Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
- Truths that I will explore and share in this book are aimed at recreational and professional bettors looking for an edge.
- Truth No. 1: My bets are based on extensive research, a vast network of experts and insiders across the country, and my own finely honed instincts. Even avid bettors often do not grasp all of the factors and variables that go into a professional making an informed wager. I’ve eaten, slept, and breathed sports betting 365 days a year for more than five decades, driven by my obsession to grind out an advantage against bookmakers and other gamblers.
- Truth No. 2: Betting sports is about one thing and one thing only: value. Which means your prediction needs to be better than the bookmaker’s and you need to get the right number at the right price. Nothing else counts. And that leads me to:
- Truth No. 3: The percentage of gamblers who are successful enough to earn a living is less than 1 percent. Frankly, I think most people would make more money washing cars. Why? The professional term is “eleven to ten odds.” A sports gambler must lay down $11 to win $10 and pay $11 for a loss.
- Warning: The following example may cause a short in the wiring of your brain if you do not share my enthusiasm for gambling calculations. If Gambler A bets Team A in a contest and Gambler B bets Team B, each man puts up the requisite $11 and a bookmaker ends up holding a total of $22 from both bettors. If Gambler A wins, he gets his original $11 back plus $10 more, a payoff of $21. In the same scenario, Gambler B loses $11. If the book is properly balanced, the house keeps the extra dollar, the so-called vigorish, also known as “the vig” or “juice.” This mathematical formula means that gamblers need to win 52.38 percent of their bets just to break even. For the average bettor, that’s like trying to swim the English Channel at night, doing the backstroke, without a wetsuit. Surrounded by sharks.
- Truth No. 4: There are a very small number of gamblers who gain an edge by specializing in one sport and betting as soon as the line comes out. Those guys make a living, but not what I would consider serious money. Most of them last fewer than five years. The problem with this approach is that their betting limits are very small and the lines move very fast.
What separated me from the rest of the pack is that I beat all major sports for thirty-six straight years. I should mention that I quit betting baseball in 1995. Not because I wasn’t winning. No, I quit because my team had to work virtually 365 days a year betting every facet of every major sport—sides, totals, halves, and futures. And it was killing us.
My approach to sports betting is militaristic. If your average Joe thinks of himself as G.I. Joe—meaning one man with one gun and no backup—then, in my heyday, I was more like a Navy SEAL or a CIA special ops warrior. During my thirty-six-year winning streak, I had an armory of sophisticated weapons and a vast array of intelligence at my disposal. My wagering decisions were based on weather patterns, field conditions, team morale, injury updates, and historical records, to name but a few factors. My expert analysts gathered a thousand points of data and fed them into a computer programmed with proprietary algorithms and probability theories.
I learned early on that the auto business was different from factory work because of all the downtime. The secret to success in car sales was to stay busy 100 percent of the time. If there weren’t potential buyers milling around, the other salesmen would goof off in the office by chewing the fat, playing cards, or reading magazines. I also learned something that would become a hallmark of my business career—the more information you accumulate, the more opportunities you create.
- When I wasn’t on the lot selling, I was in the office searching the criss-cross city directory for people who lived on the same street as my last customer. “Hi, Mr. Jones, this is Billy Walters from McMackin Motors. I was just wondering if you’ve seen that car Mr. Vale is driving?” Regardless of the answer, I kept pitching. “Yep, it’s a 1964 Chevy Nova. I sold him that car and, if you’re looking for one like his or a better one, I’d be happy to help you.” I scoured the classified ads every day, jotting down the phone numbers of people looking to sell their vehicles. I knew that some people listed their cars for sale because they couldn’t afford the monthly payments. I’d call those folks and tell them we’d take their existing car in a trade and put them in a less expensive one. I called these “trade-downs,” and they were just as profitable as a regular sale. Finally, if I had nothing working, I made cold calls to people who lived in the south end of town. “Hi, Bill Walters down here at McMackin Motors. We’re running a sale today and I thought you might want to come take a look. Our lot is overflowing with cars, and the boss says we’re ready to make a deal.” Some folks would engage. Others would tell me to never call back again before hanging up. No matter, I was on to the next call. I just kept dialing until my fingers were numb and my voice was hoarse. I sold twenty cars in my first month and earned about $600 a week. I wanted to outsell my colleagues every single day, every single week. Once I achieved that, I’d focus on beating my own sales record month after month. My goals were not limited to just selling a car. I set my sights on building an entire network of customers to ensure future sales. Some salesmen paid a $25 “bird dog” fee for a successful referral. I upped it to $50. I also sent birthday cards and gifts to my best bird dogs and gave away turkeys at Thanksgiving to my best customers. Within a year, I was selling an average of twenty-five cars a month. By 1966, I raised my average to thirty-two cars a month. At the age of twenty, I sold more cars than anyone in the state. My commission checks that year totaled $56,000, the equivalent of more than $500,000 in today’s dollars. The next best salesman in the state, a twenty-nine-year veteran pushing Pontiacs, took home $22,000. By comparison, the median family income that year was $7,400.