tension and nerves," Lem said. "But you take the greatest dramatists in
the world—Shakespeare, Shaw—they couldn't improve on the scripts you get in
of handicapping and betting can be summed up in three maxims:
"It's a game
as good as your information.
"You don't go
overboard on one game. You're dealing with human beings. Anything can happen. A
kid athlete could jump out of the fourth story of a hotel the night before a
game to impress a girl."
By a game of
values Lem means, "You're in a store. There's something for $125, you
wouldn't look at it. But if the same thing cost $25, you'd look at it, maybe
buy it. It has value. That's how I bet a game. Certain games, certain teams
Lem is saying
that there are known statistical quantities that you start with—the Browns
shouldn't be seven-point underdogs at home, the Chiefs seldom cover a big
spread, the Redskins are a bargain at six but no bet at eight over some teams
etc.—and work from there. One thing I've noticed is that this formula betting
encourages Lem to bet on more underdogs than I do and on many more than the
From that basic
start he works with information, knowledge, opinion. Despite his businesslike
approach, he often bets intuitively, picking a team and then looking for
reasons why, as I probably do at times. But he knows the game well. We have
discussed games, matchups, personnel and so on at length, and we've come to
respect and handicap each other's views. This exchange of ideas is included in
what Lem calls information, as it should be. As the season wore on he got
increasingly disenchanted with injury reports, declaring that the chances of
seizing an advantage on such information in pro football are small today.
Does he bet only
on games or does he have a side dodge? There are so many bettors in Vegas that
he probably saves the vigorish by betting with them when he can, but that's
hardly a dodge. He can play a money game similar to scalping, or what is known
on the stock market as arbitrage, by "buying and selling points." He
can bet early in the week, anticipating the movement of the line, and sell the
bet at a more favorable price later in the week, giving him a free bet.
I told Lem that
Bob Martin said no player beats the odds consistently. "Every housewife
thinks she makes the best spaghetti sauce and every gambler thinks he's the
best," he said, tooling along the Strip in his new Mark IV.