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0850 Betting on Sports

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 850: Betting on Sports

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 850. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. If you want to get a complete transcript of everything we say, in case there’s something you didn’t quite understand, go to our website and become an ESL Podcast Learning Guide member.

This episode is a dialog between Peter and Angela about betting – trying to win money by betting on sports. Let’s get started.

[start of story]

Peter: Look at this! I just won 2,000 smackaroos!

Angela: Where did you get all that money?

Peter: I won it betting on the game last night. I placed a small wager with high odds and won big.

Angela: Wow, I always put money in the pools at work, but I’ve never won anything like $2,000.

Peter: I’ll introduce you to my bookie if you want to do some serious betting. But I warn you: he only deals in high-stakes wagers, not penny ante bets.

Angela: You bet through a bookie? You must do some serious gambling. I don’t think that’s for me.

Peter: You can’t win big if you don’t play big. I’ve just placed a bet on this weekend’s game.

Angela: But the Minnesota McQ’s are the favorites by a wide margin.

Peter: There’s a 10-point point spread. Come on, what do you say? Are you in or out? I’ve just put $500 on it.

Angela: That’s too rich for my blood. I think I’ll stick to the minor leagues.

[end of story]

Our dialog begins with Peter saying to Angela, “Look at this! I just won 2,000 smackaroos!” “Smackaroos” (smackaroos) is an informal term, meaning dollars. It’s a little old. You don’t hear it that much anymore. It was much more popular in the 20th, mid 20th century, let’s say. But you’ll still hear someone say, “That cost 400 smackaroos” – 400 bucks, 400 dollars. Peter says he just won 2,000 smackaroos. Angela says, “Where did you get all that money?” Peter says, “I won it betting on the game last night.” “To bet” (bet) is to try to win money by guessing how something is going to turn out in the future, who’s going to win the game, who’s going to win the election, which horse is going to race the fastest. Betting is guessing with your money, and if you’re right, of course, you get money back. If you’re wrong, you lose your money. That’s the whole idea.

We have betting legally in the state of Nevada, which is next to California. We have betting in other cities and other places. Most states, actually, probably have some form of betting. It may be the government sponsoring the betting. It may be Native American or American Indian tribes, but betting is fairly common now in the U.S., at least, more common than it was forty years ago.

Peter says that he won the money betting on a game last night. “I placed a small wager with high odds and won big.” A “wager” (wager) is the amount of money that you bet. Don’t confuse this with the word “wage” (wage) which is the money you get for working. Many people get a wage and then take their wages and they make wagers. Well, Peter made or placed a wager (either verb is correct) with “high odds.” “High odds” means that the probability or likelihood of something happening was very small. It’s a little confusing. If you say, this has high odds, we mean that if you win, you’ll win a lot of money back, but it’s not very likely that you will win. This is often expressed by using expressions like “ten to one,” or “five to one.” You bet a dollar and if you win, you get five dollars back. If it’s ten to one and you bet one dollar, you get ten dollars back. But ten to one might be considered high odds, meaning not very likely to happen.

Well, Peter won by placing a small wager on something with high odds and he won big. He won a lot of money. Angela says, “Wow. I always put money in the pools at work, but I’ve never won anything like $2,000.” The “pools” (pools) refers to betting pools. A “betting pool” is when everybody puts in a small amount of money and you, for example, are trying to guess who’s going to win a tournament where you have, let’s say, eight teams, eight baseball teams, or more likely, eight football teams playing in this tournament, and eventually there’ll be only one winner. You might have a pool where you bet on a certain team and then when that team wins, everyone who bet on that team, who said that team was going to win, gets part of the money.

There aren’t any odds in betting pools. It’s not like ten to one or five to one. It just depends on how many people bet. The more people who bet and the fewer people who bet on the winner, the more money those people will get. “Pools” sometimes are arranged so that there’s only one possibility. For some reason, in some offices in the U.S., it’s popular to have a pool for the time that a baby will be born to someone who works in the office, and the person who’s closest to the day and time wins the pool. There, there will probably be only one winner, but betting pools can have more than one winner.

Angela says she’s never won anything like $2,000, meaning anything that she has won has been much less. Peter says, “I’ll introduce you to my bookie if you want to do some serious betting.” “I’ll introduce you” – I will take you to this person, in this case, the “bookie.” A “bookie” (bookie) is someone whose job it is to take money for people’s bets. “Bookies” usually are working illegally, at least, that’s the general use of the term. If somebody says they have a “bookie,” usually it’s someone who is running these pools or taking bets on games that are not legally sanctioned, that are not allowed by the government, but because it’s so common, it’s very difficult for the government to try to stop this sort of thing. Peter has a bookie, which usually means the person is a rather serious gambler.

He says, “I’ll introduce you to my bookie if you want to do some serious betting.” “Serious” here would mean significant, a lot. “But I warn you, he only deals in high-stakes wagers, not penny ante bets.” “High-stakes” means a lot of money with, usually, a lot of risk involved. “Penny ante” would be a very small amount of money. It’s a type of gambling where people wouldn’t bet more than a dollar or two dollars, maybe five dollars. “High-stakes gambling” would be hundreds of dollars or, perhaps, even thousands of dollars that you’re betting.

Angela says, “You bet through a bookie?” She’s a little surprised because, as I mentioned, if you work with a bookie, if you have a bookie for your bets, you’re probably a pretty serious better. “You must do some serious gambling.” Notice the use of the word “serious” again. It means a lot or a lot of money involved. “Gambling” is when you place bets on some future event. “Gambling” and “betting” are basically the same thing. “Betting” and “gambling” usually deal with money, but you could bet or gamble on things that did not involve money directly.

Angela says, “I don’t think that’s for me.” Peter says, “You can’t win big if you don’t play big.” What he means here is you can’t win a lot of money unless you bet a lot of money. “I’ve just placed a bet on this weekend’s game.” In many American offices, certainly in the offices that I’ve worked in, it’s not unusual, especially during American football season, for there to be people betting on the football games of that weekend. Often you go through and you pick the winners of all of the games, however many there are – a dozen, two dozen, I don’t know. I don’t watch American football, but you bet on the winner, and the person who gets the most winners wins the money. That’s a pretty common practice in a lot of businesses and a lot of offices.

Peter says he’s just placed a bet on this weekend’s game. We don’t know if it’s a basketball game or a football game or what it is. Angela says, “But the Minnesota McQ’s are the favorite by a wide margin.” The Minnesota McQ’s is one of the best, of course, sports teams in whatever sport they play. Angela says the Minnesota McQ’s are the “favorites” by a “wide margin.” “To be the favorites” means to be the person or the team that is expected to win this game. A “wide margin” means by a very large amount, or significant amount. In other words, the Minnesota McQ’s are expected to win.

Peter says, “There’s a 10-point point spread.” We might more commonly just say a “ten point spread.” A “point spread” is a prediction about the differences in the final scores of the games. So, for a specific game, let’s say you have one very good team playing one not very good team in basketball. There might be a 20 point spread, meaning the team that’s good has to win by 20 points if you bet on them to win. If they don’t, even though they win the game, if they win it by less than 20 points, you don’t win the bet.

Peter says, “C’mon, what do you say?” “What do you say” is an informal phrase used to ask someone’s opinion or to ask for their decision when you’re trying to persuade them to do something. He says, “Are you in or out?” meaning are you going to bet or not? “I’ve just put $500 on it.” Angela says, “That’s too rich for my blood.” The expression “to be too rich for your blood” means it’s too expensive for you. It’s too much money.

She says, “I think I’ll stick to the minor leagues.” “I think I’ll stick to” means I think I will continue, in this case, betting on things that are less expensive or less important. In American baseball, we have the minor leagues and the major leagues. The minor leagues are the teams where the players aren’t as good and don’t get paid as much. The major leagues are the large teams where the players get millions of dollars. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, is a major league baseball team, but the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes is a minor league team that no one has ever heard of.

Now let’s listen to the dialog, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Peter: Look at this! I just won 2,000 smackaroos!

Angela: Where did you get all that money?

Peter: I won it betting on the game last night. I placed a small wager with high odds and won big.

Angela: Wow, I always put money in the pools at work, but I’ve never won anything like $2,000.

Peter: I’ll introduce you to my bookie if you want to do some serious betting. But I warn you: he only deals in high-stakes wagers, not penny ante bets.

Angela: You bet through a bookie? You must do some serious gambling. I don’t think that’s for me.

Peter: You can’t win big if you don’t play big. I’ve just placed a bet on this weekend’s game.

Angela: But the Minnesota McQ’s are the favorites by a wide margin.

Peter: There’s a 10-point point spread. Come on, what do you say? Are you in or out? I’ve just put $500 on it.

Angela: That’s too rich for my blood. I think I’ll stick to the minor leagues.

[end of dialog]

She does some serious scriptwriting, our very own Dr. Lucy Tse does. Thank you, Lucy!

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
smackaroos – dollars; bucks

* This new tablet computer cost 600 smackaroos, but it is worth every penny.

to bet – to try to win money by guessing what the outcome of some future event or race will be, knowing that one will lose that money if one is wrong

* I’ll bet you $20 that Dawei calls in sick to work tomorrow.

wager – a bet, especially with a small amount of money

* How could you place a wager against your own brother’s ability to open a new business?

odds – probability; likelihood; the chance that something will happen

* Even though Sunshine had a hurt leg, she beat all the odds and won the race.

pool – an amount of money where many people contribute a small amount for some particular purpose or bet

* Shelby’s co-workers are putting money into a basketball championship pool.

bookie – a person whose job is to take money from people for their bets, observe the outcome of the event or race, and then pay the money to the people who won

* Gregorio is a good bookie, but I don’t think I’d trust him with bets of more than a few hundred dollars.

serious – significant; with important consequences or worth a lot of money; without joking around

* McQ Syndrome is a serious disease. We shouldn’t make jokes about it.

high-stakes – with very high risks and the potential for high rewards and losses

* Brain surgeons are in a high-stakes career. If they make a mistake, the patient might die.

penny ante – a type of gambling where people place very small bets and increase them slowly in very small amounts; small stakes; risking very little

* Every Thursday night, Natalia and her friends play poker, but only for penny ante winnings.

to gamble – to place bets on the outcome of some future event, especially a race or a sporting event

* Kolya became addicted to gambling and spent his life’s savings at the casino.

favorite – the person, team, or animal expected to win a race or a sporting event

* It’s discouraging to play when everyone says that the other team is the favorite.

wide margin – with a large gap between how two items are valued or assessed; without being close; very different; by a significant amount

* There is a wide margin between test scores for children who like to read and read a lot for fun and those who don’t.

point spread – a prediction or forecast of the difference between the final scores in a game; an educated guess of by how many points one team will beat another team

* The team was supposed to win by a 20-point spread, so everyone was surprised when they lost.

What do you say? – an informal phrase used to ask for one’s opinion or decision, especially when trying to persuade someone to do something

* The money is going to be used to help our school library buy books, so what do you say? Can you donate a few dollars?

too rich for (one’s) blood – very expensive; involving more money and risk than one is willing to invest

* They say the restaurant is the best one in town, but at $40 per plate, it’s too rich for my blood.

minor leagues – less important or less skilled than the major-league, professional teams; not professional; of less importance

* Blake is attending law school at night because he wants to get out of the minor leagues and start a career as a high-powered attorney.

Comprehension Questions
1. What has Angela bet on?
a) She has only bet on swimming events.
b) She has only bet as part of a larger group.
c) She has never bet on anything.

2. What does Peter mean when he says, “There’s a 10-point point spread”?
a) The Minnesota McQ’s are expected to win by 10 points.
b) The Minnesota McQ’s only have 10% of the bets they need.
c) The Minnesota McQ’s are guaranteeing a $10 payout.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
odds

The word “odds,” in this podcast, means the probability, likelihood, or chance that something will happen: “What are the odds that it will rain this weekend?” When talking about math, an “odd” number is a number that is not evenly divisible by two: “The students began to recite the odd numbers in order: ‘1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11….’” Something that is “odd” is strange or unusual: “Andrew is a very odd man who always wears a suit and tie, even to picnics and soccer games.” Finally, the phrase “the odd (something)” can describe something that happens occasionally, but not often or regularly: “They have the odd argument, but most of the time they are very happy together.”

margin

In this podcast, the phrase “wide margin” means with a large gap between how two items are valued or assessed: “There’s a wide margin between how much he was earning in his previous job and how much he’s earning now.” When talking about a piece of paper, the “margin” is the blank or empty space at the top, bottom, and sides of the page: “Please print your essay as single-spaced text in a 12-point font with 1.5” margins.” The phrase “on the margins” describes someone who has little importance, power, influence, or respect: “The newest member of Congress is on the margins in most of his opinions.” Finally, in business, the phrase “profit margin” refers to the difference between the cost of producing something and its sales price: “We have a small profit margin, but we can stay in business because we sell thousands of units each week.”

Culture Note
The Federal Wire Act

The Interstate Wire “Act” (law) of 1961, usually referred to as the Federal Wire Act, “prohibits” (forbids; does not allow) certain types of betting that use “wire” (electronic) communication. The “original intent” (what people wanted the law to do) was to make “interstate” (between states) gambling illegal. As technology “advanced” (progressed; improved), this law was “interpreted” (understood in a particular way) for many years as a prohibition against “online gambling” (the practice of placing bets through the Internet).

However, in September 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice “issued” (released) a legal opinion stating that the Federal Wire Act prohibited the use of wire communications only for gambling related to sporting events. This means that it was legal to use the Internet and other wire communication for non-sporting-related gambling, such as sales of “lottery tickets” (pieces of paper with numbers that, if they match the numbers selected randomly at a future time, can be worth a lot of money). The legal decision also “opens the way for” (makes possible) Internet “poker” (a card game played by placing bets on the anticipated outcomes).

This is important for many organizations and businesses that would like to make money by offering online gambling services. Online gambling businesses have lower “overhead expenses” (the fixed, unchanging costs of doing business, such as paying for rent and electricity) and can reach a much larger audience than traditional, casino-based gambling sites. However, the legal opinion could still change, as the “Supreme Court” (the highest and most important legal court in the United States) could still “rule” (make a decision) on the new interpretation of the Federal Wire Act.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a