Behind the scenes: "The Wise Guy" |

Behind the scenes: "The Wise Guy"

The leaves have turned and the scent of winter is in the air. The World Series is behind us and the NFL, NBA and NHL are in full swing. Thanksgiving is a week away and the ski resorts are itching for snow.

Sports books across the nation are hitting their peak earning period: September through January account for 60 percent of yearly revenues.

Clear roads, mid-week snow and football are the key to the success of a Lake Tahoe sports book.

The book business is interesting, as you can’t buy our product. We are not producing gizmos, or selling a service other than entertainment. The key commodity is cash and there’s plenty of it.

There are individuals who attempt to beat us at our own game. They proudly call themselves “Wise Guys” or “Hustlers” and they attempt to make their living betting sports. The majority of regulars consider themselves “Sharpies,” but only a select few have the discipline, handicapping ability, and expertise it takes to be considered “A Wise Guy” by anyone other than themselves.

“It’s all about the number! Any team can be a play if the point spread is right”

The smartest claim, and the key to making a consistent profit, is to never take a bad number — meaning no other bookie would be offering you a better line. A player I consider one of the sharpest in the business says it best: “It’s all about the number. Any team can be a play if the point spread is right.”

“They really don’t like me, they like my information”

The “Sharpies” bring an exciting element to the sports book and the wisest always seem to have more friends than they want. One respected gambler put it bluntly, “They really don’t like me, they like my information.”

These professionals understand the value of a “hook,” slang for half a point. They know that in football betting, for example, the most likely margins of victory, in descending order, are 3, 7, 10, 4 and 6. They seldom play “Chalk” (a big favorite) and they know that a dime means $1000 and “the juice” (the book’s edge) isn’t a soft drink. They understand that the “late steam” (movement in the line just before game time) is usually wrong and should be avoided, and that a “square” isn’t a geometric figure. They realize “getting down” (making the bet) doesn’t mean a wild night at Harrah’s Altitude Nightclub or think a “cover” is something you sleep under.

The “Wise Guys” are a breed of their own. They are colorful characters who add flair and excitement to the business as they outsmart the bookies at their own game.

— Steve Schorr is the race/sports-poker-keno manager at Harveys Resort & Casino.

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