Is the zigzag betting theory dead? 

April, 25, 2011

Hollywood Boulevard is a magical place. I know because I spent 20 minutes there during my vacation, getting pulled in every direction by my kids.

The older one wanted to get a picture with the actor dressed as Darth Vader. It was a warm day and we were there in the afternoon, so Darth had his helmet off. Needless to say, he was a bit de-mystified. But my 7-year-old didn't care. In fact he jumped at the chance to put the helmet on himself. By the look on his face when he took it off, I imagine it smelled something like a cross between the inside of a hockey locker room and Lady Gaga's egg. Didn't matter. He handed the helmet back to Darth and, right in front of Mann's Chinese Theater, I snapped a pic of my boy pretending to gut the evil one with a toy lightsaber. It cost me two bucks. But it was clear from the photo that all that time my kid has spent playing "Star Wars" games on the Wii has really paid off, just like he always told me it would.

But it was the younger one who was truly astonished by the collection of characters. Spider-Man was climbing a light post. The Hulk was posing like a supermodel. Stormtroopers were walking all over the walk of fame. He wanted a picture with everyone, which meant I had to keep walking into novelty shops so I could break a $10 bill, which meant I had to buy multiple 38-cent postcards of the Hollywood sign. These guys gotta make a living, right?

It was Batman and his totally smoking feline friend Catwoman (decked out in shiny patent leather number, wearing lipstick the color of roses and holding a whip) who kept his attention the most. First my little guy asked for a picture ($2). Then we walked away, but he had to go back. He wanted to talk to Batman and tell him about how he likes to dress up as Batman (another $1 for the caped crusader's time). I pulled him away to visit a friend at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" studios across the street. But after watching the JKL pop-a-shot rehearsal for Ricardo the Bus Boy versus Kevin Love, we had to hit the Boulevard one more time so he could ask Batman if he played "Lego Batman" on the Wii (another $1, and the realization that I let my kids play way too much Wii). Finally, as we walked away, my precious little boy asked his hero, "Where's Superman?" Batman answered, "He's in Las Vegas."

To that, my son looked at me and said, "Daddy, he is in your favorite place."

Wow, I thought, he has been paying attention all these years. What I don't think the youngster realizes is how much Sin City is really always on my mind. Even while on vacation, it was impossible for me to ignore what was happening in the gambling world. The online poker industry cratered (more on that in coming weeks and a pod this Wednesday). Hockey playoffs started (I'll get to that, too). And, as I watched late night, West Coast, NBA playoff games on mute in a hotel room while the rest of my family slept I wondered: Is the zigzag theory dead?

For those who don't remember or don't know, the zigzag theory is a longtime NBA playoff betting theory. The principle is that wiseguys would bet on whichever team lost or didn't cover the previous game. For example, in Game 1 of their series with the Heat, the Sixers were 10.5-point underdogs. They lost the game 97-89, but covered the spread. So, the next night, in theory, the sharp play would have been on the Heat, who were now nine-point faves. Sure enough, the Heat covered, winning the game by 21.