Los Angeles, CA
"Please, dude, feed me Billy's picks when you get them," begged Plump, a poker buddy who used to play college baseball. "It's never entirely wise to be on the other side of Billy. He's a sick fucking freak. I'd give him a friendly neck massage of he was stressed."
If you bet on sports, then you know about Billy Walters -- the J.P. Morgan meets Phil Ivey of the sports betting world. Bookies won't take Billy's action because they are afraid of him. As a result, Billy has to employ hundreds of runners from the farthest corners of the planet to place bets for him in Vegas, with regional bookies, and online at offshore sportsbooks.
During the March Madness run, I tailed many of Billy's picks. It's usually easy to find out what he bet after his runners put in the bets, but by then your value has decreased because the sportsbooks adjusted the lines and you're not getting the best possible number. But this Spring, I obtained Billy's picks a few minutes before the rest of the street heard about them. I won't say from whom, but I'm definitely benefiting from the relaxed rules regarding using phones in Vegas sports books, so word travels fast. I'm convinced that Billy was part of the reason why the NGC outlawed mobile phones in the sportsbooks in the late 90s and early 00s. But, the suits eventually realized that Billy and other betting syndicates were able to obtain real time line changes due to subscription services over the intertubes. The cell phone prohibition was a futile effort and has since been rescinded.
The ultimate goal is to find out Billy's bet before he bets it. In other words, find out what Billy is going to do before he moves the line. That critical piece of inside information is nearly impossible to unearth unless you work for Billy, or a competing syndicate, or an actual sportsbook. But the cliche fits -- time is of the utmost essence. The sooner I learn about Billy's bet, the better chance I'll have to get a decent number by shopping around as quickly as possible. In the end, that's how you end up making money over the long term as a sports bettor, which you can even apply it to Wall Street as a stock speculator. You can also come out ahead if you predict which side Billy will eventually bet and bet that number before he moves the line, and if he moves the line substantially, then you're fucking golden.
I explained to my buddy Plump that in the time frame I get Billy's picks and shoot him a text, the lines have already moved. Billy's picks are only helpful for him if he's dealing with his local corner bar bookie in the Midwest, and that's only if the bookie was not on top of up-to-the second line moves. If Plump exploited any lag time in updating the lines, then and only then could he make money on Billy's picks.
On Saturday an hour before tip off, my source in Vegas revealed that Billy was steaming the UNDER in the UCONN/Kentucky game. I was leaning toward the under, but didn't pull the trigger. I quickly changed my stance from a lean to a GO when I heard Billy buried UNDER. I jumped all over it and all I could see in my head was an image of a waterfall but instead of water, hundred dollars bills were cascading down the side of the cliff. The line only moved a point so I was still getting some value. I clued in Plump and he couldn't have contacted his bookie fast enough. The Midwest line only moved a half point because his bookie is a little slow. Plus it was always good to know if I might be able to manipulate a lagging bookie in the future.
And the outcome? Easy money.
It was more like printing money. I finally knew what Federal Reserve felt like, creating money out of thin air! That's what makes sportsbetting so fucking alluring and attractive, the fact that any mook at any given time can get free money.
That is to say if you bet the right side, and in some dire cases, the right side of the fix.
Over the weekend, Plump and I tailed the biggest swinging dick in Vegas and made a nifty profit. In just one afternoon, I made more money than I could as a poker writer in five weeks of freelance work, ergo, now you know why I haven't been writing much about poker.
I made my picks for Monday's championship game once the final two teams were set on Saturday night hoping to lock in the best prices because I anticipated the lines to move (against me) I went with my gut and went with the favorite UCONN -3.5 and the OVER 128 total. I kept a percentage of my roll in reserve to pounce on any major moves in my favor. I said a Hail Mary in Latin that Billy or the wiseguys weren't going to bury the other side of my bets.
About two hours before Monday evening's tip off, the line in Vegas moved from 129 to 131. I poked around a couple of online books and noticed the line had moved to 131.5. By the time I talked to Plump, the line had moved again to 132. At that point, everyone in the know knew that Billy and company were steaming the OVER. I couldn't have been happier. Call it genius or blind luck, but I bet on the same side as Billy before he moved the line. The line moved a total of 4 points since I locked it in. Over the long run, bettors will be profitable if they lock in the best possible numbers.
By the way, I don't know how Plump finagled a 128.5 total with his Midwest bookie! Now, we definitely know who to call in the future when I have an old tip on a Billy bet. That's why it's always important to have different avenues to bet. I'm fortunate to have access to Vegas casinos, offshore books, and the traditional bookie. If you're smart, you have a couple of bookies, multiple accounts, and people you can trust in Vegas to make a bet for you without fucking it up. In addition, it's imperative that you shop lines to boost your edge. If you want to purchase a new TV or a car, you're going to do some research and check out a different stores to compare prices before you make your purchase. Same goes for betting on sports.
None of us (pundits, bookies, Billy, Charles Barkley, the Pope) expected a black swan event to kick us in the junk on Monday evening. I figured this year's March Madness had already been chock full of black swans (how else could you explain VCU and Butler in the Final Four?), so the championship game should play out as expected -- UCONN winning by 5 or 6 with at least one team scoring 70 points. Alas, the unexpected became the norm; black is now white, and white is now black. Something peculiar happened on Monday, perhaps it has to do with Planet X, or solar flares, or Fukushima radiation, but no one could hit a fucking shot in the first half. The CBS suits were cringing at their fugly product, wit their finger on speed dial ready to call up Charlie Sheen and beg him to run onto the court and drop his pants. Butler looked worst than atrocious; they were simply pathetic. I couldn't help but think that VCU would have given UCONN a better run for the money.
Another friend of mine from New Zealand was watching the game at work (it was Tuesday at noon the next day for him) and he shot me a text message, "We should suit up." The Kiwi had a valid point. Could we do worse? I'm out of shape and haven't played organized ball since my senior year in college (I started at shooting guard for my fraternity in a highly competitive intramural league, which incidentally drew more fans than the varsity team at my D-III university) and couldn't run down the court more than three times without having chest pains, but I'm confident I could have hit at least one shot out of ten. Both teams were horrendous in the first half and I hadn't seen any individual shoot that poorly, let alone an entire team (er make that two teams), since John Starks' anemic performance in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA finals.
A black swan shit all over on Billy's grand parade and we both lost the OVER bet. Oh well. If given the chance, I'd make the same bet again, especially if I was gifted four extra points. I wondered how much Billy lost on the OVER? $500,000? $1,000,000? More? Or did he make some/all of it back on a second half bet?
On a positive note, once I knew my OVER bet had shit the bed, I saved face on a second half bet. The total was set at 68. Both teams had struggled to score 41 in the first half combined. Even my girlfriend, who barely paid attention to the game and multi-tabled two Rush MTTs while playing Angry Birds on her iPad, declared the UNDER was going to be a lock. She was right. I shoved all-in with the rest of my online bankroll and hammered the UNDER 68.
And it wasn't even a close sweat. Both teams scored 53 total points in the second half. I recouped my losses from the OVER bet and then some. UCONN pulled away and cruised to an 8-point victory to win their third title since 1999. I cashed a UCONN money line bet at -175 and they also covered the spread. Printing money.
"We're going to Sizzler," I joked to my girlfriend.
In reality, we ate dinner at a deli. Pastrami tastes so much better after you bailed yourself out of a hole. I had a profitable Final Four and bounced back after a lackluster NFL playoff season. The good news is that I now have a sturdy bankroll just in time for the NBA playoffs. By the end of June, I'll either be completely busto, or will have generated enough money to fund the second leg of Phish's summer tour.
I will never have the balls, discipline, or passion to be a full-time professional gambler, but if I pick my spots carefully, I can supplement my paltry salary by betting on a few games here or there in order to pay for a month-long bender at the end of the summer.
Easy money, right? All I have to do is continue to cherry pick the best bets on the board and hopefully I'll get lucky and get an opportunity to tail a few of Billy's NBA picks.