A Life in the World of Sports Betting, From the Bronx to Vegas

The odds board at a race and sports book in Las Vegas. (WikiMedia Commons/Baishampayan Ghos)

Courtesy of Covers

The Super Bowl is over so there’s a little time to breathe before March Madness and the beginning of baseball season. Ahhhhh. I've been meaning to write this for a while. This was requested by a handful of people on Twitter late last year. This seems like the perfect quiet time in the sports calendar to share a personal story.

Early Years of Gambling

My life as a gambler began when I was young. I mean young. Some friends and I used to play poker for pennies one day a week with a teacher in the fourth grade. The game was innocent enough and the risk wasn’t too crazy. We played for maybe 30 minutes a week so there wasn't even enough time to risk a dollar. It was just a different way for a handful of us to spend recess. Looking back, this experience probably shaped me more than I realized at the time.

I’ve always been passionate about sports, whether I was watching or playing. My first step into sports betting wasn’t actually betting on games. During the first couple of years of high school, I sold baseball cards at shows and in a candy store. I probably risked more money buying baseball cards in those few years than I did when I first started betting on games.

Baseball Cards and Gambling

Unfortunately, I sold 99.9 percent of my baseball cards when I moved to Las Vegas for next to nothing. There was no way to justify hauling half a million baseball cards across the country. I kept about 100 of the cards closest to my heart, including a Nolan Ryan rookie card. Sadly, that card isn’t in a condition where it will bring value. I just like having this particular card.

That candy store happened to be next door to a bookie and that’s where I learned a lot about sports betting. A friend had a couple of brothers who got down a lot on football. They helped teach me the “ins and outs” of betting on the game.

Football has never been my favorite sport. I’ve always been a baseball fan. I played and coached the game when I was younger. Learning how to bet a moneyline sport was easy and baseball remains my favorite sport to bet on. It’s amazing how much baseball betting and handicapping has changed over the years but that’s another story for another day.

College Years

When I graduated high school, I started my university career at a business school about 30 minutes north of home in The Bronx. I’d given up selling baseball cards at this time and was looking for a new source of income. I found it in Queens, N.Y.

Boy, did I find it. Well, I found something.

I didn’t know this going into my first day, but my first job in the world of sports betting was working for a 976 pick-selling service. My job was to acquire new customers. The “company” (aka the guy) had an office above a sandwich shop just over the Whitestone Bridge. I didn’t even last two shifts working for this guy/company.

It was the beginning of baseball season, so I was stoked to begin working in the world of sports! I was young and didn’t realize that a job paying $20 an hour plus commission would be what it turned out to be. How bad could a part-time after school job be? It could be more than I bargained for.

We were a small staff of people cold calling potential customers who recently got out of Gamblers Anonymous to see if they wanted to buy picks.

My first day was four miserable guilt-ridden hours questioning everything. I barely completed any phone calls. As you’d imagine, many of the people just out of Gamblers Anonymous weren’t keen on being called by a pick-selling service. There were a lot of hangups.

I didn’t sell any picks on the first day and felt like crap driving home. I gave it another shot but my conscience wouldn’t let me finish out the shift. Cold calling these people just wasn't for me. I knew it, the guy knew it, and the other people in the office who were actually selling picks knew it.

My first job in sports and gambling lasted about six miserable hours. I learned a lot from this experience. I never stopped betting, but I learned about the pitfalls of gambling at a young age. Selling baseball cards, watching experienced sports bettors, speaking with addicted gamblers, and knowing a bookmaker before I was 20 taught me the value of money and how to enjoy gambling as entertainment.

Gambling has taught me a lot about life. At the same time, life has taught me a lot about gamblers. I have an understanding about how all gamblers, from the sharpest to the squarest to the problem gamblers, operate.

After College

After college I learned about casino gambling. My greatest night gambling happened a few years after graduating college. Most of my gambling has been contained to casinos since I turned 21.

My formative years in sports and gambling were strange and fun. Life in and around casinos continues to be strange and fun, albeit a little less colorful.

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