Seasonal guides give bettors an edge

Aug 16, 2005 5:45 AM



In the classic motion picture "Wall Street," the Gordon Gecko character (Michael Douglas) explains to prodigy Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) that "Information is the most important commodity around."

Sports bettors must feel the same way, especially during the football season.

"Everybody is looking for an edge," says Howard Schwartz, and a lot of sports bettors go to his place to find it.

His place is the Gambler’s Book Shop, which has been a gamblers Mecca for the past 40 years.

While poker has recently become a hot topic with gamblers, the college and pro football season is something like the Christmas rush to retailers.

"Football is king," Schwartz says, and bettors are looking for any help they can get to make betting on it profitable."

Among the most popular publications for football fanatics are the so-called Big 9 football magazines, which include Athlon, Street & Smith’s, Lindy’s, Gold Sheet, Sporting News, Phil Steele, CBS Sportsline, Insider’s and StatFox’s Edge.

The most recent entry into the magazine sweepstakes, StafFox Edge, became an instant best seller after it debuted last year. The college and NFL listings feature a four-year team log, schedules, betting angles (trends) and key player transactions.

Schwartz said the magazines collectively do a good job of listing team strengths and weaknesses, personnel changes and other pertinent information.

But the more sophisticated bettors gravitate toward books that deal more directly with handicapping. These include Al O’Donnell’s Point Spread Playbook, Jim Feist’s Football Workbook, Marc Lawrence’s Playbook, Phil Steele’s Pro Football Scorebook and Killer Sports’ NFL Annual.

Schwartz says that computer-based sources of information are noticeable by their absence.

"I’d love to see someone come out with some computerized handicapping systems, or even CD ROM data bases," Schwartz said. "There’s definitely a market for such resources; we have customers every day asking about them."

For now, however, customers will have to be content with a cornucopia of college and football publications.

"This is the first place I visit when I’m in town," said customer Jake Ventura, who drove into Las Vegas last week from Southern California. "I’m here to stock up on a football season’s worth of information."

Ventura said he considers himself an "average bettor," and prefers to handicap games, rather than seek "picks" from touts and tout services.

"First of all, why should I pay someone to do my thinking for me," Ventura said. "Half the fun of betting is making the selections."

Schwartz said Ventura is just one of legions who make the pilgrimage in the weeks leading up to the football season.

But lately, the Gambler’s Book Shop has tapped into the Internet, which now accounts for about 60 percent of its sales.

The GBS also does a robust mail order business. To get the printed word out, Schwartz publishes and mails a catalog every summer to a subscription list that he estimates has grown to 60,000 or 70,000 over the years.

When Schwartz was hired by John and Edna Luckman in 1979, the store sold just two football preview magazines. Now it has shelves overflowing with books, magazines, pamphlets and workbooks. There’s even a separate room filled with used, out-of-print and collectible books and magazines on gambling.

Like Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, Howard Schwartz knows the value of information. But, unlike the fictional stock trader, Schwartz isn’t interested in insider trading.

"We’re not hustling anything," he says. "We sell information. How you use it is up to you."