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I accidentally discovered the best baseball pool: The no-hitter crackpot jackpot

April 30, 2021

Ron Vesely

I am the kind of person who spends too much time—an embarrassing amount of time, if I ever tallied the actual hours—inventing and participating in sports pools. Normal gambling is fine, and I dabble, but I'm not truly happy unless I'm rooting hard against the Scottish women in the curling world cup because I might win $60 from 12 friends. As far as ways to waste your life go, it's not bad, and it turns out there are a lot of people like me. If you're one of them...well, my friend, I might have something for you:

The no-hitter crackpot jackpot

A couple weeks ago, when I probably should have been working or spending time with my family, I instead proposed a new pool to a group of like-minded degenerates in a group chat. This alone is not remarkable; we're all constantly inventing pools, a large percentage of them fail due to ridiculous complexity (what's a tennis pool without a dense, incomprehensible "barons and peasants" bonus clause?), and only once in a while do you stumble across a classic. My original idea was simpler than most: A no-hitter jackpot pool. You simply pick a team, and if that team throws a no-hitter, you win money from everyone else. You can pick a new team every day if you want, but the beauty of it is that if you don't, your team rolls over, so in theory you could pick one team on the first day and never look at this pool again.

With the help of my fellow weirdos, the details came together—every day, the jackpot prize would grow by 25 cents per person, topping out at $25 per person. If a team throws a no-hitter that nobody picked—I say "team" instead of "pitcher" because while most no-hitters are thrown by a single person, there are team no-hitters, and they still count—it would add $5 per person to that jackpot. If someone correctly picked a perfect game, you'd add $5 per person to the jackpot.

The idea was intriguing enough that we got 36 people to join, meaning the maximum jackpot without any of the bonuses is $900. We added a few other rules, which I'll list quickly for those who want to copy it: for seven-inning no-hitters in double-headers or official games that stop before nine innings, the listed jackpot is halved, and if nobody picks that game (which happened to us with the recent Madison Bumgarner no-no), you only add $2.50 per player to the pot, not $5. For seven-inning perfect games that somebody did pick, same deal—you add $2.50 per player to that jackpot, not $5.

If that sounds like a lot, well...I won't tell you about our other pools. In reality, it's simple and intuitive once it gets going, and it turns out that it contains a lot of hilarious elements that aren't obvious on the surface (or at least weren't obvious to us). First off, there's the Google Spreadsheet, which everyone gets to edit on their own. People got creative, as you'll see from this random sample last week:

The best part, though, is that when there's a possible no-hitter—something that happens seemingly all the time now that we're fixated on it—the Slack is full of 30+ people attempting to jinx it with all their might, and one person sweating it out. Since I haven't been the guy sweating it out yet, I consider this great entertainment.

In our pool, a few funny things happened almost immediately. We started on April 8, and on April 9, Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in Padres history. This is an educated group, and a lot of them knew that it never happened for the Padres, so no fewer than seven people made them their sentimental choice. The jackpot increases by $9 each day, and because this was day two, that meant those seven people had to split $18...for a profit of $2.07 apiece once you took out their share. Trying to figure out who had to Venmo who was both extremely tedious and funny.

Five days later, with the jackpot now at $45, Carlos Rodon entered the ninth inning with a perfect game. Two players had the White Sox, and while $22.50 is nothing, keep in mind the perfect game bonus, which would have added another $170 to their jackpot. You know what happened next: with one out and a chorus of chat jinxers giving max effort—"it's in the bag," "nothing can stop him now," "congrats on your money"—Rodon hit Roberto Perez in the toe. He finished off the no-hitter, but it was a bittersweet $22.50 win for Trevor and Jack.

As of today, the jackpot is back up to $234, with a collective boost from the Baumgarner seven-inning no-no, and I'm riding the New York Mets. Trying to pick a no-hitter is a needle-in-a-haystack endeavor, and there's no special skill in it. Which is, in some ways, perfect—this pool is pure madness and drama, and to have any kind of strategic rhyme or reason within the chaos would be a shame. We call it "crackpot" for a reason, and I can't recommend it highly enough.