Novel Update And An Observation

So, I’m close to the end of The Lair of Filth, the sequel to The Sure Bet King. It’ll take touching up, polishing, and so forth, but I’m in the final arc of the draft. With that in mind, I’m already thinking of the plans for my next novel. While exact details need to be outlined, I’ve settled on “a pop epic about aviation” as the general subject.

It seems like quite the leap to go from sports betting to air transport. Or is it? When looking at the economics, I was a little (pleasantly) surprised at the similarities between the two seemingly opposite industries.

  • First for the most obvious and most unpleasant: Both are volatile, low-margin industries. The revenues from sports betting are dwarfed by other casino games (particularly slot machines), and revenue can swing on events like all the favorites winning. Similarly, airlines are barely-to-unprofitable with the exception of a few outliers like Southwest and Ryanair. And they are an incredibly cyclical, event-vulnerable industry.
  • Second, the barriers to entry are, for the most part, extremely low. Certainly lower than one might think. Stuff like pay per heads and aircraft leasing, or similar turnkey solutions, allow for many entrants, particularly in the less-demanding offshore world. Of course, maintaining that business is a lot harder…
  • Third, the products are almost commodotized. It’s numbers on a screen/an airplane with seats in it. There just isn’t much except for deals and pricing that distinguishes one sportsbook/airline from another most of the time. And both have also been hit hard by the ability of consumers to price shop on the internet.

So maybe it won’t be that different after all…

The Big Sports Betting Weird Thing

When I wrote The Sure Bet King, I patterned its climax in large part on the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, especially in how the mixed martial artist who never had a professional boxing match somehow got a gargantuan pile of money wagered on him over the undefeated all-time-great boxer. I thought “that must be the craziest gambling moment, or at least one of them”. Up there with suspicious table tennis matches attracting a bizarrely large amount of handle.

Then this scam involving con artists and farmers in India happened. Locals were hired to put on appropriate kits and pretend to be participants in the Indian Premier League, the world’s most prominent and lucrative cricket competition. Their marks were Russians who apparently knew almost nothing about cricket. If they did, they would have noticed that the real IPL had long since concluded its season.

Somehow the “tournament” got all the way to the “quarterfinals” before it was noticed and shut down. And when I read it, I was like “wow. Truth really can be stranger than fiction.” It was something. And a reminder that while fiction has to make sense, reality does not.

The Poker Boom

As someone very young during the online poker boom of the mid-2000s, I knew it existed but wasn’t anywhere near aware of how insane it got. Looking back and doing research, I can say that for about three years, robbery became legal, as long as you were a good poker player. The excesses of it were sometimes just big, like how pros “multi-table” at several sessions at once, playing thousands upon thousands of hands a day, all while staring at the computer for many hours.

But the most interesting part is the zero-sum nature of poker and how that doomed the bubble to pop as much as anything the government did (after all, laws and court cases didn’t stop offshore sports betting at all). The boom featured sharp sharks dropping the equivalent of nuclear depth charges on poor square fish who’d seen Rounders and Chris Moneymaker living up to his namesake and thought “why not me?”

The problem came when liquidity dried up. Without a stream of new fish to get skewered, many former pros learned that they became the lower ones on the food chain. Many moved on to the similarly zero-sum daily fantasy sports, which popped just in time for sports betting to get legalized and crypto speculation to take off. And if the people complaining about restrictions because they tried to arbitrage off of William Hill got their wish and forced the sportsbooks to sharpen, the same feeding frenzy/market bubble that benefited only a few ultra-sharps would happen. In fact, I’m half-convinced it’s happening already, sportsbook restrictions or not.

The reason being that neither sports betting nor poker are actually that profitable for the house, especially after promotions, but that’s another story for another time. As is the story of poker-the book takes place roughly at the same time as the historical poker boom and one of my Sure Bet King ideas envisioned main character Eddie Ross being a moderately skilled poker who crushed weaker ones during the boom (with obvious effects on his ego), but a combination of the path the novel took and me thinking I didn’t know enough about poker nixed it.

While I don’t regret it, I think the right terms to use is that there was an opportunity that I did not follow. After all, the climax of The Sure Bet King is of a-based-on-a-true-story boxing event where sharps took advantage of squares in massive force. The poker boom was like that, only for years instead of one day.

Wither The Sharp

In The Sure Bet King, one of the few areas of sports betting that I didn’t cover was genuine sharps, or profitable bettors. Part of it was me not really knowing the most about they operated at the time (after all, those with a sincere edge aren’t keen on advertising it…). Another part was that they wouldn’t really fit the theme of the book. After all, this was far more about the system beating people than it was about people beating the system. The only “sharps” are the people who applied not-so-common sense to the boxing match at the climax of the novel.

In any case, like with almost everything else involved with sports betting, the more I learn of sharps, the less respect I have for most of them. First, there’s the very small number of very secretive modelers who actually can beat the sharpest sources (exchanges and “sharp books” like Pinnacle and Circa Sports) at their own game, costing them a little to shape a better line. These might as well be memetic Area 51 as far as secrecy’s concerned. These sharps are called “originators”, because the proper lines originate with them.

More common are what I like to call the “line vultures”. These don’t model or handicap, they just hit off, slow, or mismatched lines.

This video is one of the best examples of showing how a line vulture works.

I call them “line vultures” because they’re reactive and not proactive. Does it take effort and skill and talent? Yes. Is it exactly “sports betting” and does it involve the modeling acumen people think? Not in my opinion. Are sportsbooks justified in going after the line vultures? Yes. Are more innocent bettors frequently collateral damage in this banning? You bet they are.

Then there are the ones I have (even) less respect for. First are the outright manipulators, the people who don’t just pounce on line moves but (for example) cause them by betting at a sharp “market maker” knowing it’ll move and everyone else will follow. This sort of thing would probably be illegal in financial markets, and is definitely shady. Second are the bonus abusers, the people who take advantage of generous sportsbook promotions for financial gain.

Now that I know more about sharps and “sharps” and have already covered more of the gambling business, I might just include one in my giant brainstorms…

About The Incident: Blog Update

So, the long-feared Russian all-out invasion of Ukraine has begun. I kind of suspected this would happen when A: 75% of the Russian Army, including units from Eastern Siberia, was moved to the border, and B: The Kremlin began making knowingly impossible demands. Frankly, knowing what I know now, it’s kind of miraculous that it took thirty years to get this far.

(And no, Ukraine couldn’t have kept its for all intents and purposes unusable nukes it technically inherited, and it still did the right thing in not trying.)

Fuldapocalypse will continue as normal, as fiction is not real life. I will refrain on commentary as even the well-informed and honest accounts can be subject to confusion. However, I will say that when it became clear that war was inevitable, I made the very deliberate decision to pivot away from my Soviet-Romanian “big war thriller”, and not just because of the general concept or even the area. Having a massive, high-tech, Russian-led army striking against a former client whose only effective resistance is urban and unconventional warfare is a little too on the nose-in fact, the scenario is so similar that you could basically do a find and replace for “Belarus” and “Bulgaria” and change nothing else.

Thankfully, I do have some very good news. The pivot away from that concept to a follow-up thriller involving gambling, mansions, nuclear weapons, and dirty black ops in Southeast Asia with aged characters from The Sure Bet King has gone beautifully. The plot for that has finally clicked, and I’ve been making excellent progress there.

Fuldapocalypse Year In Review

While 2020 was a bad year for everyone, my 2021 was excellent. I made and released my first full-length novel, The Sure Bet King. It was the most fun I’ve had writing a book-ever. Really, it was a great experience. I got to write in a genre I knew nothing about when I started the blog, and know I could do a 100,000 word book.

Writing it was so smooth and fun that I actually thought I could just go right in to making the next book, which didn’t quite click (yet). But one full-length novel is better than none, and that it was a “pop epic” inspired by the likes of Sidney Sheldon (an author I didn’t know about when I started the blog) and about sports betting (A topic I didn’t know nearly as much about when I started the blog) made it all the sweeter. It really showed how the blog’s diversification paid off.

I actually found that in many ways, writing a big-scale book that took place over a long period of time was actually easier than a shorter, narrower-scope one. I could add varied scenes without having them feel like just padding. Of course, now I have the desire to make a more conventional action thriller…

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. I’m thankful for…

  • Having vaccines against COVID-19, both for my own peace of mind and my older relatives. I love being able to live freely again. Being able to eat comfortably indoors and see my fellow vaccinated relatives is so great.
  • Having the inspiration and drive to write and publish my first full-length novel, The Sure Bet King. Besides having the pride in knowing I could make something 100,000 words long, I also feel like the book reflects the broadening of my horizons. That book’s biggest inspiration is not Larry Bond or John Hackett, but Sidney Sheldon, an old “pop-epic” writer who I didn’t even know about when I started the blog. Having Fuldapocalypse turn into a general review/commentary blog is one of the best creative decisions I’ve made, and this book was the fruit of it.
  • All the great books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, and games I’ve played this year. I’ve had a lot of fun.