The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers, and the Death of Their Las Vegas

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9780306811562: The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers, and the Death of Their Las Vegas

One gambler is a manic former cokehead with an Ivy League degree. The second is a college dropout trying to make a living at the only thing he enjoyed at school—gambling. The third, one of Vegas's most respected bookmakers, is perilously close to burning out. The Odds follows the lives of these three professional gamblers through a college basketball season in a one-of-a-kind city struggling to reconcile its lawless past with its family-friendly makeover. With a wiseguy attitude and a faultless eye and ear for the sights and sounds of Vegas and its denizens, Chad Millman has created a portrait that the Wall Street Journal called "fascinating. . . often screamingly funny." The Las Vegas Review-Journal had just one word for the book: "Superb."

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Review:

For sports gamblers in Las Vegas, nobody cares who wins; it's by how much that matters. In The Odds, Chad Millman follows three professional gamblers through a year of college basketball, where meticulous research, betting discipline, and instinct clash with addiction, and no one relaxes until they've lost it all.

The three colorful gamblers Millman expertly portrays are a high-rolling career "wiseguy," a slacker wannabe, and a bookmaker who sets the lines on games (for example, Iowa over Indiana by 4-1/2 points, meaning if you bet on Iowa, you win only if Iowa wins by five points or more). The idea behind the betting line is to lure bets (hopefully, losing ones) and make a profit for his casino from the action, but more importantly to stay ahead of those who pounce on a weak line like hungry wolves. Millman provides the answer to what makes these wiseguys tick: "While the casual bettor weighs common sense and financial realities with every bet, the wiseguy pushes those aside... [his] battle isn't with what makes sense; his battle is with anyone who gets in the way of making his bet a euphoric experience."

Along with lurid details of what these gamblers do to feed their frenzy, Millman enriches us on gambling's history and sobering statistics, on Vegas's decline and the rise of offshore casinos, and on the effects of media coverage and politics on sports and gambling. While you won't learn how to get rich off the next office pool, you will get an inside look at those who make or lose money on some kid's buzzer-beater or a garbage-time lay-up. --Michael Ferch

About the Author:

Chad Millman is a former Sports Illustrated reporter, a CNNSI correspondent, and associate editor at ESPN The Magazine. He has covered the NCAA basketball tournament, the Boston College football gambling scandal, the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics, and six Super Bowls. He lives in New York City.

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