Tales of Fast Money, Wicked Beats, and Broken Mice:
Chapter One — Discovering a New Planet and Finding Paradise
[Note: Read INTRODUCTION to this series here]Read More
Tales of Fast Money, Wicked Beats, and Broken Mice:
Chapter One — Discovering a New Planet and Finding Paradise
[Note: Read INTRODUCTION to this series here]Read More
INTRODUCTION (A NEW POKER SERIES)
Twenty years ago, the first online poker cash game was dealt.
January 1st, 1998 marked the roll-out of the first real money poker site, at PlanetPoker.com.Read More
The Las Vegas Club in downtown Las Vegas was a smelly armpit of a casino, coated in a mix of disgusting bodily fluids and cheap booze, the dingy carpets dusted in cigarette ash. And I adored every sick square sentimental inch of all that rotten residue and loved blowing every dumb dollar I wasted there.
The outer skeleton of the Las Vegas Club is crumbling, barely standing now because the building’s torso keeps getting pummeled by the constant blows from a wrecking ball swinging from a big crane. Like a bruised boxer in the 12th round hanging on the ropes, what remains might soon be a giant pile of dust by the time you’re reading this. And so, the Las Vegas Club is destined to decay into an antiquity that eventually disappears, except for what retreats into the deepest recesses of our memory alongside the bygone Dunes, Stardust, Riviera, Castaways, and so many other once-thriving monuments to a city’s past.
Even with all its plentiful scars and blemishes, I have fond memories of the Las Vegas Club. I recall the unusually large $22/night hotel rooms, many with a window alcove overlooking noisy Fremont Street. I recall the spooky-dark steakhouse ringed with red-leather booths with a smell of the old criminal underworld that sat empty most of the time, but the Maitre’d still always insisted on having a reservation (they once turned away a party of three — which included Mike Sexton, Stu Ungar, and myself).
Sure, the Las Vegas Club was a dump. Everyone agreed. I went back and read some of the old reviews posted on Yelp. Many are as comical as they are cringeworthy. Reviewers complained about everything — from the dank smell of cigarette smoke to the loud noise. They bitched about the parade of hookers in high heels ramping up and down hallways that echoed like a wind tunnel piercing through the hopelessly outdated decor that hadn’t seen renovation since the mid-1970’s. Sorry for my lacking any sympathy. What the hell did anyone expect for $22-a-night? A hooker holding a sixpack, I guess.
Opened in 1949, the Las Vegas Club went through as many different owners as blackjack shoes. They tried various gimmicks and new branding campaigns most of which failed, but all the crusty old joint really ever ended up being was a great place to gamble, get a stiff drink, and perhaps end up crashing in a bed bug infested hotel room, provided you still had $22 left in your pocket. The hotel was so notorious towards its ending days, they wouldn’t rent to locals.
Sometime around 1990, the Las Vegas Club decided to adopt a sports theme. Walls were knocked out and replaced. The sportsbook tripled in size. A huge aluminum grandstand like you’d see at a high school football game was installed for gambling fans. For a buck you could get a beer and a hot dog. The walls were tackily decorated with sports memorabilia, probably 95 percent of it fakes and forgeries, but nobody gave a fuck. So, that’s the baseball bat Mickey Mantle used when he hit his 500th career home run? Yeah, right. Step right up, folks. We also got the loosest slots in town. All that was missing was the cheap carnival barker in a striped coat chomping on a cheap cigar while swinging a cane.
During the poker boom which happened about a decade ago, the Las Vegas Club opened a new poker room. The first day I showed up, all eight tables were filled to capacity and there was even a waiting list. A few months later, the empty room closed down for good. I think half the dealers who worked in that room are dead now.
When I was working as Public Relations Director of the old Binion’s Horseshoe across the street, the Las Vegas Club might as well have been my break room. Both on the clock and off it and plenty of days and nights before work and after — I bet plenty of sports there, had a few drinks there, made a few friends there, made a few enemies there, got into some fights there, and most of the time had the blast of my life. It was the kind of place where you walked up to the bar and the barkeep asked the simple two-word question, “the usual?”
The Las Vegas Club even had its own karaoke spot. Upstairs on weekends right atop the sportsbook, a melting pot of human gumbo cracked plenty of eardrums, all in good fun. One night when I showed up late, the karaoke bar was closed. So, tagging along with Dan and Sharon Goldman (and her mom), we were later joined in the casino by two of Britain’s finest — Simon “Aces” Trumper and “Mad Marty” Wilson (yes, those are their real names). This motley crew decided to perform our own version of karaoke at the casino bar, sans the musical accompaniment. Half the casino looked at us like terrorists. The much drunker half laughed and some even joined in the singing. The bartender let us get away with it all because we tipped like crazy. “Mad Marty” talked me into playing a trivia contest for $100 a question. I finally left broke after maxing out my hits on the ATM machine. Some advice: Never engage in trivia on classic English literature with “Mad Marty.” He’s a hustler. [PROOF: WATCH THIS VIDEO]
I have no idea if the Las Vegas Club a pool. I never checked. But I doubt it would have been safe to dive into the water, anyway. It would be like swimming next to the drain pipe from a lead smelter.
There wasn’t any fancy showroom either. No headliners. No celebrities. No paid entertainment. Hell, the gamblers and the hustlers and the hookers and the hustlers were the show. And it was free at the Las Vegas Club, all the time.
The last few years of the Las Vegas Club were not kind to its memory. The deterioration was gradual. Burned-out light bulbs weren’t changed. Sticky floors got mopped less and less often. Stained carpets rarely felt the tickle of a vacuum. Felts on the worn out gambling tables faded. The steakhouse closed. Valet service was discontinued. The hotel shut down. But amidst the decline and fall, as so so often we see when times aren’t so good, the people turn out to be so very good indeed and they even surprise you. Those loyal employees who worked there towards the end stayed cheerful. They almost always smiled. They were good people. They were hard-working people. And sadly, they were the last voyagers on the teetering deck of a sinking ship. Like the band that played on during the frigid night when the mighty Titanic plunged to the depths of the Atlantic, the people who gave the Las Vegas Club its memories despite all its defects kept their pride and worked until the fateful final hour. The casino closed in 2015.
The Las Vegas Club didn’t try to be nice. Carnivals aren’t nice either. Neither are amusement parks nor state fairs nor sports stadiums. Hell, a sleazy strip club called “Girls of Glitter Gulch” was just 25 feet from the main entrance, front door to the right.
The Las Vegas Club never pretended to be Paris or New York or Venice or a Mirage. It was exactly what it advertised. It was Las Vegas.
It’s that time of year again.
The start of football season means two things. First, sports gambling ramps up big-time. Second, an infestation of predators will be hunting for fresh prey. These predators are known as “sports handicapping services.”
Fortunately for us, dishonest sports handicapping services are easy to spot. In fact, they make it way too easy.
Here’s some advice that’s never once failed me in my 20-plus years on the sports gambling scene and more than a decade living here in Las Vegas. That advice is as follows: When somebody looks and acts like a scumbag, he’s usually a scumbag.
Want to know more of the warning signs? Okay, let’s do this. I’ve compiled a list of things to watch out for. Here are 10 ways to tell a sports handicapping service (also known as “touts” or “sports advisors”) is probably dishonest:
 When the Handicapper(s) uses a Pseudonym
Any successful sports handicapper should be willing to use his real name in all of his business dealings. This is especially true when your hard-earned money is involved. Sure, some handicappers may employ a catchy nickname for marketing purposes, and that’s okay. But each of us has a legal first and last name. Anyone who’s honest about what they do for a living should be willing to be known publically. I’ve discussed this sticky point with some full-time touts who insist they use pseudonyms for legal reasons and/or to maintain privacy. I call bullshit. If you can’t take pride in what you do for a living, or you’re uncomfortable with your customers knowing your identity, then you shouldn’t be in the business. Here’s a question: Would you take financial advice from someone who doesn’t use his (or her) real identity and instead relies on a fake name? Of course not. This should also apply to anyone you trust to provide sports picks.
 Handicappers Using Phoney Academic Credentials
Over the years I’ve noticed many scumbag handicappers use “Doctor” or “Professor” in their titles. This would be perfectly fine if they actually had academic credentials — particularly in fields such as statistics, psychology, or some other discipline related to sports gambling. Fact is, these “doctors” and “professors” are frauds. They’re liars. Years ago, a scam-capper who went by the name “Dr.” Ed Horowitz was exposed as a cocaine addict and was found to be a convicted felon. More recently, “Dr. Bob,” a college dropout who lit up the sports betting scene about a decade ago when he went on a (perhaps random) hot streak which caught the attention of mainstream media, has no doctorate in anything. He’s still around. Be careful about who you trust. Academic titles shouldn’t be slung around loosely with the intent to establish a false credibility so as to fool people. Academic credentials should be rightfully earned. No sports advisory service to my knowledge has any doctors of professors working as full-time handicappers. Perhaps they do exist and if so, they could post a copy of the doctorate at the website.
 Living a High-Roller Lifestyle
There are legitimate handicappers and honest sports services making a living researching games and then giving out the plays, and perhaps even betting on those picks themselves. Every single one of them puts in massive numbers of hours. This is especially true for bona fide sports services that really do care about their clients, which are few and far between. If you see advertisements (or worse, “reality television” shows or videos) with douchebags posing with fancy cars surrounded by pretty girls, or fanning huge wads of cash — run in the opposite direction. They’re all crooks. Shit stains. Scum. Every one of them. Here’s the truth: Real sports handicappers don’t call attention to themselves. Real sports handicappers don’t toss around $100 bills like confetti, nor hang out in Las Vegas nightclubs. Real sports handicappers work their asses off because that’s what it takes to win in this business.
 Touting Only Recent Win-Loss Results
This is a red flag that screams — scam! We see this frequently, especially on print ads and all over social media, including Twitter and Facebook. “We went 8-2 our last 10 plays! Sign up now!” So, the service claims that they went 8-2. So what? I can flip a coin and it might come up 8 heads and 2 tails (there’s a 3 percent chance of this happening if you flip a coin ten times right now). But why is the service bragging about only the last ten picks? What happened the previous 20 picks? Or previous 50 picks? You can be absolutely certain — if the service had enjoyed a longer winning streak, they’d be bragging about it. Fact is, the service might have gone 2-8 the prior week and ended up with a 10-10 overall record. Minus the usual 10 percent vig plus the service’s subscription fee, congratulations — you’re well on your way to going broke. All that matters in sports handicapping in the long term. One day, one week, or even one month is almost meaningless. Unless a service can provide a legitimate W-L record over a lengthy period (at least a year, and preferably several years), they should be avoided no matter what claims they make. [One more thought: A trustworthy service shouldn’t have to constantly brag about themselves — winners become self-evident]
 Failure to Post Comprehensive Win-Loss Record
This is closely related to the previous red flag. All handicappers should publically post their comprehensive W-L results. This is easy for a website to do. All plays should be archived so that customers and potential new clients can see for themselves how the handicapper has performed. That said, be careful because many sports services have been caught “scrubbing” their dirty records. These unscrupulous services appear to maintain an updated listing of all recommended wagers, but they go back later — a few weeks or months afterward — when no one remembers the losing picks. Then, they scrub away the losses. Removing ten losses from 100 picks can make a 50-50 coin-flipping handicapper look like a genius since the falsified record would be hitting 56 percent winners. One very strong indicator to know if a sports service is honest or not is to look carefully for losing streaks and losing seasons. Oddly enough, this is a somewhat reliable indicator of integrity. If a sports service has a few losing seasons, but also more winning seasons on their record, that might be worth consideration (provided they don’t have other red flags). In short, be more inclined to trust a handicapper and/or sports service that admits to bad streaks and losing seasons.
 Different Levels of Service or Clubs — Based on Price
This is a dirty trick used by most dishonest sports services. They offer different levels of service for their clients based on the price. Often, you see “VIP” clubs and other elite offers which presumably provide a higher level of service (which implies better sports picks — but is junk just like the rest of their stuff ). If I’m relying on someone else’s judgment, I want his best stuff at all times. This would especially be true if I’m paying for information. While the time period of a subscription is indeed a legitimate way to categorize clients (giving discounts to those who purchase a full season, rather than one month, for instance), no sports gambler should ever be receiving second-rate plays. Any service with segregated membership clubs is a scam. Without exception. Here’s the reason — it’s playing the odds. The more clubs a service offers, the better chance one of those clubs will get hot and produce a winning record. That way, the service can market its best-performing club to future suckers (and ignore the inevitable losing records).
 Beware of Hype
Here in Las Vegas, several daily and weekly radio shows feature sports handicappers as regular guests. These “experts” break down games and provide their picks. While many are worthless so far as value, just about all of them do provide accurate information. Most public handicappers who appear in major media work very hard to provide analysis, injury updates, and other data which can help the listener to make a solid pick. Even those who don’t win in the long run can provide valuable insight on a game we may not know otherwise. Hence, I do respect these handicappers who are willing to share their opinions. That said, gamblers should avoid the braggarts and screamers. Beware of so-called “experts” who spend lots of time touring their records and marketing next week’s picks. YouTube.com is filled with these videos of self-promoting scammers who spend most of the program telling the world how great they are. Stay away from them, unless you’re looking for a laugh. Note: One example of an excellent resource for gamblers is the daily video analysis released by Teddy Sevransky and Pauly Howard HERE.
 Any Sports Service Promoting a “Game of the …..” is a Fraud
No sporting event is so lopsided that it merits being promoted as a “Game of the Year.” Yet, we see this garbage advertised all the time. This is marketing targeted directly at saps and suckers. Gambling is a long-term endeavor. Gambling is about percentages. No game is a lock. Ever. The most egregious violation of this “Game of the….(whatever)” is often witnessed early in the football season. Dishonest sports handicapping services advertise their “Game of the Year,” sometimes even in early September! How does a service know there won’t be a superior wagering opportunity later in the season, in October, November, or December? There’s a reason for this and it’s a sure sign of dishonesty: Scammers know most gamblers still have money early in the football season that will inevitably be lost from week-to-week. So, they hype early season games to try and take advantage ignorance and desperation. You will also see the hucksters promote multiple “Games of the Year.” If you see anything like “Game of the Century” advertised (yes, this is quite common), that service is a scam 100 percent of the time. These aren’t reliable handicappers. They are clowns.
 Touting Parlays
Parlays are bottom-of-the-barrel traps for chumps and suckers who lose consistently and are desperate to crawl out of the financial hole. Some sports handicapping services are so vile, they prey on these most vulnerable who believe in the fairy tale of parlays — gamblers who hopelessly need a longshot winner to get back to even. Hey — it’s tough enough to pick more winners than losers over the long run, let alone make two or more picks on a single betting ticket. Yet, we often see “side and total” parlays advertised for the biggest games, especially the golden goose of fleecing for the sports handicapping industry, which is Monday Night Football. Some services even promote 3- and 4-team parlays. This is insane. It should be a crime. I’ve made perhaps 100,000 sports wagers in my life, and I can count on one hand the total number of parlays I’ve bet (they were all weather correlated — like when a hurricane slammed into Florida a few years ago and I bet several games in the region to go under due to rain and high winds). Parlays are for losers.
 Beware of Concentration on Sides / Beware of Concentration on High-Profile Games like Monday Night Football
Betting sides (and nothing else) is at best a break-even proposition for 95 percent of all gamblers. The lines for NFL and most college football games are rock solid. Oddsmakers don’t make mistakes (or, if they happen — they’re very rare). Value comes when we have reliable information that’s not widely known nor factored into the line (yet), which is far more common on propositions — such as the number of yards rushing a running back will gain. There’s also still some value in second-half (halftime) wagering. In short, the more exotic the wager (betting obscure players, quarters, etc.) the better the chances the number might be off since it’s impossible to calibrate every proposition of every game with complete accuracy. Incredibly, very few sports handicapping services give out propositions, quarters, first-halves, and so forth. They focus on numbers that are virtually unbeatable — sides and totals. There’s a reason for this: Most sports bettors want to bet on something they understand and can easily follow. Very few gamblers take the time to consider a rash of cluster injuries along a team’s offensive line which might lead to allowing more sacks. In such situations, betting OVER the sack total would be a far wiser wager than betting the side. Again, very few services concentrate on these opportunities. Similarly, sports services that always give out picks on the most popular games aren’t doing their customers any favors. Betting values are much more likely to be found on an Arkansas State-Louisiana Lafayette game that almost no one cares about instead of the New England-Green Bay game. Seriously — do you think a handicapping service knows anything special about a game likely to be watched by 50 million viewers?
My conclusions are as follows: Avoid sports handicapping services. You can probably pick just as many winners (and losers) as the typical “professional.” Moreover, if you add in the cost of the service — which can be hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars — making a steady profit is even less likely.
A final word: I have many friends in the sports handicapping business. I know many of the biggest names known to most serious sports gamblers. Some of them are honest. Many are hard-working. Most have experienced temporary flashes of profitability which launched their careers as public handicappers and provided some measure of client confidence. But remember — all glory is fleeting. Caveat emptor.
Disclaimer: I have publically posted my football picks for more than 20 years. I have posted more winning seasons than losing seasons. Over the past five NFL seasons, my pre-game recommendations have been posted on this website. In more than 1,000 plays, I have a produced a very small profit — but a profit nonetheless. I have never once sold my picks, nor recommended any sports handicapping service.