The Smart Money documents Michael Konik’s journey from your average sports fan to someone who is disappointed when he can only bet $50,000 on a single game. After being shown the ropes by Rick “Big Daddy” Mathews and the Brain Trust syndicate, Konik finds out that picking the right team isn’t the hardest part of professional betting, it’s finding somewhere that will accept your bet.
The first comment to make about Michael Konik’s memoir, The Smart Money, is that it caters to a wide audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a massive sports fan or if you’ve never placed a bet in your life, Konik grabs your attention within the first page and keeps hold of it until the very end.
The beauty of Konik’s work is that he begins the story as a complete novice and thus if you don’t know what a point spread is or why expected value is important, you learn as you read.
In a similar fashion to Joe Peta in Trading Bases, Konik is quick to point out that if you want to make money from betting you should steer clear of negative-expectation casino games like roulette and blackjack.
The Smart Money is a thoroughly interesting read, but it also serves as a useful guide to anyone who wants to know how to become a professional bettor.
It doesn’t take long for the reader to be immersed in the Las Vegas betting culture and the importance of high limits in professional betting to become apparent. Interestingly, it takes Konik less than a weekend to learn that bookmakers “can’t risk getting hurt by a big gambler who knows what he’s doing” It isn’t long before more complex betting themes such as optimism biasand understanding the importance of line movements and closing oddsbegin to emerge in The Smart Money. One of the most important betting lessons on offer is that “losses are an integral part of being a winning sports bettor. One just hopes to encounter them infrequently.”
As the weeks pass in Konik’s first season betting on football and basketball, his girlfriend enjoys the hotel treatments and life of luxury that comes with being a high roller. Unfortunately for the man placing the bets, there’s a lot of hard work involved.
In addition to maintaining the necessary façade that means sportsbooks will actually accept his (Rick Matthews’) money, Konik must be ready to make a bet whenever called upon - the organisation and commitment required to run a successful sports betting syndicate is made clear from the outset.
The Brain Trust is a profitable syndicate for a number of reasons. A “super computer” programmed to predict results and various contacts feeding valuable information that no one else has are just two key ingredients.
The importance of things like team news, injuries and even changes in the weather is obvious throughout The Smart Money. Perhaps none more so than when Konik finds himself rushing around Ceasar’s Palace to get Clemson at +6 on the Handicap instead of the +4.5 it moves to within a matter of minutes due to their opponents “suspending a couple of linebackers for team violations.”
It isn’t long before Konik’s betting exploits are well known in Las Vegas. Despite Stevie “The Pencil” and Gino “The Suit” from Ceasar’s Palace accepting that “the smart money could be beneficial to their bookmaking operation” Konik and the Brain Trust move to offshore bookmakers.
Although everything with the offshore bookmaker’s seems rosy initially, Konik and the Brain Trust can’t make it through an entire NFL season without being limited and banned from a bookmaker. In amongst some big wins and problems withdrawing money they have rightfully won, the same message appears over and over again; “you can’t win and if you can, you can’t play.”
It takes Konik three years to start up his own syndicate, “The Hollywood Boys.” Working in partnership with “Algo Andy,” Konik uses a combination of past results and his betting expertise to develop a computer program that predicts the score in a football match that is “probably accurate to a tenth of a point.”
There are plenty of interesting stories about the ups and downs that come with learning from one of the world’s best sports bettors, but Konik rarely exposes his emotions or talks about the psychology of betting in The Smart Money.
However, in the final few chapters Konik admits “freshly earned money doesn’t help me sleep any better. I still miss my girlfriend terribly.” In amongst his questioning and indecisiveness about whether to continue betting there is a sobering reminder that even the most successful sports bettors sometimes want a normal life.
As his computer program “Baby” becomes more efficient, Konik and Algo Andy begin to take advantage of the value offered by adjusting the points spread in the form of Teasers. Although he discovers a new and improved method to make money, Konik eventually decides to stop betting in 2000 - three years after it all began.
The organisation and commitment required to run a successful sports betting syndicate is made clear from the outset.
Much like he learned from the best in the business Rick “Big Daddy” Matthews, Konik passes the gauntlet on to Algo Andy who exetends his reach into most sports, including baseball betting.
Although he draws his memoir to a close with the claim “I’m no longer the smart money,” one thing that isn’t in doubt is that Michael Konik enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience that most bettors can only dream of. The Smart Money is a thoroughly interesting read, but it also serves as a useful guide to anyone who wants to know how to become a professional bettor.
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