Just getting in a
story-telling mood

Aug 15, 2006 8:59 PM

In the two weeks that I’ve had this job, I’ve developed a tremendous respect for journalists. For the past three days I’ve struggled to find an appropriate topic for a once-a-week column. God help the guys and gals that do this daily. It would surely drive me crazy. I’m certain that when the regular football and basketball seasons begin it will be a lot easier.

This week I’d like to tell a story from my sports book experience. Although most stories tend to get bigger as the years go by, this one doesn’t need any exaggeration.

In the early 1980s I ran a book at the Royal Hotel, which was on Convention Center Drive across from the Stardust. During that time, all bookmakers knew we were the underdogs to the wise guys. They had information that in most cases we never learned about until it was too late to change the point spread.

This information covered a wide scope such as weather conditions, key player injuries and hold-outs, coach’s game plans, etc.

My friend Jimmy Vaccaro ran a place for Michael Gaughan down the street, and he can testify about bookmakers being the underdogs. It’s safe to say that 10% juice couldn’t hold a candle to good information. Anyway, back to the story.

A customer came in one day and spoke with my boss, Joe Slyman, about making a line on an NBA exhibition game that was being shown at that time on TV. Incidentally, NBA games are tough enough to watch, much less an exhibition game. So I personally had no interest in it at all.

Joe came up to me and asked me to make a second half line for him on the game. I said "sure" and sat down to watch it. However, there were only two minutes left in the half when I started watching.

With only a short time to watch, I pleaded my case of no knowledge of fouls, injuries, trends, etc., but Joe insisted that I give him a number. He in turn gave the number to a customer, whom I had never met before —let’s say his name was Herbie.

Anyway, Herbie says, "Okay, I’ll bet on it" after receiving the number. So being a good host I brought Herbie up to the counter, and asked the amount he wanted to bet. He said "twenty — t-w-e-n-t-y," so I told the writer to make a ticket out for $20.

When the ticket was presented to Herbie (hand written — no machines at that time) he balked at the amount and said, "I wanted $20,000."

I called over Joe, who said "Give it to him."

I was speechless, but the whole room I’m sure could hear my heart pounding. Needless to say, Herbie won the bet in a laugher. Joe had no limits and strong opinions.

Incidentally, Joe wasn’t all bad. He loved the Pittsburgh Pirates that year in the World Series, and they got there almost as easily as Herbie did.

Also, to this day Herbie and I are still good friends twenty — t-w-e-n-t-y — or so years later!

Tip of the week: If your team loses on Friday, don’t bet them on Saturday. Baseball is a game of streaks. Don’t try to stop a streak. If you go with it, you can only lose one bet. If you go against it, you can lose many bets.