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Take a lesson from a real gambler

Jan 13, 2003 1:34 AM

Last week I was telling you about Bob Stupak, the "Polish Maverick" who once owned the old Vegas World hotel/casino and created the Stratosphere Tower.

During the process of building the tower, Bob wanted the structure to be the tallest building in the world, but he had to adjust his dream to fit the requirements of the politicians, bureaucrats and various regulators.

So the tower had to be adjusted downward to conform to local and federal powers-that-be.

While Bob’s tower never reached the heights he had envisioned, the Stratosphere has become a kind-of signature feature of a lot of commercials and advertisements for Las Vegas.

Moreover, when you see a current motion picture, you will most likely find Bob’s tower woven into the storyline somewhere.

Many people knew that Bob was a gambling man, a frequent player in Binion’s World Series of Poker and other events. He was also an avid sports bettor.

I remember a past Super Bowl weekend, when a prominent sports book operator in Las Vegas, posted a split line in his book: you could lay 6½ points on the favorite and take 7½ points on the underdog.

As astounding as it sounds, the bet allowed anyone to go either way, with the possibility of middling the book.

In essence, the sports book was gambling on the outcome: if the final score fell on the number 7, the book would lose all bets. Bettors, of course, had to lay the usual 11-10 vigorish, that is, bet $11 to win $10.

Bob Stupak liked the split line and felt he could win big by betting both sides. So he put $1.1 million on the favorite and gave up the 6½ points, and also bet $1.1 million and took the 7½ points on the underdog.

When other wise guys in town heard about the prop bet and how much Bob had risked, they threw their money clips into the ring and made similar bets; that is, they took both sides and further exposed the sports book to a huge loss if the game fell on the 7 points.

To cut its potential losses, the book called on other sports books to lay off some of the action, but there were few takers.

Thankfully (for the sports book!) the final score did not fall on 7, so the sports book was off the hook and made lots of money.

If it had fallen on 7, Bob would have picked up the $2.2 million he had risked, plus the $2 million he would have won. Instead, Bob lost a net $100,000: he collected his winning bet of $1 million plus the $1.1 million he risked, but lost the other $1.1 million, leaving him a loser of the 10% vigorish.

If you look at the math, Bob was getting 20-1 odds that the game’s score would not fall on 7. This is how you have to think when you evaluate poker hands.

I was down at Binion’s Horseshoe playing in Billy Guinn’s two-legged shootout satellite for a $10,000 seat in the big one (I have won my $10,000 seat the past two years in this game for an investment of only $125). So, obviously, I like this game.

Anyway, I’m playing with cardroom manager George Fisher, Super Dave Crunkleton, the Italian Stallion, Charlie, Billy Thomas, Vincent, Q, and a few others guys that I always beat. During the game, the dealer, Johnny, was telling a story about Bob Stupak.

It was during the World Series of Poker tournaments and the room was so crowded that some of the boys who wanted to have a big poker game could not get a table.

Stupak went over to the $1-$5 Seven Card Stud table and bought them out; he gave $100 to each and every player so that they would quit, give up their table and allow a high-limit game to get started.

Well, as luck would have it, Stupak lost $50,000 on the first hand and then took a paper and made a marker for $50,000 and stuck it to his forehead.

The next hand, Bob again lost $50,000. So, after two hands, Bob was out $100,000, plus the $800 he paid "buying" the table. He said this was not a good deal and left the room.

Carol just told me to quit writing that stuff and go win me some money. Yes, Dear!

Oklahoma Johnny’s Poker Tip of the Week

Don’t play against the clock. If you have something to do, go do it. You cannot control the clock. Poker takes time to play correctly. Then after the win you will find time to take the money to the bank.

Until next time, remember to Stay Lucky.

(Oklahoma Johnny Hale is the author of "The Gentleman Gambler" and the founder of The Seniors World Championship of Poker, and the Seniors Charities. He can be contacted at his web site, (