One of the legends of the Vegas sports betting world is retiring on Super Bowl Sunday. Just about everyone who worked in Las Vegas over the past 35 years has come in contact in one way or another with Jerry “Shoes” Zimny, who got his nickname from running up and down the Strip, retrieving the best numbers available at all the sports books in a time before the Internet and odds screens, where differing numbers were aplenty.
As a bettor, he could sniff out the best numbers better than most. As a bookmaker, there weren’t many better just because of his natural instincts where he could instantly tell whether to hold the number on a heavy side or move based on who played. He could balance out teasers by using the money line in his head before computer systems came into play and now figure that kind of stuff out.
I had the pleasure of working with “Shoes” at the Palace Station where I learned something new every day by just sitting next to him. He would be there bright and early from 6 a.m., Saturday through Tuesday, with one of his many famous tweed jackets hung on the back of his chair no matter how hot it was in the summer.
What his sports coat always showed me is he wanted to arrive in the book in a professional manner. Beyond all the bookmaking lessons I learned from him, what I liked most is just talking about anything and getting a laugh out of him over a cup of coffee that cashier Jim Lobue, our barista, would make for us each morning.
Whether it was talking about his own college football or basketball numbers, the old days of the Castaways and Churchill Downs sports books, or hearing him reminisce about himself as a Polish kid growing up in south Chicago, there was always something in Zimny alone that had me looking forward to going to work every day.
One of the ultimate tributes of respect was given to him indirectly by Station Casinos race and sports VP Art Manteris, who had come over from the Las Vegas Hilton. Manteris had a strict way of how he wanted games booked, but over the first year of seeing how sharp Zimny was and how different the local clientele was to what he was used to, he started to gradually see things differently through Zimny’s eyes.
We even had to change Zimny’s days off at one point so he could be there to have his great knowledge of where the line would go to make the parlay card numbers on Wednesday.
Now, Zimny has been talking about retirement for the past 10 years, and he even did so on a few occasions, but the bookmaker in him could never leave his system, and Manteris and Station Casinos were always there with open arms. His entire life has been about booking games in Las Vegas to a level most will never achieve.
If we had a Bookmakers Hall of Fame, Zimny’s attributes to the city would likely have the waiting period waived. Thanks for everything, Jerry, and all the best.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].