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As I See It

12 February 2002

We all know that with the passing of time, a story can take on a life of its own until its origins are blurred beyond recognition. That is simply a reflection of human nature, and we in the sports gambling world take a backseat to no one when it comes to embellishing a story.

In the past, I have mentioned how much I enjoy listening to talk radio since it was so much a part of my growing up, and I still keep a close connection. Sure, the fluff on some shows is 100 fold, but that doesn't concern me. I just enjoy listening.

There are a few shows that I listen to in the morning here in Vegas, switching back and forth, depending on what they are talking about and to whom they are speaking. One show features a kid named Tim Trushel, and the other is hosted by John Kelly. Both shows are pretty close to the pulse of the industry and offer tidbits that are useful. Also, they let me pick up on items of which I have firsthand knowledge where I could lend a hand in the discussion.

This morning was one of those spots. Tim was talking about the NBA All Star game and some of the props for bettors. He also told a story he had heard involving Michael Jordan and a prop that was used while I was at the Mirage, and the game was played in Salt Lake City.

Michael's blackjack playing was well known, and the stories are fairly accurate. That was the year he turned 30, and his wife threw him a surprise party the day before the All Star game. We were all waiting in the villa suites and when Michael came in, everybody yelled, "Surprise!" Michael pretended he was surprised. You know how that goes.

When the party was winding down, Michael came over and said he had heard from a couple of 21 dealers that there was a prop on the board with an over/under of around 22 for the points Michael would score.

Of course, the dealers took anything Michael said as gospel. Not that he was trying to mislead them; he was simply making polite conversation so they would quit bothering him and let him get back to playing.

What he passed along was that he was a little tired and had a few bumps. That, coupled with the fact he might play at the tables through the night, so how could he be ready for the following day?

Well, by the time I got back to the book, all the dealers flocked around looking for validation of this gem of a spot to play. I really wasn't able to help much, but told them Michael had passed on to me what he had told them. I suggested they not get crazy and make it their bet of the season.

One of the dealers was a guy I had dealt with in the early '70s, Jimmy Brassich, and he would follow anyone at the drop of a hat. By the way, if that name rings a bell, remember a few months ago when Dennis Rodman was being sued by a Vegas dealer for rubbing the dealer's head and other spots.

That was Jimmy who won his case and got an $80,000 settlement for his humiliation.

In a finale that the gambling gods seemingly decree with regularity, the game went into OT and Michael went over. Sure, the dealers caught a bad break, but the real impact of this story is that somehow it got to a reporter. Within 24 hours, the number of people betting on this prop jumped from five to virtually everyone who bet the game was on this prop.

But here's the additional spin on the story. I had let everyone bet what they wanted because I told Michael that we had all this cash on the under and I needed him to go over.

The bottom line is that we blowed a ham sandwich on the prop, but the legend had more bite, so it grew at the expense of the real story.

Now, with the Winter Olympics being played, the same situation can be related to the "do you believe in miracles" hockey game in 1980 between the U.S. and Russia.

I was at the Barbary Coast and trust me, we were just starting to put up odds on Olympic events. I believe the U.S. was a 3-1 dog, but the game didn't get much attention.

I remember watching it in the book, and while there was more than normal activity, it wasn't nearly as much as was written about it in the ensuing weeks.

Once the press corps discovered that the books were taking action on this game, the story took on a life of its own, of how the books had been badly beaten up and bettors were lined up for hours cashing out tickets.

All this evolved despite reporters talking with guys like me, Sonny Reizner and Scotty Schettler, who all gave out the real scoop, which was the game was lightly bet. The story about our losses escalated based on fragmented "information".

I was there after the game and Phil the postman was the only guy to cash a ticket that night after the famous hockey game. Phil was over 80 at the time and I guess he wanted to make sure he got his cash before he checked out.

So, our culture has a passion for making stories grow, reality notwithstanding. It probably satisfies our own needs for stories with happy endings and winners, even if it isn't entirely true.

Who are your favorite talk show guys, and especially any local guys that you believe are a cut above?

We will get into the rest of the college season next week and go right through March Madness with some stuff that bettors will find worthwhile.

Stay well, Jimmy V.

Comments are appreciated at Jimmy Vaccaro's website.

Reprinted by permission. Article appears on Listen to Buzz Daly live each Friday on Audio Vegas.

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