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As I See It by Jimmy Vaccaro

21 January 2003

As I See It, by Jimmy Vaccaro

January 20, 2003

Where have the first thirty-six gone? Now we are looking dead ahead to number 37.

There is a wide scope of football fans: we have the purist, who has bet and followed the Super Bowl for years, to the casual fan and recreational bettor, who has that late January date circled on his calendar. The games become images that are used as references of time in your life.

I lost the first one. Going against the Packers in those early years always left me broke and looking for cash to get "started" again for college hoops. The day the Jets won over the Colts had me running for the television; I had just baptized my godchild and did not want to miss the kick off.

The infamous four between the Steelers and Cowboys had every B.M. in the country looking for the bridge. We went for 200k that day and we were just a small apple on a big tree here in Las Vegas. The 49ers' first title over the Bengals had a lot of my friends from Youngstown celebrating with Eddie Jr. [De Bartolo] for a while. Remember when the "Fridge" scored the touchdown and made a lot of prop bettors happy? Wasn't it Scott Norwood who could have made a lot of money-line players real happy in the early 90's? You could go on and on and put these games to exactly where you were and how you did. Basically we all grew up with this game and have seen a lot of change to all the facets of this huge production we call "Super Bowl Sunday." I mean a lot of change, from the marketing aspect to the actual betting on the game.

When I was younger the game simply had a side, and a lot of places did not even use a total. The first few years when I was behind the counter we just started to use halftimes and, as the game grew and became more fan-friendly, we also got smarter and started to list more things that people could bet on. The heightened interest made for more ideas. The nonprofessionals were way ahead of the curve when it came to inquiring about possible "props" or the game-within-a-game scenarios.

As the game headed into the 1980's, the hotels were clamoring to get a sports book because their neighbors were getting all the attention, and also all of their customers, on those type of weekends. So, as a result, the generic "props" were born. Who scores first? Who scores last? Longest field goal? Etc, etc, etc... This lasted for a couple of years but, if you came up with something unique, your sports book would get both the local and national coverage to talk about things that were different outside of the point-spread. A lot of publicity for free. So we now started to try and outdo each other with each passing year, as the market for these bets were growing.

The smarts would look for some holes but the general public just wanted more. Their bets were small, but they carried all this info with them for months and never stopped talking about them. Some smaller properties were writing more on their specialty bets than they were on the side. When you started to incorporate name recognition with some of these bets it simply went off the scale; you know the ones. Will Michael Jordan score more points than the Cowboys on Sunday? Will Tiger Woods' final round score be more or less than Warner or Brady's pass attempts?

The public loves it and it will never regress, only move to even more extremes.

I was never much of a prop guy but I did have to keep up with everyone else or be left in the collective dust. From maybe having only two bets to make, or book, in the early 70's you can now be entertained from opening kick-off to the last score.

As I have written about countless times, however, there also comes a lesson that is usually learned whenever new ground is broken in the sports gaming world. Sometimes the lessons can be very costly and humbling. Everyone who has had the power to change a number, or make a unique betting prop, knows what I am talking about.

Let's go back a little in time to the mid-80's; this is back when all casinos wanted to get into the act once they saw what a drawing card Super Bowl could be. Books were opening up faster than these new pawnshops I see sprouting up on every corner in Vegas, but qualified help was a little scarce. A lot of joints knew nothing of booking sports and sometimes would look to their own workforce, then proceed to send them to Roxy's Race and Sportsbook management class. Upon "graduation," they would be thrown to the wolves. Roxy's class was very good and informative, but some kids thought by simply taking the class they would be in the class of a Bob Martin. If they were beating up all the soft chocolate business, and no numbers were falling by the end of the year when we approached Super Bowl, they figured they had obtained their Masters degree and could never make a mistake.

We have all made our share of mistakes, but one outfit from Northern Nevada made a monumental one: they not only caused the loss of some cash but they embarrassed the joint they fronted for. The joint was HARVEY'S and it was in LAKE TAHOE; I gotta be going back about 17 years with this one.

They put out a proposition parlay card that dealt with the impending Super Bowl. They had side & total listed separately for the game and side & total listed separately for each individual quarter, plus total sacks, ints and a few more. I suppose they got traffic the first day it was on their counter, but when the vulture's here in Vegas heard about the card Southwest Airlines could have charged $8000 for a one-way ticket to RENO.

After two non-stop days of punching nothing but parlay cards from the visitors from the south, and every card having the same correlation from the dog or favorite and over and under, they had enough sense to finally call someone and asked why their card was receiving all this attention. This crew must have been on a smoke break when Roxy was going over parlay cards. Let me try and use this Sunday's game so, hopefully, I can get across their mistake.

The Raiders are a 4 point favorite and the total is 43. If you are allowed to bet any combo without restriction, here is how it would go: They would bet the Raiders for the game and a multitude of cross parlays to the Raiders in each individual quarter. So, if the Raiders won the quarters they would have to cover the point-spread thus paying you the next level up in the payoff scale with picking one less proposition. They would do this with both sides and totals for both teams and totals both over and under. It is an enormous edge for the skilled player. I cannot emphasize how enormous.

Like I said they finally took stock of their liability and, once it hit upstairs, all "hell" broke loose. When you do not know what to do they simply panicked. They took ads out in newspapers in the surrounding area stating that the parlay cards that were issued from their casino prior to some date would not be honored and should be returned for a full refund. Talk about a public relations nightmare! This went on for a few days and gaming stepped in (although they were as confused as HARVEY'S).

The final resolution was the right one: the casino was liable for all bets that they had incurred until they pulled the cards from their counter.

Next time you're in your sportsbook, check out the rules on the wall as this disaster helped put in a few new ones. I can just imagine their executives watching the game on that weekend with that diplomatic smile that they had to wear. Like I said it is a very high percentage play for a good player, but if the quarters zigzag, then you can climb out with only minor surgery if you are booking it. I do not remember exactly but there was a major turnover that turned the 4th quarter around and, consequently, got them out of the soup. I believe the number I heard was that they lost around $200,000 but the number might have reached 10 times that amount if they did not get the miracle play in one of the quarters.

The point of the exercise is that with everything that encourages business there is a learning curve that is attached. Listen all this week on your local talk show as the DAN PATRICK'S of the world will be asking some sportsbook operator about any weird props he has on this week's game. That question will come right after, "How much money is bet on this game in Nevada and how much is bet illegally?" So, enjoy yourself and enjoy the game and betting the props can only add to the excitement of the experience. I know you guys would never think I would steer you wrong, but you can find out for yourself. If you are in Vegas this weekend walk into the book at CAESAR'S and ask for Race and Sports director CHUCKIE ESPOSITO. Tell him you want a "3-teamer." You want the Raider/Buc game over to the over in the first quarter and the over in the second quarter.

Tell him I sent you.

Take care, Jimmy V

This article is courtesy of Don Best Sports, an industry leader in live lines service. Please visit our website at to get the latest odds, scores, lines, and sports information.

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