Even a sure betting scam can backfire

December 06, 2016 3:00 AM


A few rumors make the rounds every season in every sport of fixes and thrown games. Bet long enough and you’ll hear them and probably believe one, especially if you’re on the wrong end of a bad beat.

TV is the big instigator. We see things on the field, the court or the track that just don’t make sense as we rip up our ticket. Doesn’t mean the fix was in.

But with today’s sophisticated personnel and technology a fix has a good chance of going undetected.

There were some bizarre, in-your-face shenanigans in the days before every game and race was scrutinized like they are today. The most successful or most unsuccessful, depends, in Las Vegas racebook lore is the October 1987, 9th race at Garden State. It was a harness race and a small crowd of 4,300 was present.

The plan was to get down on quinellas in Las Vegas since the New Jersey track had only exactas, no Qs. Starting hours before the race went off, strangers began trying to get down on the 3-5-9 combination. Soon regular racebook players heard about it and began betting the same Qs. Ordinary $2 and $5 players were emptying their pockets.

The other end of the scam was changing the pools on the favorites at the track. They were a bit more discreet though by not betting the favorites till a few minutes before post. By doing this the odds on the favorites came down and the odds on the 3-5-9 runners went up.

Since the racebooks in Las Vegas booked their our own bets, but paid track odds, a huge payout was possible in Las Vegas.

The race cost around $250,000 in Las Vegas. Most of the books balked at paying out, instead hiding behind the Gaming Control Board. Two of us, Caesars and the Stardust, payed out that night as soon as the race was official. After all, it’s called gambling and if we would have won we would have kept the money.

Caesars lost around $35,000 and we lost $30,000 at the Stardust. True to my thinking and experience, no one quits winner. No one says, “I won your money and I’m keeping it.” Over the next few days we got it right back and then some.

My favorite football fix really fixed a few of us in Las Vegas. I had a boots-on-the-ground seat for this one in the 1970s. Two teams from the states of West Virginia and Virginia were involved. 

The refs, or at least a couple of them, were going to make sure the 1.5-point spread was covered. A few of us were let in on it and me, just a writer at Churchill, made a $50 bet on the 1.5-point favorite. It was a big laydown for me at the time since I was married and we had a one-year-old daughter.

The score is tied in the last minute and our refs take over – pass interference, flag, move the ball closer. Another flag, move it closer for a field goal. Perfect.

The kid misses it. No problem. Our refs blow their noses on another yellow hanky on the field and put the ball five yards closer and right in front of the goal posts.

The kid misses it again. In those days the game ends in a tie. The dog covers and we all lose a sure thing.