The coronavirus pandemic has left sports bettors feeding on crumbs.
Table tennis isn’t steak and lobster, but you can make a meal out of it.
Here’s a log of three hours Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the rapid-fire world of table tennis betting:
10:15 p.m.: Let’s be clear-headed. I know nothing about table tennis, let alone Russian and Ukrainian table tennis. So I’ll keep my strategy simple: Just bet the underdog. Every match, no analysis, just take the plus price and hope for the best.
My first horse is Sergei Yatsenko, a +250 underdog against Dmytro Khairov in a Setka Cup match in Ukraine. I bet $10 to win $25 on the William Hill app.
I’ve managed to find a live video stream — albeit one that locks up once a minute. Which one of these guys did I bet on? The on-screen graphic is in the Cyrillic alphabet. It takes a few minutes of flipping between the live scoreboard and the stream to figure out which one is my guy.
I like what I see. Yatsenko appears to be in good shape. Khairov is carrying some extra weight, and he has some gray in his hair, plus a bald spot.
Of course, Khairov controls the entire match. When Yatsenko hits into the net for about the millionth time to go down 5-2 in the third set, he lets out a big sigh. Me, too, brother.
Khairov sweeps to an 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 victory, and I’ve started by table tennis career $10 in the hole.
10:45 p.m.: I can’t find a stream for the Moscow Liga Pro matches, so I can only watch the live scoreboard as Dmitrii Redenkov (+240) and Artem Aronov (+220) are quickly dispatched.
I’m 0-3, down $30. A William Hill bettor hit a 10-team table tennis parlay this week to win almost $10,000 using all favorites. I figured that was a freak occurrence, but maybe this sport is more favorite-heavy than I thought.
I forge on.
10:52 p.m.: We’re back to the Setka Cup, and I really need Serhii Semenets to stop the bleeding.
He’s a +190 underdog to Andrii Podolian. Semenets is slight and a little awkward. You wouldn’t want him on your team for a pickup basketball game. Podolian seems fit, muscular, and he romps in the first set.
What have I done? This might have to be a quick night.
But you never count out Serhii Semenets. He rolls in the second set and rips off the last five points to win the third.
11:03 p.m.: Let the record show, at this moment, on March 31, 2020, amid a pandemic, I won my first bet on table tennis. Semenets defeats Podolian 6-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8.
I am 1-3, but the $19 win means I am down only $11 overall.
11:26 p.m.: Am I a genius? I rack up three more wins and am up $32.50 with a 4-3 record. Table tennis! Let’s go!
12:02 a.m.: Khairov punishes me again, this time beating my hero Semenets in five sets.
Players compete several times a day in these events, and you can see how an attentive viewer could perhaps gain an edge handicapping these individual matchups. Not me, but an attentive viewer.
12:30 a.m.: Sometimes five or six matches are going on at the same time, and it’s difficult to keep track of how I’m doing.
I realize I have inadvertently bet on the same underdog twice. Maybe it’s time to quit, but I am delighted when Maksym Marchuk romps to a straight-set win to cash my double bet.
12:50 a.m.: No more trying to fade Khairov. He steamrolls Podolian, and I have now lost $30 wagering against a 50-something Ukrainian.
1:15 a.m.: Andrii Peretiatko ends my session with a victory at +105.
Final tally: 9-12, but the underdog prices net a profit of $17.50.
I can’t say I’ll be betting Ukrainian table tennis when major American sports return, but there are worse ways for a desperate sports bettor to find some action.
Just don’t bet against Dmytro Khairov.