They don’t book the Super Bowl like they used to

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The game has changed since I first started betting the Super Bowl. And beside betting on them, there is one game that I booked at the Excalibur along with Sid Diamond and Eric St.Clair that I remember best.

I have several great memories of booking and wagering on Super Bowls with my first coming in 1979 a year before I started work at the legendary Stardust. The Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Dallas Cowboys, and what a game it was. The entire city of Pittsburgh along with my betting buddies back in Steubenville were going just nuts over the game. In fact, I made so many trips to the Western Union that week that I lost count. They even knew me by my first name.

If you had a bookie back in Pittsburgh, well you would have had to lay -6.5 or even -7 on the Steelers. But here in Vegas, the line was -3.5 in a game that became folklore at the time as far as booking it goes.

At that time, Joey Boston and Marty Kane were running the place for Lefty Rosenthal and they came up with the idea of putting up a split line on the Super Bowl with the Steelers -3.5 and the Cowboys +4 and this number never moved.

I remember the day of the game like it was yesterday. As I made my last trip downtown to the bus station to get my last cash from Western Union, it was from a bookie I knew in Weirton, WV who went by the nickname of Hambone. He sent along a little note, “If it wins just take a nickel for yourself.” Bones was a “George.”

I made my last bet and now it’s just 10 minutes before kickoff. I have two prime seats in the Stardust race book and just waiting for a friend to show up who stopped by the Silver Slipper to play some quarter craps. I looked out the front door of the Stardust and it was a strange sight as you could count on one hand the people walking down the street.

My friend shows up and we watch the Steelers move out to a big lead. It looks like Joey Boston will come out smelling like a rose. But the Cowboys get a late score and the game ends, Steelers 35, Cowboys 31.

The date was January 21, 1979 the day the Stardust had to pay out every ticket written and the beginning of the end for Joey Boston and Marty Kane, but a good day for my friends and myself.

This split line was done one more time in 1992 by Michael Gaughan at the Gold Coast. The Redskins were a 7-point favorite over the Bills, Mr. Gaughan had his book put up -6.5 /+7.5 so if you wanted the Redskins you only had to give up the -6.5 and if you wanted the Bills you got +7.5. He made it through the game as it did not fall on the number. But the liability was such that he would never take that chance again and that was the last time we have seen such a line on the Super Bowl. Honestly, I doubt we will ever see such a line again.

By the way, the liability was over $15 million if the game landed on seven.

My favorite Super Bowl and best time dealing the game came in 1995 when the 49ers became the largest favorite in history as they opened up as a -16.5 to -17 point chalk.

At the Excalibur early Monday morning myself, Sid and Eric got together and decided we would take a stand. We put up the 49ers as a -20.5 favorite with a total of 56, which was also two points higher. We had four windows open with at least 20 bettors in each line and they were just chomping at the bit to get a piece of this line.

There was pushing, yelling and shoving. But we told them that everyone will be able to get a bet down. So each bettor, most of them working for syndicates back then, made limit wagers on +20.5 and under 56, $5,500 on the side and $2,200 on the total.

After everyone got their initial wagers in, they all just stood there wondering what the next move would be. We looked at Sid and he just smiled and said no change on the game. But make the total 57. They all kept betting until everyone ran out of money.

The 49ers won the game 49-26 and the Excalibur won over a million dollars that year on the Super Bowl.

Times have changed and we will never see split lines again. And when the line went up for this year’s Super Bowl it was pretty much the same in every book..

Just a little quick wish from GT to Joe Porrello, two-time Bookie Battle winner who is battling health problems. Get well Joe, we miss seeing you in the books.

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