No one put in the effort in college basketball like this duo

No one put in the effort in college basketball like this duo

November 08, 2016 3:00 AM


College basketball season is fast approaching and it has a different feel for some of us who have been laying 11 to 10 for a few decades.

A week away from tip off, some of us would have a month or two of study and research completed as we look for that edge over our bookie and their numbers. Problem was some of us were also looking for fresh BRs at the halfway point of a bad football season.

As for myself, college baskets was like a religion. I loved it from the monumental effort put into handicapping it to the games themselves. I had form letters and envelopes printed, complete with letterheads mimicking the NCAA for mailing to athletic directors around the country. I’d request their basketball media guides.

In those days my request might end up in the waste basket unopened because of a Las Vegas address. But the letters were so legit looking most got a response. I’d get media guides by the dozens with every player and their basketball bio. Height, weight, basketball skills noted, starting seven or eight and the coach’s philosophy for the upcoming season.

This info was transferred by hand, player by player, into workbooks designed for this purpose by my good friend and super basketball handicapper Ray Vara, RIP, originally from Canton, Ohio.

As the games were played Ray and I recorded every player’s stats. Eventually we knew more than some coaches what was wrong with their teams. We had an edge in figuring upcoming matchups and styles of play.

Now getting the box scores to record all this information was a challenge. More ingenuity and dedication came into play. I had two friends who were Churchill Downs regulars, Joe and Charley. They worked in the TWA warehouse (long since defunct) out at McCarran Airport.

They had the crew that cleaned the planes save the sports pages from all over the country as they landed. I would go to the warehouse every evening and pick them up.

As Ray and I recorded the box scores we essentially knew who was out, hurt, slumping, a turnover machine or rebounding monster. In addition, Ray had a guy in New York pick up a copy of every newspaper from a newsstand and express the sports pages to him daily.

It was hard work, but a labor of love actually because of our passion for college baskets. We had more credible and useful information than anyone in Las Vegas for sure, and maybe the country.

Ray was a genius in picking winners because of his handicapping system. He was way ahead of the bookies or any number they came up with, but weak in the money management part.

Ray could have 17 of 18 winners but if the last game was a loser so was he. It all went on every game. He won so much, in spite of his bad money management, that he couldn’t get rid of it all. The Feds raided The Dunes’ safety deposit boxes and Ray had $500,000 in his. He never got it back. It didn’t matter since all it was used for was getting down anyway.

One time I bought two high tech (for the times) instruments that were supposed to alert you if your phone was bugged. I take one over to Ray’s house and I’m about to trace his phone line to the phone jack to connect his.

I’m following the phone line to the floor (phones had wall connections then) and he says in a panic “no, no I’ll connect it.” Too late – I found the jack, lifted the rug and there was a stash of $$$$.

“Ray you better connect this OK.”

Take care.