The Other Game In Town

On any football weekend, most of the action isn’t in Texas Stadium.

On October 17, Cowboy football fans were huddled around televisions in living rooms all across Dallas, urging on their as yet undefeated heroes against the St. Louis Cardinals. With only a few seconds left in the game, the Cowboys were scrambling desperately to overcome a 21-17 Cardinal lead. On fourth down, Roger Staubach sailed a pass toward the left corner of the end zone. The ball glanced off Billy Joe DuPree’s straining fingertips and fell harmlessly to the plastic turf. The game was over.

In most of those living rooms, the reaction was disappointment – but mild disappointment. “Well,” went the typical scene, “can’t win ’em all. Wait’ll we get the Cardinals back here in Dallas. What’s for dinner?”

But in certain other living rooms at that moment there was no thought of dinner. There were queasy stomachs. There were clenched teeth and muttered curses. Bets and money had just been lost. And in a few other living rooms, there was great glee. Some 300 big smiles. The bookies had won a bundle.

Ten million Dallas dollars are wagered illegally every football weekend. Over the course of a single season, Dallas bookies handle as much as $250 million. Maybe more. It’s the cleanest crime of them all.

Point spread gambling has reached a point of social acceptance. It’s no scandal for an upper middle class professional to chat at a Saturday night cocktail party about “dropping two hundred on Baylor today but I’ll make it up on the Cows tomorrow.” The Dallas Times Herald’s weekly Gridiron Goldmine football contest is based on betting lines. When sports writers pick the key games in Friday’s paper, they name their winning choice and their guess on the final point spread. “Just watch and listen carefully at Cowboy games in Texas Stadium,” says one bettor. “When they announce the other scores there’ll be lotsa people either celebrating or hollering’Ohhell.’ Some people actually pull out their sheets to check the lines. And at halftime the pay phones will be clogged with bettors trying to catch up on the 3 o’clock games.” In most social circles, having a bookie carries no more stigma than having a family doctor.

Wednesday, October 13

Good Old Boy, a Dallas bookie, got his football lines about five o’clock in the afternoon, just like every Wednesday afternoon. All his customers know that. The phone had started ringing at 4:50. It was “Rabbit.” Good Old Boy, who has a nickname for each of his bettors, asked Rabbit to call back and tentatively accepted an invitation to play poker that evening. A fellow bookie, who always drops off the week’s point spreads, was nearly a half hour late in arriving. By then, Honey, Lady, and a few of Good Old Boy’s other customers had called.

Big Loser wanted to call. But he didn’t.

Thursday, October 14

Late in the morning, Dallas Police Sergeant Jerry Curtis, who heads the bookmaking unit of the Metro Squad, talked with an informant by telephone. The man had some information on the whereabouts of a bookmaking operation.

Good Old Boy’s phone rang all afternoon and into the early evening. Most callers wanted the lines. A few placed bets – anything from $20 to $2000.

In the den of his North Dallas home, Big Bucks settled into a recently purchased easy chair with a copy of the Dallas Cowboys Insider magazine. Within 15 minutes he’d figured “his” lines on the pro games for the weekend.

Big Loser wanted badly to call but didn’t.

Friday, October 15

Sergeant Curtis granted a magazine interview. A high school student doing a term paper on gambling waited outside his door for the interview to conclude. Curtis had already visited with a suburban police chief about a narcotics problem and discussed several ongoing bookmaking investigations with other police officers.

Good Old Boy spent the afternoon in his “office” giving lines and taking bets. Big Bucks called in about 4:30 and got the lines but didn’t place any bets. Honey and Lady placed some bets. So did Sweetie and Rabbit.

Big Loser worked all day and never called. But he wanted to.

Saturday, October 16

Action day.

Good Old Boy had planned to open for business about 10:30 but the phone began ringing much earlier. Rabbit called, then Lady and Twinkie.

About 11:15, Big Bucks checked in. He placed these bets:

On Alabama -7 vs. Tennessee

On Missouri -6 vs. Iowa State

On Kansas +4 vs. Oklahoma

On Ohio State -17 vs. Wisconsin

On Texas A&M -6 vs. Baylor

On Oklahoma State – 1 vs. Colorado

On Boston College -7 vs. West Virginia

On Rice +14 vs. Texas Tech

On LSU -5 vs. Kentucky

On Houston -7 vs. SMU

On each of the first nine games, Big Bucks bet $2,200 to win $2,000. But he doubled that amount on Houston, feeling that the Cougars were a cinch to throttle struggling SMU. In all he had risked $24,200 to win $22,000.

By noon, the majority of Good Old Boy’s 45 regular customers had gotten down their bets.

Throughout the afternoon the phone stayed hot. Players who had lost on Eastern games which started at noon tried to catch up on the West coast games which didn’t start until 3. Then came the night game action. Good Old Boy’s last call came at 8 o’clock.

Sergeant Curtis spent the day relaxing with his wife Beverly and their two children at his Cedar Creek Lake home – a house that Curtis had built himself. He mowed the pasture, puttered around the house, and turned in early. He had put in a long week working on the some 65 ongoing booking investigations.

By midnight, every game had ended.

Good Old Boy was well ahead. Twenty-six of his customers had bet. More than two-thirds of them had lost in varying degrees. Big Bucks dropped a bundle. Alabama had beaten Tennessee by exactly seven points – that bet had been a push. Houston murdered SMU 29-0 as he’d expected. A&M drubbed Baylor and Boston College easily covered the spread against West Virginia. That gave Big Bucks $8000 in winnings. But underdogs Rice and Kansas had each been plastered by three touchdowns. Missouri and LSU had been upset. Oklahoma State led by four points with a minute to go only to lose to Colorado. Ohio State gave up two late and otherwise meaningless touchdowns and eventually beat Wisconsin by only 30-20, failing to cover the spread. That left Big Bucks with $13,200 in losses or a bottom line figure of minus $5,200 for the day. Had Ohio State and Oklahoma State just held on, he’d have won $3,600.

Big Loser was itching to call all day but never did.

Sunday, October 17

The day dawned cool and crisp. Sergeant Curtis spent most of the day-light hours tending his registered horses and his few head of cattle.

It appeared that most of Good Old Boy’s clientele had decided they’d make up their Saturday losses by betting the undefeated Cowboys, who were favored by four points over St. Louis. The phone woke him up just after 9 a.m.

Big Bucks bet the entire pro sheet, taking 13 teams for $2,200 each. He also bet three three-team parlays. With the odds on a three teamer being 6 to 1, he could win $1,500 for his $250 – if all three teams came in. He also bet a two-team parlay at 2.6 to 1 odds for $300. In all, he risked $29,850 to win a possible $30,300.

The day turned into a laugher for the bookies.

San Diego shocked Houston. The Cincinnati Bengals, who had been playing like princes, suddenly turned into frogs and were beaten by a Pittsburgh team that had croaked three weeks in a row. The crusher for Dallas bettors came later in the afternoon. The Cowboys’ normally reliable receivers suddenly contracted dropsy and let the Cardinals slip away with the victory. Seventeen of Good Old Boy’s clients had bet Dallas. Only four took St. Louis. On that game alone he won $8,945.

Disaster struck Big Bucks. He’d bet Dallas, Houston, Cincinnati and five other losers. All four parlays also went down the drain. His five winners weren’t nearly enough to save him. His bottom line for the day: minus $8,650. For the weekend he was out 13,850 bucks.

Monday, October 18

Sergeant Curtis checked into the office at 8 a.m. after making his 50-mile commuter drive from the lake. The day’s agenda included a briefing on information gathered over the weekend by other members of the bookmaking squad, a couple of calls to paid informants, and an anonymous call from a person giving the telephone number of an alleged bookmaker.

On Monday there is but one game in town – Monday Night Football. The New York Jets, who had shown steady improvement defensively during the previous three weeks, were 12-point underdogs to homestanding New England. The action went fairly heavily toward the Jets. By halftime everything had been decided. New England was on the way to a 41-7 romp.

Good Old Boy watched the game and totalled his books for the weekend. In all, 30 of his 45 customers had placed one or more bets. He handled $154,500 in wagers – a comparatively light weekend. But the World Series, also being played that weekend, had drawn heavy action. Of his 30 bettors, only six had finished ahead. One had broken even and 23 had lost money. In all, Good Old Boy had won $20,551 on football. However, he took a real beating on the World Series, which reduced his winnings by more than half.

The heaviest loser had been Big Bucks. He’d put $2,200 on the Jets. For the weekend, he’d risked $53,350 on football and lost $16,050 of it. But he’d won $7,500 on the Series. He owed Good Old Boy $8,550.

A friend had called Big Loser to ask his advice on a particular game. The advice he gave was wrong. But Big Loser had made it through another football weekend without making a bet.

Tuesday, October 19

Sergeant Curtis was temporarily called off the bookmaking beat on another vice investigation.

Good Old Boy made the rounds of pre-arranged drop points. He stopped at several offices, a car dealership, a couple of schools, a restaurant, a pair of bars. He met Big Bucks in the lounge of a bowling alley and collected eight thousand-dollar bills, five hundreds, and a fifty. He was back home in time to head for the State Fair with his girl friend. On Wednesday he would stash some of the cash in his safe deposit box. The rest would go into a relative’s safe deposit box in a different bank. Another week’s work was done.

Good Old Boy holds a master’s degree from a Texas college. He’s in his early thirties and operates his “store” from an office in his central Dallas home with one of those odd-shaped swimming pools out back. He is otherwise unemployed.

“There may be a thousand bookies in this county,” he says. “A few of ’em handle a million bucks a week during football season. Hell, we’ve got some big shooters in this city. There’s one guy, you’d recognize his name right off because his business advertises so much, who shoots as much as 50 grand a game.” Good Old Boy sips on his Michelob and apologizes because the hum in his 4-year-old television set is distorting the audio on the World Series. He stretches out on his couch wearing only a tennis hat and shorts, looking very little like a man who’s cleared $150,000 (tax free) in the past 25 months.

“I’ve only been booking about 21/2 seasons now. I used to turn my friends’ bets over to the bookie and it seemed like every week the flow went to him. So I just started keeping a few of the bets myself.His clientele now includes five school district employees, a stock broker, a banker, the owner of a car dealership, a woman who owns a small communications business, and two policemen. “It’s amazing how consistently a bookie wins,” marvels Good Old Boy!’Of the 60 weeks or so that I’ve been booking, I’ve lost only seven or eight times. As long as the action pours in, it doesn’t matter at all who wins. The best of all possible worlds would be getting one guy to phone in $5,500 on Dallas and then have another guy phone in $5,500 on Dallas’ opponent. There’s no way I can lose. I’ve made $500 juice immediately. Last year I averaged about $4,000 in winnings per weekend for the 20 weeks. This year I’m doing even better. I had one weekend early this season when I cleared $15,600.”

Like all bookies, Good Old Boy is fully aware of the legal dangers of his occupation, but has decided that the financial rewards far outweigh the risks. “I guess I should worry more about The Man,” he admits, “but I really don’t think he’s after me. I handle only about 200, maybe 300 thousand a weekend. He’s after the million dollar guys. Besides, I take real care not to look too prosperous. I’m paying off my car in time payments. There’s a mortgage on my house. My credit record would fill two pages. And I rathole all extra money in the safe deposit box of a relative. Actually, I worry more about the IRS than The Man. Income tax evasion charges are a whole lot worse than bookmaking.”

True indeed. Bookmaking conviction is a handslap offense. But should local police uncover tangible evidence of bookmaking winnings, the bookie is then subject to federal charges of income tax evasion. And odds are that that charge will bring stiff fines and a possible jail sentence. But even that is of small worry to Good Old Boy. “Football betting,” he contends, “is practically unpoliceable.”

Sergeant Jerry Curtis makes $1,300 a month after 22 years on the Police force. He has worked the bookmaking beat for 10 years. The shelves behind his desk contain volumes of reports and one solitary book – its title is “Bookie.” Curtis estimates that 250 to 300 bookies now operate in Dallas County and that over a year’s time as many as 100,000 Dallas County residents are involved in some kind of illegal gambling. Curtis has a bookmaking squad of six men. Their annual budget is only $297,000. And all six men are occasionally called away to work other vice areas like auto theft, narcotics, fencing operations, and prostitution.

Curtis knows all too well how easy it is to find a bookie and place a bet – there is always that friend of a friend. He reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a form called the “COS Football Schedule,” printed and distributed by a firm on Stemmons Freeway. It’s a multi-sided listing of all major college and pro games for a given week with appropriate space for filling in the betting lines, expediting the gambling process for bookie and bettor alike. Curtis has the lines filled in on his sheet. “I get it from a bookie,” he says. “He knows who I am.”

To make his job even more difficult, the business of bookmaking has shown increased sophistication in recent years. “The big boys isolate themselves completely,” Curtis sighs. “It used to be you could wander into a bar and place a bet with a bookie face-to-face. Not anymore.”

Now almost all booking transactions are handled by phone. To avoid apprehension, many bookies construct an elaborate labyrinth. The first step involves renting an apartment under a fictitious name and having a telephone installed also under a phony name. The bookie then attaches a device to the telephone which automatically forwards any call to a phone in a different location. The device, known as a “cheesebox,” is perfectly legal. The Bell Telephone company itself markets the apparatus under the name of ESS equipment, charging a mere $2.50 for installation and a monthly charge of $1.40. In Curtis’ mind, the development of the cheesebox has been a godsend to the bookies.

“It allows them to completely conceal themselves at an untraceable number. Let’s say one of our informants or perhaps an irate wife gives us the phone number of a bookie. We get the location, obtain a warrant, maybe stake out the dwelling. When we enter, we find only a vacant apartment with a telephone sitting in the middle of the floor.”

The sophistication doesn’t stop with cheeseboxes. Many bookies write all bets on rice paper and keep a bucket of water by their work area at all times. Rice paper, when dropped into water and stirred slightly, will dissolve completely within ten seconds. “We’ve busted into some stores,” Curtis recalls distastefully, “only to find some guy sitting there with a smile on his face and a bucket of murky water next to him.”

Good Old Boy uses a cheesebox but disdains rice paper. Smaller books have neither. Yogi is a small book. He handles less than $50,000 a week and cleared some $13,000 last year. He has a $500 limit per bet and books about 35 people, including an insurance man, a real estate agent, two writers for the Dallas Morning News, a bellboy from the Fairmont, two lawyers, and a golf pro. Yogi has three college degrees and is in his twenties – young for a bookie. His second story apartment in central Dallas has one-way mirrored glass in the front door and double locks and chains on all entrances. A poster of Humphrey Bogart hangs in the living room. He conducts all business from his bedroom while sprawled on satin sheets. No cheesebox, no rice paper, but he has a plan if Sergeant Curtis ever shows up.

“I’ll pitch everything out the window and follow it if I have time,” he says. “Actually, I don’t think they’re that concerned about a little operation like this. If I were that worried, I don’t guess I’d be talking to a magazine writer. Besides, what can they do to me? I know a guy who really had a huge store. The second time they busted him was a Saturday morning – he was out in time to book the 3 o’clock games.”

The same names often appear on the arrest sheets. Sergeant Curtis attests to having busted the same bookie 10 times in 10 years. But he takes exception to the bookies’ theory that the amount of police effort to apprehend corresponds to the size of the booking operation. “No one’s exempt,” he emphasizes. “Anyone making book is equally in violation of the law. I want em all. Give me 20 men and we’d really cripple ’em.”

Curtis spent a year as an undercover bettor in 1961 and got information leading to the arrests of 17 bookies. Lately he has noted a subtle, and alarming, change in the nature of the business. “Recently we’ve become worried about what appears to be an infiltration of an organized criminal element into the Dallas bookmaking scene. We’ve detected evidence of ties between book-making and other areas of organized crime like narcotics, prostitution, and theft.

“There are. in fact, two types of bookies in this city. The older bookies do only one thing – make book. They’re angry at the young bookmakers who get arrested for drug violations or other crimes. Older bookies want a clean operation. They realize that an influx of related crime like drugs, prostitution and the rest will only bring the heat.”

It is this hint of big time crime creeping into Dallas and its relationship to bookmaking that most concerns Curtis. “We’ve begun asking some major questions about the bookmaking activities in this area. Questions like where the money paid to bookies goes, if it leaves Dallas, if it’s funnelled into other criminal activities, if some of our major local bookies are actually backed by out-of-state organizations.”

But if past arrest records are’an indicative precedent, it’s going to be difficult to pin anything on anybody. Last year, 63 bookies were arrested in Dallas and a majority convicted. But ultimately the convictions were for misdemeanor offenses such as possession of gambling paraphernalia. During Curtis’ decade on the trail of bookmakers, more than 700 Dallas bookies have been arrested. But only one Dallasite has ever spent time in the penitentiary for bookmak-ing. That man. one Dudley D. Smith, was convicted of felony bookmaking in 1972 on the testimony of an undercover policeman who had personally placed bets with him. In addition, one of Smith’s runners also testified against him. All others arrested for bookmak-ing have either been only fined, put on probation, or acquitted. And betting itself is strictly a misdemeanor to begin with – punishable only by a fine.

“The problem,” says Curtis, “is that gambling is such a friendly crime. Bettors and bookies are usually friends – and friends never testify against friends. They claim the Fifth Amendment or a sudden lapse of memory.” In addition, Curtis admits that he is not dealing with the usual criminal element. “Ninety-nine percent of all books and bettors are white,” he claims. “Most are well-educated and at least middle class financially. If you draw an east-west line across Dallas County running directly through downtown, the great majority of illegal betting would be done north of that line.”

Mr. and Mrs. Big Bucks have just moved into their new North Dallas home. Since concluding a standout collegiate athletic career. Big Bucks has been ascending the ladder of business success. He leans back in the corner of his new couch, sips a Coors and nibbles on a piece of deer sausage on a toothpick, and says he has won enough money betting football to have taken trips to Europe and the Caribbean. Over seven years, he claims to be ahead 40 grand. He checks three different bookies for lines, but gives all his action to Good Old Boy.

“Turn him in or testify against him? Don’t be silly,” says Big Bucks. “We’ve been friends for years. When I lose money it’s because of my own ignorance – not because of anything he did. I never bet money I can’t afford to lose. Football gambling’s my hobby. I pay taxes. I earn my money. I have a right to do what I want with my earnings. Gambling’s a private transaction much like any other business deal. What two people agree to do should be their concern alone. When I gamble I certainly don’t feel like a part of a criminal element.”

Good Old Boy concurs, naturally. “Personally, I don’t see what the problem is. I’m no crook. There’s nothing criminal about me and another guy betting on a football game.”

Their mutual feeling reflects the same attitude that has prompted government commissions to list gambling among the so-called “victimless crimes.”

Sergeant Curtis jerks forward in his chair at the sound of the phrase. “That’s bullshit!” he sputters, vehemently slapping his desk. “What about the wives and children – tell me they aren’t victims. I consider every player a victim.

“You want to hear about victims? A couple of years ago we caught a bank robber who confessed that he’d stolen the money to cover gambling debts. A bank in Northeast Dallas discovered one of its officers had embezzled more than $60,000 a few years back. The reason? He owed the bookies. About two years ago we found a body stuffed in a car trunk at Love Field. Investigations revealed the fellow had large gambling debts. An insurance policy on his life had been taken out just days before the murder naming as beneficiaries two men who we knew had gambling connections.”

He has a point. The D. A.’s file is full of similar cases. A vice-president of a firm arranged for a heist of his own warehouse so he could settle with the bookies. A brokerage house discovered that an employee had been paying off his bookie with hot stocks.

Big Loser knows all about such tales. “Gambling’s a sickness like drugs or alcohol. And nothing can cure it. 1 know I’m sick and I’ll always be sick.” Big Loser leans back in a squeaky office chair and unravels a life account that sounds like a confessional to Gamblers Anonymous. “It started with the football parlay cards in college. We’d play a dollar a week. In the Army that’s all there is to do – gamble. Poker, blackjack, anything.

“When I got home to Dallas and went to work, a bookie parlor operated right across the street. I started small. Five, ten bucks a game. By the early Fifties I was up to 100, 200, maybe 300 dollars a game. I bet anything – football, basketball, baseball. I had action seven days a week whenever possible. There weren’t 50 days a year that I didn’t have something down.”

Tales of losing fill the next hour. Stories of three team parlays that didn’t parlay, of bookies who had stiffed him, of bookies he had stiffed, of borrowing from banks and friends and family. “I had a thriving business and I could lie my way to a 10 or 15 thousand dollar loan easily. I’d just tell them I had a shipment of merchandise due. I’d steal from company funds and cover it in the books. I’d borrow from friends, relatives, anybody. I had ’em all bumfuz-zled.”

The losses mounted. In a testament to Big Loser’s business acumen, it took more than 20 years for the crash. “Finally nobody would loan me anything. We sold everything, the house, everything, and still owed over a hundred thousand.”

On the wall behind Big Loser’s desk hang pictures of his teenaged children. He talks of them, of the bankruptcy proceedings, of his wife’s leaving him. “I’d say I’ve gambled away a half million dollars – almost all of it to Dallas bookies.”

But even at that, Big Loser holds no animosity towards the bookies. “I did it all myself. No one ever forced me to bet. When I couldn’t pay, some got angry, but some actually seemed sympathetic.” And he states flatly that he never felt The threat ot physical violence pressuring him to pay up – a notion echoed by most of the Dallas gambling community. “I’m still friends with many bookies. I owe some of them money they’ll never get, but they still call to see how I’m doing. Never once did I squeal on a bookie. I couldn’t. They didn’t do anything criminal to me.”

For now, football betting in Dallaswill continue to thrive as The Great Little White Crime. A quarter of a billiondollar dilemma. Half fun, half fury. ForGood Old Boy it continues to be a lucrative but precarious profession. For BigBucks it’s still a harmless hobby. ForJerry Curtis it’s a life’s work. And forBig Loser it will remain a constant compulsion. “Every weekend I get the itchto call. It’s been three years since I’vebet and it’s still killin’ me.”

A Gambler’s Glossary

Action – Betting, as in “getting a lot of action” on a game or sheet of games.

Cover – When a team has been successful against the betting line, it is said to have covered the spread; e.g., Dallas as a 17-point favorite wins by 21 – the Cowboys have covered the line.

Dime – A bet of $1,100 to win $1,000. A big dime would be an $11,000 wager. A little dime is a $110 wager.

Dirt – A bookie’s heaviest bettor. Also called the “hammer.”

Dog – The underdog in any game according to the line.

Drop Point – Place where bookie and bettor arrange to meet for the payoff.

Get Down – To place a bet; e.g., “I got down on Dallas minus 4.”

Gorilla – Any person whose job it is to collect on gambling debts, with physical persuasion if necessary. Also called various other names including “enforcer.”

Heavy – When bettors bet Team A more than Team B, the bookie is said to be heavy with money on Team A.

Juice (Grease, Vigorrish) – In all single game bets the bettor must bet $11 to win $10. In such 11-10 odds, this extra dollar is called the juice or any of several other names.

Lay Off – When a bookie is heavy with money on a team he will often attempt to lay some of the money off on another bookie.

Limit – Many bookies will specify how much or how little bettors can bet on any one game. Such a ceiling or bottom is a limit. Often bookies will impose limits on individual bettors who have been slow paying.

Line – In attempting to equalize each pair of opponents the bookie sets a line on the game. The bookie names the favorite and indicates in points just how superior he feels the favorite is to the underdog. Line also called the spread or point spread. (See: “How the point spread works.”)

Move the Line – When a bookie gets heavy action on one team he may change the point spread. For example: Let’s say Dallas is a 17-point favorite over Seattle. Bets start pouring in on Dallas. The bookie may move the line up to 18. If bets then pour in on Seattle he might move it back down to 17 or even lower should his action warrant it.

Nickel – A bet of $550 to win $500. A big nickel would be a $5500 bet. A little nickel is a $55 wager.

Off the Board – If there is no line on a game for whatever reason, the game is said to be off the board and cannot be bet.

Over and Under Line – In addition to issuing lines on individual games, the bookie may also have an over and under line for each game. He might, for example, offer an O & U line of 43 for the DallasSeattle game. The bettor then wagers whether the two teams will combine for more (over) or less (under) than 43 total points. Bettors must generally lay 12 to 10 odds (that is, bet $12 to win $10) in O & U betting.

Parlay – Besides betting single games, bettors may parlay two or three teams. The bookie offers odds of 2.6 to 1 on two-team parlays and 6 to 1 on three-team parlays. In each case all teams included in the parlay must be winners against the line for the parlay to win. If only one of two or two of three are good, the bettor’s parlay still loses.

Point Spread – See Line.

Push – A tie. When the game finishes exactly on the line it is a tie or push. All bets are off.

Runner – A bookie’s assistant who will help work the phones, pick up bets and money owed, and make some payoffs.

Sheet – List of games for the week. Many bookies will provide their steady customers with a sheet to expedite the betting procedure.

Stiff – To refuse to pay a wagering debt. Either bookie or bettor can stiff the other. When a bettor stiffs a bookie that bookie will generally pass the bettor’s name on to other bookies hoping to get that bettor shut off. An unpaid bookie is also said to have “taken a hickey.”

Teaser – Another form of betting. A bettor can select two teams, alter each line by six points in the direction of his choice and turn in a two-team teaser. Such bets are even money bets – that is, a bettor bets $50 to win $50. For example: Dallas may be favored by 17 over Seattle. The Minnesota Vikings may be favored by 10 points over the Detroit Lions. A bettor might take Seattle plus 23 points and pair them with Minnesota giving away just 4 points in a two-team teaser. He could also chose Dallas -11 and Detroit +16. Three team teasers pay 9-5.

Take a Bath (Get Drilled, Take the Gas, Get Drowned) – Expressions to describe a day in which the bettor or bookie did very poorly. Such a person is said to have “taken a bath.”

Twig – Sometimes the bookie sets a line that involves a half point. Dallas, for example, might be favored by 16? over Seattle. The half point is called the twig.

Vice Advice

Tips for those who can’t resist.

Let’s first make it clear that we’re not advocating that you add football gambling to your list of vices. But if the weekend devil gets you, it seems the least we can do is to offer some basic assistance. Bookies, bettors, winners, losers and police all agree that there are certain guidelines a bettor should follow to enhance his chances of success in betting football. For the most part these are based on simple common sense. But, in the heat of the action, oh how easy they are to forget.

1. Never, never, never bet more than you can afford to lose.

2. Always get lines from at least two different bookies. All bookies do not have the same point spreads. A half point may seem like very little until it means the difference between winning and losing money.

3. Never bet Teasers (see Glossary). They always seem to look good, but in fact are terrible risks. Why do you think they call them Teasers?

4. Never bet Parlays (see Glossary). It’s difficult enough to pick one winner, much less two or three winners. If you just can’t resist, the odds on a three-team parlay (6 to 1) are actually more advantageous than those on a two-teamparlay (2.6 to 1).

5. Never bet from emotion. Players should stay away from betting their “favorite” teams since emotion has a way of clouding the objective choice.

6. Do not bet the sheet (all or most games). The more games you play, themore the “juice” will eat you up. Bookies love bettors who bet 30 or 40 gamesa weekend. There’s no way such a system can succeed in the long run.

7. There’s no such thing as a successful system.

8. The “due theory” is poppycock. This theory consists of betting a team onthe notion that they are “due” to win one. Such a system typically results inthe bettor having something “due” the bookie every Tuesday. Consider whereyou’d be if you’d been betting your bankroll on TCU every weekend on the duetheory.

9. Bet only games in which you are confident of having enough knowledge to make a reasonable choice. If you know little or nothing about Yale versus Cornell, why risk your money? (By the way, of all college teams over the past two decades, Yale has been the most consistent winner against the betting line.)

The more odd a line seems, the more suspicious the bettor should be. Ifyou figure Dallas should beat the New York Giants by 12 and the line onlyfavors Dallas by 4, beware. There is no such thing as free money in footballbetting.

Never bet a television game simply because you need to have a bet toenjoy the game. If you do, you’re a gambleholic – a dangerous disease. Whynot just turn off the tube and read a magazine?

How the Point Spread Works

The point spread, sometimes referred to as the line or the equalizer, is an attempt by bookmakers to “equalize” the two teams for betting purposes before the game.

For example: the Dallas Cowboys are most certainly superior to the Seattle Seahawks expansion franchise. It would be simple indeed to select the Cowboys to defeat Seattle every time they met.

To make the teams “equal” the bookie sets a line. He might make Dallas a 17-point favorite over Seattle. It is against this “point spread” of Dallas – 17 (or Seattle +17 if you prefer) that the bettor makes his choice.

If the bettor chooses to bet Dallas, the Cowboys must beat Seattle by more than 17 points to be a winning bet. If Seattle either defeats Dallas or loses by 16 points or less, then Seattle is the winning team according to the point spread.

The simplest way to demonstrate the line is to take the actual final score of the game and apply the betting line or point spread. Again, let’s make Dallas a theoretical 17-point favorite over Seattle. Let’s say the final score is Dallas 34, Seattle 13. Subtract 17 points from the Cowboy total. For betting purposes Dallas is a winner 17-13. If the final had been Dallas 28, Seattle 14, subtraction of the 17 points from Dallas would make Seattle the betting line winner 14 to 11. If Dallas defeats Seattle by exactly 17 points the game is a push or tie and all bets are off.


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