We were walking past the Sports Book at our casino, and on the board was a big horse race that coming weekend. I'm not a bettor, and never have been. But there was a horse at the bottom of the board sitting at 160-to-one. I mentioned to my wife that I'd never placed a sports bet, and imagined hitting on odds such as those. She exhorted me to make a twenty dollar bet, and I was admittedly enticed by the $3,200 payback. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and I told her I'd prefer not to throw my money away thusly.


Oddsmakers behave the way they do for good reason, and those longshots come in once in a blue moon. But as you may have surmised, dear Stiff, that 160-to-one horse came in the next day, and I was left to wonder how I might have spent that three grand-plus on the trip home. Twelve years later, I've still never placed a bet at a sports book.

Until today.

This week, life carried me back through Sin City for a brief stay, and as I wandered past the hotel’s Sports Book, I reminisced on the one that got away. And there before me on the board were this year’s Championship odds for all 30 NBA teams. I realized immediately that it was finally time to make a bet. You guessed it. 105-to-one. I placed a bet on your/my/our Denver Nuggets to win the whole enchilada this upcoming season. I’ll pause here while you get done laughing at me…


Remember, the job of the oddsmaker is to set a line that makes people want to place a bet, but also that will make the casino the most money. In betting on a head-to-head matchup, the oddsmaker's goal is to get fans and bettors on both sides enticed into the action. In the case of a championship bet, the oddsmakers are simply telling you how likely they believe it is that your team of choice can win it all. It's a fine and refined game on their part, and though I made a request of the nice lady I handed my money to today, there was no one on staff available to teach me the finer points of the algorithms and decision-making which go into the odds for each teams' chances. Lacking that insight, here is what the Sports Book at my hotel had for every NBA team's Championship odds this upcoming season (in the order listed on the board):

Miami Heat – 35/1

Oklahoma City Thunder – 3/1

San Antonio Spurs – 3.5/1

Los Angeles Clippers – 9/1

Chicago Bulls – 5/1

Indiana Pacers – 40/1

Houston Rockets – 15/1

Golden State Warriors – 22/1

Portland Trailblazers – 40/1

Brooklyn Nets – 65/1

Cleveland Cavaliers – 2/1

Dallas Mavericks – 18/1

Memphis Grizzlies – 50/1

Washington Wizards – 34/1

Los Angeles Lakers – 45/1

New York Knicks – 50/1

Toronto Raptors – 52/1

Boston Celtics – 100/1

Denver Nuggets – 105/1

Detroit Pistons – 200/1

New Orleans Pelicans – 105/1

Minnesota Timberwolves – 150/1

Atlanta Hawks – 105/1

Charlotte Hornets – 67/1

Phoenix Suns – 95/1

Orlando Magic – 210/1

Sacramento Kings – 255/1

Utah Jazz – 255/1

Milwaukee Bucks – 300/1

Philadelphia 76ers – 255/1

Now, I know I've placed a bet on a fairly extreme long shot in my dear Denver Nuggets, and that the gauntlet our team would have to run to win the NBA Championship this year is a tough and tall order. Even so, I'll admit to being a little surprised at the company the Nuggets are keeping on this list, and also at the teams with better odds to win (mostly from a weaker Eastern Conference, but still). A few other things that stood out to me:

  • The Cavs have the best odds to win it all. Shouldn’t we take a moment to see how all those new pieces gel, even with the incomparable LeBron James‘ return?
  • The Spurs still have the third-best odds behind the Cavs and Thunder. Apparently, Vegas oddsmakers may not have been watching pro basketball last season.
  • In the cases of the Warriors, Mavs, Wizards, Raptors and Hornets, the odds sit at (respectively) 22, 18, 34, 52, and 67-to-one. What sort of compass-and-protractor algebraic wizardy had to happen to come up with those numbers? (Yes, I know those tools are for geometry, relax your grip on the mechanical pencil.)
  • Lastly, as mentioned, only seven teams in the league have worse odds than the Nuggets to win it all this year. Tied for 22nd is NOT the year I expect out of these Denver Nuggets, and I don't think it's the year the team expects either. I know that's not what the oddsmakers are literally saying, but it's where we rank on their "list". My guess is that Denver will land somewhere between the Vegas prediction and my brash bet. But I've seen horses with longer odds come in, literally.

And if, by some twist of fate, the Nugs finally find their way to the promised land, either Arron Afflalo or I will be buying beers at Jakes. AAA, as he predicted we are made of Championship stuff, or me with my newly found $2,100. Maybe we can split the tab. Afflalo is still not returning my calls.

It's a funny feeling I've carried around with me with this ticket in my shirt pocket all day today. It sounds funny, but… placing my faith in my team (even knowing that the odds are against them) was well worth the sawbuck, win or lose. That's a bet I can live with. Naïve? Surely. But, GO NUGGETS! How's your Thursday, Nuggets Nation?

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