So, you’re coming out to Las Vegas to strike it rich. Good luck to you. But before you puff out your chest to brag about all the winning you’re going to do, here are a few guidelines on how to not look like a square in the book.
Most of you that read this are familiar with the concepts of betting since you probably do it online. But there are a few subtle differences when you are in a book. Most notably, you have to interact with another human being. While ticket writers won’t bite, they don’t have the ability to read your mind, either.
DISPLAY BOARDS & ODDS SHEETS
Let’s start at the beginning. If you walk into the book unsure of what you want to bet, that isn’t a problem. Every major place along the Strip has display boards that update the lines as they change. Most don’t have the ability to show every possible bet at one time unless it’s a slow day, but the boards rotate. So, if you look up and don’t see a particular game, don’t freak out. The best way to see all the offerings is to grab a sheet that the books provide with that day’s lines on it. The sheets come out first thing in the morning and will have the opening line for the day. Most often they are organized by sport, so there will be multiple sheets.
The nice thing about having the sheets is it will show you what line moves have occurred since the book put the lines up that day. But keep in mind, if you don’t double check on the display board or ask the writer, the line on the sheet may not be correct. Most importantly, please do not walk up to the window and start studying the board to find your bet. You will most likely hold up other people and it is annoying. Take your time, have a seat, enjoy a cocktail and step to the window ready to go.
HOW TO PLACE A BET
Before going up to the counter, please verify the betting number of the side you want. Do NOT tell the writer you want, for instance, “Kansas State.” The machines that writers use don’t have a “Kansas State” button. What they do have are numerical keys. By telling the writer you want, say, “187,” it will make the experience much quicker and make you look like you know what you’re doing. Now, if you want a particular side, all you need to provide is the rotation number of the team you want. That number will be the same in any of the casinos you enter along the Strip. The only items that won’t be the same are prop bets — and in some cases, hockey — as some sportsbooks use “24″ as the first two digits while others use “25.”
If you want to bet a total, simply use a number for either team in the game and then say “over” or “under.” If you want the Kansas State/Arkansas over, just say “187 over” and give the amount you want to risk.
Most likely, you are all familiar with juice. Standard juice (or vig) in Vegas is -110, meaning you bet $110 to win $100, which returns $210 when you cash your ticket. If no juice is shown, the juice is -110.
But often times, a game on a key number will have a different juice, and this is usually noted on the display boards and on the sheets. You should always double check, because it only takes one bet to change the line or juice. Many books have several properties, so the juice could conceivably change before you get to the window.
For those unsure what the juice is, it is actually pretty simple. When you see a minus sign (-) in front of a number, that is how much you need to risk to win $100. If you see a plus (+) sign before a number, that is how much you win for risking $100. Small bettors don’t need to risk $100 and can usually bet very small amounts. Most spots on the Strip require a $10 minimum bet, but there are places that let you slide for a $5 minimum.
COMMUNICATING WITH WRITERS
When speaking to ticket writers, talk clearly and try not to mumble. There is plenty of ambient noise in a casino (not to mention, your buddies are probably ragging you for the crappy bet you are about to make), so it can be difficult at times for the writer to hear you. Also, it is a gaming violation to use your phone at the counter. In the past, cell phones were banned anywhere in a book, but that has changed and you can now use your phone — but not at the counter.
Messenger betting is not allowed, but happens. But if you are at the counter and on your phone, it looks very much like you are placing a bet for someone else, so don’t do it. And again, the writers are not mind readers. You need to provide them all the information. They can only type in what you tell them. If you want the money line in a game, you better say that. I know when I was writing tickets, somebody coming up and saying, “I want Kansas State to win” drove me nuts. “Do You want them to win covering the spread or win outright?” I’d say.
It is simple to say “I want 187 for $110″ or to say “I want 187 money line for $100.” And if you want to bet a parlay, make those your first words. Oh, and before I forget: If you are making a futures bet on your favorite team that has no chance, just own it. The writer doesn’t care that you want $50 on the Pirates to win the World Series, so don’t try to blame your wife’s boss. In the three years I was a writer, 90 percent of the futures bets I took were for “someone else.” The writer won’t believe you and doesn’t care.
AFTER YOU’VE PLACED YOUR BET
After making your bet and taking your ticket from the writer, double check it. There are times the writer will not hear you correctly or simply make a mistake. I’ve fat fingered tickets plenty of times. But once you walk away from the window, whatever ticket is in your hand is the bet you made. Most casinos will be lenient within a minute or two, but too long after that and you are stuck.
Check the ticket to make sure it is the bet you want. If it isn’t, simply hand it back and point out the mistake. Now that you have your ticket, do not lose it. The ticket is how you get paid. There is a process for lost tickets, but it could take anywhere between 60 and 120 days for you to get paid. And if you drop the ticket and someone else scoops it and cashes it, there isn’t anything we can do.
Think of the ticket as money, because until the bet loses, that is exactly what it is. While keeping hold of your ticket, don’t crumble it up and stuff it in your pocket. Keep it as neat and clean as possible. Writers slide the ticket into a machine to verify it’s a winning ticket, so very wrinkled tickets or food stains slow down the process. Tickets can be manually typed when needed, but again, that holds up other people and makes you look like the square.
When you do actually cash, consider a little something for the writer. Despite what happens in the rest of the world, Las Vegas is a tip town. Nearly every worker out here relies in some form or another on tips. The casinos make tons of cash, but that isn’t shared with the workers you see on the floor. Writers do not make much money and a couple dollars from a winning bettor is always appreciated. Even a tip when making the bet for good karma is allowed.
This applies to the cage workers when you cash in your chips, too. My thought has always been: If you cant afford a couple bucks in appreciation, you probably shouldn’t be gambling in the first place. And please, don’t spit out the line when you hit a good ticket that you’re just getting back to even and then pocket it all. Nobody believes you and quite frankly, nobody cares. If you don’t want to tip, fine, but don’t give any story about why you aren’t. Just walk away.
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Hopefully this helps at least one of you look a bit more confident while you are in the book. For those of you that knew all this, sorry you wasted your time. Have a good day, and remember, never bet what you can’t afford to lose.