Conversation with a Professional Gambler

Many moons ago I had one of the best jobs at the track. Serving the needs of the biggest players. Not just the rank and file $2 – $10 players, but the ones who’ll bet $15,000 – $25,000 daily. In Las Vegas they’re called whales, but anywhere else they’re called customers. If I could’ve duplicated one or two of these big timers, I could’ve sent most everyone else home. I knew who were the pretenders and who were the contenders. – As we fast forward 15 years later, the landscape is a little different. Instead of calling your contact (me), you have to swipe a loyalty card and wait for a young good-looking kid greeting you with a plastic smile. They can’t make a decision, and even if they could, they wouldn’t out of fear. So, this is where I walked into the race book. I didn’t see anyone I really knew, and I was about to head out before a voice called my name. It had been awhile, about 15 years to be exact.


Todd was in a wheel chair. He was involved in a car wreck some years ago, and believe it or not he was the only lucky one in the car. A drunk driver crossed the road and hit them head on. It was a terrible tragedy, and the tall good looking man was half the man he once was. But that didn’t stop him from doing what he loved. – Todd was a horse player from the old school. He didn’t want free coffee or a roast beef dinner. Just have his Daily Racing Form on his table. Have one of the best clerks to make his bets, and turn him loose. He’ll call if he wants to cash a $5,000 check, or if he has a problem. – ” Eddie, how’s it going my man ?” – “Good to see you Big Daddy, how the ponies treating you ?” – I recall days in his Don Johnson, Miami Vice suits and the ultra-business casual look before the words were invented. – ” You know me Ed, I’m making about five to six bets a day, and things are going pretty well.” – Todd is a professional. He wouldn’t break a sweat during a heat wave. He has the discipline and money, and his stats speak for themselves. Players like this move your bottom line, but they need to be handled by race track people who know what’s going on in their world. They are rare animals, and if you move too quickly from the brush with a handful of loyalty card promotions, they’ll run away with lightning speed.


He would find a key runner in a race he loved and go crazy decorating it in pick-three’s, pick four’s, and superfectas. Nine outta’ ten times it would win, and the day would be set. He liked to call them his “ducks” as they looked like easing shooting. His time was spent pouring over video replays, and he had a system that was designed special. He never spoke of the secret sauce, but the rumor mill has it that he hired a math professor to design a wagering algorithm. He gave him all the input and handicapping methodology, and it became a computer program that allowed him to focus on races where there was a high probability of a higher odds horse winning over short price runners. – He kept all the printed info in a binder, and when he went to the gentleman’s room, the binder was tucked under his left arm. – I guess that’s the secret of the good players. Keep it quiet, and keep it to yourself. He won $37,000 in one race, and he and his cronies got pretty loaded. He left his binder at the end of the night on the table. I saw a waitress the next day come up and hand it to him and he gave her $1,000.


“Ed, what the hell is going on here ? – Big players have to wait in line, and sometimes I get shut-out. Don’t they know how to take care of good players ?” – That’s a good question. From my vantage point, I see $2 players and $500 bettors in the same lines. There isn’t a real effort made to accommodate the big horse players anymore. They want them to use a loyalty card, and most of the time the new clerks have no idea about big money part wheels and shut them out. – I understand the future is wagered on slot machine look-a-likes, but there is still plenty of money left on the table. Truth be told, I don’t think most managers have a clue what racing is about. If you held them hostage they still couldn’t tell you who won the Triple Crown. – He wagered over $60,000 on the Belmont card, and not even the assistant to the assistant manager came over to see how this rare player was doing.


“I’m not using any card, Eddie. Not because I want to bitch or receive an invite to the private room. Let them keep the free buffet and their trinkets. If I want to eat, I’ll buy it myself. The big player room has three players, and if you add up what they bet all day, it doesn’t come close to my first wager.” – He’s right, plain and simple. There are three, and one doesn’t do anything but bitch and talk about how he could fix everything wrong. But this tends to happen when you don’t know what to look for. – For the time I’ve been around a handful of casino folks, I’ve come away with one opinion. They don’t want to hear your suggestions, and couldn’t care less about what’s going on outside the glitzy machines. – Todd shook my hand as I stood up and got ready to leave. ” Good to see you big man. I’m going to be doing my betting from the man cave. I have four big screens, and a large desk for my computer. Just the click of a mouse, and the rebates are more than generous. I’ll come out a time or two a season, but the new game forgot how they got here in the first place.”


My walk to the car seems to be a familiar dream. I start thinking about who I could call, or look them up in my private phone list. “We’ll put together a room that has about 10 of the biggest players in the area, and the room would handle more in one day than the rest of the track all weekend.” – Then I get into my car and start driving home. They couldn’t care less, and all of your efforts would yield the players nothing. Yep, Todd is right. Just keep it quiet, and keep it to yourself.