When I was a student at Sewickley Township High School in Herminie, PA., one of my favorite sports was boxing. My dad had bought me a set of boxing gloves and I spent a lot of time practicing in a makeshift ring in front of our house on Sutersville Hill. I boxed with everybody who would fight me. My younger brothers, neighbors, even rivals in school. When I had a problem with one of my fellow students, I challenged Alvin Opatchick to come by for a bout. He was more than happy to accommodate me. Alvin was about my size and we matched up pretty evenly in the ring. I had a good left jab that I had been practicing and it made the difference in the fight.
Long before I learned how to play poker I caddied at the Youghiogheny Country Club near McKeesport, PA. My two younger brothers and I spent nearly every weekend at the beautiful golf course toting bags for the members. It was tough work but the pay was decent and it kept us healthy walking up and down those wooded fairways. The country club members were mostly doctors, lawyers and business owners from the nearby communities -- Boston, McKeesport, Belle Vernon and Pittsburgh. They loved to bet on the outcome of the games and they had an ongoing poker game that took place daily in the club house.
There is no getting around it. Growing up in a small town is the best beginning a person can experience. I was born in a small coal mining community just across the river from Sutersville, PA., population less than 1,000. We lived in company housing until my father left the coal mines to work for U.S. Steel Corp. He also built a two-story house on top of Sutersville Hill on a piece of land he bought from my Uncle Ott, who was married to my mother's sister. As a teenager growing up in Sutersville, I discovered there were two important people in town -- Popeye, the town cop, and Al Orsini, a bookie who ran a small convenience store.
I started playing baseball at the age of six. My parents were fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates and you didn't dare interrupt the announcing of Rosie Rosewell or Bob Prince, broadcasting from Fortes Field in Pittsburgh, while a Pirate game was in progress. My father would not stand for it. We had a sandlot field behind the company housing owned by the Pittsburgh Consolidated Coal Co. which owned and operated the Warden Mine where my dad worked. All the men in the housing complex were coal miners. They all earned a good living from mining coal and owned a car and was considered fairly close to middle-class.
In the blue distance from my hotel room on the famous Las Vegas Strip, I can see the mountains. They look near but I know they are much farther away than they look. The thin desert air and lack of humidity makes things seem much closer than they are. Today, I am not in a very good mood. My rent is due, $98 for the week's lodging. I have $36 in my pocket, and the writing job that had been promised to me, never materialized. I almost reached for my phone to call Salvation Army. However, I refrained, and instead, wandered down to Binion's Horseshoe and arrived there just before the races started at Santa Anita.
Is there a way to beat the horses? With this question, I will certainly start a controversy. Some wise old timer will shake his head emphatically and say, 'Nope,' while others will argue, 'Maybe.' There are so many factors that go into a horse race that I could probably take the stance of a New York lawyer and argue both sides of the case. Being a stubborn type who believes in probability, I will place my reputation out on a limb and say, yes, there is a way to beat the horses. And then cross my fingers.
My friend Eddie was the one who got me thinking about it. We were working for the owners of half a dozen Miami Beach hotels who were trying to bring casino gambling to Miami Beach. Our bosses included Steven Muss, owner of the Fontainebleau Hotel. Eddie was a singer and I handled publicity for our election campaign. 'Do you know where the most beautiful women in the world are?" Eddie said. I asked him to tell me. 'The Dominican Republic and Costa Rica,' Eddie said.
When I am in Pennsylvania, I always enjoy going to the Meadows or the Rivers Casino with my younger brother, Legs. He is a slots player and I play poker or blackjack. At the Meadows just outside Washington, PA., that means Legs is usually upstairs trying to persuade his favorite slot machines to yield their buried treasure. The poker room is on the second floor and the horses are located downstairs. Sometimes when Legs gets bored with the slots, he will join me as a partner in my latest horse betting system. Admittedly I have gone through quite a few systems over the years. Some have worked pretty well while others have failed. But Legs good-naturedly supports me, win or lose.
Hobbs, N.M. lies in the center of America's oil and gas production country. I had been working in Clovis for another newspaper when Robert Summers, publisher of the Hobbs Daily News-Sun invited me to join his editorial staff as assistant city editor.Summers was a pleasant, mild-mannered man who owned a string of horses that he raced at Ruidoso Downs and Sunland Park in El Paso, TX. He turned out to be a gentleman and one of the most generous publishers it has ever been my pleasure to work for.
There is something about women and horses. They have an invisible connection, a silver umbilical cord, that no one can see but which is always there. Two women in my life seemed to hold extraordinary powers when it came to horses. One was my then wife's younger sister, Linda. The other was my wife, Nan. The three of us were at Turf Paradise Race Track one sunny day in Phoenix, AZ. I had my usual Daily Racing Form and was poring over past results and workouts to try to find a winner. Not Linda. She was standing next to the paddock looking at the horses.
Is there anything like a sure thing in gambling? Most gamblers would shake their heads negatively. 'Not in my lifetime,' one might say. Sports bettors, poker players, dice shooters, horse players, and blackjack players put their money on the line every day trying to find that sure thing. They generally come up short. But that was before Dave Oancea came along. Oancea is a native of Honolulu who has been nicknamed Vegas Dave.
William G. from Lubbock, Texas wrote an interesting email after reading one of my columns. 'Dear Mr. Lawrenzi,' he wrote, 'is it possible to beat the horses? My wife and I enjoy playing the slots when we go to a casino, although we aren't that lucky. But we live in horse country and are wondering what your experiences are when it comes to handicapping horse races.' His email made me smile. My experiences with handicapping horse races? Wow!
There is a huge difference between smart money and public money when it comes to pari-mutuel betting. During the many years I have wagered on greyhound dogs and horses, I have noticed that difference and believe me, it appears in many different ways. Most major casinos have a sportsbook. The regulars hang around the sportsbook nursing a drink, usually non-alcoholic, and some of them keep track of the odds. They are looking for a change in betting patterns that will indicate to them that smart money is being placed on one of the entrants.
Women athletes have come a long way since the early days of sports, when they were overshadowed by their male counterparts. There is still inequality when it comes to how much athletes earn, male sports superstars still earn a lot more than women that are dominating their sports. Take tennis for instance: Serena Williams has been dominating the WTA circuit for years and has earned almost 29 million dollars in 2016 between prize money and advertising revenue, while Novak Djokovic, the best male tennis player in recent years, has brought home 56 million dollars last year.
When I first moved to New Mexico to work on newspapers, one of my favorite hobbies was hunting jackrabbits. I would take a single shot .22 rifle or a Ruger pistol with mini-mags and drive a couple of miles from town to a ranch where I would introduce myself to the owner to ask permission to hunt on his land. In most cases, they were glad to have me. Jackrabbits eat a lot of grass -- six jacks will consume enough grass in a day to feed a cow -- and those ranchers could use all the help they could get.
My opinion on NFL betting and four bucks will get you a coffee drink at the nearest Starbucks, of course, you could just as easily take your four bucks and not worry about my opinion. You might be well-advised to ignore me given that I am not exactly a world-beater when it comes to betting ATS or the Over/Under. In fact, I have well-documented proof that, over five regular seasons and roughly 406 sides picked, I am running at a decent (but not incredible) 53.45% win rate against the Vegas lines.
A woman's greatest stake in gambling or life is her beauty. Nobody knew that better than Lillie Langry and few women used it better. She was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton in Jersey on Oct. 13, 1853. Her mother, Emilie, was a beauty and her father, Rev. William Corbet Le Bretpn was a minister who later became Dean of Jersey. Rev. Breton became scandalized when it was discovered that he had indulged himself with a series of love affairs with other women and his wife eventually left him in 1880.
Let's say you're an athlete preparing for a race that could win you an Olympic gold medal. And let's say you discovered a performance enhancing drug that was completely legal and that would give wings to your feet. Would you use it? Horse trainers are now debating a possible ban on just such a drug that has been used for years to treat thoroughbred horses on the day of a race. The drug is a diuretic called Furosemide. Its nickname is Lasix.
My brother, Legs, and I have shared a lot of adventures through life. When I turned 21 and he was just 20, we drove out West together in a battered blue Dodge with bald tires. We made it to Tucson, AZ. before three tires blew out, one by one, and steam started pouring from the radiator. All the lights on the dashboard turned red and I said, 'Brother, I think we have come to the end of our journey.' Our car had surrendered its spirit in front of a used car lot owned by Honest John Silverman, a little Jewish guy dressed in cowboy chaps. He stood there smoking a cigar and said in a perfect Jewish voice, 'You boys vant to sell a car?'
People have to love small town bookies. I grew up around them. They were often the most colorful people in town. My mother played the numbers. I don't know if you could call her superstitious, but if she caught someone in the family sleepwalking, she would follow them and say, 'Give me a number...give me a number.' Al Orsini was the numbers guy in my home town of Sutersville, PA. He was an Italian with a swarthy skin and he always seemed to be wearing a smile.
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