SI Vault
Gilbert Rogin
December 18, 1961
Jimmie (The Greek) Snyder (right), a large, shrewd and popular man who broods about his weight, is the foremost oddsmaker and, as he grandly but precisely expresses it, "speculator in sports" in Las Vegas. Oddsmaker is, in a sense, a euphemism for bookie, a familiar noun Jimmie avoids as connoting a form of illegal and disreputable low life (so is the offending blowfish marketed as sea squab).
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December 18, 1961

The Greek Who Makes The Odds

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In the oddsmaker's estimation, making Minnesota a six-point favorite will attract equal amounts of action on both teams and insure him a profit, the price being a reflection of the popular, but often erroneous, opinion of the comparative worth of the two teams. The oddsmaker, like the television producer, gives the people what they want, not necessarily what's good for them.

The oddsmaker makes a profit because the bettor must wager $11 for every $10 he expects to win. The extra dollar is called the "vigorish" and is the oddsmaker's operating margin. If he is able to adjust his point spread so that $1,100, say, is bet on both Purdue and Minnesota for a total of $2,200, he will have to return only $2,100 no matter what the outcome.

If, however, too much Purdue money shows, the oddsmaker must shorten the spread to try to attract more Minnesota money and maintain his golden mean. If he is compelled to drop the price by as much as 1� or two points, he is in danger of getting "numbered," or "middled." No longer is he merely a pigeon. He is a stag bayed by wolves, a swimmer in a sea of sharks. If Minnesota has fallen to four and wins by five, all bets on Purdue as a six-point underdog win and all bets on Minnesota as a four-point favorite also win and, as Jimmie bleats, "they carry me out, baby. They carry me out."

Baseball (and fights, a minor speculation) are bet on an odds basis, and the games are handicapped in this fashion:


In this equation, the team on the left ( Yankees) is always the favorite. The team on the right (Giants) is the underdog.

All baseball bets are based on a unit of $5.

If you want to bet on the favored Yankees, you put up $11 to win $5.

If you want to bet on the underdog Giants, you put up $5 to win $9.

In other words, while the favored team is the one on the left, the amount of money you must bet on the favorite is on the right.

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