I Sell Cardboard Boxes For A Living

Excuse my agitation. It's rare I get a Friday night off. Such evenings go to shit when I'm at a party and I get introduced by my real profession. Can you imagine introducing casual acquaintances at a party with “Yeah, so this is Jimmy. He's a meth dealer”? I don't know, maybe you can. In which case I don't really want to be invited to your parties. As for me, left to my own devices, I tell people I'm a cardboard box salesman. That suits me nicely. Nothing against people who sell cardboard boxes: I've never actually met one. But when I tell people that's what I do, nobody ever asks me to elaborate on my workday. It's actually a backstory I stole from another bookie—a guy who always had an identity or two to spare along with a great mind and approach to the profession. I started by telling people I was an electricity meter reader, and then once some guy asked me “isn't that all done by computer now?” and I had that So-Totally-Busted look on my face. So my colleague got me into the cardboard box business, which never goes out of style by always being precisely out of style. So this time I got introduced as The Bookie and my head immediately starts scanning the room for Feds. I've watched all the movies—I'm looking at everybody's shoes, looking for G-man wingtips. No immediately suspicious footwear—and no way out as the crowd starts circling me asking me all the Usual Questions. No, I don't break people's kneecaps. No, I don't lend people money at 1% a week. No, I don't fix games or know more about sports than anybody else. It was turning into one of those Wizard of Oz moments: I'm just the old, fat guy behind the curtain, which suits me, when I was asked a question I felt the need to rant on: How come I'm living in he shadows here when I could be living large in Costa Rica? Believe it or not, I'm safer here. The US government is this two-headed beast. One head wants to raise tax revenues by legalizing more gambling. Whoops, “gaming”. If it's legal, it's no longer gambling, it's “gaming." That's not quite as Orwellian as “collateral damage” (dead civilians), but it still makes me smile bitterly. The government's other head is trying to shut down the offshore industry. Poker sites, online casinos, sports books—it's all in the crosshairs. And they're rounding up anybody on The List who sets foot in the Good Old USA. When that doesn't work, they try extraditing people, from everywhere. Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, Antigua, wherever. The extradition policy is the worst of it. Consider Bob Eremian. His client base was mostly Southern New England, with a little NYC and Jersey thrown in. He moved his operation to Antigua in the mid 90s, figuring that even if what he was doing in the US was illegal (the trial of Jay Cohen showed it would be), since it was legal in Antigua, he couldn't be extradited. That's a key part of extradition law, I'm told: what you're doing has to be illegal in both jurisdictions. Except Uncle Sam didn't come after Bob for making book, just like how he didn't actually go after Martha Stewart for insider trading per se. The Eremian charges were money laundry, tax evasion, and so on—things that were illegal in Antigua. 11 years after he was originally deported, the civil cases just kept coming. The US government's current instrument of choice is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. It was tacked onto a bill about port safety. Honest. Life is too short. So I'm onshore and offline. Any trouble I'm going to get from the Law is going to be local. If caught, I'll spend some time doing graffiti removal or cleaning up a park. I'll sleep in my own bed. I don't need 16 hours a day in front of a computer screen trying to move my numbers faster than internet wiseguys can pick me off. I don't need to try to figure out Costa Rica's ever changing tax code. (When I left, sports books were charged, among other things, $1000 per computer monitor on the premises, per year.) I don't need to court the DOJ's wrath. But I still don't need my cover blown at parties. I sell cardboard boxes, period. It didn't help that a very good customer and his wife, my new part-time employee, were in the room making faces at me to see if they could get me to crack up or soil myself as I took questions. If the rant hadn't gotten me four new customers, the night would have been a total bust.
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Excuse my agitation. It's rare I get a Friday night off. Such evenings go to shit when I'm at a party and I get introduced by my real profession. Can you imagine introducing casual acquaintances at a party with “Yeah, so this is Jimmy. He's a meth dealer”?

I don't know, maybe you can. In which case I don't really want to be invited to your parties. As for me, left to my own devices, I tell people I'm a cardboard box salesman. That suits me nicely. Nothing against people who sell cardboard boxes: I've never actually met one. But when I tell people that's what I do, nobody ever asks me to elaborate on my workday.

It's actually a backstory I stole from another bookie—a guy who always had an identity or two to spare along with a great mind and approach to the profession. I started by telling people I was an electricity meter reader, and then once some guy asked me “isn't that all done by computer now?” and I had that So-Totally-Busted look on my face. So my colleague got me into the cardboard box business, which never goes out of style by always being precisely out of style.

So this time I got introduced as The Bookie and my head immediately starts scanning the room for Feds. I've watched all the movies—I'm looking at everybody's shoes, looking for G-man wingtips. No immediately suspicious footwear—and no way out as the crowd starts circling me asking me all the Usual Questions.

No, I don't break people's kneecaps. No, I don't lend people money at 1% a week. No, I don't fix games or know more about sports than anybody else. It was turning into one of those Wizard of Oz moments: I'm just the old, fat guy behind the curtain, which suits me, when I was asked a question I felt the need to rant on: How come I'm living in he shadows here when I could be living large in Costa Rica?

Believe it or not, I'm safer here. The US government is this two-headed beast. One head wants to raise tax revenues by legalizing more gambling. Whoops, “gaming”. If it's legal, it's no longer gambling, it's “gaming." That's not quite as Orwellian as “collateral damage” (dead civilians), but it still makes me smile bitterly.

The government's other head is trying to shut down the offshore industry. Poker sites, online casinos, sports books—it's all in the crosshairs. And they're rounding up anybody on The List who sets foot in the Good Old USA. When that doesn't work, they try extraditing people, from everywhere. Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, Antigua, wherever. The extradition policy is the worst of it.

Consider Bob Eremian. His client base was mostly Southern New England, with a little NYC and Jersey thrown in. He moved his operation to Antigua in the mid 90s, figuring that even if what he was doing in the US was illegal (the trial of Jay Cohen showed it would be), since it was legal in Antigua, he couldn't be extradited. That's a key part of extradition law, I'm told: what you're doing has to be illegal in both jurisdictions.

Except Uncle Sam didn't come after Bob for making book, just like how he didn't actually go after Martha Stewart for insider trading per se. The Eremian charges were money laundry, tax evasion, and so on—things that were illegal in Antigua. 11 years after he was originally deported, the civil cases just kept coming.

The US government's current instrument of choice is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. It was tacked onto a bill about port safety. Honest.

Life is too short. So I'm onshore and offline. Any trouble I'm going to get from the Law is going to be local. If caught, I'll spend some time doing graffiti removal or cleaning up a park. I'll sleep in my own bed.

I don't need 16 hours a day in front of a computer screen trying to move my numbers faster than internet wiseguys can pick me off. I don't need to try to figure out Costa Rica's ever changing tax code. (When I left, sports books were charged, among other things, $1000 per computer monitor on the premises, per year.) I don't need to court the DOJ's wrath.

But I still don't need my cover blown at parties. I sell cardboard boxes, period. It didn't help that a very good customer and his wife, my new part-time employee, were in the room making faces at me to see if they could get me to crack up or soil myself as I took questions.

If the rant hadn't gotten me four new customers, the night would have been a total bust.

Related

Why I Left Goldman Sachs, Chapter Three: "My Alleged Competition"

In the ping pong game of life, even your most trusted blade can't swat away an opponent with super-sized balls.---Unknown On Monday morning, Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, a memoir penned by former Goldman employee Greg Smith, based on his op-ed for the New York Times entitled, "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs." When Smith's piece came out last March, few if any senior executives inside the bank were pleased, in part because it came as a total shock. No one at Goldman had known Smith was planning to have his resignation letter printed in the paper. No one had known he had issues with the firm's supposedly new and singular focus on making money at all costs. No one, at least at the top, even knew who Greg was. Obviously all this left the bank at a competitive disadvantage in terms of fighting back and for the time being, Smith appeared to be handing Goldman its ass. Getting cocky, even. Perhaps thinking to himself, "When all of this is over, I could be named the new CEO of Goldman Sachs."  As anyone who has ever won a bronze medal in ping-pong at the Maccabiah Games will tell you, however, winners are determined by best of threes. And that anyone going to to the table with Goldman Sachs should be prepared for things to get ugly. Which is why it should not have come as a surprise that after getting hydrated, regrouping, and coming up with a plan of attack, Goldman kicked off round two with a delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment to the press re: Smith's tale being no more interesting than that of a disgruntled first-year analyst who thinks he's got a story to tell and then followed it up with a leak of Greg's less than flattering performance reviews to the Financial Times. What probably did come as a surprise, however, was today's breathtakingly aggressive Bloomberg piece re: Mr. Smith wherein: * He's described as a petulant child with unrealistic expectations for his career advancement * It's suggested, by saying outright, that his op-ed complaints about the firm were nothing more than him having "an axe to grind" on account of not advancing beyond vice-president, as demonstrated by the fact that as of 2010, he was happy with the firm, wanted to become a managing director and had no intention of leaving * People are left to connect the dots re: Smith and lady bosses ("Goldman Sachs put a different managing director in charge of Smith as it considered giving him a sales job. The report says he 'found the transition difficult and considered the female MD who ran the desk a peer at not his boss") Relatedly, as we head into the final game of the set with a tie score, the following is a tremendous anecdote from Chapter 3 of Why I Left Goldman Sachs involving an actual game of ping-pong, John Whitehead's Business Principles, and the lessons one learns as a first-year at GS about allowing a client to enjoy the sweet taste of victory despite knowing full-well you could wipe the floor with him or her and bring home the gold, if you so chose. After hearing of my past sports success, Rudy immediately fired off an e-mail to Ted Simpson, saying "Springbok will be representing the New York desk at the Ping-Pong tournament." Simpson wrote back: "Who's Springbok?" In response, Rudy e-mailed him a photograph of a springbok, the actual animal. You had to be there, but I thought it was hilarious. So I flew to Boston on Goldman's tab-- the justification being that while there, I could meet with Prakash and talk Israeli tech stocks-- and met Ted Simpson. […] The backstory of the annual Goldman Sachs Ping-Pong Tournament, Ted told me, was that the same guy, an Indian portfolio manager from Putnam, had won it five years in a row, and that winning the tournament was the highlight of the guy's year. But from the moment I walked into Jillian's- a pleasure palace replete with free-flowing alcohol, spicy chicken wings, bowling alleys, plasma TVs, and dozens of Foosball, pool and table tennis tables-- and saw my alleged competition practicing, I knew he didn't have a chance against me. I'm not trying to brag. But competitive table tennis, like every sport, has its levels. Any number of internationally ranked players could have (and had) made mincemeat out of me, yet simply put, the Putnam portfolio manager (let's call him PPM) and I were not in the same league. I was confident he wouldn't be able to return my serve, and if it came to a rally, he wouldn't be prepared for the kind of sever spins I could put on the ball. I could see he was a very good basement player, nothing more. I could have beaten him in my sleep. The tournament draw was posted. Thirty-two people, and PPM was seeded number one. Since the organizers knew I was good, I was the number two seed. Play began. I was rusty-- I'd been working such long hours since joining Goldman that I'd barely picked up a paddle-- but soon I remembered my form. And nobody gave me a serious challenge. PPM and I plowed through our halves of the draw, heading toward an inevitable confrontation. I watched a couple of his matches. PPM's opponents were easy pickings: recreational players dressed in jeans and polo shirts. And PPM, looking very professional in his special sneakers and running shorts, T-shirt, and headband, was mopping them up. Of course he'd brought his own paddle-- a serious player would never show up without his own stick. And of course I'd brought along my trusty Donic Appelgren blade, red on one side, black on the other. Ted Simpson and I were looking on as PPM took down another player. "So what are we thinking here?" I asked Ted. "I"m going to meet this guy in the final, and if play properly, I'm going to beat him twenty-one to two. What' the right course of action?" Ted looked thoughtful. "Well," he said after a moment, "this guy is one of our biggest clients; he takes this stuff really seriously." At that moment, PPM whaled away at a forehand that just clipped the table edge and skipped off, unreturnable; he raised his arms in victory. "We need to make it a close game," Ted said. "Get some good rallies going." I told Ted I had been thinking along the same lines. That I should beat PPM, because it was obvious I could beat him, but that I should keep it close. Not embarrass him. I knew how to do that, I said. You just make a few unforced errors here and there. "Hmm," Ted said. "You have a different idea?" I asked. "Well, the guy is one of our biggest clients," he repeated, givingme a significant look. "You're suggesting--?" "Maybe," he said. And then: "Watch for my signal." I gave Ted a look-- he was smiling-- and took my Donic out of its case. The match began. A crowd had gathered to watch us play. Everybody was having fun-- except for my opponent, who was taking the match very seriously. When I won a few points in the early going, I could see him getting upset. So I eased up. I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear-- but I didn't. My whole plan was to keep the ball in play. To give the crowd a good show, instead of slicing the ball back when PPM smashed it at me, I would lob it up for him so he could smash it again. Smash, lob. Smash, lob. Oohs and has from the onlookers. After three or four exchanges like this, I'd either hit it into the net or give PPM such an easy pop-up that he could make a legitimate put-away on me. I was letting him show off for his fellow clients a little bit. He loved it. The matches were best two out of three, and my plan was to squeak out a win in the second game, then maybe win by just a little more in the third. But when I was ahead 15 to 12 in the second, Ted Simpson caught my eye. He gave a little shake of the head, and then, using his left hand as a shield, gave me a quick thumbs-down with his right. I'm quite sure nobody but Ted and I knew what was going on. I nodded. After all, wasn't putting the client first number one of John Whitehead's 14 Business Principles? The Putnam portfolio manger was very magnanimous in victory-- as i was in defeat. Greg Smith Quit Goldman Sachs After 'Unrealistic' Pitch For $1M [Bloomberg] Earlier: Greg Smith: Goldman Sachs Interns Taught Harsh But Important Lessons By Demanding But Affable Managing Directors; What Else Does Goldman Sachs Have In Store For Greg Smith?; Goldman Sachs Unimpressed By Sophomoric Writing Efforts Of Former Employee; Resignation Letter Reveals Goldman Sachs Is In The Business Of Making Money, Hires People Who Don’t Know How To Tie Their Shoes; Jewish Ping-Pong Tournament Participant / Sixth-Year Goldman Sachs Vice President Is Looking For His Next Challenge; Goldman Sachs Accuser Greg Smith (Might Have) Lied About That Which He Holds Most Sacred

Swamped

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. The NBA is through its first round of playoffs, there hasn't been a college board of a hundred games in over two months, and football is so far away that HBO still has a casting call out for Hard Knocks. Baseball's the main attraction, and baseball bettors are gentlemen and so old school the periodic table only has about 50 elements. How did we get here? It was one of those darkest-before-the-dawn moments, that moment that feels like it's darkest-before-it's-totally-black. I strolled in on the last day of the NBA regular season, a Thursday, fashionably late. He asked me where the hell I had been. I always show up late on summer Thursdays, and leave early. There's little baseball, and little else. But Faithful Assistant pointed to a screen and said “I'm fucking buried on the Wizards game”. The Washington Wizards are a bad basketball team. They were matched up against the Miami Heat, a very good basketball team. The Heat have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and that guy who Shaq said looks like Ru Paul. Except the market said the Heat didn't give a flying fuck about that game, and the Wizards were 8-point favorites. I asked him if maybe the Heat were the favorites. No, said Faithful Assistant, it was the Wizards. And our clients, all of whom fancy themselves smarter than the average bear, had bet $25K on the Wizards, -7.5, -8, -8.5, -9.5. So dump it, I said. We can lay off 50K with one phone call, usually more. “I can't. He's got jury duty.” What was this world coming to, bookmakers being summoned to sit on juries. So I told him to keep calling every half hour or so. In the meantime I'd handle any more Wizards bets myself. They kept calling for the Wizards. Over and over and over again. The market was -8, and I was dealing it -10 and getting buckets of abuse. “-10? Get outta here. ESPN says they're -8.” I quickly broke my clientele into two groups. The clients I didn't care about, I told them “OK, fine. Call up ESPN and give them your bet.” Some of them screamed. Several questioned my parentage. Most of them laid -10. My better clients got better treatment. I explained how the book was hopelessly one-sided and my layoff guy was “in court”. (I let them imagine he was the guy in the orange jumpsuit, not somebody who would be leaving by the front door.) I took their bet at -10, but told them that if and when my guy came through, I'd call them back and give them the -8. They thanked me like I was doing them a favor. Great. The first people who weren't angry all day. The pros called too. One nibbled on the Heat +8 at even money, but the rest passed. Court let out at 4:30. My guy didn't make the jury: something about his wife's job getting in the way. He took our bet for all we could eat at -7.5 and I started calling the clients back changing their -10 to not -8 but -7.5. People were thanking me as if I'd given them a kidney. Faithful Assistant's quick tally when the game tipped off saw him scream “We cannot lose!” I pointed out that while we would indeed win money, that wasn't the same as being invulnerable. For the sake of peace, love, and client happiness, we needed these lowly Wizards to win by a pile. Happy customers keep coming back, and there'd be no talk of conspiracies, fixed games off funny betting lines, and so on. The Wizards rolled. Up by 25 at half, they cruised to a 34-point win. The Heat played their B team all night. (The Tepid?) No LeBron, no Wade, no Ru Paul, no problem. The clients were ecstatic. One of them even sent us flash-frozen steaks. It's actually helped us change the summer baseball operation. Now when people call up looking for a team at such-and-such a price, if we don't have it and they're willing to leave the order open, we take the order and call them back when we fill it. A good client now calls us his “betting con-au-pairs”. I think he means “concierges”, but I don't speak French. Whatever. It's working out.

Maddeningly Bad Luck

March Madness has been a disaster: two of my best customers, who know each other, combined to go 2-for-39 on the first two weekends. Faithful Assistant has been laughing at their tought breaks, but I've been trying to soothe them. I need these guys to keep playing, losing, and paying. Their luck really has been atrocious. 18 of the losses have been by three points or less. One of them asked me if I'd ever heard anything worse. I guess there's Tsotomu Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the A-bomb dropped. Wounded, he figured he'd better get out of Dodge ASAP, so he barrelled home the next day – to Nagasaki. I reminded the client that his bad luck paled in comparison to Yamaguchi's, and that Yamaguchi lived another 65 healthy years...plenty of time to make more bets. But now I'm dealing with more than bad luck. These guys have now declared that sports are rigged. This month's point-shaving scandal at Auburn hasn't helped, and it brings others of recent years to mind. The NBA has Tim Donaghy. Overseas, it looks like half the Turkish soccer league is going to jail, and half of Italy has already been. I actually believe that most of sports are on the level. Disagree if you want, that's OK. But what really gets my goat are the people who think the bookies want the games rigged. We don't. If people think the games are fixed, and thus become afraid to bet, I'm out of business. It's the same story for the guy running a poker game or the CEO of a retail brokerage. No faith, no business. There's a really simple reason somebody with the available cash or credit can get down a $500,000 bet on the NFL, but might not be able to easily bet $50 on Wrestlemania: the market can take the $500,000 football bet, adjust the price slightly, and bettors will come for the other side. There is no market for Wrestlemania, because nobody trusts it. So these clients are generally miffed, but also fixated on one game: Syracuse vs. Kansas State. The price started moving 20 minutes before tip when a K-State star was ruled ineligible. These guys took the new price on K-State thinking they got a deal, when it was just the market reacting to information. Well, Syracuse rolled and now it's allegedly a “fix”. Of course it's not a fix—it's just betting dumb with less info than everybody else. They should have checked why the spread was moving. Emotion trumps reason, though, and there was no reasoning with these guys. And maybe that's why these guys bet with me instead of going online somewhere—they're so Old School, the building probably only had one room. If you want to be a pro gambler these days, there's a ton of free information all over the Internet. I'm not saying it's easy to win over time—it's not. But there's a bucket of info out there on any game you want to study, and all sorts of arcane stats to help inform your decisions. And since everyone else is studying, you better too. When I worked in Chicago, we had a good customer who worked at O'Hare. He would bring us out-of-town sports sections that travellers left behind as they boarded planes. We got useful injury information from beat writers in other cities that the rest of the Chicago market just didn't have. That was 20 years ago, but when I tell that story to Faithful Assistant, he usually asks if Orville and Wilbur Wright were flying the planes. He's been on the Internet since middle school, and pretends he can't remember life without it. So I'm not sure what to do with these guys—they bet six times a day, but haven't called since Saturday. I think I'll give them a free bet equivalent to what they lost on Kansas State. I know I don't have to, but I'm not willing to risk losing the business. That's the worst part of all this—and the reason why I'm trying to get out of this racket. I don't just need the customers to lose, I need them to lose slowly and have fun doing it. I'm not a psychiatrist trained to actually convince people that betting really is a random thing for the vast majority of gamblers and losing streaks just happen. I wonder if I should join the Army. I'm not much for getting shot, but I hear the poker games are good. Baseball starts next week and the guys who just bet bases are much easier to deal with. They understand the nature of a game where the very best teams win 65% of their games and the absolute worst teams still win 35% of the time. I can't wait. Anybody know if Tim Tebow needs someone to take his action? He's on every channel, everywhere.

Football? Yep. Oscars? OK. The VIX? Really?

I was scoring up the Super Bowl (small loss) when Ocean called. Ocean is a good customer. He had a couple questions, and I told him fire away. First he wanted to know if we were doing the Oscars again this year. Of course we are. I'm not thrilled about it –I'm half paranoid about inside information bubbling on the Internet, but I'm learning to embrace the inside mis-information. Most importantly, we do it as a service, so the customers won't start betting online with bookies in Costa Rica. Ocean was pleased. For what it's worth, he likes The Artist at very short odds. He watches rom-coms. With his wife, he says. His favourite movie though is Love Story, and he cries shamelessly every time he watches it: he truly believes that love means never having to say you're sorry. I've never figured that out. I'm forever apologizing to my wife for doing boneheaded things and saying stupid shit. And apologizing is a necessity But whatever. A happy customer is a beautiful thing. And I thought the phone call was over. And then Ocean said it. “What do you have on the VIX for this summer?” I asked him what the hell he was talking about because I didn't compute what I was hearing. He then said how he had been watching CNBC. He went to his mutual fund guy determined to buy the VIX, and the salesman blew him off with “Oh, that's just gambling”. So, hey, I must surely book the VIX, right, because I take bets from gamblers? Well I totally had my pants down and started mumbling about monthly contracts and the need to be a sophisticated investor and how there were a few products out there and...he cut me off. He understood how “the 1% were trying to make this complicated” and he just wanted a near-even-money type bet that the VIX would be over 30 at the end of June, as per the top of the screen on CNBC. I gave him the bet. 30's a pretty big number, and I figure this'll make me learn about trading the VIX instruments so I can lay it off if I want to. (I've never done anything more sophisticated than buy a put spread when I was afraid of a downturn. Go ahead, laugh.) 30's a lot. So I let him have it at 6-to-5. He was only expecting even money or slightly worse, so he was pleased. Ten minutes later I was using this episode as an object lesson for my Faithful Assistant, a guy who is muddling through an MBA while living in his parents' basement. Garage loft, I stand corrected. Anyway, good customers need to be kept happy, good customers lose, and happy customers pay. The Hollywood-movie days of kneecapping customers who stiff you were over before I was born, if they ever even existed, and—and the phone rang again. Ocean again, wanting an over/under number on where Apple would be in a couple months' time. Oh, and Facebook. I told him I would have to call him back. I started throwing coffee cups and in between my screams my Faithful Assistant told me he'd just pretend I have Tourette's. He's cold. Then he asked me what was going on. And after I told him, he smiled, and tried to give his boss an object lesson of his own: “This is great. You trade the odd option. All my electives are Finance. We just set the over-under price, I mean you KNOW he's going 'over', high enough that we can buy calls a couple strikes below that number. We use his bet to buy the calls, if he wins we clean up, and we're covered.” And when I asked what would happen to Ocean's bankroll over time, the answer came back that we would sodomize it. I just shook my head. My young friend may well end up in a business career where the necessary m.o. is to grab-it-all and grab-it-now, but that's not how my business works. I actually want my customers to win 45-50% of their bets, lose fairly small amounts over time, and never lose so much in one fell swoop that they can't pay or that they decide to stop playing. There's a purpose behind all that languid ritual at the Baccarat table in the high-limit room at the casino: try to keep the House's earn slow-and-steady. It makes the news when a whale beats Vegas for $10 million, or drops $10 million, but the casinos tolerate those lumpy earnings—aside from a little ink, they don't really want them. The casinos want everybody playing dollar-slots, losing three cents a spin. His eyes kind of glazed over, so I thought, what would Suze Orman do to get her point across? I figured Suze, to make the young'uns understand, would probably Go Gangsta. So I said “Look, we make money by drawing blood from our customers.” His eyes lit up as I continued: “We're blood collectors. We need a nice orderly blood bank. What you're proposing, is a drive-by.” (Well, I actually said “drive-thru”, but we sorted it out after a little confusion.) So we've told Ocean that these bets are going to be for peanuts and we're going to have fun with them. He's on board, and he's all excited. Faithful Assistant is going to make the numbers and I told Ocean to give us some requests for stocks he thought would go lower. “Oh you mean I could bet 'under' too? Not just 'over'?” Yep, 'under' too. February's a shit month in the bookie biz—the regulars are there, but football's over and it's a ways before March Madness. Ocean's stockpicking is going to keep me interested.

Undergraduate Business Major Has "A Very Simple Ultimatum, Actually" For Fellow Students

Have you ever been in a position where you needed to compel a group of your peers to do something they clearly have no interest in participating in? Where every time you sat down to craft an email, it became a back and forth between "playing it cool" and the desperation that all people reach when charged with the task of rallying people to attend, for instance, an event like the business versus engineering student Olympics? Where the internal monologue (and words that you end up typing on the page) are something like "You better fucking come to this thing...or don't I couldn't care less...no wait I was kidding...COME, YOU FUCKING FUCKS!...I mean, whatever...do what you want...I hate you...I hate you all so much that it's really no sweat off my sack whether you come or not, asshole shits. WHO CARES? ...but I'd just like to note that if you're not there so help me GOD you'll be sorry, not that it matters to me...". Where by the end of any such gig you've basically lost the patina of cool no matter what, so there's no real use in trying? Then you can related to one undergraduate business major who was pushed to that "end my rope" mode earlier today. From: [redacted] Date: March 22, 2012 12:14:11 PM EDT Subject: A quick note about our next bar crawl and the BBA v Engineering Olympics Hello, As you probably don't know because you stick my impact messages go straight to your trash folder, we are currently engaged in a week long competition against the engineers. However, there has been a very poor turnout from the Senior Class up to this point - especially in the athletic events. I don't understand your apathy nor do I care to but I will say this: THERE WILL NOT BE ANOTHER BAR CRAWL IF WE LOSE THE OLYMPICS. Furthermore, If we were to lose this competition because people just didn't show up I would just assume that there is a serious lack of interest in our events and go ahead and shut down Senior Night as well. For those of you who don't know, Senior Night is where we completely rent out a club and allow each senior a +1. It's something like a boozy college prom. It's a very simple ultimatum actually. If you don't help me destroy the engineers, I will not help you get wasted with your fellow BBA's. It makes no difference to me because honestly i don't even remember the last bar crawl. Eat at Pizza House before 4am and raise some money for a great cause and sign up to play some flag football and ultimate frisbee. There is also an after party at the Blue Lep from 6-8pm on Friday and I promise I'll let you drink out of the trophy cup. [redacted]

Bookie Confessional, Early Baseball Edition

Mike is my best baseball client. He bets three or four grand a night, spread out over the whole card. He can't possibly win over time. Sadly, such golden geese occasionally shit on the lawn. That's what Mike did Friday, when he called and asked me to give him another bookie's number. Nobody in particular—just anybody's. He wanted a second place to bet. Basically he was sitting at his regular table and asking the Maitre d' where ELSE he should go to dinner. I told him to call me back Saturday. Well, I fumed awhile, then it came to me. Mike had rarely talked to Faithful Assistant. I summoned Faithful Assistant and told him his dreams were about to come true: he was opening his own shop, with exactly one disposable cell phone, and exactly one very good customer. Turns out that wasn't Faithful Assistant's dream. His dream involves some newly single woman with expensive tastes: the weasel told me that if he was going to play this charade it was going to cost me a full 15% of Mike's losses on both phone numbers. I was outraged and we started negotiating and by the time we were done 15% had become 20%. After making a mental note never to negotiate with Faithful Assistant again, I picked up the phone to hire the new book's collection agent. Melody, a good customer's wife, asked me for a job a couple months back. I offered and she accepted this part-time gig as an audition. Mike had his new place to play, Faithful Assistant was angling for a raise to 30%, and I set up a Monday meeting with Melody to tell her how all this would go down. Melody was a quick study. Faithful Assistant was her boss-and-contact and she was supposed to pass by Mike's office every Tuesday afternoon to pay or collect. She wanted to know what to do if Mike didn't have the money. She was disappointed to learn she should do nothing, just call us. I don't think she wanted to break his legs, but I think she wanted to give him a serious telling off, preferably in front of people. Too bad—that's not the way it works. It's a non-issue anyway: Mike pays. Turns out the 20% I'm paying Faithful Assistant is money well spent: he quickly put together that Mike is betting the same teams with both our places. That might be the stupidest piece of betting I've ever laid my eyes on. He calls one number, bets the Yanks, then calls the second number and bets the Yanks again. His second price is almost always worse—how much worse, well, it depends on how greedy we feel. There is no logic to this—he ought to put his whole bet in at the first place he calls, or better yet call both joints for prices and put the bet in at the shop with the better price. (Faithful Assistant is routinely varying prices on the Mike Phone by a penny or two anyway.) The only way Mike's current plan would make sense is if Mike was putting in maximum sized bets and needed to get down two max bets whatever the cost – but that's not happening: Mike's just putting down a few hundred at each place. Aspiring MBA-er Faithful Assistant says that Mike is trying to spread out his “credit risk," so that if one shop goes bust owing him money, he still has the other. Our shenanigans aside, that helps Mike little: If you think your bookie can't pay, don't spread out your risk—just stop calling him and find someone else you're actually comfortable with. It's a bookie joint, not a bank. So we were a little surprised about this but the final shock was Melody's. Melody showed up on Tuesday at Mike's office to pick up $600. She won't have to bother going downtown anymore: She knows “Mike” well: their kids are best friends since they've been neighbors for nine years.

This Is A Story About The Obstacles Ray Dalio's Former Assistant Faced In Shipping A Bird The Boss Had Stuffed And Mounted After It Was Shot By A Client

It was a particularly windy day in Westport, CT and I delicately placed the mounted bird in my passenger seat, gingerly wrapping the seat-belt around its midsection without mussing the feathers. Carrying the bird in and out of the post office and several shipping stores became more hilarious each time. People stared. I smiled back. Finally though, when I’d reached the last place in the area that I could try before getting back to the office on time, I wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer. The clerk gave me a look of disbelief when I placed the bird on the counter and I said, “I need to ship this to Japan.” He just laughed at me. I then looked at him sternly and said, “This is no laughing matter. This bird needs to make it to Japan in flawless condition or I will lose my job.” The guy looked back at the bird and then back at me. By then I had used my acting skills and summoned some tears. Finally he agreed to try and crate the bird for shipment. I still don’t know to this day if it made it past customs, but I was satisfied that I had not given up on my task. [Dealbook, related]

Hedge Fund Manager Who Faked His Own Death Has A Few Theories About Other Famous Murders, Real And Imaginary

Remember Samuel Israel III? For those with short memories, SI3 is a former hedge fund manager who faked his own death in June 2008 with the help of his girlfriend, Debra Ryan, who later wrote an article explaining her actions by noting that she and Israel had "a blazing sex life" that was hard to walk away from (Ryan shared colorful anecdotes that included all the times Israel would "[jokingly] sneak up on her, once while wearing sunglasses on his penis"). For Israel's part, he had pretended to kill himself, incorporating a line from M*A*S*H into his fake suicide note, in an attempt to avoid the prison stay that was coming his way, on account of having taken Bayou Group investors for more than $450 million. At the time, he became something of a minor celebrity, whose business card, prominently featuring an egret, was auctioned off on eBay but since ultimately being sentenced to twenty years behind bars we'd heard nary a peep from the guy. Luckily, Andrew Ross Sorkin recently flew down to Butner, North Carolina for a little chat and it's a good thing he did because Israel had a lot he wanted to get off his chest. After offering ARS an "orange Life Saver," discussing his own version of a playoffs beard ("Mr. Israel...was wearing a tan prison uniform with his hair grown out, a mass of silver and brown curls sprouting from the sides of his bald head. 'I’m never going to cut it until I get out,' he exclaimed"), and talking Ponzi schemes, SI3 got down to the real matter at hand. About halfway through, the interview turned bizarre when Mr. Israel, on the verge of crying, announced: “I took a man’s life. I shot him twice.” I asked for more details. The story is recounted in “Octopus,” but the author, Mr. Lawson, doesn’t appear to believe it. In the supposed slaying, Mr. Israel describes himself defending a known con man, Robert Booth Nichols, who claimed to have once worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and has since died. Mr. Nichols was undertaking a secret trade at a German bank and was ambushed outside by a cockeyed “Middle Eastern guy.” Mr. Israel says he shot the ambusher in the hip and then in the head. He looked at me, shaking, and said, “I’ve seen someone with their head blown off maybe two feet back — as close as I am to you.” Mr. Israel recognized my skepticism. When I asked him what happened to the body, he said, “Bob made a couple of calls.” Again, I looked at him quizzically. “These people can do anything. They can get rid of a body,” he said. “Come on,” he added, looking at me as if I didn’t understand. “They can kill presidents.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “The J.F.K. thing,” he said. He went on to tell me that he had videotapes of Kennedy’s assassination and that one was stolen by the F.B.I. “I know it makes me look like a crackpot,” he said. “But I know it’s real. Look into my eyes — I don’t care if people think I’m crazy.” Egrets. A Con Man Who Lives Between Truth And Fiction [Dealbook]