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A Wiseguy's Odyssey
Part 1 - My Initiation
***A note from Bettorsworld - This story first appeared on Bettorsworld back in the late 1990's. The Author, the "wiseguy", was one of our many sources of information on the sportsbook industry back then. We have many similar contacts today, however this particular "wiseguy" has remained out of the biz.
It's a classic story that should give everyone a glimpse into syndicate betting and all the behind the scenes action that goes along with it. Enjoy!
My journey into the world of sports betting and all it's accompaniments started innocently enough. I was working at a large retail credit office at the same type of ordinary job that I had become accustomed to since early adulthood. It was there that I met Rob, a fellow employee. Little did I know then, that he would be the stepping stone from my ordinary existence into a future of intrigue and emotional extremes.
Rob and I would often take lunch and breaks together once we learned of our common interest in personal finance and the business world. I was maintaining a tidy stock portfolio at the time and Rob took care of his family's investments. We both believed in financial planning and enjoyed discussing the latest developments in the stock markets. Another thing we shared was a keen appreciation for the opposite sex.
Things continued along those lines until Rob started to mention an old friend - Spiro in our conversations. The two had gone to high school and been on the track team together. Spiro had also helped Rob out financially during a rough period. Spiro was a bookie with a very gifted mind for odds and sports statistics. He lived and breathed sports and gambling.
Rob waxed thick about the way Spiro could instantly memorize a whole rotation including the lines for each match and how he could follow the changes and predict which way a player was going, all without missing a beat. He said Spiro was one of the best phone guys around. Up to that point I knew very little about sports betting. Hell, I wasn't even a big sports fan. It turns out that in his heyday, Spiro had been one of the biggest bookies in town. Apparently one of the most successful too.
Rob said that his friend had amassed a lot of cash and was driving around in a 'Vette with a lifestyle to match. He frequented restaurants and clubs, had a fine girlfriend and when Spiro partied, he gladly picked up the tab for the gang. In spite of all his strengths, he had one overwhelming weakness - "stupid gambling". He didn't focus on bets where the edge was in his favor and chased when he lost. His concept of money management was to double up on the next bet if he lost and double up on the next bet if he won. He lost wads of cash in big stake poker games. The old pros he played with knew they had a good thing. The downward spiral continued until he found himself broke and in debt.
As time passed Rob informed me that he had partnered with Spiro in the running of the sportsbook. The two now shared the various duties of working the phone, paying and collecting, etc. Spiro needed Rob for the cash he brought in, which served to pay arrears to players and provide a bankroll for the sports book. Rob was excited about the prospect of eventually leaving a boring, low paying job for a promising future in the sports world that he loved. It wasn't long however, before Spiro's antics had whittled away Rob's cash, retirement savings and any credit he had been able to raise.
That's when Rob came to me for what would be the first in a series of loans. I didn't want to get involved, but eventually succumbed to the lure of a generous return. Rob justified my charging a friend outrageous rates by telling me he'd rather pay to me than a shylock, which he and Spiro had already done on occasion. He had big plans to turn it all around and said Spiro had mended his ways. Before I realized it, I had become accustomed to a fair amount of extra income. I now had my feet wet.
The cycle went on. Rob would borrow, I would collect with juice. Rob was continually thanking me while at the same time pointing out how lucrative the deal was for me. We continued to get together at lunch and breaks and started to include Spiro at these occasions. At first I was frosty towards him, holding his irresponsible lifestyle in contempt. Little by little, however, I couldn't help but warm to the guy. He was self-deprecating but obviously sharp with a good sense of humor and street smarts thrown in.
Rob eventually came to me with another proposition. By this time I kind of treated the two as a unit but relied on Rob to oversee any transactions since he had always been honorable. The deal was to lend Spiro's cousin John $14,000 with the same juice I had been getting from them. John was also in trouble with "stupid gambling" but was different from his cousin in that he ran a large family business. He was an affable character and all but begged for the loan, which would allow him to keep his family in the dark about his "problem".
He explained that he could easily service the debt, having a considerable weekly revenue. I was cool to the idea, but a combination of my greed and compassion for John's predicament prevailed. Now I had serious money on the street and as the juice poured in I was becoming intoxicated with my new found cash flow. The natural progression of events led me to lend even more money to some of Spiro and Rob's players who were overextended. Spiro informed me each time such a situation arose and advised me as to whether or not the individual was a suitable risk. Each time he gave his blessing, as in the case of his cousin, I had no problem collecting. I couldn't believe there was such a demand for loans at those steep rates.
One day while recounting past experiences, Rob told me how Spiro had been a "mover" for a professional sports betting group from Vegas. Spiro had lucked into this connection when one member of the group started playing into him. It didn't take long before he figured out he was on the wrong side of this action, so he offered to "move" for the group in exchange for compensation. I was fascinated by Rob's description of the large sums of money Spiro handled for these people.
Even more interesting was the fact that the bets funneled through Spiro had maintained an enviable winning percentage. Later we continued on the subject with Spiro. Together they convinced me that with the right connections and controls, a person could make a lot of money in this racket. Spiro's participation in the relationship ended after months of success, when he blew his brains out losing the whole Vegas bankroll on his own plays. He had been working with a partner and when the poor guy checked their "bottoms" at the various outs they were using, he was flabbergasted to learn that instead of hefty balances they now owed money. Spiro admitted what he had done to the Vegas group and promised to make good on the amount owed.
Quite a while had passed since his infamous betting binge and Spiro had managed to pay the Vegas boys about 10% of what he owed them. It was at this point that he started mulling over the idea of reestablishing the business. He talked about the possibility of hooking up with a couple of guys that had splintered off the original group. He said he would need to introduce someone that these guys could trust in order to restore their confidence.
Rob by now had financial problems of his own, so I was selected. It seemed logical at the time. I would back the operation financially and lend my good name, while Rob and Spiro would provide the sports knowledge, bookmaking experience and connections to Vegas and local bookies. We were now a team. Spiro suggested we all take a trip to Vegas to meet the guys he wanted to work for. The idea of jetting off to Vegas to form an alliance with these wealthy and successful individuals had me pretty fired up. Thoughts of the money I could make if this worked out bounced around my head. We decided to book the trip.