (the one where you can get free drinks by occasionally playing $1 Video Poker) and watching 14 games over 12 hours on a dozen big screen TVs. I try to make it out a time or two per season to risk a couple hundred dollars.
Unfortunately, as a software developer and lover of discrete math… I know just how stupid this is mathematically. The longer you gamble on anything against the house (the gambler’s term for the casino), the less likely you are to be ahead. Casinos use a “spread” to make sure they’re getting more than their fair share of every bet. The easiest way to illustrate this is to look at a bet that is perfectly even, like the flip of a coin. The way the House prices bets, if you wanted to win $100 on “Heads” you would have to bet $110; same with tails, risk $110 to win $100. While you might win this once or twice, the House will eventually catch up with you. That’s why I only make Football bets in Vegas, I only do it a couple times a year, and I never bet much.
Over the last few years though, I’ve found better and better ways to enjoy many Sundays the same way I enjoy them in Vegas (although I trade the Venetian for my local sports bar with Sunday Ticket) and without paying a tax to the House. It started 6 years ago when my brother and I hit upon the idea that each of us could pick a few NFL games for a friendly wager and the other person had to take the “House” side, but couldn’t charge the tax. This way as long as I picked better than he did, I would end up winning money. This allowed us to watch the games together and enjoy them like we were at the casino, but without the need to fly to Vegas and pay the casinos (worst case scenario, I lost money and was paying my brother).
Four years ago the idea grew again, we wanted to find a way to reduce the record keeping burden and include more of our friends. That year, the first version of Leave The Houst Out of It (LTHOI.com) was born. The idea behind it is a simple extension of what we’d been doing for a couple of years. We would build a “League” of friends and when any one of them wanted to pick a particular game, we would all take a tiny position against them. Having a lot of people playing with us made the system work even better; now when someone takes a bet that I am forced to take the other side of, I am sharing the responsibility with all the other people in the league. Over time, these “house positions” tend to even out such that we are truly “Leaving the House Out of It”.
We soon discovered that this is an idea that doesn’t even require that money be involved. With the website version, instead of actual gambling… my friends and I discovered that we can just play for pride. Our Win-Loss record and earning against each other are tracked alongside the rest of the members of the “league” and we can battle for who has the best record. Now I get all of the thrill of the Venetian with none of the risk!