A different breed of Horse Bettors

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Phil Gelardi, my racebook manager at the Stardust, and I recently had a good laugh recalling some horse players who couldn’t get out of their own way.

A guy we’ll call “Heavy” is in Churchill on the Strip one day, trademark unlit cigar in his mouth. In the hand written ticket days past posting was a sure thing, easy winners to get more money to lose on the square.

His partner gets a past post winner from back East and has to hurry to get down. He tells Heavy to stand behind him and bet the same horse for whatever he can. It’s a horse player’s dream, having the winner before you bet.

Heavy gets down on the horse, on his partners info. The mutuals come in and it pays 30 some dollars. What a score! They cash out and Heavy’s partner says that’s a bundle. Huh…What do you mean you only collected $$. Heavy, proving the degenerate horse player he is, couldn’t help himself. He bet it to place confessing, “What if it doesn’t win?”

Our same hero was in the Stardust one day at the betting window (he seldom saw the cashier window). He’s doing his handicapping at the window and the little guy behind him is getting upset at the thought of not getting his bet down in time. The little guy says to Heavy, “You fat SOB hurry the *!#* up!” and on he rants with more insults.

No problem; Heavy finishes with his bets and calmly gets behind the little guy who is now at the window. Heavy grabs the counter and smashes the little mouthy guy up against it asking how he likes this fat bastard now. They had to call security to get him off.

One of my favorite stories is about Calvin, a racebook writer I hired. I gave quite a few scufflers, who were what you might call unemployable elsewhere, a job. Most worked out fine when they had the chance.

Calvin was a big, soft-spoken black kid, a harmless teddy bear. He’s just sitting there at his window, awake at the time. He had a habit of “just resting his eyes” as he said. A lady comes to his window. She’s from San Diego and is a loyal listener to our “Stardust Line Radio Show.”

She keeps up with the odds, analysis and predictions our show puts out. This lady hands Calvin $20,000. She wants to leave it with the Stardust and have Calvin bet it on the steam football games then call her with the teams. She was under the impression we had such arrangements. Of course, we didn’t since that would be against every law and regulation known to man.

Anyway, Calvin writes her a receipt on some kind of Stardust form he dug up, gets her phone number, and the $20,000 goes into his pocket. Calvin just went from a broke ticket writer, sleeping in the lounge on occasion, to owner of a $20,000 bankroll. All he has to do is wait till the games he gives her lose, the money is “used up” and he’s home free. The $20,000 is his.

What a plan. Calvin never, ever won so this would be easy. Just give her his usual string of losers and he’s home free. There’s a hitch in his plan though. He can’t pick losers either. The teams he’s giving the lady are winning. He’s trying to lose as usual and can’t. She “runs it up” and wants to cash out.

That’s when I get a call from GM John Minor and Casino Manager Richard Schuetz to come upstairs …now!! We figure it out and Calvin is in a real jackpot, big trouble. They had to appease the lady and punish Calvin.

The $20,000, who knows? They never located Calvin. Knowing how scammers think, my guess is Calvin bet it on the other teams and lost both ways.

I’d still hire Calvin in a minute. He wouldn’t steal a nickel from me, but what was he supposed to do when presented with a potential score like that?

Ski, another race book writer, got himself into a mess although he wasn’t a thief in my opinion. Ski was just a nice kid who let the horses get the best of him. Ski just knew he could pick winners. After all he had inside info from the experts in the horse book.

One day Ski takes his usual lunch break. This time he doesn’t come back. We get maintenance to open his drawer, and to no one’s surprise most of the day’s receipts are gone. What is in the drawer, however, are losing tickets, $700 worth.

Ski was betting out of his drawer. He didn’t take any cash for himself. Like I said, he wasn’t a thief. He left the remainder of the money in his drawer with his losing tickets. I would have hired him back in a minute.

On the other end of the scale there’s Nick, the little old race book writer with bad legs. Nick’s drawer would come up $2 short on most days. I didn’t care if he gave himself a “raise.” He probably bet it on a loser anyway.

Nick thinks I’m not paying attention so he steps it up. I have to pull him aside and tell him if he keeps it at $2 I won’t notice but over that and he has to go.

Horse players are a different breed. They usually end the day tapioca (tapped out) but manage, somehow, to come back fresh the next morning.

Take care.

Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book, We Were Wise Guys and Didn’t Know It is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at Sc [email protected].

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