Language: English

Secret Life of an Old-School New York Bookie

Are you a gambling man?” Vera asks me. She hands an envelope to a bartender in the Meatpacking District because she sips on a whiskey and ginger ale. The envelope contains cash for one. Vera’s a bookie and also a runner, and also to be apparent, Vera’s not her name.
She is a small-time bookie, or even a bookmaker, one who takes stakes and leaves commission them off. She publications soccer tickets and collects them from bars, theater stagehands, workers at job websites, and sometimes building supers. Printed on the tickets that are the size of a grocery receipt are spreads for college football and NFL games. At precisely the same time, she’s a”runner,” another slang term to describe someone who delivers spread or cash numbers to some boss. Typically bookies are men, not women, and it is as though she is on the chase for new blood, looking for young gamblers to enlist. The newspaper world of football betting has sunk in the face of the exceptionally popular, embattled daily dream sites like FanDuel or even DraftKings.
“Business is down because of FanDuel, DraftKings,” Vera says. “Guy bet $32 and won 2 million. That’s a load of shit. I wish to meet him.” There is a nostalgic feel to circling the numbers of a soccer spread. The tickets have what seem like traces of rust on the edges. The faculty season has ended, and she didn’t do that bad this season, Vera states. What is left, though, are pool bets for the Super Bowl.
Vera began running back numbers when she was two years old at a snack bar where she was employed as a waitress. The chef called on a telephone in the hallway and she would deliver his bets to bookies for horse races. It leant a charm of youthful defiance. The same was true when she bartended from the’80s. “Jimmy said at the beginning,’I’m going to use you. Just so you know,”’ she says, recalling a deceased supervisor. “`You go in the pub, bullshit together with the boys. You’re able to talk football with a man, you can pull them , and then they are yours. ”’ Jimmy died of a brain hemorrhage. Her next boss died of brain cancer. Vera says she beat breast cancer herself, even though she smokes. She failed radioactive treatment and denied chemo.
Dead managers left behind clients to conduct and she’d oversee them. Other runners despised her at first. They could not understand why she would have more clientele than them. “And they would say,’who the fuck is this donkey, coming here carrying my job? ”’ she states like the men are throwing their dead weight around. On occasion the other runners tricked her, for example a runner we’ll call”Tommy” maintained winnings that he was supposed to hand off to her for himself. “Tommy liked to put coke up his nose, and play cards, and he enjoyed the girls in Atlantic City. He would go and provide Sam $7,000 and fuck off using the other $3,000. He tells the boss,’Go tell the broad.’ And I says, ‘Fuck you. It is like I’m just a fucking broad to you. I don’t count. ”’ It’s of course forbidden to get a runner to devote cash or winnings intended for clients on private vices. But fellow runners and gaming policemen trust her. She speaks bad about them, their figures, winnings, or names. She never whines if she does not make commission. She says she can”keep her mouth closed” which is why she is a runner for nearly 25 decades.
When she pays customers, she exchanges in person, never leaving envelopes of money behind toilets or under sinks in tavern bathrooms. Over time, however, she has dropped around $25,000 from men not paying their losses. “There is a great deal of losers out there,” she said,”just brazen.” For the football tickets, she capital her own”bank” that is self-generated, nearly informally, by building her worth on the achievement of this school year’s first couple of weeks of stakes in the fall.
“I ain’t giving you no figures,” Vera says and drinks from her black stripes. Ice cubes turn the whiskey to some lighter tan. She reaches her cigarettes and zips her coat. She questions the current alterations in the spread for this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos and squints in her beverage and pays the bartender. Her movements lumber, as her ideas do. The favorability of the Panthers has changed from three to four-and-a-half to five quickly in the past week. She wants the Panthers to win six or seven to allow her bet for a success, and forecasts Cam Newton will lead them to a double-digit triumph over Peyton Manning.
External, she lights a cigarette before moving to some other bar. Someone she didn’t need to see had sat down in the initial one. She says there’s a guy there who will frighten her. She proceeds farther north.
In the next pub, a poster tacked to the wall beyond the counter shows a 100-square Super Bowl grid “boxes” “Have you been running any Super Bowls?” Vera asks.
To win a Super Bowl box, in the end of each quarter, the last digit of either of the groups’ scores need to coordinate with the amount of your chosen box in the grid. The bartender hands Vera the grid. The pub lights brighten. Vera traces her finger across its own outline, explaining that when the score is Broncos, 24, and Panthers, 27, by the next quarter, that is row 4 and column . Prize money changes each quarter, along with the pool just works properly if bar patrons buy out all the squares.
Vera recalls a pool in 1990, the Giants-Buffalo Super Bowl XXV. Buffalo lost 19 to 20 after missing a field goal from 47 yards. All the Bills knelt and prayed for this field goal. “Cops from the 20th Precinct won. It was 0 9,” she says, describing the box amounts that matched 0 and 9. But her deceased boss wasted the $50,000 pool within the course of the entire year, spending it on lease, gas and smokes. Bettors had paid installments throughout the year for $500 boxes. Nobody got paid. There was a”contract in his life.”
The bartender stows a white envelope of cash before pouring an apricot-honey mixture for Jell-O shots. Vera rolls up a napkin and twists it into a beer that looks flat to give it foam.
“For the very first bookie I worked , my name was’Ice,’ long until Ice-T,” she says, holding out her hand, rubbing at which the ring along with her codename would match. “He got me a ring, which I dropped. Twenty-one diamonds, made’ICE. ”’ The bookie told her he had it inscribed ICE since she had been”a cold-hearted bitch.”

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