Jul 17, 2017

Vegas 2017 Diary, Part 5

OK, I better finish the diary off before football season starts. Don't want to still have Vegas entries to do when we start focusing on the NFL - and mixing up Vegas stories with my themed NFL picks. What will it be this year? Top 17 Sesame Street characters? Top PSAs from the 80s? Best Headline News anchors? (David Goodnow would be #1)

Anyway, on to the final installment of the diary...

Saturday, March 11

It's the free day! A day with no obligations and we just go with the flow. Important NCAA games starting at 8:30 am and continues on until about 11 pm; 3rd round golf from the most boring tournament out there (the Valspar); Premier league; drinking; possible Bare - too much for mere amateurs to handle.

Where did the day start off? Of course - at the UTH table, around 6 or 7 or so. Had a moderate session and then off to craps to find any sort of lightning in a bottle - no luck this time. A boring early morning. Went off to put the parlay in - I had the last game of the day, the New Mexico St. Aggies -3 at the Orleans vs. Bakersfield. A rematch from last year - the Aggies wanted revenge. That would tip at 9 pm; it was now 8:00 am when the ticket was put it. 13 hours to wait.

Of course, I threw out the recommendation of Vermont 2nd half against Albany; the score was tied and Vermont would crush them by more than 6 in the 2nd half!

Breakfast was a surprise - McDonalds! - where we plotted all our golf and basketball bets for the day, and tracked Albany hanging with Vermont the whole way, losing by only 3. Thanks guys.

Serious gambling commenced after breakfast - back at the UTH table; plenty of Baileys and coffee and vodka lemonades were flowing as the table got hot. We were there for 2, 3 hours or so and I think everyone had a wonderful session. What to do with all those profits and you want to get more drunk? There was only one option for me....it was not salon blackjack......it was baccarat!

Yes, showing up buzzed at an empty baccarat table at 11 am is a great idea! Glenn, the dealer from Pittsburgh, was there, surprised to see us - and he remembered Layup and I. Layup and I did our old alternating driver trick - the driver makes the call (player or banker) until he loses, then it switches. I sat down and ordered a Redbreast 15 right away - an Irish Whiskey I had on our Ireland golf trip last year. Just superb! I think I had 2, maybe 3 at the table.

The baccarat sessions was lukewarm to begin; maybe we had a slight profit after the first 45-60 minutes or so - then it went downhill quickly. We ended up losing our profits from UTH and more by the end. But - the good news - I was feeling super drunk. Happy drunk! At 12:15 pm!

Back to UTH - where I have a note that the table was on fire. I think everyone made a bundle - except me; I did well but the numbers don't show anything memorable for me. Hopefully everyone has memories from that session. We got up; I went over to craps (with Leland, maybe?) - a lady that was a virgin roller rolled all the numbers except "4" before a 7 showed up; nice job, except that 7 would have been really nice.... that was the only bright spot for an hour as I proved again that I could not roll this trip.

We decided to get lunch at this point at CPK - and this is when I hit the wall. I was coming down from an alcohol buzz and started to feel exhausted ---- the food took forever to come (it was probably just 10 minutes) and I don't think I said a word at the table. Layup, Wiz and Leland went outside to the pool; I went and took a nap.

Afterwards, back to the craps table where Leland and I had our only winning session; I didn't double my money but made a nice profit. I couldn't roll and I got a little aggravated so I left....walked around a bit, watched basketball. I came back to the table 30 minutes later and Leland was smiling like he got away with murder. "The table got so hot! I was trying to find you to call you back over because everyone was hitting points!" I can't complain, since I did leave with a profit but......there is this new invention called a phone that will allow you to send messages to others that aren't there. I may have to show Leland how to work a phone during Vegas 2018.

Back to UTH to join the others where now my UTH luck was running cold. No good news there. It was now 6 pm or so and I just needed a break. I needed to get out of the casino for a bit. I think it was Mike, Mike and I took a walk down the strip - up north - and over to the TI just to get fresh air and walk around. I needed a full timeout.

I think - need confirmation from others - that we were all lazy and just went to the buffet for dinner. After that, still time for some gambling -and there were no seats at the UTH table; I was hovering around multiple tables (UTH and Pai Gow near Revolution for a while). Leland was at the Pai Gow table playing with 2 drunk cowboys that were obnoxiously trying to get the Asian dealer to bump fists for every winning or tieing hand. It was amusing the first 4 times - and then it got old quick. Leland was the dealer's only outlet for sanity. A seat opened up and I joined; big mistake as I got crushed.   

We went over to the host to get our bill straightened out; everything was fine - and we got to watch the New Mexico St. game (remember that) in the "Million Dollar Craps" room in the back of the Salon. One last gambling session for the day; I was done with UTH for the night and went back to craps for any scraps of magic; there were none and I ended with another loss. To bed....

Sunday, March 12.

Some of the group left early at 6 am or so (like Wiz and Mike A, I think). I didn't have to get to the airport until about 9 or so - so I had some time for one last UTH session. Layup and I played some early morning UTH - and it was an interesting session. First, I was on first base (on the corner), and I knew the dealer at the Pai Gow table next to me. She had no one at her table, so she was an active spectator at our table - yelling at our dealer to give us winners. After a while, I would show her my hand and then bet; I would play by the book and go 4x on K-8 and A-3 and Q-J.

She acted like a concerned mother. After I showed her a Q-10 or so, I went 4x....

"No! What are you doing? Don't do that! Wait for the flop..."

There were three hands in a row where I got 4x hands....

"Oh no! You are giving me a heart attack! Don't go 4x!"

I half enjoyed making her sweat; I should have gone 4x on 7-3 to see what she would do.

The perfect ending for the trip came near the end of the session; I had a K-7 where both cards were black. Time to go 4x again! The flop came with the 6 and 8 of spade. Interesting!

The river was both the 9 and 10 of spades. Oh my! I know I have a black 7.... Layup and Mike A had straight flushes this trip....can it be my turn? Did I have the 7 of spades, or was it the 7 of clubs?

The dealer turned his first card over....7 of spades. Nice. He had the straight flush.

(I had the king of spades, for a losing K-high flush).

Went to the airport, dropped Layup's car off, hung out in the Am Ex lounge with Don - went to the restroom and looked in the mirror - and I saw a bunch of grey hairs for the first time. Not the greatest way to end Vegas 2017....

May 20, 2017

Vegas 2017 Diary, Part 4

Friday, March 10

Another dog sighting
It's Southern Highlands day! The annual round at one of the West's premier country clubs. Obviously, we start the day with a healthy breakfast (Starbucks) and some UTH. I think we were down at the tables around 6, 6:30 before we left at 9; was able to get a session of UTH in, and not for the best. Layup, Don (maybe?) and I were there playing with a character that Layup described as "Gay Fat Albert".

I believe he was African-American, about 300 pounds and he was a talker. It was not clear if he had been there the whole night or not. The table was running cold - and the worst thing to have at the table when you are losing money is a stranger trying to "join" in on your group's conversations. He turned the cold but playable table into a miserable one. I wish Layup took a picture of this guy - his description was 100% accurate.

The March 10 parlay
We got the parlay in - my pick was Rhode Island in the A-10 quarters; more on that later - and I also went heavy on Purdue, over the protests on Don and Mike D. What did they know about their team, anyway?

Golf, as usual, was wonderful. The noon eastern games started to end around the 5th, 6th hole; the 6th fairway is where we learned that the Purdue freshman guard missed 2 foul shots (being up 2) with :05 left, and Purdue giving 3 points; Michigan then sent it into overtime. You can probably guess the result. Our caddy had money on all sorts of games during the round; he was very interested in the Purdue under(which hit) and went against me betting against Rhode Island (and he lost). I had a good time with the caddy talking about the games in progress; Mike D (among others) wished he would have spent more time reading putts.

My golf was actually kind of good this day. I turned in 39 with three bogies; then I started to get up and down and make putts. Two highlights of the round:
1. On 14 - I hit the drive right, next to a bush. The ball was under a bush but I had a swing; I just needed to fade the ball 25 yards. I was about 180 out. Mike D was there - "you're going to make par from here, aren't you?". Yep! Great shot just short of the green, too strong of a chip but a nice par putt to escape.
2. 18 - needed a bogey to shoot 79. 2 good shots put me about 105 out; that's a strong gap wedge; I hit it, a bit left of the pin - if it held on the green, I'd have about 30 feet for birdie. It didn't. It went in the bunker and nestled about 3 inches from the back lip. I had no direct shot at the pin.
I had to blast out sideways and get up and down from 30 yards for the 6 and the 79.

On the veranda with drinks after the round, we all decided to go in on the Blue Jackets that night, among other dumb bets (like Maryland).

Back at the Mirage, first game I played was - craps with Leland! I could never get anything going with Leland at the craps tables this trip. Disappointing. A drunk Minnesotan joined us that afternoon and was telling us to bet the T-wolves vs. Golden State: "It's crazy they are getting points!". He was throwing blacks all over the place on the middle bets - nothing hit. Leland even convinced everyone on our side of the table that it was his birthday - still nothing.

We return to UTH, where the luck was better. I was sitting next to Wiz and keeping an eye on the Columbus game. Mid 2nd-period, it was 3-2 jackets. Great!

Next update - 4-2 Jackets! Goal! Awesome!

We played a few hands, checked the score 20 minutes later....

"3-3 tie".


Apparently we checked the score right after a Columbus goal but before the review - and the review nullified the goal. We were in shock. The Jackets ended up winning, however.

Jaleo Lobby
Dinner that night was Jaleo at Cosmo - another Jose Andres adventure. We get there and there are literally hundreds of people in matching outfits outside in the gathering area. I guess there was some sort of costume convention at Cosmo going on - it was loud. Extremely loud. We are escorted to our table at Jaleo - and it is one of the tables that is outside the restaurant where the noise is not blocked. Also, the table is adorned with chairs that would fit 4th graders, not us overweight guys. I think Layup slipped someone a $20 and we were seated inside.

Some of us got the tasting menu. Jees, what a mistake that was. The food was good, but it was literally 20-30 minutes between the 7 courses. Cmon guys, this is a tapas restaurant - we need the food. I was not impressed.

Now- to the parlay. As usual, we had our 7-way parlay, and my pick (Rhode island) hit!. We had 5 other losers in the afternoon - and the last game was Layup's game, Oregon -8. The game was going down to the wire and was close; Oregon went to the line up 7 with :05 left. He made one. The pick on the parlay was a push - so the card went 1-5-1.

So - what's the ruling?
1. Do I get a free meal for being the lone winner?
2. Does Layup still have to pay anything because he pushed his pick instead of losing it?

There were great arguments on all sides. The key- how do you make it consistent on the winning and losing side? For instance, if the card went 6-0-1 for $2000, does the guy that pushed get any money? Why or why not?

In the end, I just paid for the sangria (the best part of the meal, by far). We need to resolve this by next year.

We walked back to the Mirage that night, fascinated by a 20-something Asian in front of us that was clearly gone and was leaning on his friend to walk. He made it- I was expecting a faceplant or some vomit. Shocker!

Not much gambling happened afterward; many of us (not Wiz or Layup) found an open blackjack table and played for a while. I was on first base - and I was struggling to tread water. I lost a little bit that session - not bad for a few hours. Being on first base and struggling - I wasn't keeping track of what was going on at the other side of the table. Mike D doubled his money, and it was the quietest double I have ever seen. No claps, no fist bumps - just solid play winning 2 out of every 3 hands.

Apr 30, 2017

Vegas 2017 Diary: Part 3

Thursday, March 9

The 2 days of exquisite golf starts today! Wiz and his connections set up rounds for us at Shadow Creek for Thursday and then the annual Southern Highlands round on Friday. This is starting to become a primary focus of the trip instead of just side diversion. And with Layup now returning to the links this year - all of us participated!

But first - before golf - we found out something new about the operating policies at the Mirage. Our tee time for Shadow was around 11 - our departure time from the casino was about 10 - so plenty of time for early gambling.
The notes from this morning were a bit fuzzy - I see that I had my morning craps session, alone, which was a loser. The group starting getting texts from Layup about a dog.

"There's a dog licking me - WTF"

Um - ok. Where are you? Jogging? Getting a Sausage McMuffin without telling the group?

"I'm at the table!!!!"

Dogs now welcome at UTH!
I couldn't get over there right away - since I was busy pouring money down the drain at craps - but Wiz immediately verified. A guy was at the UTH table with a dog - a 10-15 pound toy breed - and said he was keeping it for his girlfriend/wife. This dog is the medical companion for the lady - I guess she needed it for mental comfort. (Cue the millennial jokes now).

(Actually, maybe a comfort dog would do us all good when we go into the Salon.....)

The Mirage employees all gleefully petted the dog - the dealers loved it. Layup was livid. He got the pit boss over and asked "Do you seriously let dogs in here at the table". Yes, the answer came - proudly.  So Layup - and a few others in the group, like Mike D - played UTH with the dog licking Layup's leg every few minutes. I'm sure the mood there was wonderful. And - as I read the texts - it seems that "dog boy" hit a straight flush at the table with Mike D and Layup. Extra pain!

The golf and atmosphere at Shadow was much, much better this year than it was a few years ago when we played. Maybe playing it when you are not sleep deprived helped. We had 6 of us - and split up into 3 2-man team, each in opposite groups. I can't even remember the teams now - I think I drew Layup. The course was fantastic - as many people say, it's crazy that we have a hole like this one in the Vegas desert. So artificial, yet it looks so natural.

My golf was good - for about 13 holes, then everything fell apart. The one negative to the round was the caddy. It got off to a bad start on #2 - I had about a 50 footer for birdie; I left it 6-7 feet to the short and right. It was a tricky downhiller for par.
Shadow #17

The caddy gave me the line - I think I hit the line, at the right speed. I felt good as soon as I stroked the putt......halfway there, the caddy opens his mouth. "Nice putt! Nice par!"

The ball, of course, did a 90 degree turn and missed the hole.

The last one was on #16 - a longish par 5 with a wide fairway - but if you miss the fairway, you were dead. I was struggling and hit a bad banana ball that started left and was moving right.

"Good drive, should be in the fairway" said the caddie.

The ball hit the right side of the fairway, kicked down into an impossible lie in the rough. I barely made double. I was so pissed.

I felt better on 18 as I was the only one to finish the hole as the others (my opponents) all found water at least once. Routine par for me!

Highlight of the round was this excellent layup shot by Don on 18. No, this is not a drop - this is where the ball came to rest on 18.

Bottom line - loved Shadow this year. I was a bit apprehensive after the 2013 (?) trip - but I played decent, course was fantastic (better than I remember), and the drinks were good.  We got back to the homestead around 5 and went straight to the UTH table  - all 6 of us played UTH for a good 3 hours until dinner; I got crushed in that evening session.

Dinner that night was at Japonais in the Mirage; Layup earned a free dinner as he was the "1" from the 1-6 parlay yesterday - we treated him to dinner at Japonais, but I think he was expecting something else. This - and a parlay ruling we will talk about tomorrow - requires some more details on how the parlay works. Where can the winner "cash" his dinner?

Mr. River comes through
Back to the UTH table after dinner for more UTH fun. It was about now where Mike A started pulling hands out with regularity on the river. There were multiple time I can recall - 10? 12? - where the flop does nothing for him; the 2 river cards are exposed and then we hear a "oh! I have a flush!". The two river cards made a total of 3 spades on the board, and he just happened to have 2 more in his hand. Or the river cards filled in a gutshot straight for him.

Near the end, we have this hand - of course the 8 and Q of hearts were on the river.....

He's on tilt....
It was a good session; I made a little bit and I think others made a whole lot more. Layup and Wiz left to head into the salon later that night. I'm not sure exactly what was happening, but Wiz almost got into a fight with one of the ConAg expo attendees as the person wanted to watch Wiz's blackjack play - and I guess was leaning on Wiz's chair. I need more details of this in the comments.

Anyway - the last text of the night was this picture, with the comment: "Here is a man on tilt....."

Apr 12, 2017

Vegas Diary 2017 - Part 2

Wednesday, March 8

Well, those sleeping pills did their job. I opened my eyes around 6:30 and was still under the influence of the pills. Stayed in bed for another hour - that never happens in Vegas! Finally got downstairs around 8 or so - and found an empty craps table. I was by myself - why not? - and started rolling. Another guy joined me, and he hit an all small for me. Great! Even though the Mirage dropped the payout for the All Small from 35 for 1 to 30-1, I still was addicted to it. It's like an ATM! It eventually pays out!

(It was the only all small I hit all trip).

I think the roller who hit it for me was part of the Con Ag convention. Let me pause and say a few words about that convention. The ConAg convention is a annual convention of heavy agricultural equipment vendors, and every 3 years they come to Vegas. This was their week. There as a check in for the expo at the airport; when I landed, the line was at least 100 people long.  From Tuesday - Friday, the casino was full of people with their blue lanyards milling around the casino. Some found their way to UTH; some were beginners at craps; some just had rooms there and had no interest in gambling. I think I saw the same woman from Mansfield at least 5 times in the elevator over the course of our trip. The people were fine - for me - except for the fact that the UTH tables were fairly crowded on the weekday afternoons; I don't think Wiz liked many of them in the Salon.

Layup and I had breakfast, where we (mostly I) charted the games; I was convinced of Western Kentucky -4 over UTSA. I'm the leadoff batter for our parlay! I don't lose early games! After breakfast, Layup and I went back to that craps table where I won the all small - no luck.

The old home
It was about 9 am - and we all went our separate ways for a bit - exercise, work, etc; I wanted to jog but the treadmills were crowded. Plan B - run on the strip! There's a first time for everything. 30 minute jog from the Mirage down to the MGM - crossing at Caesar's, and having to run inside the mall at Planet Hollywood for about 100 yards. It was great! Perfect weather, no crowds (except for hurdling a few homeless people on the east side of the strip across from the Aria). That, followed by a massage, was a great way to really relax for the trip.

It was now about 1:00 on Wednesday - Don and Mike are still on the course and won't be back until about 4 - now what? Another first for the trip - Top Golf! The three of us went there and had a great time. The end of the range had 4 giant TVs that were showing basketball - so it was golf, alcohol, appetizers while watching 30 foot TVs. The cost was lower than expected (although not cheap). Got to see a great Duke cover in the 2nd half of the Clemson game, but also was there when someone convinced all of us to bet heave on Arkansas St - and they were a loser.

Back at the Mirage, we waited at the UTH table for Don and Mike D to return from golf; we all headed to Lavo for dinner - what to say? The regular meal at Lavo never disappoints. There was a huge line for the casino/sportsbar  on the second floor of the restaurant - someday, we need to make an expedition there.

When we returned for dinner - what else? UTH with the 5 of us, and then Mike A arrived to make it a full table of 6. Wednesday night was also John the Pai Gow dealer's first night on - and he was there and came over and said. He lingered at our table for a while during each of his breaks - part to catch up with all of us.....but things turned a bit odd. During the conversations, he would put his hand on our shoulder - nothing wrong with that - and then massage our shoulders and arms while talking. It was just .... odd. Was it genuine happiness in seeing us? His Italian roots coming out? Or a cry for help? Wiz will have to get more information for us.
Not a winner
All of us were exhausted around 11, and the session ended. An early night for us.

Oh- our parlays? Wednesday's parlay was no good. I think this is a 1-6 ticket; the first clue that this is a losing ticket was having 6 favorites.

Apr 7, 2017

Vegas Diary 2017 - Part 1

Well, I guess it is time to start putting the notes into actual words and save for history. Yes, it's time for the Vegas 2017 trip diary! The trip vibe was a little different this year - which is good. We need to have every trip be different in its own way. If I look back, there were not a lot of true gambling stories, but the interactions with all the other gamblers (and within our group) made up for the memories. And the golfing - as Layup caught the golf bug this winter, more emphasis was placed on the golf this year. For the better, I think!

Tuesday, March 7

The trip started a bit earlier this year - I took the direct flight out from Cincinnati to Vegas on Tuesday morning. The trip therefore started when my alarm went off at 5:45. Layup picked me up at the airport at 9 am - and off we went to Royal Links. Driving with Layup was much better than the taxi ride last year.

Teed off at Royal Links around 10 - just Layup and I in a twosome. Great round; gave Layup a few pointers for chipping/wedges and Layup was ready to put the clock on me a few times. On #8 - a short par 3 - I staked it to 4 feet and Layup pulled his a bit into the greenside bunker - or so we thought. Here's the picture - and Layup's ball at the bottom.

I gave him a free drop (due to man made obstruction), and off we went. I shared the picture and was immediately told I gave an incorrect ruling. Some people (like the idiot Wiz) felt that there was no free drop in this situation since the stairs went down to the bunker- and the stairs are part of the bunker.

We did not resolve that ruling - need some outside help on this one. (RRD? Kermit?). If the ball is on railroad ties, it's a free drop! It's not in a marked red/yellow hazard, and there is no local rule that the steps are an integral part of the course!

(of course, I missed my putt in the picture).

On the way back, we stopped at a Bank of America where Layup spent 20 minutes in the bank getting money while I was in constant fear of being robbed in the parking lot. Checked in to the usual room - the suite with the adjoining room - cleaned up, and the trip starts!

Layup and I first hit the UTH table; there was a poor guy sitting there by himself with the dealer when we come in and both ask for markers. Play grinds to a halt for this guy. He eventually gives up and leaves, leaving us two alone with Rosemary, the dealer.

Rosemary is friendly, ice cold as Layup and I start getting good cards.  We were into the session about an hour when a random flop comes up - like Q of spades, 6 of diamonds and 3 of diamonds. Nothing there.

Rosemary turns over the 4 and 7 of diamonds..... hmmmm..

After 1 second, Layup smiles at me. "I have a straight flush". Sure enough, he had the 5.... a good start for the trip.

Quote of the trip happened during that session....Rosemary asked if we were in town for the Con Ag expo that took over Vegas that week. "No", we said. Just a guys trip - 7 of us. We always come in this weekend for golf and the basketball.

A guy was sitting on first base... and he paused. "It's....Tuesday..."

I think the Vegas trip should start on Tuesday every year - and I assume by 2020 it will move to Monday.

Wiz came in around 5 or so; we headed to Heritage at 5:30 for dinner where we had great food but the worst service. First, we sat down in the bar area - ready to watch the end of the Ga Tech game and the start of the Gonzaga game. We were ready for drinks - and our waitress was 5 feet away from us, talking to a friend of hers. And talking...And talking....And talking. Am I exaggerating when I say she did this for 10 minutes? We are ready to drink, and get back to the tables -but she is gabbing with a long lost friend. She half-heartdly mumbled an apology and took our orders. We did not hide our displeasure.

OK - nowe we can watch the games....until what? A 6'5" guy stand in the exact same place where our waitress was, and starts talking to another person. And, of course, this guy is in direct line with the TV so we are blocked. We did our best to cheer obnoxiously loud to see if he would get the hint - again, it took 5 minutes for him to move.

At least Gonzaga won (and covered) and Northern Kentucky won and covered. And Columbus covered the money line (-1.5). So a good start with the sports bets that day.

The rest of the day's gambling was non-eventful; we tried to roll and none of us could, and one more UTH session was a wash. I fell asleep around 11 after taking 2 sleeping pills - since I never sleep in Vegas.....

Jan 1, 2017

NFL Week 17: October 26, 1997

Happy New Year!
We end our series on my most painful sports memories with this one.... and, I'm sorry, I'm still not able to talk about this game rationally.

I just physcially can't go into the details of this game like I have done with the others. It's still too painful. Just searching for the images brought back some bad, bad flashbacks.

(For instance, I forgot that they were up 2-0 in the game. I always thought it was 1-0, then 1-1, then 2-1 until the 9th.....ugh....)

Where was I for this game? Janice and I had tickets - believe it or not - for the Buffalo Bills game that weekend. The Bills were holding a "Cleveland Browns fan Appreciation day", given our "hiatus" from the league at that point. We got tickets from the Cincinnati Browns Backers group. The plan was to drive up Saturday, watch Game 6 in Steve's basement with Steve, then go to Buffalo on Sunday to watch the Bills, and then drive home from Buffalo to Cincinnati Sunday night.

Well, Game 6 was a great game - Chad Ogea not only winning but driving in 2 runs - and the Tribe won, forcing a game 7. The weather was crap - and why were we going to see a Buffalo game anyway?  We decided to stay in Cleveland that Sunday to watch game 7 in Steve's basement.

I was 25. I wanted to riot in the streets with a win.

I remember us getting pizza - I think it was the 4 of us; Janice, me, Steve, and Steve's girlfriend (soon to be wife, Susan). We got a ton of pizza. We watched the game in almost absolute silence in the heightened tension. Every half inning, I would get up, grab a slice of the small square-cut pizza, pace around a bit, and then sit down.

We ran out of pizza after the bottom of the 8th. I don't think I have to say anymore.

The drive home was awful, although we set a record - we made it home in about 3 hours with no stops.

I'm sorry, I still can't relive that game.....still too raw.

On to the games:

Cin 20, Bal 17. Have to think there is some letdown for the Ravens after last week.

TB 27, Car 17. TB will at least play hard for a while in this game.

Hou 20, Ten 13. I think Houston will go all out here, as they need to get Tom Savage reps in preparation for the playoffs next week.

Ind 27, Jax 24. What a change in demeanor for the Jags! Wow....

NE 28, Mia 17.  Pats will go up 14-0 and cruise from there.

Min 27, Chi 24. The Vikes want the season to be over, and the Bears are still playing hard.

Buf 19, NYJ 16. Who cares?

Phi 23, Dal 20. No idea what Garrett and the Cowboys will do here.

Atl 31, NO 17. Someone will stop playing during this game - it will be evident.

Was 24, NYG 17. Motivation is another key factor here as the Giants are locked into the 5 seed.

Oak 23, Den 13. Denver's offense is atrocious, and I don't think Matt McGloin is all that bad.

Az 20, LA 10. I'm sure there will be 9 flea flickers for the Rams here just to keep people interested for next year.

KC 27, SD 16. The Chargers already said their good bye to San Diego last year. There's no celebratory send off in store this year.

Sea 20, SF 13. Again, I don't like Seattle on the road.

GB 30, Det 24. I may add this to the "best bet" games later on as the day progresses.

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 8-5; overall: 104-94-7
Cin +2.5
TB -3.5
Hou +4
Hou/Ten under 40.5
Jax/Ind over 47
Chi +6.5
Min/Chi over 43
Pit -5.5
Atl -7.5
NO/Atl under 57
Oak +1.5
KC -4
Sea/SF under 43

My supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 43-35-2
Pit -6
Atl -6.5
KC -6
Hou +3.5
Oak +1

Our combined supercontest picks: last week: 4-1; overall: 39-35-6:
NYJ -3.5
Bal +2
Was -7.5
Pit -6
Atl -6.5

Dec 24, 2016

NFL Week 16: January 17, 1988

As you know, there are so many painful moments in Cleveland sports history. There wasn't a shortage of games and losses to talk about. But only 2 stand out as wounds that are still difficult to talk about today. 

(Note 1 - I'm not including the move of the Browns to Baltimore as one of those; that, of course, was devastating; however, that was like watching a slow motion train wreck. You could see it coming, you tried to stop it, but it happened anyway. I still hate that bastard Art Modell....)

(Note 2 - I truly don't believe that the 2016 World Series will make the list of losses I won't be able to talk about in 10 years. The run this year just seemed like a great party when someone turned the lights on and told people to go home too early. We had no starting pitching, and it was apparent our offense was on empty. Yes, we were up 3-1, but still....with that rotation we had for games 5, 6 and 7, I wasn't completely comfortable. Now, if we were in the Cubs situation and up 6-3 in the 8th with Miller pitching, and ended up losing....that would be a different story....)

The first raw nerve we will talk about is the 1987 AFC Championship game, in Denver. This, of course, was a rematch of the 86 Champ game in Cleveland, ended by the Drive and Denver's missed field goal in overtime. As I talked about earlier, that game didn't affect me much, since I knew the game was going to overtime before I watched it on tape. However, for the rematch, I was watching live at home.

It was a late start - 4 pm Eastern, I think. We came out flat and the Broncos were clearly ready to play. We had no defense in the first half and Kosar/Slaughter/Byner couldn't get going. We were down 21-3 at the half. But strangely, I clearly remember not being despondent. I took our dog for a walk at halftime and saw a strategy for us to win.

- We get the ball to start the half....we need a TD. 
- We need just a few stops on D - our offense was moving but stalling around the 30 and 40. We just need to finish drives.
- Two stops, and two Cleveland completed drives - we are right back in this...

With that optimism, I returned to watch the 2nd half. The Browns got the 2nd half kickoff and scored.... 21-10. The Broncos then had a bomb to Nattiel to make it 28-10. 

From then on, it was all Browns. Kosar was 16-22 for 246 ...in the second half alone! Think about that...this was 1988. 300 yard passing games were rare back then - and he threw for 246 in a half. We were unstoppable. We were moving the ball at will. 

With 10:48 left in the 4th quarter, the comeback was complete; we tied it up at 31. 
Four drives - 21 total plays - four touchdowns. 
There's no way they can stop us. The question was - can we stop them?

Unfortunately, not on the next drive. Denver moved down the field and scored with 4:10 left. They were up 38-31. But still - 4 minutes is plenty of time for Kosar....

...and it was. With 1:05 left, we moved to the 8 yard line. We had 2nd and 5 at the 8. Reeves was quoted as saying he was already thinking about the coin toss to start overtime....

Marty called a draw to Byner...the rest is history. I don't have to recount what happened next. Apparently, Webster was supposed to block the safety, but he saw the hole that Byner was going to run through and he let up a moment to watch the touchdown - the safety came in and hit Byner on the blind side (Byner didn't see him) and that caused the fumble...

I was devastated. 

Furiously, I was thinking of possible ways we can win... "we still have 2 timeouts...they will have to punt...maybe a Hail Mary????"

Denver did have a 4th down with about :10 left at their own 5; they called for an intentional safety to make the score 38-33; they kicked off with about :05 left but our laterals were useless. 

I still can't believe they lost (or, at least, lost in regulation). 

Layup (who technically has no connections to Cleveland) was becoming a Denver fan at the time (for no apparent reason), so that made it extra painful. 

On that note, on to the games:

Buf 20, Mia 17. I can't figure this game out. I don't trust either of these teams - I've seen Miami blow these games on the road numerous times before. 

Atl 26, Car 20. Car shot its wad last Monday night, and Atlanta needs these games to keep hope alive for a bye. I think the Falcons play hard. 

Was 27, Chi 20. Chicago is just good enough to stay in this game, and I think the Skins are good enough to know they can't coast through games like last week. Desperation wins. 

GB 20, Min 19. The Vikes have the Packers' number. Enough said. 

Ten 24, Jax 17. Still don't trust the Titans to win the games they should down the stretch. Will Jax respond to a new coach? 

NE 31, NYJ 10. Betting on the "if first division meeting is close, second is a blowout" axiom. Seen it all the time with Browns-Steelers. 

Oak 28, Ind 17. Can't explain last week's Colts game. I think Oak scores at will against that Ind D, that is improving. 

TB 27, NO 24. Surprised the Saints are favored here. They still have no / limited defense. 

LA 23, SF 10. The Rams have more talent than the Niners, Can't see them losing this one. 

Sea 23, Az 20. Two teams that have similar talent. I have to believe the Cardinals will get up for this one. 

Hou 26, Cin 17. The Bengals will pack it in after the crushing loss last week to the Steelers. 

Pit 28, Bal 17. Not a fan of the Ravens offense. Only way they can score is to capitalize on others' mistakes; not going to happen in Pittsburgh. 

KC 24, Den 10. Someone explain to me how Denver will score in this game. 

Dal 28, Det 20. It will be interesting to watch Dallas's O - that is coming a bit to earth - against the improving Lions D. 

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 10-5; overall: 96-89-7
Atl -3
Was -3
Min +7
NE -17 (gulp)
Oak -3.5
Ind/Oak under 53.5
TB +3.5
LA -5
SF/LA under 39.5
Az +7.5
Hou -1
Pit -5.5
KC -3

My supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 39-34-2
KC -3.5
Hou -1
Oak -3.5
Az +7.5
LA -3.5

Our combined supercontest picks: last week: 1-3-1; overall: 35-34-6
Oak -3.5
Bal +5.5
KC -3.5
Hou -1
Car +3

Dec 18, 2016

NFL Week 15

I'm traveling up in Dayton all day today -but I did want to leave everyone with a taste of a Cleveland Buffalo memory. It's the only Cleveland win that will be listed this year - it's this doozy from 2009 ...

Cleveland 6, Buffalo 3

Derek Anderson completes 2 passes - and wins ! The whole NFL world loses.

Best bets: 15 for today: last week : 9-7; overall: 86-84-7

Pit -3
Det +4.5
Bal -5.5
KC -6
Ten/KC under 43
Ind/Min under 45.5
Jax +3.5
NO +3
Atl -14
SF/Atl under 50.5
NE -3
Oak/SD under 49.5
TB +7
TB /Dal over 47.5
Car/Was under 51

My supercontest picks : last week: 4-1; overall: 35-33-2
Pit -3
Det +4
NO +2.5
Jax +6
TB +6.5

Our combined supercontest picks: last week : 3-1-1; overall : 34-31-5
Pit -3
Det +4
Bal -5.5
Az -2.5
SD +3

Dec 11, 2016

NFL Week 14: December 16, 2001

Boy, it's hard to believe it has been almost 15 years since this game. 15 years since Bottlegate.

All Cleveland fans know Bottlegate - Jacksonville 15, Cleveland 10, back in 2001. The details are well summarized in this oral history and the CBS broadcast of the event is here on YouTube. I would encourage everyone to watch this see just how incompetently this was handled.

To recap:
- The Browns were 6-6 in the third year after the rebirth, well in playoff contention in the weak AFC. This is the first time we had been in playoff contention this late in the season in 7 years.
- We expected to win this game at home vs. the 4-8 Jags.
- Our offense sucked the whole game; we were losing 9-0 at half (we always suck against Jacksonville), but a pick 6 by the Browns got us back in it;
- Jacskonville kicked another field goal - their 5th - and led 15-10 with 3 minutes to go. We got the kick off and finally moved down the field.
- With a minute left, we had 4th and 2 at the Jacksonville 12. No timeouts left. Couch passed to Quincy Morgan and Morgan bobbled it a bit; he then secured it and was just past the first down line at the 10. First down Browns!
- The team lined up to spike to stop the clock; they spiked it. Now second down with :48 left at the 9.
- After the spike, the referee (more on him in a moment) said we will review the 4th down play. They determined that Morgan did drop the ball, and the Jags will take over on downs.
- This, of course, is illegal by NFL rules, since another play was run before the review was initiated.

As you can guess, pure pandemonium ensued in the stadium. the video shows that the head referree did not make an announcement to the stadium for 6 straight minutes. Of course they would be angry and confused! So the people in the stands found anything they could - usually empty beer bottles - and threw them on the field in a show of anger, displeasure and frustration.

After those 6 mi nutes, the head ref - Terry McAulay - decided it was too dangerous to continue the game and unilaterally called the game. "The Game is Over", he announced. The teams headed to the locker room.

Paul Tagliabue got on the phone quickly and said "uh no, get back out there and finish the game.". So, 20 minutes later, the teams went back on the field and completed 2 kneeldowns to officially end the game.

I don't think any Browns fan will ever forget that game. My quick thoughts:

1. I can't believe the NFL did not prepare ofr this sort of scenario. I'm sure they did not see it playing out like this. I will firmly believe that McAulay botched the execution of a possible late signal from the booth.

2. Gus Johnson was announcing the game. Just keep that in mind!

3. Gus correctly lambasted the ref for not getting on the speaker and communicating to the crowd what was going on. That, in my mind, was 80% of the problem.

4. There already was a feeling that the NFL was out to get us. In the past 6 years before this game, the NFL - forced us to fight for our name and colors, gave us a shitty deal in terms of preparation time for an expansion team and a much more deal for draft picks than what Carolina and Jacksonville got, and there was still lingering hatred for even allowing the move to Baltimore. So our paranoia with the NFL was more than justified.

5. I would have loved to know if Vegas made the call to the NFL offices to say - uh, boys, get back on the field. I truly believe that's the only reason why they played those last 48 seconds.

To the picks. Is this the day. Is the the day where the browns finally win ????At home vs. a depleted Bengals team?

Pit 24, Buf 23 I hate this game. I can't trust the Steelers on the road and I don't feel like I can trust the Bills and Rex just yet - especially after last week's meltdown at Oakland.

SD 27, Car 20.  It's over for teh Panthers. They are done for the year.

Det 27, Chi 17. Boy, maybe I should wakeup to this Detroit defense....

Ind 23, Hou 16 All right, so IN underestimated the Colts last Monday night. I can't see the Texans scoring on anyone. Why aren't they on our schedule over the next 4 weeks?

Min 17,Jax 10. Trap! Why is this line only 3???

Mia 31, Arz 20.  Last week was just the wrong opponent for the Dolphins - they struggled on the road against the #1 rushing D. Should have an easier time today.

Was 20, Phi 17.  I can't figure out either of these teams this year.

Ten 24, Den16. Again, someone tell me how Denver is going to score.

SF 24, NYJ 17.  I recognize something in these Niners...this is a classic false hope situation where a struggling team starts to play better in the 2nd half of the season, but will still be bad.

TB 30, NO 20. I know, I'm probably too late on this bandwagon...

GB 28, Sea 27. Have we forgotten that the Seahawks are awful on the road?

LA 31, Atl 30.  I know, I can't resist here. There's one last stand for the Rams....

Dal 26, NYG 23. Do these teams play each other 5 times a year?

NE 23, Bal 20. I'll repeat what I said last week - there's something off about the Patriots offense.

Best bets: 16 of them. Last week: 6-10; overall: 77-77-7

SD +1.5
Det -7
Hou/Ind under 47.5
Min -3
Min/JAx under 39
Mia +2
Az/Mia over 43.5
Was/Phi under 47.5
Ten -2
SF -3
TB -1.5
GB +3
GB/Sea over 44.5
LA +5.5
Atl?LA over 44.5
Bal +6.5

My personal supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 31-32-2
Mia -1
Ten -1
TB -2.5
GB +2.5
LA +6

Combined Supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 31-30-4
Mia -1
Phi +1
Ten -1
TB -2.5
Bal +7

Dec 4, 2016

NFL Week 13: September 8, 2002

Year 4 of the re-birth started with plenty of promise. After the first two seasons of 2-14 and 3-13, we were competitive in Year Three, with a young coach plucked from the college ranks (Butch Davis) and some young talent on both sides of the ball.

We went 7-9 in 2001, with one of those losses highlighted here before (the Chicago) and another heartbreaking, undeserved, stolen loss to be detailed later. So there was reason to believe that this team was truly an 8-8, 9-7 team that would only get better in 2002.

Our opener was a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Many recall that the early 2000s Browns were filled with QB controversies, with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb battling it out for years for the starting spot. For the start of 2002, Timmy got injured and Kelly was our started for week 1. The Chiefs' QB was Trent Green, himself a victim of a QB controversy over in St Louis as Kurt Warner replace him.

Anyway, this was a shoot out for the ages. We had no running game, so all we did was pass; Kelly had over 350 yards and 3 TDs. Priest Holmes had 4 TDs, I believe. Down 37-36, we kicked a FG with :20 sec to take the lead, 39-37. Now, if we can only hold on for the last 20 seconds....

The Chiefs got the ball to about their own 40 with :02 on the clock. Time for one last play for them. Green went back, hoping to have enough time for a Hail Mary - but the Browns rush came on too quick. Green was grabbed,spun around, and looked like he was sacked.....the clock hit :00.... Dwayne Rudd was the primary player that grabbed him.

However, Green was not down. He managed to lateral the ball to one of his offensive linemen, who had plenty of running room. Jon Tait was the lineman - and he got the bal around the KC 40 - he ran (slowly) to his left - to the 50...to the 40. There are no Browns in the picture......

I was screaming and panicking at that moment. Where the hell is everyone????? Where's the defense?
Finally - some help came around the 30 yard line, and Tait was pushed out at the 25. Ball game. We win the opener!

Or do we ? All Browns fans know that the game is never over when the clock hits :00; it's not even over when the clock is at :00 and the refs are in the locker room.....

A flag is seen on the field - and by now, many of you know what had happened. Rudd, thinking that Green had been sacked and down, started celebrating and took off his helmet. He didn't realize the play was still going on - and Tait was running down the field......Taking your helmet of during the play is an automatic penalty - 15 yards.

Here is Chris Berman giving highlights for that play.....

The game can not end on a defensive penalty * - so the 15 yards was tacked on to the end of Tait's run; the Chiefs ran an untimed down from our 12, where of course they lined up for a field goal - and Morten Andersen made it. Final (for good this time), Chiefs 40-39.

Most NFL teams will never experience an untimed down; for Browns fans, we have lost 3 games to an untimed down over the past 15 years:

2002 - The Helmet Game
2008 - The Brady Quinn game in Detroit, where Quinn threw for 4 touchdowns;
2015- The San Diego game where we jumped offsides on a missed field goal; the Chargers got a second chance and made it on an untimed down.

This doesn't even include the fiasco two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh where the Steelers got TWO untimed downs at the end of the first half; with :02 left and the Steelers at our 1, they threw an incomplete pass but we were called for holding; on the untimed down, we were called for another penalty. The Steelers got the touchdown on the 3rd try. I'm sure that's a record - most untimed downs in one half.

* - We now know that a game can not end on a defensive penalty, but it CAN end on an offensive penalty - thanks to John Harbaugh. I had the Ravens -4, so that safety did not hurt me.

All finished ok in the Browns 2002 season, however; even with that loss, we ended up 9-7 and won a massive tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.

To the games:

Atl 24, KC 16. I believe there's got to be some hangover effect for the Chiefs, and the Falcons can't afford to lose.

Bal 20, Mia 13 Bal's defense is excellent against the run, so that forces Miami to pass - and I dont' trust Tannehill on the road.

Chi 30, SF 20. Barkley actually looked good last week. I have faith in him.

Phi 23, Cin 20. I think the Bengals are ready to quit on the season. Will be interesting to see the line next week when they go visit Cleveland.

GB 31, Hou 20. Maybe last week's Packers' game is a mirage. But boy, are the Texans awful on offense.

Den 20, Jax 10. How exactly are the Jags going to score?

NE 27, LA 20. I really didn't like the way Brady looked lat week vs. the Jets. Of course, he will prove me wrong and come out firing for 500 yards today....

NO 31, Det 23. I still think Detroit is a fraud...

Oak 23, Buf 20. Speakig of frauds, here are two of them. Or maybe they are above-average teams that know how to beat inferior opponents.

Az 23, Was 16. I think there is one last stand in store for Arizona. At home, vs. a road-weary Redskins team....

Pit 27, NYG 23.  I so want to go against the Giants here, but folks - something is off with Pittsburgh. Their defense is shaky and they only have one receiver.

SD 27, TB 20. Why can't the Chargers run the table for the rest of their games?

Sea 27, Car 13. The Seahawks, at home, in a prime time game, coming off an embarassing loss? Yes please.

NYJ 20, Ind 17. Looks like the Colts are regressing this year. I fear for Luck with that line vs. the Jet's rush.

Best bets: 16 of them. Last week: 7-6-1; overall: 71-67-7.
Atl -5.5
KC/Atl under 50
Bal -3.5
Mia/Bal under 41
Chi +2
SF/Chi over 43,5
Phi +1.5
GB -6.5
Den -3.5
LA +13.5
Az -2.5
Was/Az under 48.5
SD -3.5
Sea -7.5
NYJ +1.5
Ind/NYJ under 48.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-2-1; overall: 29-29-2
Az -2.5
Atl -4
LA +13.5
Sea -6.5
NYJ +2

Our combined Supercontest picks: last week: 3-1-1; overall: 29-27-4
Phi pk
Oak -3
SD -3.5
Az -2.5
NYJ +2