Basics of Betting

1) “Do I need more than one bookie?”

Technically the answer is no, but practically the answer is “Yes, absolutely!”.

The primary advantage to having several bookies (or “books” or “outs” as they’re called) is that you will often get different lines on a football game to play into. Over the long run the extra work you undertake to maintain several accounts can turn you from being a loser into being a winner, or adding to your net winnings. Let’s compare shopping for odds with shopping for a new car.

When the line comes out in the paper early in the week, you look the lines over, just as if you’re thinking about a new car. So you like the Packers at -3, just like you decide you want to buy a midnight blue V-6 coupe. If you were buying the car, you wouldn’t just go to one dealership and say “Gimme a midnight blue V-6 coupe” – you’d shop around at different dealerships, maybe even at different companies to get your best deal.

So when you’re buying the Packers, just because the newspaper says they’re -3 doesn’t mean that’ll be the number of points you’ll lay. If you have enough outs you’re bound to find one offering the Packers -2.5 or even -2. (You’ll also find some spots quoting you -3.5 or -4.) Why not take them at the most favourable line you can? If the game winds up as a Packers win by 3, you’ll sure be glad you did.

A second advantage to having more than one place to play with your business “spread around” is that if, by cruel fate, your bookie gets thrown in jail or your offshore out absconds with your dough, all your eggs aren’t in a single basket. This is unpleasant to contemplate, but it’s a fact of life.

2) “Did you say JAIL? Do I want a local bookie?”

Unfortunately these things do happen, but rarely if ever to players. Law enforcement eager to shut down gambling want to nab the bookies, not their clients. In many jurisdictions, and in Canada, betting is not illegal in itself, but making book is.

OK so I’m not telling anybody to break the law, but if you choose a local bookie or two as part of your list of outs, there are advantages to be had.

–Most local guys move lines either more slowly or more drastically than do shops in Nevada, the Carribean, or overseas. So, in comparison to other places, you’ll get “different” lines. Since you’re going to play the “best” line for you, the more differences, the merrier.

–Local guys are just a phone call or a trip to a nearby spot away. (When I lived in the USA there was a good bookie set up in a bar down the street, and the bar was called “The Office”. So every Sunday an hour before game time I’d just leave the house and say “Back by kickoff, hon–I just have to go do something quick at The Office.”)

–Local guys usually extend some measure of credit, settling up weekly or every two weeks, or something like that.

So, if your guy gets busted the Friday before the Super Bowl (every bookie I know from Nova Scotia to New England to the Midwest who’s been in business five years has been cuffed at least once), he doesn’t have a big wad of your dough on him. In fact, he’ll even be out of jail by Tuesday to make your regular settle-up meeting…

3) “What about Nevada and Offshore?”

Unless you’re physically in Nevada it’s illegal to place a bet there, and the casinos actually have to at least half-try to enforce this to keep their licence. Since the mega-casinos make far more from slots and table games than they do by booking sports, they don’t want to risk the wrath of the gaming authorities by helping people get around the law. Even calling your uncle in Vegas and getting him to wander down to a shop and put down $100 on the Giants for you is technically illegal. Unless you’re in Nevada, my opinion is don’t bother trying to bet there. It’s just not worth it.

Offshore, friends, is a different story. Countless operations have sprung up from Antigua to Australia that will let you call a toll-free number to place a bet, or bet over the Internet. The quality shops in this growing universe are the perfect complement to your local outs.

4) “Um, ‘Quality’ outs? There are bad ones?”

Well, the bad news is there are probably a lot more places out there that don’t deserve your business than ones that do. Some people are crooks; others mean well but are inexperienced and go bankrupt. Gaming is the fastest growing industry on the ‘Net (yes, faster than porn, hardcover books, or even books of porn) and this is the new version of the frontier that was Wyatt Earp’s Wild West. There are real cowboys out there, some with white hats, some with black, some too stupid to figure out how to wear a hat.

The good news is there are many solid bookies out there too. These are the ones you want to deal with, because most offshore shops don’t offer credit. You send them money, and you have an account with them, as if they were a bank. You bet using the money in your account. When you lose, money comes out. When you win, the account grows. What you need to know is at the end of the season (or whenever you want) your bookie will be willing and able to refund however much is left in your account.

5) “So how do I find the good places?”

One place to start is with the sportsbooks that have “member” status with this site, BWORLD. These books not only advertise with the site but have a track record of payouts. Some of these places have been around a long time and are internationally recognised.

You should also visit Oddswiz’s Sportsbook Rants and Raves posting forum on this site, and other reliable forums on the Web. Three of the five offshore books I currently use are BWORLD members, but there are other good spots out there as well and sportsbooks good and bad are discussed in forums like the one on this site. People hype their own books, players discuss their favourites, and believe me if an offshore out is no-paying or slow-paying its clients, it’ll be all over the posting forums.

6) “All right, I’m using the Bworld members as a starting point. There are lots of them! How do I choose?”

Make a list of the things most important to you and compare the candidates. Do you want a place with low minimums? Do you need a place that can accept and refund money using bank wires? Do you just play football, or do you bet other sports as well? (If you play bases, you’ll want a place with 10-cent baseball lines and maybe overnight lines. If you want to play soccer, the quality of lines varies wildly.) Is it important that you can be able to place bets 24 hours a day? If you’re going to be depositing and pulling funds out frequently, what spots give you the best deals on money transfers?

To address two points specifically:

–First, it’s good to have at least a couple places that post their odds (and hopefully let you bet) on the Internet. This makes checking and comparing lines easy. Pop up a couple windows and surf away. You need a couple phone-based outs too in case you’re away from your computer or your network is down, so don’t go online completely (most local bookies aren’t online, or not for long anyway …heh… so that helps take care of that), but it’s a real time-saver to be able to get most of your odds with a mouse click or two.

–Second, one of the most talked about issues is the question of the sign-up bonus. If everything else is equal, sure, grab the sign-up bonus. I have faith in the Bworld books that the sign-up bonuses they offer aren’t a huge risk factor for the bookies. A few other shops, though, offer ridiculous bonuses (20% and up) and this may be a sign that they haven’t thought their business plan out very well…or worse yet don’t intend to pay out winnings at all. A newly opened shop with bonuses that appear too good to be true is a siren song your hard-earned deposit money just doesn’t need to hear. If you do pick a place with a sign-up bonus, make sure you know and fully understand any conditions attached to the bonus up front.

7) “OK, I’ve picked a couple reputable offshore places. How do I get started?”

Call them up! Ask for customer service. Tell them you are interested in opening an account and say that you’d like to ask them a few questions. At this point you should ask them about things that their website or magazine ad leaves unclear. (Payout procedures aren’t usually spelled out in minute detail … get them to explain this bit-by-bit. Ditto for the sign-up bonus, if any.) You should confirm what time each day lines are posted, which exotic bets are offered, and in the case of Internet-based books get a phone number for technical support should you require it later.

Use this conversation to make sure you’re comfortable with the book. I’m not saying that if the customer service rep is a smoothie you’re all set, but if your basic questions CAN’T be answered, this book isn’t as good as you thought it was and you should likely just hang up.

Assuming everything goes well, declare that you would like to open an account. They will take down your information and then give you your account number. You will be given or asked to choose a password. If it’s a phone-based book you will be given a number you can call to place wagers and get line rundowns (usually different from the customer service number). You may be asked to send them a piece of picture ID in the mail.

Next you must make a deposit. Most books have several ways to deposit funds, and methods fall into one of five categories:

–Cheque/Money Order by regular mail (when you’re in no hurry; costs the price of an international stamp though you may want to register it)

–Money Order/Cashier’s Cheque by FedEx (takes 2-4 days; costs about $30)

–Western Union (quick collect form or green form)/MoneyGram (takes 30 minutes from the time you send it to clear; Quick Collect is $15 and the green form or MoneyGram can cost up to $100)

–Bank Wire/Telegraphic Transfer (varies up to 5 days; fees from $15-$30 usually)

–Credit Card (takes 10-30 minutes; fees vary wildly, up to 5% of the amount deposited)

I use Western Union Quick Collect whenever possible. It’s cheap (and the books I use always reimburse my fees), fast, and secure. I don’t use credit cards because as a Canadian I always get punished on exchange rates and I’m also nervous about giving out my credit card info over the phone. That said, many people choose to deposit this way, and I’m likely in the minority.

When you want to withdraw winnings, just call the customer service number up and they’ll take you through the routine. You’ll have several choices on how to receive your money. I usually make a partial withdrawal from a book about a month after first depositing just to see how smoothly the payout procedure goes.

8) “Phew. I’m all set now then?”

Yep. Like Kevin says in the Bookies’ Hell posting forum, “I wanna see your bookies panhandling by season’s end!”