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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 2)

CA: What is the average bet of your customers?

Pete: A few thousand per game. We're very reputable. We've been in the business for a long time and we have a select clientele.

CA: Therefore, your average betting is substantially higher than a typical bookmaker?

Pete: Like the casinos, we discourage people who can't afford to bet or who have a betting problem. We don't associate with them. We turn away a lot of people, because we find that even though it means less business, it's more viable. We have less headaches. We run it like any other business. A, B and C, what you take in, what you pay out and what you have left. It's very simple business ethics.

CA: Is the Super Bowl a big payday for bookmakers?

Pete: It could be. It's a very popular sport. People come out of the woodwork to bet on it.

CA: On an average fall weekend of college and NFL football, what is your average handle?

Pete: About $300,000.

CA: So, if your average handle for a full weekend, for college and pro football, is three hundred thousand, what happens on the big days? Is the Super Bowl your biggest one-day handle?

Pete: No, New Year's Day is.

CA: You mean the college bowl games.

Pete: Yes. Although the Super Bowl is also very big.

CA: How big is New Year's Day?

Pete: About $200,000.

CA: But what about for the Super Bowl?

Pete: You may get that for the Super Bowl.

CA: One game.

Pete: Yeah, one game. You may get more on that particular game.

CA: Have you ever taken a bath on the Super Bowl, or vice versa, had a big winning day because the book was lopsided or a team won that shouldn't have?

Pete: Well, I had one that happened 20 years ago. Like I said, I was taught by a very, very smart person. And Pittsburgh was playing Dallas, and the line opened up Pittsburgh three and a half.

CA: The Steelers were the favorite?

Pete: They were the favorite. The early players took Dallas, they took plus three and a half. However, the smart money went on Pittsburgh. So we moved it to four and four and a half. All the late money came in on Pittsburgh, and they laid to four and a half. So now we have people taking plus three and a half and laying four and a half, and the game fell on four.

CA: So everybody lost?

Pete: Correct.

CA: That must have been like Christmas.

Pete: Santa Claus came that year.

CA: What happens when a customer calls on Saturday and wants to bet also on Sunday's pro games. Sometimes, you don't have the lines yet, and you don't get them until Sunday morning. What's that all about? Why can't a person bet sometimes until the day of the game?

Pete: Maybe at the particular time you called they were very busy with one sport. They'll just say they're busy to put you off. They get the lines as early as Tuesday.

CA: So people can bet Tuesday for Sunday's game?

Pete: Absolutely. You can bet every day, just like Vegas.

CA: Why do bookies' phone numbers change so frequently?

Pete: Well, for obvious reasons, we don't have a license. We wish we did. We'd love to pay tax, but unfortunately, we can't.

CA: Have you ever been raided?

Pete: Yes.

CA: How often does that happen? How do they find you?


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