Leading Las Vegas
The World's Most Successful Sports Bettor Tells How He Uses Computers and Guile to Move the Line
From the Print Edition:
Michael Richards, Sep/Oct 97
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Since no single casino will accept the $250,000-and-up bets that the Line Mover makes, to get all their money in play, he and his people are forced to make dozens of smaller bets with dozens of bookies around America.
This is a sore subject with the Line Mover. He denies that he and his organization bet with illegal bookies, but knowledgeable sources say that the Line Mover would be incapable of plying his trade if he didn't use bookies in, for instance, Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Chicago. "Try betting 300,000 on a regular-season college football game," one professional sports bettor explains. "The local casinos here in Vegas just aren't going to fade [take] that kind of action. And even if they would, you could never get a fair price. By the time you bet your first 50,000, they would start moving the line on you."
Further complicating the operation are "the meddlers," as the Line Mover calls them. These are the hundreds of bettors who try to jump on the action every time the Line Mover bets a game. Spotters stationed at betting windows with walkie-talkies try to determine how the Line Mover is betting and radio the information to their colleagues. If the meddlers get their bets down at various casinos before the Line Mover does, the odds change, fluctuating by the precious half point (or more) that makes or breaks his profit.
A typical play by the Line Mover works like this: He and his analysts find a game that is off. Using a predetermined formula--half a point warrants a $50,000 bet; two points warrants $250,000; and, in rare cases, some lines inspire bets of $1 million--the Line Mover selects his best plays of the day. Some weekends he'll bet as many as 25 college and NFL games; sometimes he'll bet only a handful. "I gamble for value, not action," he says. "I bet by a strict formula. So there's no 'get even' or 'get rich' bets. If the numbers don't look good, I pass."
After deciding which contests his organization will bet on, the Line Mover sends instructions to about 25 associates, via a numerical pager. When the signal goes out to make a play, each of the Line Mover's team members attempts to make his bet immediately and simultaneously, before the illegal bookies and legal Nevada sports books can adjust their lines unfavorably. Typically, the Line Mover's bets are made in increments of $5,000 to $10,000. Smart bookmakers, recognizing the source of the large wagers, will often bet with the Line Mover, "laying off" or hedging their money, with another, unsuspecting bookmaker. (The cautious ones merely try to avoid taking his bets.) Within minutes, bookmakers in every region of America--and often offshore as well--are flooded with fresh money, all on one team. Within a few more minutes, the official Las Vegas line moves to reflect the imbalance.
That's why they call him the Line Mover.
He wasn't always the king of the sports bettors. The man who is now widely regarded as one of the most powerful forces in all of gambling was, 20 years ago, indistinguishable from thousands of other wishful thinkers. "I bet on everything at the start, and, like everybody else, I lost," the Line Mover recalls.
A successful businessman with a chain of appliance stores throughout the Midwest, the Line Mover blew off hundreds of thousands of dollars to local bookies. "It took me a long time to figure out that just reading the morning sports paper wouldn't cut it. Just studying the box scores doesn't work."
Instead, the man who would one day dominate America's sports betting industry sought out the best minds in the game, the brilliant computer programmers and data analysts who would revolutionize the way we bet on sports. He made them a deal: You provide me with the best information and I'll provide you with the money to do something with it. "And that's how our team was born."
While the Line Mover still professes to love sports, he says, "If my life depended on it, I couldn't tell you who's leading the divisions. I don't even look at the sports pages much. I'm a money manager, not an action-hungry sports fan. Your average sports bettor reads something in the paper or hears something on television and figures he's got some kind of insider information."
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