January 24, 2003

This Superbowl Sunday, Don’t Pay The Bookie

By: Karl Chan

Once again, this football season alone I’ve lost $2,000, thanks to my bookie and my own stupid self. This will be my last year of gambling on sports, because it’s freaking rigged. I think I’ve lost 80 percent of the time.

The final straw came for me when the 49ers were favored by three against the New York Giants in the recent wild-card playoff game. The Niners won, but by only a point. I’ve lost for the last time. Gambling is a lose-lose situation. Why do you think your bookie drives a Benz and you drive a Honda? Here’s why:

The point spread is the “line” my bookie gives me for a particular game. They get these lines through live odds on the Internet. It’s like watching stocks go up and down. The lines move depending on injuries to players, weather conditions and suspensions. By the end of the week, you know who’s the favorite and who’s the underdog.

The underdog gets a plus-point margin and the favorite gets a minus-point margin. Depending on how many points each team covers, you know if you have won or lost your money.

For example, if the Raiders were favored by 3.5 points, they have to win by 4 or more for the bettor to win. If they win by a field goal you still lose because of the half point. For the underdog, it’s the opposite of the favorite — the underdog cannot lose by four or more. But if the line was an even number with no half point, there’s a good chance for a tie — meaning no action, meaning no win, no lose. It’s just outright hard to gamble on these sports.

The minimum bet is $50; the most ranges from $1,000 to whatever the bookie says is the limit. If we have good credit with him (meaning we pay on time), my friends and I get a higher limit. But for the most part, we only get up to $1,000, because we’re young. How we gonna pay if we lose $10,000? They don’t want to take that risk on us.

The bad part is, if you lose, the bookie takes an extra 10 percent of your bet. Bookies call it “juice.” If you win one game and lose the other, you’re still a loser of 10 percent. If someone bet $10,000, they could lose $1,000 on juice alone. The odds just get worse for the bettors and better for the bookies.

Different bookies have different collection days and pay days. I see mine regularly on Wednesdays. If you don’t pay, I don’t need to go into detail of what they will do — you’ve all seen gangster movies before, and it’s true that they will look for you. I know one guy who didn’t pay, and the bookie went to his parents. It was resolved peacefully — his mom paid the bookie, and then grounded her son. I haven’t seen him in a while.

So let the bettor beware. Don’t bet with hope — bet with the money you have, not the money you think you have. That way you can keep those five fingers on your left hand, and your right ear.

My point is, don’t bet at all. My friends are in debt because of this football season. We can’t blame no one but ourselves for not controlling the temptation and greed.

The first game I bet on was probably the Denver vs. Green Bay Superbowl game in 1998. I had seen my uncle and others betting. Betting made the game seem more fun and interesting — at first.

They should ban sports betting, period. There is no place for it. Adults are gambling all the time. Whatever happened to the good old days of rooting for your home team? Nowadays, we root for anyone we bet on. That’s not the purpose of sports. It’s supposed to bring people and families together, not tear them apart over greed and money.

Don’t give your hard-earned money away. Donate it to a charity instead of the bookie.

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