Secret Life of an Old-School New York Bookie

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Are you a gambling man?” Vera asks me. She hands an envelope to a bartender at the Meatpacking District because she sips on a whiskey and ginger ale. The envelope contains cash for one of her customers. Vera’s a bookie and a runner, and to be clear, Vera’s not her name.
She is a small-time bookie, or even a bookmaker, a person who takes bets and makes commission off them. She publications football tickets and collects them out of bars, theater stagehands, workers at job sites, and at times building supers. Printed on the tickets which are the size of a grocery receipt are spreads for college football and NFL games. At precisely the same time, she is a”runner,” another slang term to describe someone who delivers spread or cash amounts to a boss. Typically bookies are men, not women, and it’s as though she’s on the chase for new blood, searching for young gamblers to enlist. The newspaper world of football betting has sunk in the surface of the wildly popular, embattled daily dream sites like FanDuel or even DraftKings.
“Business is down due to FanDuel, DraftKings,” Vera says. “Guy wager $32 and won 2 million. That is a load of shit. I wish to meet him” There’s a nostalgic sense to circling the amounts of a football spread. The tickets have what look like hints of rust on the borders. The college season has ended, and she didn’t do so bad this season, Vera says. What is left, though, are swimming pool bets for the Super Bowl.
Vera started running back numbers when she was fourteen years old at a snack bar where she worked as a waitress. The chef called in on a phone in the hallway and she’d deliver his stakes to bookies for horse races. It leant a charm of young defiance. The same was true when she bartended in the’80s. “Jimmy said at the start,’I will use you. Just so that you understand,”’ she says, remembering a deceased boss. “`You go into the bar, bullshit with the boys. You’re able to talk soccer with a man, you can pull them , and then they are yours. ”’ Jimmy died of a brain hemorrhage. Her second boss died of cancer. Vera says she beat breast cancer , although she still smokes. She underwent radioactive treatment and denied chemo.
Dead bosses left behind clients to run and she would oversee them. Other runners despised her at first. They could not understand why she’d have more clientele than them. “And they’d say,’who the fuck is the donkey, coming here taking my job? ”’ she says just like the men are throwing their dead weight about. Sometimes the other runners tricked her, for instance a runner we’ll call”Tommy” kept winnings that he was supposed to hand off to her . “Tommy liked to put coke up his nose, and play cards, and he liked the girls in Atlantic City. He would go and give Sam $7,000 and fuck off with the other $3,000. He informs the supervisor,’Go tell the wide.’ And I says, ‘Fuck you. It’s like I am just a fucking broad to you. I really don’t count. ”’ It’s obviously forbidden to get a runner to devote winnings or cash meant for customers on personal vices. But fellow runners and gambling policemen trust . She never speaks bad about them, their characters, winnings, or titles. She whines if she doesn’t make commission. She says she could”keep her mouth shut” which is why she is a runner for nearly 25 decades.
When she pays customers, she exchanges in person, never leaving envelopes of cash behind bathrooms or under sinks in tavern bathrooms. Through time, however, she has dropped around $25,000 from guys not paying their losses. “There is a lot of losers out there,” she said,”just brazen.” For the football tickets, she capital her very own”bank” that is self-generated, almost informally, by establishing her worth on the success of the school year’s first few weeks of bets in the autumn.
“I ai not giving you no more figures,” Vera says and beverages from her black straw. Ice cubes turn the whiskey to a lighter tan. She reaches her cigarettes and zips her coat. She questions the recent alterations in the spread with this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos and squints at her beverage and overlooks the bartender. Her movements lumber, as her thoughts do. The favorability of the Panthers has changed from three to four four-and-a-half to five fast in the last week. She needs the Panthers to win six or seven in order for her bet for a success, and predicts Cam Newton will direct them to some double-digit win over Peyton Manning.
Outside, she lights a cigarette before moving to some other pub. Someone she didn’t need to see had sat down in the initial one. She says there is a guy there who tends to harass her. She proceeds further north.
In the next bar, a poster tacked to the wall beyond the counter indicates a 100-square Super Bowl grid or”boxes” “Are you running any Super Bowls?” Vera asks.
To acquire a Super Bowl box, in the conclusion of each quarter, the last digit of either of the teams’ scores will need to coordinate with the amount of your selected 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, from the third quarter, that is row 4 and column . Prize money changes each quarter, and the pool only works properly if bar patrons buy out all of the squares.
Vera recalls a pool in 1990, the Giants-Buffalo Super Bowl XXV. Buffalo dropped 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 numbers that matched 0 and 9. But her deceased boss squandered the $50,000 pool over the course of this year, spending it on rent, gas and smokes. Bettors had paid payments throughout the year for $500 boxes. Nobody got paid. There was a”contract on his own life.”
The bartender stows a white envelope of money before attaching an apricot-honey mixture for Jell-O shots. Vera rolls up a napkin and twists it in a beer that looks flat to provide it foam.
“For the first bookie I worked for, my name was’Ice,’ long before Ice-T,” she says, holding out her hands, rubbing where the ring with her codename would fit. “He got me a ring, which I lost. Twenty-one diamonds, created’ICE. ”’ The bookie told her he had it inscribed ICE because she had been”a cold-hearted bitch.”

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