"If you could only tell the mental attitude of a team," he says. "That's the whole thing. That's 20% or 25%. If you could only tell when a team is higher than a Georgia pine. It's impossible for a coach to keep his team up for nine games. That's why you have upsets. The hardest game of all to handicap is a team playing out of its conference, especially the Big Ten. Also, a coach may be subconsciously scared of a certain opponent, and that fear is instilled in his kids, or the coach may be pointing for a certain game and not realize it. By the time he and his kids get there—bingo! they're a 20-point underdog.
"If you follow the coach's opinion," he says, "he'll break you. He's too close to it. The coach is only good in August, when he looks at his schedule realistically. After that the outside has much more information than the inside. The first two weeks are the hardest—evaluating the personnel that has graduated, what's taking its place. That's where the whole secret is."
Jimmie makes his football prices off the defense. "If you can't score," he enjoys saying, "you can't win. Ninety-five percent of the oddsmakers in the world make it off offense but, outside of a T quarterback, injuries on defense mean the most." But, as he says, "all numbers to me are automatics. They just come natural." What he means is that, in the end, oddsmaking is largely intuitive.
In pro baskets he makes his spread on the percentage of shots, adds a point or two on the team the public's going to bet on, and then, he says, "they fool you and bet on the other team." The starting pitcher is a 65% to 70% ingredient in composing baseball odds. "In baseball," Snyder advises, "wait until a team has won or lost four in a row, then bet on it to continue to win or lose. Last year you would have broken every bookmaker in the country." He regards fights as the most difficult speculation because it is hard to determine a fighter's condition. Hockey is the simplest on account of the constant and overwhelming advantage of the home ice.
Golf, he says, is the biggest gambling sport in America—on a man-to-man basis, that is. Jimmie, who is the only golf oddsmaker extant, posts odds on three tournaments—The Masters, the Open and the Tournament of Champions at the Desert Inn course in Las Vegas. The last draws his biggest single play every year. "In golf," he says, "the turf they play on is the big thing. Certain players play better on sandy, hard western courses, others on softer, mushier eastern courses. They say 'horses for courses.' With golfers it's the same way. The length of a course is important, too. Some golfers are better with their irons than others.
"You got to find out who's hot, who's hungry. But then there are individuals who play good all the time, like Sanders and Casper. For my money, I'd bet on a kid like Sanders for every tournament."
Jimmie is convinced a man can bet sports successfully if he follows certain general precepts:
?No matter what bet you make there's got to be a reason.
?Don't steam. Don't be hungry. Don't lose your head. It's the best part of your body.
?Don't be a sucker. The only difference between a gambler and the average guy is the way they play their money. A gambler, if he bets $200 and loses, he cuts to $100. He loses again, he cuts to $50. The average guy loses $200 he tries to get even with $400, and so forth.