November 22 - A Visit to the Sports Book
“What’s the pick of the week?” I asked
“I couldn’t pick my nose,” replied the stranger seated beside me. Please bear in
mind that the query was posed in a Las Vegas sportsbook while gambling on
I was just trying to be amiable, make conversation. After all, this stranger may be
my neighbor for the next several hours depending on how many dozen games he
had bet on. I had money riding on games from the first 9:00 a.m. kickoff until sunset so obviously I
wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But now about 30 seconds had lapsed since John Doe’s
nose picking comment. Since the man hadn’t technically answered my question, this was my cue not
to broach the subject again. I was learning the lesson that you mind your own business in Vegas. It
was my hope that soliciting too much information isn’t a punishable offense, and the punishment
wasn’t a fist in the face. It was a fairly innocent question. I could handle a cold shoulder, but this was
Suddenly all my fears were for naught. The stranger with sandy-blond thinning hair finally responded
with a smile on face, “I like Boston College, though.”
I’m not sure why it took him so long to respond. One second I was ready to move elsewhere rather
than endure the silence. The next second then man was smiling at me like I was an old high school
buddy. Perhaps losing too many college football parlays causes short-term memory loss. In any
event, that was an ailment I wasn’t planning on suffering from this particular autumn Saturday.
Las Vegas, as you probably know, is a handicapper’s paradise. Televisions tuned into every
broadcasted game in the nation surround you. Back home I thought I had things good on my living
room couch on any given weekend. At any moment I could change channels and watch any of five
games if you include ESPN, ESPN2, and all the other ESPN incarnations. This is what I had waited
so long for from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. I thought my sofa Saturday was heaven on Earth. As I
came to realize, Las Vegas is nirvana. Remote controls are for suckers. Why switch stations when
you could come to Vegas? A dozen games can be viewed simultaneously on 50 television screens.
All you have to do is swivel your head two degrees clockwise to check out Minnesota versus Ohio
State. Then with a quick peek over your left shoulder, you can see a game pitting Stanford against
UCLA being played all the way across the country. But, you see, Las Vegas in an anomaly of the
space-time continuum. The two games are being played mere meters apart while being displayed
on wide screened, flat paneled plasma televisions. Like I said, nirvana.
Well, almost. The crying shame is that some sportsbooks will only hand you those ever so precious
complimentary cocktails only if you are betting on the horses. Of course, there is a shortcut around
everything. Forget looking at the daily racing forms in order to make an informed bet. We’re only
betting on the horses to get a free drink, right? Just place $2 on the number three horse to win for the
eight race at Churchill Downs. Chances are that if the sun is still up, that race hasn’t gone off yet.
Voila! Now you can milk that horse for free drinks for the rest of the college football day. And if that
horse wins, it’s a bonus.
And milk my free drink tickets, I did. Shortly thereafter a scantily clad
cocktail waitress too old to be scantily clad hastily asked me, “What’ll you
Since I had just finished my morning cup of coffee, I figured that a bloody
mary mixed with white rum (don’t knock it until you try it) would be my
beverage of choice. If the word “free” doesn’t compel you to drink alcohol
prior to the noon hour, a cranky and saggy cocktail waitress will. Although, I must admit, I did think it
nice to be addressed as “sir.”
With a drink in one hand and a fist full of casino-issued printed out bet tickets in the other, I was ready
to settle down for the next few hours. While I was just becoming comfortable, my neighbor with the
sandy blond and balding hair had obviously grown restless and left. Perhaps his previous
prophecies had come true. Maybe he could pick neither football games nor his nose. Regardless, I
had already begun to make an acquaintance with the man in the seat adjacent to my left. He was a
personable fellow even if every fifth word out of his mouth was a cuss word. Things could be worse. I
know people who can carry on a full conversation using only four letter words.
With a black winter stocking cap pulled down to his eyebrows, he would utter, “Man, that’s what I’m
talkin’ about.” This comment followed a touchdown scored by one of the teams he was betting on.
According to him, everything was, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”
“Yes! That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” he would say after Southern Mississippi scored a field goal.
“Damn, that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” he would begin to say even after a first down or any offensive
play that went for more than three yards. Oh well. At least he was having fun.
As I was starting to find out, he probably had money riding on at least 25 games if not more. He was
one of these teaser players where the spread is much more in your favor, but you have to play at least
10 games. That type of gambling isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But hey, all the more power to him. The
games were really starting to heat up, and we were enjoying ourselves. When we realized that we
had both bet the same team and that particular team scored, he would proffer up a high five. And I
tentatively obliged, at first feeling hesitant giving a total stranger a high five in public. But no matter.
We were winning, right? At least that’s what it looked like at halftime. I would go on to win only one
straight bet all day, which was a disappointment after so many promising halftime scores. That’s the
nature of gambling, though. At least my neighbor appeared to be winning. “Covering on both sides.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” was the way he put it. He later explained to me that he bet one team
with the favorable point spread on a teaser and then bet the opponent on a regular parlay. The final
score fell within the slim five point margin between the regular point spread and the teaser spread. I
must admit, this was impressive.
He might have been winning, but I was starting to lose interest and money. It was time to leave.
Besides, the craps tables were calling my name.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if I won … let’s just say I had to make a trip to the nearest ATM machine
after rolling the bones.