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April-16-2007,
Thimblerigging and Double-Shuffling at Vegas (and Other) Sports Books...By Nelson Lardner

In the beginning, there was the guy at the cigar store. Or the pool hall. Or the voice on the other end of the phone.

You dealt with him (them!) for a while. He paid. You paid. You got to know each other. This dual knowledge did him more good than it did you, if he felt like being cute.

If/when he ever figured out you were a dedicated favorite fancier - or a dog player - you were vulnerable. Say a particular football favorite was -7, and it was -7, everywhere . . . painted on the board. You were a known favorite player, and you asked him for a quote on the game. If he was feeling frisky, he might quote you -7 1/2.

The Man has every right to do this, if he wants to take a little edge. He is a cog in the broad marketplace. You have choices (or damn well should). If sevens are everywhere, you can walk.

The above rationale is why I don't get indignant at dual lines, dealt either by individual operatives, or by one or more online operations. There are numerous offshore entities, past and present, who've made it an integral part of their business to deal separate "ninny" and "sharp" lines to customers they've had an opportunity to profile.

It's certainly in-bounds, and more than politically-correct, to mock such operations, and many do, with great glee. But we'll only mention this once more today . . . you need more than one out. You need more than three. In such a competitive marketplace as baseball sides, you need as many as you can comfortably afford. The chase is demanding enough without your bearing the burden of needlessly accepting unfavorable quotes.

But that's all been beaten to death. We're on to something newer, and far more insidious.

Imagine if you went to the store for a loaf of bread. Said loaf was priced at $1.39, and marked accordingly. You take it to the counter, and the cashier asks you for $1.59. You say, "Huh?". She say, "That price has been changed." No one should have to put up with such jive, and if you harbor an ounce of self-respect, you won't.

You're reading and hearing about more and more of this kind of shoddy business practice emerging out of Southern Nevada, at isolated, secondary outlets . . . especially within markets featuring relatively thin volume and frequently distinguished by one-way action.

Some places that still cling to handwritten display boards have some measure of excuse. The clerk should keep up with the ticker, but circumstances sometimes make that difficult. To minimize embarrassment/anger on both sides, a player with any doubts should simply ask, "Is that 188 up there on the Amazons/Valkyries total still good?" Given an answer, you then go in armed with the knowledge that you're striding upon solid ground.

You hope. So easily-middlible/sided due to extreme line movements, basketball totals are a prime field for sharp practices, on both sides of the counter. Jeff Haney of the Las Vegas Sun turned out a masterpiece of sarcasm on this topic for his March 26 paper; it's worth checking out online, for the laughs. Haney walked away from the counter of the joint in question after a total he was interested in was boosted a point, out of thin air, after he stated his desire. But the feelings engendered by the piece ain't a bit funny. Haney didn't name the hotel in question (though the identity of same has emerged since . . . think "downtown", and work your way around, from there . . .).

6-5 on blackjack at too many of the town's "21" tables is low enough (jeez, floormen don't have eyes? They can't pick out blatant counters? I know that many dealers make more money than the guys wearing their own suits, but it's within the law to back people away from BJ tables in Nevada . . . ). But to change a number AFTER it's been confirmed and AFTER the player with cash in hand has stated his wants and needs would seem an infraction worthy of investigation by the state's gaming control board.

There was some talk going around town after the fact, about how difficult it was for some players at some places to get down on the Bears with the full +7 for the Super Bowl. Oh, they'd let you wail away on Indy, minus the full touch, but good sources have told me that +7 for major manna was tough to nail down at certain spots. I wasn't in town for this year's Super, so personally witnessed no such shenanigans, but my (concerned) spies have credible histories, and I take 'em at their word.

The practice doesn't seem to have ceased, so far as the Arena game is concerned. A couple members of the tout fraternity (not moi . . . never touch the stuff) have built reputations anticipating Arena foots results, in recent years, and when you have motivated shoppers following the aforementioned seers, thin markets, and one-way action, guess what? What you see on the board is not necessarily what you're going to get, once your money's on the counter and you've stated your preference. What's this world coming to? Bob Martin is spinning in his grave, at supersonic speeds.

04-16-07
Nelson Lardner
MajorWager.com
lardner@majorwager.com



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