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March-01-2002,
Are we too mean to the Bookies??...By The Philosopher

ARE WE TOO MEAN TO THE BOOKIES? Initially I was going to respond to SLAM DUNK.s thread, .Just My Two Cents.,. but I decided to turn this into an article so that I could address myself to these issues more generally and at greater length.

I.m closer to Alec.s position in that thread than to the majority.s position, but then that.s usually the case.

First of all, I disagree with the choice implied in Slam.s opening post. .Which do we prefer,. I take the question to be, .An asshole who.s too crude to cover up the fact that he.s an asshole when he posts, or an asshole who.s taken some corporate seminars on public relations and so posts in a canned, insincere, superficially inoffensive way?.

Let.s see, how about neither? How about a civil, decent, mostly honest human being who posts as such because that.s what he is, rather than because that.s what he.s pretending to be even though he.d rather be whining and trash talking and abusing customers? There are no such bookies, you say? My choices are limited to those of the preceding paragraph? I doubt it. I won.t say for certain that that.s false, since there are a lot of people posting here who know a lot more bookies than I do, but I doubt it. I think it.s a slap in the face to all the bookies who do conduct themselves with some modicum of professionalism and dignity. I would hope that there are bookies out there who are genuinely embarrassed by what they see out of some of their colleagues on these boards.

Next point: Related to what I.ve said so far, I believe Slam and his supporters are drawing a distinction which in part I agree with, though I draw the line significantly differently from how he does. And that is a distinction between style and substance. I believe we.re being told (and I agree) that we should beware of jumping to negative conclusions about a posting bookie just because he doesn.t present his ideas in an ideally polished, refined, sophisticated manner, but tends instead to be verbally aggressive. We.re dealing with a culture and a profession here where people sometimes express themselves in a hard-edged, frank, even crude manner, and it doesn.t make sense to judge them as if they.re dining with the Queen and using the wrong fork.

I agree. I think you have to look past the style and judge people according to the substance of what they do and say. I don.t dismiss somebody and what they have to say on the basis of their speaking or writing something less than perfect grammatical English, or their cursing, or their use of slang, any more than in life we should dismiss somebody or what they have to say on the basis of how they dress, or how they wear their hair, or whether they have a tattoo, or whether they speak with an accent.

But I have a problem with a lot of what I see bookies post here, and I would argue that it.s substance rather than style that I am focusing on.

I have seen one or more posting bookies do each of the following things: Lie. Contradict themselves. Deceive through countless fallacies (ad hominem, appeal to popularity, false dilemma, etc., etc.). Physically threaten posters. Reveal information about a poster.s wagers. Display bigotry. (This is only a partial list, and many of these are interrelated.) These are not matters of style, not to me.

I don.t care that they misspelled a word in the process of doing these things. I don.t care that they expressed themselves in language your grandmother might not approve of in the process of doing these things. What I care about is that they.ve done them. And every time a bookie does these things, my opinion of him drops.

I don.t want to use a lot of specific examples, because I.m not talking about a specific bookie, and I don.t want to fight with a specific bookie. I.m making much more general points. But take for instance the almost obsessive tendency of one or more bookies to trash their critics with insinuations of homosexuality. (Yes, obviously other posters do this too, not just bookies, but this article happens to be about bookies.)

If someone makes a critical point about a book, and later in the same thread another poster agrees with that or makes a different critical point about the same book, do we really need the bookie responding with references to .you and your boyfriend,. or .you and your lover,. or .who pitches and who catches?. and all that? When I see that, what it tells me about that bookie is that he.s willing to try to deceptively win a debate through an ad hominem attack (attacking the poster rather than the post), that he.s an ignorant bigot, and that he.s enough of a calculating ignorant bigot to use a gay slur (still mostly accepted in many circles, including this one) rather than, say, a racial or ethnic slur (more borderline as to whether it would be accepted around here).

To me, substantively, if a bookie responds to criticism that way, I think of it the same way as if he had said, .Well, only a stupid nigger like you would think that,. or .Leave it to a couple of penny-pinching Jews to attack us on that point.. If anything, it.s worse, because as noted above it also tells me the person is calculating enough to pick an especially unpopular group for his slur.

As a philosopher trained in critical thinking, the deceptive fallacies that people use scream out at me. Even as I shake my head reading the responses of people seemingly taken in by it all, I know when someone is giving you a snow job. I don.t mean that I know whether every specific claim is true or false. (For instance, Rio says the NAB people screwed them. NAB says they didn.t screw Rio. Doug from Horizon says his customer was fully informed under what conditions his bonus would be revoked. Etc. I don.t mean the .he said, she said. stuff like that.) I mean I know when someone is pushing your buttons. I know when someone is being evasive and deceptive, and engaging in every fallacy to win the mob over to his side. I know when someone is painting himself as the brave straight-shooter willing to state unpopular truths when in fact he is doing precisely the opposite and cunningly appealing to the lowest common denominator. I.ve been watching this in politics, business, the media, academia, etc. my whole life; it.s no different coming from a bookie.

I see the lies, the fallacies, the personal attacks, the celebrations of violence and machismo, the bigotry, etc., and I file that shit away. The Philosopher has a long memory. Some of you read the same things and think, .Gee, what a refreshing fellow. He sure tells it like it is. He.s not afraid of who he offends. He.s really got balls. He sure is true to the colorful tradition of street bookies who don.t take shit from nobody!. OK, that.s your right. I see substantively objectionable duplicity. You see stylistically tolerable (or even admirable) frankness and color.

The next point, though, is so what if a given bookie is a scumbag in certain respects? Might he not also be honorable in the narrower sense of paying you when he owes you money? And isn.t that all that really matters?

Well, I do agree that these are points that one should keep in mind. And I thought The Major added a particularly worthwhile reminder about this in another thread. .Usually in this business it is the smoothies that are the cons. And the crotchety types that are the stand up ones..

Now if .crotchety. just means using salty language and standing up for yourself when attacked and such, then that.s not what I.m talking about as far as being objectionable anyway. But if it refers instead to posting in a deceptive and abusive manner, then it.s a more interesting point.

Is there, in fact, a correlation between being an asshole as a poster and being crooked as a bookie? The Major.s point actually goes to the other extreme and claims an inverse correlation.

I wouldn.t go that far, but I do think that you have to use your common sense and your experience and judge these things on a case-by-case basis. Some character flaws are correlated with others, and some are not. There is no hard and fast rule. Not every racist is dishonest in his business dealings. Not every spouse who cheats is cruel to animals. Not everyone who shoplifts practices poor personal hygiene. You simply can.t say that because a given bookie behaves objectionably in some respect that he necessarily is also going to cheat his customers.

But is there at least some slight correlation there? I would say probably yes. Someone who comes into a forum and lies, or twists the posts of others, or deflects attention with emotional appeals to the masses, or gay bashes, or engages in abusive name-calling and temper tantrums, etc. is someone that I.m going to trust just a little bit less with my wagering money. It.s not an absolute, and I.m sure there are many individual exceptions, but I.m going to say there is at least a slight correlation there.

Also, though, is the question of whether all that matters is whether your bookie pays. Even here, I won.t concede that that.s the only factor that.s important. Let.s stipulate that a bookie carrying on like a jackass in a public forum is just as likely to be honorable in his profession as one who does not so behave. I think I would still count his behavior as a factor against signing up with his book.

As an analogy, here.s something I.ve experienced many times, primarily in the past and primarily when I lived in the South, but it still happens on occasion: You have a repairman in your home working on your water heater or refrigerator or whatever. He initiates casual conversation. At first he.s just kind of feeling you out to make sure he can speak freely in front of you, so he drops in a few carefully chosen remarks about what a crook Jesse Jackson is, or what a shame it is about how affirmative action is screwing over so many qualified people who have no one to speak for them, or about how .some people. want to blame all their problems on slavery and play the victim, etc. If you do not object, then he can relax and go into the .nigger this. and .nigger that. routine.

OK, so he.s a scumbag (relative to my moral and political beliefs at least). Does that make him a bad repairman or plumber or electrician? No. But does that mean I.m somehow wrong to take his behavior into account in deciding whom to contact next time I need repairs done? I don.t think so. If he.s the only qualified person or everyone else charges three times as much, I might use him in the future and just put up with the things about him that I don.t like. But certainly all else being equal, I would choose not to do business with this person if I had other realistic options.

Similarly, if a bookie engages in slick salesman rhetoric that insults my intelligence, or he conducts himself as a childish Joe Pesci-type wannabe thug, or whatever, and I find such behavior distasteful or worse, I might well take my business elsewhere even if I.m not convinced that these particular behaviors are correlated with being crooked as a bookie.

Next point: Whatever we think of their behavior, having bookies participate in these forums can be seen as a positive thing for us. They sometimes let things slip that can assist a careful reader in winning money gambling. They sometimes offer special promotions for Major Wager readers. They reveal both good and bad things about themselves that we can use in deciding where to play, things that we.ll never know about the non-posting books.

So all else being equal, it is good for us when bookies post here.

Furthermore, it.s good for the site for the bookies to feel comfortable participating here. This site is an advertiser funded site. I don.t like that; many of you don.t like that. But it.s an economic fact. There are things we may have to put up with here that we would not if it were funded some other way.

If this site gets a reputation as a place where every bookie who sets foot in here is mercilessly bashed and his every post nit picked for flaws, they will learn to stay away, and at least some of them will learn to keep their advertising dollars away too.

I happen to believe that The Major and The Devil display a good deal of personal integrity in resisting selling out. That.s why I get pissed sometimes when people make facile know-it-all posts accusing this site of sucking up to the advertisers. Actually they do an admirably good job avoiding that.

But the laws of capitalism have not been repealed, last time I checked. This site will bend those laws, even if it requires some degree of sacrifice of their self-interest, but they won.t violate those laws willy-nilly. The Devil and The Major.s behavior rises above the amoral, greed-driven pursuit of economic self-interest, but if you.re looking for a site that will martyr itself in bankruptcy in pursuit of moral purity and objectivity, this ain.t it.

If someone can come up with an alternative way to fund this site that doesn.t have even greater drawbacks than relying on advertising revenue from the books, then let.s hear it. Until then, we.ll have to live with such things as The Major.s frankly silly attacks on Peep these last couple days in defense of an advertising book.

So it.s good for our education as bettors, and it.s good for the site.s financial well-being that bookies feel welcome posting here.

Now, does it follow from this that everything they post is unobjectionable. Certainly not. At most what follows--and this is a point that Pokerjoe and others have made quite eloquently in the past.is that there are times we need to be strategic in our responses to some of the objectionable things they post.

Hey, I hold my fire all the time. If I felt obligated to call bullshit on every bookie that deceives and spins and manipulates and insults, I.d have little time for anything else. But I rarely respond. It bothers me when it looks like people are falling for the rhetoric, and it bothers me if someone else decides to call them on it and gets trashed for doing so, but I.m not going to jump into the fray every time.

And this is largely for the aforementioned strategic reasons. I don.t need to show off my abilities to logically pick apart bookie propaganda every day, not if all it does is provoke them into either running away or fighting even more dirty than they already are in attacking me or their other critics.

It.s a personal judgment when to comment and when not to. This site would be the poorer for it if we lost Samurai and Peep and all the people who are willing to cause discomfort to bookies by calling bullshit on them. It would also be the poorer for it if the bookies ceased posting and ceased advertising.

We each have to decide where to draw that line of what to challenge and what to let go. There are times a strategic silence is warranted in the face of a bookie behaving like an ass. But it`s a far cry from that to the claim that it.s somehow admirably .real. for a bookie to behave like an ass. No, it.s still wrong. It.s just best to ignore it sometimes.

Now, what of the common lament of the bookies.recently reiterated by Slam and The Devil.that this is already an inhospitable environment for them, that they believe it to be a net negative for them to post here because they will be unfairly attacked and their business suffer?

I don.t doubt that many of them genuinely perceive things that way, but I.m not convinced that their perception is accurate.

I should distinguish here between my own response and what seems to be the more general response of readers. For me personally, as you can easily infer from what I.ve said already, on the whole there have been more bookie posts that decreased my likelihood of playing into the poster.s shop than that increased it. There have been some of each, but more of their posts have lowered them in my eyes than raised them

But I.m skeptical that my reaction is the more common one. My impression instead from a long time reading Major Wager is that a bookie can behave in an utterly boorish, unprofessional manner and gain more business than he loses as a result. The books get a great deal of sympathy around here. When Slam says .Why do you guys give the books that come in here so much shit? Most of them will not come here because they end up getting smeared to death when they do,. I don.t think this is some oddball, maverick opinion of his. I think, as evidenced by several responses in the very thread from which I took this quotation, that this is a very common sympathetic reaction that posters have to the books and their plight.

Lots and lots of readers apparently believe the incessant whining. I think I.m in the minority in finding it rather pathetic. So I think the books that post are probably helping themselves with most readers.

Furthermore, even in the case of myself and the minority of readers for whom the bookie posts are more likely to damage than assist their efforts to get our business, it doesn.t follow that there.s something inevitable about that. It.s false that they .just can.t win. with us. As I noted, some bookies, and some posts, increase my likelihood of playing into their shop.

So, for the others, it.s not posting per se that turns me off, it.s their specific manner of posting that turns me off. Yes, if you.re incapable of expressing yourself on these boards except through inane corporate propaganda style press releases, or abusive ad hominem attacks with street lingo you think sounds like clever Tarantino-style dialogue; if you duck questions or give evasive answers that contradict what you said last month; if you constantly whine about how dare anyone criticize your business, then you.re not going to impress me. But where is it written that you.re only allowed to post as a shill and a corporate phony, or a bully and a thug, or a pathetic crybaby? How about a civilized human being? How about a straight talker? How about a professional? It.s not impossible.

(By the way, am I the only one that notices the incongruity in saying that we need to accept the rough-edged bookies and their abusive rhetoric, and that we need to understand their street background and where they.re coming from and blah, blah, blah, and that we need to refrain from criticizing them, because otherwise they.ll run away and hide? If they.re such tough guys, why the concern that they will all of a sudden become helpless shrinking violets that we need to protect when Samurai catches them in a lie and has the audacity to say so?)

In conclusion, bookies do not get a raw deal around here. In seeing their posts as all too often pathetic or worse, I am not mistaking style for substance, and am not implicitly holding them up to an inappropriate standard of refinement. I recognize that there is no absolute connection between posting abusively and being a non-paying bookie, but I contend that there is likely at least a minimal correlation between those character flaws, plus that it is not wrong to withdraw your business from a jerk, even one who will probably pay you. I call upon all readers to practice whatever critical thinking skills you have in assessing their posts and not being taken in by the deception, the fallacies, the appeals to your emotional admiration for certain .tough guy. images. This does not mean you have to always post in response, since one of our goals should be to avoid pissing off the bookies so much that they won.t post here or won.t pay for the site through their advertising. I think their self-pitying perception that things are already too rough on them here is dubious, but that is something we need to be careful about.

Be aware of the bullshit always. Post against it only selectively.



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