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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Gambling ramblings

It's that time of year again. Well, for some.
After selection Sunday, 65 colleges around the nation were buzzing about the Big Dance as beloved basketball teams throughout the country began making preparations to push towards an NCAA Championship.
As the harsh winter fades here in Buffalo, students were left to get drunk on St. Patrick's Day, trying to forget about the Bulls' abysmal MAC Tournament performance.
Tournament games started Thursday and instead of cheering on the Bulls, UB basketball fans were left following out-of-conference games that hold little significance to us.
But some have "made it interesting."
Brackets can be found all around colleges and universities, throughout professional offices across the country and are easily accessible on the Internet via Yahoo!, ESPN or CBS – just to name a few. Since Selection Sunday, I was invited to partake in five different bracket pools, not including the competition found in Wednesday's issue of The Spectrum or the numerous challenges that I received on Facebook.
I wouldn't, however, consider these pools gambling.
Much like buying squares on Super Bowl Sunday, filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket is more like a crapshoot. Spending $5, $10, or even $20 to make the six rounds of March Madness more interesting – especially to UB fans who have no real stake in the tourney – is perfectly understandable.
But there are students who can't fight the temptation of placing bets throughout the year. Today, college kids are only a few clicks away from choosing a parlay that could be the difference between eating the following week or filling up their car with gas in order to get to class.
ESPN airs sports show after sports show with countless analysts and experts spitting out interesting statistics that can help decide which team is a better pick that night. The Internet also helps keep us intimately connected to professional athletes. We're up to date on player injuries, off the field conduct, and conflicts within the locker room.
With all of the information so readily available, some savvy college sports fans have found an easy way to make a quick buck.
For some, it's almost too easy. They're able to take their love of sports and use knowledge and intuition to make educated predictions. With money on the line, watching out of town games becomes fun, but is it worth the risk?
I'm not talking about the chance of picking the wrong team – which can easily happen if you watched Ohio top Georgetown – and losing $40. In fact, I'm more concerned with the contrary – the risk of winning.
Once you've won that first bet, it's hard not to think about the next game you can wager on with the extra money you've just "earned". Before you know it, you're checking the spreads of every major game and doing research on athletes whom you've never even heard of.
Instead of innocently following sports like you did when you were a kid, you're now staring at the television anxiously tapping your foot on the floor because the game that was supposed to be a blowout is unfavorably unfolding (cough Northern Iowa v. Kansas).
The money Mom and Dad sent for groceries was riding on the outcome of yesterday's Syracuse Gonzaga game. Do college kids participate in Fantasy leagues because they want to know what it feels like to manage a professional team or is it an excuse to stay on top of the ever-changing statistics?
Whether you're winning or losing, sports betting can become a nasty habit. If you make a few good picks and win some easy money, it can become difficult to stop gambling. Once you're down, you find yourself trying to get out of the hole by finding the next big winner.
And as we're stuck watching the national tournament with no team to support, it's easy to try to find a cheap thrill to make the games more interesting.
Unfortunately, that cheap thrill can turn into an expensive debt.

E-mail: andrew.wiktor@ubspectrum.com



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