‘Tout with a heart’ left his mark in the books

Jul 17, 2001 6:05 AM

It always hurts to lose a friend, especially when he’s just 50.

That was the age of Larry Adelman, who passed away last month after suffering a massive heart attack.

Larry came to Vegas more than a decade ago determined to make his mark in the sports betting scene.

He had two things going for him. He was ahead of the technology curve, and he had a tremendous work ethic.

His idea was to supply bettors and bookmakers with up-to-date sports statistics each day. Mastering computers before they became commonplace, Larry founded a small company. He called it SportsFax.

The main purpose of SportsFax was to disseminate statistics and odds. But that wasn’t nearly enough for Larry.

I thought of his various ideas, some valid, some totally off-the-wall, as I sat through his memorial service. Thinking of Larry, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Then I thought of him trying to be a handicapper, and laughter easily won out. Larry may have been the world’s worst handicapper.

Billing himself as “The Lip,” he would advertise his picks via a score phone. It’s hard to imagine anyone paying less for picks. Larry charged all of $2 to call his 900-number.

Even at that, the price was $2 too high. Once he was chosen to be a contestant in the prestigious Stardust Invitational. He proceeded to go 0-7 with his picks.

In 1998 he gave out Wisconsin as a three-point road underdog against Michigan. He billed it as his College Game of the Year.

When the Badgers, who happened to be looking ahead to their final regular season game at home the following week against Penn State, lost by 17 Adelman may have been the only person in the state who didn’t cash a ticket on the game.

He also owed me a dinner from that game. Even though I’m from Wisconsin, I knew along with just about everybody else that was a bad spot for the Badgers.

Knowing how hard Larry worked to try and make a living, I would have settled for chicken wings at the Tap House. Instead, he took me to Picasso’s at the Bellagio.

Larry wasn’t rich. Just generous. I found this out early in our friendship.

My fax machine was breaking down. It was old, but Larry said he could fix it. So I brought it in to him. He kept forgetting. Finally, I had enough.

I barged into his office and started berating him for telling me he was going to do something and then not living up to it.

Larry silenced me by pointing to a table on the corner. There sat a brand new fax machine. Mine was too hopeless to fix, but Larry didn’t want to tell me that. So he just bought me a new one.

Larry’s kindness didn’t just extend to me. He became very involved in Little League through his son, Josh. It wasn’t long before Larry was helping coach, and then buying the team equipment.

Larry was passionate about a lot of things. But he had two loves ”” his children and his work.

Often Larry was opinionated. Deep inside he may have felt a little insecure about his place in sports gaming. He wanted so badly to make his mark.

He was a big, friendly guy. Sometimes, though, he would come across as too loud and egotistical, especially if you didn’t know him. He didn’t mean to.

He just had a lot of infectious enthusiasm. He wanted to impress so badly.

No one can ever say that Larry didn’t love his kids. I’ve never seen a more devoted and proud dad.

Being a divorced single parent, he would take daughter Ivey and Josh everywhere. This included a fantasy baseball draft where Larry volunteered to be commissioner.

I still remember, out of respect to Ivey, making sure I didn’t sprout out a wad of obscenities when Alex Rodriguez went one pick ahead of me.

Larry was a whirlwind. He would be doing three things at once. Multi-tasking was his life, day after day. Suddenly, everything would come to an immediate halt. It was time for him to update his score phone.

No paid announcers. Larry owned, operated and was the voice on the phone updating scores every few minutes.

Up until a couple of years ago, Larry also provided the betting line for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He did this for several years even though he couldn’t afford a staff. Every day it was Larry who called the paper making sure everything was correct.

Larry enjoyed the work, but the pressure was brutal. Poor health was in his family. His dad had died at 49.

Larry should have taken better care of himself. But his mind always was on his kids and work. The pressure and frantic pace caught up to him.

“My dad’s goal was to live longer than his dad,” Ivey said.

Larry succeeded in that goal. He also succeeded in another goal.

For Larry did leave his mark on sports gaming in Nevada. His SportsFax sheet became accepted and available at more than 100 casinos across the state.

It became part of the sports book landscape. Way to go Larry. You did it.