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The Secret Life Of A Bookie

Not All the Big Bets Are on Wall Street
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 14)

CA: You're now at a bar, and you just ran into your best friend from high school, a guy from whom you have no secrets; you love him. He tells you a story that blows your mind about something that happened in his business, and now you want to share with him one or two things that happened in your business that are really unbelievable. What would you tell him?
Pete: Nothing.

CA: Why is that?
Pete You have to be very cautious today. You have to be very low-key and cautious to survive. I would tell him nothing, I mean unless we rekindled the friendship, and I talked to him over a certain period of time.

CA: I was really using that story as sort of a springboard to lead you into talking about your business. Let's say it was your brother.
Pete: Oh, then I would tell him everything.

CA: Tell me one or two stories like the one...
Pete: OK, OK. We were working in a certain county, and the door came down. Prior to that we sent a co-worker of ours out to get a big, big meal.

CA: Pizzas?
Pete: No, chicken scarpello, and as you can see most of the people are very healthy.

CA: Yeah [laughter], good eaters.
Pete: So, the door came down, we went out. But the detectives stayed in there, answering the phone and writing bets. They were giving customers all bad lines, which we were obligated to pay, by the way.

CA: They're answering the phone?
Pete: Yeah, taking bets and giving all the wrong lines. If Dallas was 10, they'd give 'em pick-em. People were betting, and we were obligated to pay. They had all the evidence, but just to be pricks or to have fun, they did it. So, we were all out of there and my associate comes back with the food delivery, and we're not there. He walks in on the police and they say, "Who are you?" He says, "I'm just a delivery guy." They took the meal and ate it themselves. We were in central booking and they brought us half the food back. I could tell you another story about a game, since most of the parties are dead now. It happened 20 years ago. We were told to bet on a certain game by a certain fellow.

CA: That means he had good inside information that this was a sure winner, maybe even an inside job?
Pete: Absolutely. And, at the time, I bet a couple hundred dollars, which was like a couple of thousand, because I was a young kid. We bet on the game, and the game's going off at 8. We got the call about 7:30, so we all bet like crazy. 7:55, the phone rings again, and it's the guy again. We think something is wrong.

CA: Was this tip on football or basketball?
Pete: Basketball, a game in the South. Now, he calls up at 7:55 again and says, "Can you bet more?"

CA: For him, or for you?
Pete: For him. But meanwhile, if he's going to bet more, we're going to pack on three times as much. So we're betting like crazy. I mean, my fingers hurt from dialing. So we bet, right, get the result of the score and we lose the bet. The guy comes up from the South on Monday, and we ask, "Hey, what happened?" Here's what happened. There was a blizzard, so the school couldn't get their officials to the game. My friend was an alumni of one of the schools. He called his brother-in-law to referee the game. His brother-in-law calls 56 fouls against the opposing team and 11 against our team. Our team could not put the ball in the basket. So nothing is a sure bet.


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