Pistons on track for title

May 8, 2007 7:37 AM

For those of you that took my advice and made a wager on the Detroit Pistons to win the NBA you should be smiling now that the Heat are out of the playoffs. With no Shaq and company their road to the finals may be fairly smooth and when they get there they’ll be short dogs to either the Suns or the Spurs, which will give you plenty of room to hedge out of your bet at a tidy profit. I thought the only team that could beat the Pistons was the Mavericks, and they are history also. How sweet it is!

Incidentally I couldn’t make myself believe that "Nellie’s boys" could beat the mighty Mavericks, but I wonder if Nellie would make the top five coach’s list if they voted today. The facts are that most teachers are smarter than their students anyway, especially old ones with gray hair!

The events of this weekend in Las Vegas brought back to mind a couple of events that took place in Laughlin during the ’80s. We had been operating the race and sports book for only a few years and our previous Derby Days had been quite popular with the Arizona and California tourists. By 1986 we were a destination alternative for horse players who normally went to Vegas for big events such as the Kentucky Derby.

Well, our hotel was booked to the hilt and the morning of the big race you couldn’t get a seat by 8 a.m. in our race book. The big attraction that year was a California horse by the name of Ferdinand, who was to be ridden by probably the most popular jockey who ever lived — none other than the great Willie Shoemaker.

To enhance the picture ever more the morning line odds on Ferdinand were 20 to 1. In the L.A. papers handicappers were giving him a shot in spite of the odds, so most people had their minds made up before they got to the store, and besides, the ever-popular "Shoe" was riding him.

My instructions to the supervisors were to let them bet whatever they wanted this day on any horse, because it’s almost unheard of to lose any money on a Derby Day, as the high volume would easily overcome any winners the public might pick.

What a shock I got after Willie brought the horse in first place to the biggest roar I’d ever heard all the way to Vegas, which was 90+ miles away. Well, this was before pari-mutuel betting and the house was totally responsible for all payoffs.

The horse went off at 17-1 and paid $37.40 at Churchill Downs for a two dollar bet. To compound things we were paying the mutuels of the New York track and they paid $44 and change there. "OUCH!"

With only one cashier the lines were so long that they disrupted the table games in the casino and seemed like they never ended. We needed our fills from the cage just to get by the initial surge. The cage manager thought we were robbing the joint until she ended up helping pay out the players with us.

It was around this time that we put on the biggest event in Laughlin’s history. Pay Per View fights were becoming fairly popular when we started carrying them in Laughlin just on the chance that we may help bring some people into our casino. We started slowly as the very first fight we took only cost us $500, which included setups and equipment rental. It was not too long before we had discovered a market for us breaking even on the fights but bringing quite a few people into the casino. Everybody was pleased with the promotion.

Now along comes a major fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and I think "Hit Man" Hearns or Hagler. By this time the promoters knew we’d been doing good and they wanted to charge us a lot of money to show the fight. We had a big meeting and decided that the expense would be too much for our little casino to afford.

Then from out of nowhere comes the suggestion that we cover the bowling lanes, rent chairs and utilize the bowling alley for this great Pay Per View fight. We almost all agreed to give it a shot. The fight was advertised and was a complete sellout two weeks before the event. We filled the bowling alley with over 2,000 people and the sports book with close to 500 and went on to experience the biggest night in the Edgewater’s history. What a great night and what a great team. No wonder I still love that town. Hopefully we got even that night for Ferdinand’s victory.