In 2001 25-year-old Beth Raymer left her native West Palm Beach, Fla., for Las Vegas with the dream of becoming a cocktail waitress. She stumbled instead into the world of sports bookmaking. An unlikely prospect, she found she had a knack for the business and was soon taking bets for unregulated offshore outfits and confronting the shadier sides of the game. Raymer's 2010 memoir, Lay the Favorite, is now a major motion picture directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen) and starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall, opening nationwide on Friday. SI caught up with Raymer (right), who is back in Florida working on her second book.
How did you get bookmakers to take you seriously?
Being the only woman in the business gave me a leg up. Bettors knew I wasn't a gambler. There's a lot of psychological baggage, bad reputations, and I was this new girl who really just wanted a job. And I was very trustworthy.
You had a background in boxing?
I started boxing when I moved to Vegas. Boxing eventually took me to New York because I wanted to fight in the Golden Gloves. I had 10 fights [going 7--3]; I made it to the finals ... and got beat bad.
How did the book come about?
Basically, I had been working in the [gambling] business for four years and was looking to get out. Gambling really prepared me for that writer's lifestyle. It's given me all these mentors who have been broke and flush and broke and flush and understand [a writer's] situation.
What's your relationship with sports today?
I cannot stand sports. Being in those offices and being surrounded by 30 televisions and hearing the sneakers squeak on the basketball court—I can't deal with it anymore. Though I still love boxing.