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The Can’t-Lose Sports Bet of 2017

Most years, you probably shouldn’t bet on baseball. But this spring, the game might be rigged in the fans’ favor. It’s the perfect time for rookie sports bettors to pull off one last — and also first — heist.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Until today, I had never placed a sports bet. I know nothing about most sports, and the one about which I know something, baseball, is among the most unpredictable. Knowing that I know nothing, I also know that wagering wouldn’t enhance my enjoyment of any event. Unless I have a real reason to think I can cover the vig — are those words a sports bettor would say? — I’d rather not risk my money.

And today, at last, I do. I’ve finally found a bet that I can’t possibly lose. (I think.)

You might be familiar with Bovada, the online gambling/casino-games site that offers action on sports and races. With baseball season about to begin, Bovada is, naturally, promoting its baseball bets.

Well, Bovada, don’t mind if I do.

Bovada offers prop bets on every MLB player in certain statistical categories. If you want to bet on Adam Jones’s batting average (over or under .270), home run total (over or under 26.5), or RBI total (over or under 115), you can do that until Saturday, the day before the first game of the season (provided you’re not a resident of New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, or Maryland).

If you scroll down, right between Billy Hamilton and Brandon Belt, you will, as of this writing, find an over/under on home runs hit by Brad Mills, which is set at 24.5.

(Bovada)
(Bovada)

This strikes me as a safe bet, given that Brad Mills is a 32-year-old left-handed pitcher with a 7.97 ERA in 79 innings spread across six big league seasons, and who spent last year at Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners re-signed him in October, but he hasn’t pitched this spring because he’s still recovering from a shoulder injury that ended his 2016 season last June. He’s made four career major league plate appearances, and this is what the end of the last one looked like.

He probably won’t make many more.

There’s more than one Brad Mills in baseball whom I’m confident is incapable of hitting 25 home runs. The bench coach for the Cleveland Indians is also named Brad Mills. That Brad Mills hit one home run in 106 career big league games and turned 60 in January.

One baseball person definitely not named Brad Mills, though, is the shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays. That would be Brad Miller, whom Bovada must have meant.

Miller hit 30 home runs last year, a big jump from his previous high of 11. The projection systems say he’ll hit somewhere from 17 to 20 this season. I’d still probably take the under on 24.5, but given the recent home-run-happy environment, it’s too close for comfort. I wouldn’t bet on Brad Miller to hit 24 or fewer dingers.

Brad Mills, though? I’m in. If Mills (or Miller, for that matter) hit fewer than 25 homers, my wager would pay out. And if Miller hits 25 or more, well, what would that have to do with me? I’m just a guy who bet on Brad Mills.

Since this seems like an unlosable bet, I asked a Las Vegas friend in the casino industry if I should invest my life savings in a big Brad Mills play.

“A ‘life savings’ bet would probably grab their attention and my guess would be lead to cancellation of all wagers,” he answered via email. “I assume someone will do that. I guess there is a chance that for smaller wagers (or if the emailer is a great customer with lots of play history there), they would put customer service ahead of their almost-certain one-time loss and honor the bet to try to gain a satisfied customer. But a first-time bettor making a life-savings type bet would probably just get the money returned to their account when it’s discovered.”

In that case, it sounds like a small wager is the smart move. Please prepare my bottle service and get my high-roller suite ready: It’s time for me to lose my sports-betting virginity. I’m putting a buck — which I just read is sports-bettor slang for $100 — on Brad Mills, whoever he is, to hit fewer than 25 homers. I’ve never felt so alive.

(Bovada)
(Bovada)

So here’s how this could play out: If Bovada honors the bet but Brad Mills, the pitcher, doesn’t make the majors this year, the bet would be invalid. If he does — and he doesn’t pull a Rick Ankiel or become the best-hitting pitcher of all time — I could conceivably claim that I’ve earned my $86.96. After all, there’s no way to know that the bet wasn’t supposed to be about Brad Mills.

I’d also get my $86.96 if Brad Miller, the shortstop, hits fewer than 25 bombs. If he hits more than that, I could use the mistaken identity to weasel my way out of the charge. And if this all goes sideways somehow, at least I’ll have a reason to tune into the Rays.

Of course, if Bovada discovers its error (I’m hoping they don’t read The Ringer), they could cancel the bet. Bovada’s rules about bet invalidations seem less comprehensive than their competitors’, but they still probably leave enough leeway to wipe this one away, even though I said “no backsies” before I placed the bet. I can’t imagine there was too much prior trading activity on a bet about Brad Mills/Miller.

(Bovada)
(Bovada)

So, no, my Brad Mills bet probably won’t pay out. But it almost certainly won’t cost me money. How often can you say that about a sports bet?

(I’m actually asking. I’ve never made a bet before.)