Snyder's business is making odds on football, baseball, basketball (commonly called baskets), hockey, boxing, selected golf tournaments—indeed, practically any sport. He, for instance, made Australia 3 to 1 over Italy in the Davis Cup for a patriotic customer of Italian descent. Horse racing is not considered a sport in Las Vegas (and elsewhere on occasion), and though every sports book shares a store with a race book for the convenience and rent, each is a distinct operation. Although racing is his favorite entertainment (he is, however, an admittedly poor horse handicapper), Jimmie takes an altogether dim view of booking races as an intellectual or emotional experience.
"There's no satisfaction," he says, "sitting behind a counter taking a horse bet. But if a guy comes in and bets on TCU you think, what does this son of a gun know? You're always matching your wits against someone else's in the sports world. Every game is a challenge, and if you win, it gives you some sort of satisfaction." He has artistic reservations about casino gambling, too. "You don't exercise any opinion or thought," he said the other day in the lounge of a Strip hotel. "In sports no one can take a paper and pencil and prove Notre Dame is 6 over Pitt. Most people over there [in the casinos] are chronic gamblers. They don't know how to win. They just play. Where do they match their wits? It's only a game of luck."
At one time Jimmie handicapped politics as well as sports, but he has recently discovered that betting on elections is illegal, much to his dismay, for he was quite proud of his figures. "I had California and Ohio for Nixon," he says, speaking of the 1960 presidential election, "but Illinois was the killer." For his own amusement, he makes Nixon at present 250,000 votes over Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial race.
He will, indeed, make odds on almost any eventuality. "There is a price for everything," Snyder once said. "Caryl Chessman," he has noted, "was a favorite to go. He was 4, 4� to 1. Finch and Tregoff were 8 to 5. But don't get me wrong. I wouldn't bet on a man to die." Last year Jimmie worked up a whimsical parlay for a friend: Castro to go before the first of the year, Kennedy to get the nomination and Charlie Dressen to go as manager of Milwaukee.
Long-range forecasting is Jimmie's forte. The only kind of bet he will make on events more than a week and a half off, however, is a force bet, and the money must be put up. If for some reason the event isn't held, the money is returned. A force bet is one in which the oddsmaker decides the price and the bettor chooses to wager on one side or the other but cannot decline to bet.
Some of Jimmie's futures are: Liston 3 to 1 over Patterson, Maris 35 to 1 not to hit 61 home runs, Mantle 25 to 1 not to hit 61 and Cincinnati 8 to 1 in the National League pennant race. "They won't even finish fourth," he says. " Los Angeles will win, with St. Louis as its opposition. In the American League it's New York and then Cleveland, and I'm looking for someone to beat Ridan in the Derby. It may be Donut King." Although he has made no odds yet for Las Vegas' Tournament of Champions, he predicts Arnold Palmer will not finish in the first seven. "He can't play this turf, and he's bad on fast greens," Jimmie says. "I don't think he can putt these greens." He also believes that Doug Sanders, Billy Casper, Jay Hebert and Gene Littler will be the first four and in that order.
"The oddsmaker," said Jimmie the Greek, scowling at the regulars in the Hollywood Sports Service the other day, "is the most vulnerable guy in the world. He sits there like a pigeon. If the bettor thinks he's got you beat, he shoots you. If he doesn't, he doesn't shoot. Is there anything more hazardous? Like that Boston guy said: 'Don't shoot until you see the whites of the Greek's eyes.'
"Keep chopping away at the Greek," he said, vaguely addressing the gamblers sitting somnolently in front of him. "Choppa, choppa, choppa. Pretty soon I won't have any legs. These guys will kill their mothers for a half a point. I got to do something to create some business. How can I move you guys?"
He went to a large blackboard listing the odds on 45 college football games to be played that Saturday, erased several numbers and replaced them with new ones. "I'm lenient," Jimmie explained wearily, as another person might confide that he's sensitive. "I'm the most lenient guy in town. Look at them. You know what they're saying? 'The Greek's throwing money away again.' You don't want them to think you're good. That's the whole secret."
Football, like basketball, is generally handicapped on the basis of points, not odds. For example, if you choose to bet on Minnesota over Purdue, Minnesota must win by more than the point spread—say, in this instance, six points—for you to collect. If Minnesota wins by exactly six points, the game is considered a standoff and the bettor gets his original investment back. Oddsmakers try to avoid numbers like 7 or 14 ("They're killer numbers," says Jimmie) because they produce ties, or a lot of overhead expense for nothing. Bad numbers in the pros are 3, 4, 10 and 11 because of the prevalence of field goals. The introduction of the half point in recent years prevents ties, of course.