by Brendan I. Koerner
I have the good fortune to be closely related to a successful professional gambler, a man who has taught me a ton about the brainpower required to beat the odds. Had he been born into better economic circumstances, I have no doubt that he would have ended up with a corner office on Wall Street. But college wasn't an option given his family's meager resources, so he enlisted in the Army and learned to put his talents to work at the track and the pool hall. And though he's never known the pleasure of a $15,000 umbrella stand, it's clear that he's spent his career slicing through math problems that would vex the sharpest hedge-fund baron.
As the Super Bowl approaches, I thought it would be worth hipping y'all to one of this Runyon-esque character's primary gambling lessons: betting on professional football is a mug's game. Oh, sure, you can potentially achieve some small measure of success if you're willing to make multiple bets per contest over an entire season, and you pay careful attention to such minute factors as wind conditions, cleat length, and the status of key players' divorce proceedings. But gamblers who really understand the math are no fans of the NFL; they know that the multi-billion-dollar industry that surrounds the league's wagering exists solely to part fools from their money, by creating the illusion that objective observation can lead to winning bets over the long-term. (Sound familiar?)