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Taking Care of Las Vegas Business - Maximizing Nevada Sports Opportunities...By Nelson Lardner

One of my favorite Vegas stories goes back to an earlier age - a time when the Sands was still standing, and the Bellagio was still a Steve Wynn vision.

I deeply relished the prospects of a couple of college football sides, competing on the same Saturday. For some reason which escapes me now, and amuses me only in retrospect, I was eager to risk what was a substantial amount (for me) on this particular combination.

I shopped the Strip's price offerings, and found that a certain North-Strip property which shall remain nameless (the Frontier) was sticking to the most- favorable numbers on the two programs I favored. So I parked in the back lot, made my way up the corridor, passed the old airline-ticket counter, turned left, and faced the sportsbook boards.

Uncertain of the limits the establishment would entertain, I looked around in order to possibly discern the joint's limits re parlay play . That quest proving unavailing, I proceeded to march up to the counter. I told a clerk what I wanted, and he called for approval.

The Frontier sports book's head man at the time, who shall remain nameless (the genial Lenny Del Genio) greeted me. I re-stated my request.

"That amount is over and above our posted limits," Del Genio said.

"I'm sorry," I replied, pleasantly. "I looked high and low, throughout the area, for your posted limits."

"We hide them," Del Genio replied, barely suppressing a grin.

We exchanged chuckles, and Del Genio, who was clearly dubious about the prospects of my two sides at the posted numbers, accepted my parlay, at the level I'd originally proposed.

This remains a classic example of the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose game that books have played with gamblers since the dawn of the enterprise. It's the established game of "Here are my limits - unless you want to plunge on the stiff side in the game, in which case I'll take down every nickel you want." If Del Genio had LIKED my two sides, it was not at all unlikely he wouldn't have written my ticket for the entire amount I'd requested.

On standard wagers (non-proposition-style offerings), most Vegas hotel books play it fairly close to the vest these days. The Golden Age typified by Jimmy Vaccaro's all-too-brief reign at the Mirage under Steve Wynn is long gone, and wholly-unlikely to be revived under today's modern corporate shadows.

The pendulum has swung far, far in the other direction at properties which wear substantial chips on their shoulders in their sportsbook corners. Immediately, the Venetian springs to mind, and Art Manteris' reign as the supervisor of the books representing the Stations chain has not been distinguished by its overall user-friendliness. Stations has embraced Manteris' bookmaking philosophy, as he is capable of playing stingy defense, but those interested in tattooing Stations numbers consistently with limit action would be well-served to look into self-disguise artistry lessons.

This is not a brand-spanking-new development . . . it's just gotten less subtle, as pure corporate crassness becomes the New World Order. And you never know when you're going to feel it. I gave good sports action to one of the most venerable of the Strip properties for years, and all was well . . . until I carved off a oversized slice of a huge NBA-playoff moneyline underdog that won in a gallop. "They" noticed, and that ONE play resulted in a chill I can feel to this day.

But, hey, they're gone with the wind . . . and I'm still around. And since I don't play all that high, I can continue to do business at virtually all Vegas books without being given the fisheye.

But there are those who are a sustained, genuine threat to a book's profit ledgers, and those kind of folks extend lifespans by following a prudent game plan, and acting with a measure of restraint in all but the rarest, most-exceptional cases.

These guys know that being a substantial pit/slot player at a specific property may buy you a measure of grace - but that the price if sustaining that caliber of front is almost always not worth the effort. Better to maintain wide horizons, while keeping in mind that price is paramount. Protected by sheer size and a general homogenized-odds policy, MGM/Mirage properties deal the highest limits in town, under most circumstances . . . useful in those cases in which getting down in size is more important than a couple of extra pennies of price. But even they will back you off, if it's obvious that your information is markedly-superior to theirs, and you appear to be a threat to convert their sportsbook cashier windows into your personal ATM outlet. Harassment and delay in cashing for substantial amounts is a sure sign that any joint in question is less than thrilled with your play, and would prefer you take your business elsewhere.

The best way to stay under the radar is to spread your play around in relatively modest amounts per outlet. Besides gobbling up gas and time, this is seldom the best way to obtain maximum number-value, but it's the optimum way to stay outside of the foe's focus. This new optimum makes one long for the days of a wide-open Pinnacle . . . but that's a separate chapter for another day.

Nelson Lardner

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