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Sportsbook Scene, by Buzz Daly
October 28, 2005
Bettor Hits 15/15 Parlay Card 4X
For Once-in-a-Lifetime $300K Net Payoff
Contrary to popular opinion, lightning does on rare occasions strike in the same place twice; three strikes in the same spot would be an off-the-charts long shot, while a four-time strike would be a gazillion-to-one shot.
In the world of sports betting, long shots do come in, 30-point doggies win straight up, the obscure backup to an injured superstar carries the day for a beleaguered team, and perhaps in a parallel universe, Mighty Casey did not strike out.
But right here on terra firma in the good ol’ U.S. of A., fantasies like a lascivious hook-up with Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears or Paris Hilton are about as likely to happen as hitting a 15-team parlay four times on one weekend.
Actually, given our druthers, Boyd Gaming’s 15-teamer at a cost of $5 with a payoff of $100,000 is the fantasy we’d prefer to nail. Yeah, we know the true odds of a 15-team parlay would give a bigger payout for $5 than $100K, and hitting it four times should net more than $300K. But every fantasy is subject to a scintilla of reality, and those that dwell on the variance between payoffs vs. odds will never savor the rapturous experience of collecting the jackpot of a lifetime.
So-called “value” wasn’t the concern of our story’s prescient, dedicated sports bettor with a predilection for playing out-of-this-world long shot parlays. He simply filled out his 15-team card at the Stardust sportsbook without the mindset of a cipher. When the ‘capper was done making his picks, just for good measure, he repeated the process three more times. What’s an extra $15 when you expect to win $300K?
For those who wonder why he did not just play a single $20 ticket, the answer is simple; this is a special $5 parlay card that offers a single payout for a perfect 15/15 card. Unlike other parlay cards, however, for this one there is no rule limiting a winner’s prize to an aggregate payout if others are in line to collect. That is how many casinos protect against parlay card Armageddon with their regular payoffs.
The ecstatic handicapper, known as Jimbo to his friends and who prefers not to divulge his last name, is not some down-on-his-luck gambler driving a ’74 Duster and living in a weekly rental off Fremont Street; that would make this epic saga a cliché which would gladden the hearts of anti-gaming zealots. Gambling in their eyes is a vice engaged in by folks with a one-way ticket to Perdition.
But this story has more facets to it than the simplistic rags-to-riches tales of degenerate gamblers who win, only to lose it all back. Jimbo is a highly regarded professional with a responsible position in this town, as befits a CPA with a degree from Texas A&M. Gambling profits, while always welcome, do not impact on his lifestyle.
His wife of 19 years is a physician and a graduate of the University of Texas. Jimbo laughs when he talks about the ongoing differences of opinion when the family consists of an Aggie and a Longhorn.
An inveterate sports fan since his youth, Jimbo came to Las Vegas in 1996 and has been betting sports the whole time. He doesn’t spend a lot of time studying stats, etc., but he does read lots of sports material and religiously watches ESPN and other sports shows. Needless to say he is a relentless couch potato on weekends, watching games and formulating opinions. And he admits a strong bias for teams in Texas.
As the weekend unfolded and his early plays started coming in on Saturday -- Northwestern +11½, Baylor +14½, Arkansas +19½, Missouri -2½ and Colorado -15½ -- he was not surprised. Jimbo considers himself a true student of the game and an ardent football aficionado who wins often enough so that hitting four or five picks is not especially notable.
But as the hit parade of covers kept coming in and the late games on Saturday did not shoot down his ticket, Jimbo took notice and his heart rate quickened … UCLA -8½, Texas -15½, Colorado State -3½, Arizona -9½ and Washington +30½ fell in place like ducks in a row.
Sunday dawned and Jimbo was five plays away from the big payoff at the end of the rainbow. He reviewed the games to be played and felt good about them all. Over 45½ in Indy-Houston came in with points to spare; over 36½ in Washington-San Francisco was a laugher; and the Chargers +3½, despite losing straight up on a blocked field goal, managed to cover by the hook. Then the late Sunday game, Raiders -2½, never was in doubt.
So it all came down to Monday night with the Falcons -7½ holding the key to Jimbo having either an other-worldly brush with divine omniscience or a heart-stopping numbingly close-but-no-cigar experience.
The game got underway with the Football Gods seemingly wishing to give Jimbo a gimme on his final play. Jets QB Vinny Testeverde, looking like the Ancient Mariner, fumbled three times in the first 7½ minutes and Atlanta squirmed to a 20-0 lead.
Michael Vick was not having a good game, and the Jets closed to 20-7 … Jimbo got that sinking feeling in his stomach that all football bettors recognize as they start anticipating a back-door cover by their opponent.
But late in the third quarter, Testeverde went down with an injury to his right Achilles tendon. In came raw, relatively untested backup QB Brooks Bollinger. “I was sorry to see Vinny get injured, but I was happy to Bollinger at first,” Jimbo told us. “But the kid was looking good, completing passes, and I thought I was gonna get shafted,” he remembers.
But in an absolutely gut-wrenching play, with the Jets fourth-and-one at the Atlanta 11 and 3:39 left in the game, the suspense finally snapped, as Bollinger threw an incomplete pass.
The Falcons took over, and after Warrick Dunn ran three times for a first down, the game mercifully ended as Vick took a knee three times and the gun sounded.
Jimbo, his wife and a few close friends broke out the champagne, hugging and dancing. One celebrant got carried away and broke a toe.
Inquiring minds probably want to know, did Jimbo hedge? Yes he did, but to what extent he prefers to keep private.
As a sports bettor, Jimbo has been playing parlays for a long time. Although he doesn’t remember hitting anything in Vegas bigger than a five-teamer, a bookmaker who handles his action ruefully remembers paying off at least one 10-team parlay, and a bunch of others he has hit over the years.
Jimbo is the analyst on a local TV show, Football Forecast, aired Fridays at 10 pm on channel 35.Unfortunately this UHF channel is not available on cable and is seen only on sets with rabbit ears or other antennas. According to the show’s host, Dennis Tobler, the station does not turn on its Black Mountain transmitter in order to save money. He said the station is making an effort to go national, but meanwhile it is virtually invisible in its home market.
Tobler noted that Football Forecast is streamed live at www.footballforecast.com, where the show is also archived. “Just go to the website and you can watch Jimbo giving out lots of free plays every week,” said Tobler. “For a variety of reasons, the show will not be telecast again until November 7, when it will resume a weekly schedule through the Super Bowl. I invite bettors to watch Jimbo do his thing every week on the show,” Tobler stated.
Before we wrap this story, let’s flesh out Jimbo so he is perceived as more than just a lucky stiff. He is an easy going, jocular good ol’ boy who laughs loud and often and loves to tell jokes. Probably the best way to describe what he is all about is to relate that none of his friends, with whom we spoke, begrudged him the financial windfall, or directed any petty or catty comments in his direction.
Rather than dwell on what he would do with his newfound riches, Jimbo was more intent on allocating funds for his 22-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter. Both live in Reno. His wife also has plans, he noted, and after she gets all the bills paid and fixes up the house, they’ll figure out what to do with the rest.
We must give kudos to the Stardust sportsbook. Its director Bob Scucci wasn’t on duty when Jimbo, accompanied by a small entourage, came to cash in his four tickets. But race and sportsbook assistant manager Jake Kolleth graciously and expeditiously handled the transaction.
He gave the group a comp for the coffee shop while he attended to the paperwork. Jimbo was offered a variety of payment options and decided on taking $10K in cash and a check for $290K. The Stardust was obligated to take out 25 percent from each ticket for the IRS.
The sportsbook exec noted that the special $5 parlay card had been hit four times this year prior to Jimbo’s assault on the Stardust’s bankroll. Consequently, that parlay card has been retired from service.
“I guess I’ll have to play regular parlay cards,” sighed Jimbo. “He remembered that Coast sportsbooks used to offer a similar card. But it is not likely they’ll try to fill the breech as its shops are now part of the Boyd Group, which owns the Stardust.
When we left Jimbo, he was headed to the bank to make a whopper of a deposit. It reminded us that so often, gamblers who score big are seen as boorish, one-dimensional characters who blow their cheese and give the activity a bad rap. This winner is cut from a different cloth.
Watching Jimbo handle his good fortune modestly and with good grace, it reminded us that Leo Durocher’s observation about where nice guys finish had a few holes in it.
For those who are skeptical of this entire account, we don’t blame you given the frauds and hoaxes that are perpetrated on bettors. So as documentation, we offer a scan of the four winning tickets.
Please send questions, comments, etc., to Buzzdaly@aol.com.