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Black Mike - the best handicapper in the world

He looked like the kind of guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. The scowl on his dark unsmiling face seemed permanently etched. He wore a baseball cap tilted backwards and a long shirt that concealed a loaded .45 automatic that he kept concealed in the small of his back. I met him in the horse room at the Fremont Casino in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday morning in May. I had just celebrated my 49th birthday, my wife had just left me, and I was trying to put my life back together by picking some longshots at Hollywood Park.

MLB HOF Surprises (And Locks)

The MLB Hall of Fame inductions over recent years have been at times sparse. There has also been controversy due to some baseball players suspected of or proven to have used steroids. Happily, this year featured a robust crop of great players. But, of course, there is always some controversy. At the top of the list is...

The U.S Supreme Court changes the sports betting history

America and especially my friends in Arizona are still reeling after the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will let states decide if they wish to legalize sports betting. This was a mature decision by the nine Supreme Court justices and I applaud their decision. It's time they recognized that the people of this nation are smart enough to make their own minds up on how they want to spend their money.

How to successfully wager on a horse race

For some people, betting on horse racing is a lifetime occupation. This is often the case of individuals who grow up near a race track. They start off by going to the track, hanging around the paddocks, talking to trainers, jockeys and hot walkers. They become familiar with the horses and the odds. They learn about overlays and how trainers operate. They even find out about trainers who will juice their horses -- give them an illegal shot to help them win at long odds. It's all part of horse racing. The real question I have developed over the years is how do you bet on a horse?

the caddies - one of the best jobs you could have

I have to admit it: being a golf caddie was one of the best jobs I ever had. Just think of it. You could go to work whenever you wanted, work as long as you desired, and then go home with money in your pockets. It wasn't much, but it was spendable. And really, what more does a teenager need out of life? I was 13 when I first toted a golf bag at the Youghiogheny Country Club just outside Boston, PA. The golf course was six miles from our home. Fuzzy was the caddy master. He was a short unsmiling man with a limp that originated in his childhood.

Unfairly convicted black boxer Jack Johnson

All the major television networks carried a news story the other day about President Donald Trump giving serious consideration to granting a pardon posthumously to Jack Johnson, a heavyweight boxing champion who died quite a few years ago. Johnson was a black boxer who fought a legendary bout against James Jeffries, an undefeated heavyweight champ who had retired from the ring in 1905. I will get into the fight in a minute. But after the bout, Johnson was arrested for allegedly violating the Mann Act when he and his white girlfriend crossed state lines 'for immoral purposes,' according to the arresting FBI agents.

New baseball season and odds

Which team do you think will win the 2018 World Series? If you are one of the many millions of Americans who are baseball fans, I am sure you have a favorite. I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA. which is a real baseball city. And of course, everyone in my family was a Pirate fan. During baseball season, we kept our radio and later our television tuned in to the Pirate games. When the game was on, my brothers and I knew better than to interrupt it by talking. If we did, we had our father to answer to and that was not a very pleasant prospect.

Hanging around horse racing trainers

The late Benjamin (Bud) Adair was one of the most colorful personalities to come out of Circle City, AZ., a dusty road stop along Highway 60 between Phoenix and Wickenburg. Bud operated a truck stop, motel and restaurant in Circle City. He also ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Maricopa County and governor of Arizona. He formed a non-profit organization called Desert Troop Search and Rescue and used the volunteers to search for people lost in the desert or for motorists whose cars had broken down. Bud and his wife had several children who helped Desert Troop. J.R. Adair was off the wall and a little crazy. He aspired to be a cowboy and became a Brahma bull rider.

Professional betting on horses

am resting up after four days in Las Vegas. The good news is the city hasn't changed. It has only gotten bigger and the old timers (yours truly included) have gotten grayer, balder, gained a few pounds and developed nervous twitches that come with old age. I spent some time in the New Orleans Cassino horse room and tried to make a killing on the ponies. At the start, I had a couple of winners, but I couldn't keep the momentum going. My faithful readers know how much I depend on momentum and when it doesn't happen, it's time to take a walk.

Words of betting wisdom

miss Barry Miller. He was a good friend and one of the best editors I ever had. Barry served as editor of LottoWorld, a short-lived international lottery magazine that operated out of Naples, FL. The magazine lasted only three years, but during that time we had a lot of fun inspiring our readers to play 'hot' numbers in their various states to win lottery cash. I was one of several associate editors who worked for the magazine. We had prognosticators who used computers, astrology and other methods to pick winning numbers for our readers. Some of them came amazingly close to hitting those numbers, including the PowerBall.

Picking the right horse

Dear Geno,' a member writes. 'My two buddies and I formed a small software company and recently moved to a house we share in Arcadia, CA. Our home is about 15 minutes from Hollywood Park Race Track. I know you enjoy gambling and hope you can provide us with some good strategy for winning at the horse races. If we come up with some winners, I'll even offer to upgrade your computer at no charge. Smiles, Don G., Arcadia, CA.' Don, bribery will get you everywhere.

Football, baseball or basketball pools

Poker room managers are pressed by casino owners to keep their tables filled and their dealers working. That is why they come up with so man cash benefits for players which the players, of course, pay for out of the pots. Most poker rooms offer splash pots and cash for high hands or aces cracked. But some of the most interesting perks involve football, baseball or basketball pools. Especially football which is probably one of the most popular perks. I like the football pools and thoroughly subscribe to them.

Sensational rodeo stories

Paul DeGruccio was one of the most creative photographers in Arizona and I was lucky to get him to work as my partner when I went out on stories. He was born in Brooklyn, had a New Yorker's nose for news, and together we made a good team. During the day he worked for a small weekly newspaper in Phoenix and I covered stories for the Phoenix Gazette. But at night and on weekends, we were Batman and Robin, going after stories about unique people, newsmakers and celebrities that would later grace the covers of People Weekly, TV Times, The Star, Globe, Argosy and the National Enquirer.

Riding a Brahma bull

There are a lot of cowboys in Arizona who wear silk shirts, leather boots and Stetson hats who have never sat on the back of a horse or a Brahma bull. Larry Mahan is not that kind of cowboy. Born in Salem, OR., Larry started his rodeo career at the age of 14. His mother was always in his corner rooting him on at the junior rodeos as he developed his riding skills. Mahan was an all-around cowboy. He started with saddle broncos and graduated to bull riding, winning state and national awards in both categories. He won the all-around champion cowboy title five times and was unbeatable on the bull riding circuit.

$100,000 Donkey race

Dreams die hard and Howdy Fowler was a dreamer extraordinaire. I met this wild cowboy in Deming, N.M. when I was Bureau Chief for a daily newspaper based in Las Cruces. Remember the movie 'Bronco Billy,' starring Clint Eastwood as a rough and tumble owner of a wild west show? That was Howdy who with his Paiute Indian wife Yahooskin operated their own wild west show in small towns across the Southwestern United States. The couple lived in a mobile home on a small ranch halfway between Deming and Columbus, which sits next to the Mexican border.

Ray Odom - radio station and Turf Paradise racetrack owner

Ray Odom was a horse trainer and owner of KHAT, the most famous country western radio station in Phoenix, AZ. He trained and ran his horses at Turf Paradise, a thoroughbred racetrack on Bell Road in North Phoenix. I was a horse handicapper and writer for the Phoenix Gazette and spent a lot of time at the track. Ray and I became good friends. He and Jack Karie, a police reporter for the Arizona Republic, introduced me to Slim Sarwark, a colorful character who owned racehorses and who operated Miracle Used Cars at 35th Avenue and Grand Avenue in Phoenix.

Doyle Brunson - sports and poker strategy

Remember the scene in Forrest Gump when Tom Hanks goes on a monumental run and people start running with him? I loved it. For many years I was a long distance runner and if I get over being lazy, I may try it again. My formative years as a journalist started in a sun-baked town in eastern New Mexico. After moving to Tucumcari, I hunted jackrabbits with a single-shot .22 rifle, chased girls, ran for miles along a canal bank to stay in shape, played poker in private games with cowboys and ranchers, and watched the magnificent sunsets that draped Tucumcari Mountain and the Llano Estacado in all the colors of the rainbow.

Horseracing and cockfights in Mexico

If New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment, old Mexico -- at least parts of it -- is a country of delights. When I moved to Phoenix, I got caught up in the Hispanic culture. The food, music, and customs intrigued me and I found myself writing about them for my newspaper as well as magazines. As a general assignment and features reporter for the Phoenix Gazette, one of my responsibilities was to cover the Mexican Ambassador to Arizona. Raul had an office in the central corridor of Phoenix. His friendly staff kept me current on policies affecting tourism and went out of their way to make life pleasant for me.

Connie Hawkins - a story of a legendary basketball player

Connie Hawkins, the genial 6-8 former NBA basketball star, is dead. The poker players in Phoenix, AZ. where the friendly Hawkins spent the final decades of his life are mourning his passing. I was playing Connie's favorite game, Omaha High-Low, the other night when news of his death flashed on a large television monitor at the Talking Stick Casino on Indian Bend Road just east of Scottsdale. I walked to one of the poker room supervisors and asked her to announce his death.

Romantic date at the race track

I really should have known better. Every time I introduced my friend Dave Molina to another woman, he ended up marrying her. Never mind his marital status at the time. Divorced or married, Molina was a romantic, a Spaniard, and would go through fire, mountains or hell itself in pursuit of romance. We were in Phoenix, AZ. working for a start-up daily newspaper owned by a publisher with money problems. Molina's current wife had left him and had gone home to her parents in Texas. It was /Friday morning, payday, and Dave came by my desk. 'Hey, Buddy,' he said. 'How's about getting us a date for tonight?'

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