That’s how you play the game.

My father was a numbers (illegal lottery) bookie in Downtown Jersey City from the ’50s through the ’80s. Back when he ran his operation out of a candy store on Fourth and Grove (back when there was a Fourth and Grove), a new customer — who we shall call Jake — started betting a significant amount every day.

After placing his now routine daily numbers, Jake had a query “Tony, do you take baseball action?”

Back then bookies were specialists; numbers guys didn’t take sports bets; sports guys didn’t take track (horse) bets. My father was about to say, no, but instead nodded in the affirmative.

“OK here’s fifty for the Whirlybirds on Saturday.”

After Jake left someone who hung out in the candy store — George — had a question. “You’re takin’ sports now, Tony?”

“Nah, I jus’ didn’ wan’ ta chase a spender. I’m gonna run aroun’ the corner and han’ it over to Sal.”

“Yah, know, there’s somethin’ uncanny abou’ tha’ Jake. Whadevah team he bets on always loses.”

A little later while walking over to the neighborhood sports bookie, my father thought about what George had said. “Sal, the Whirlybirds are playin’ this Saturday?”

“Yeah. Gainsda Pitchforks.”

“OK. Here’s fifty on the Pitchforks.”

For that entire season, every time that Jake placed a bet on a team, my father instead put it on the opposition. He wound up having to pay out only once or twice.

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About Anthony Olszewski

Anthony Olszewski has written on a wide variety of topics: cage birds, tropical fish, popular culture, the poetry of Amiri Baraka and a chapter on genetics for a veterinary text book, as a small sample. He worked as an editor at a magazine produced by TFH, the world's largest publisher of pet books. Anthony Olszewski is the author of a booklet on Hudson County history, Hudson County Facts, and a book of short stories, Second Thief, Best Thief, that are sold on Amazon. Anthony Olszewski established PETCRAFT.com in 1996. A pioneer on the Web, the Site continues to provide unique information on a range of companion animals, focusing on birds and fish. As a community service, he operates Jersey City Free Books. Anthony Olszewski was born in Jersey City, NJ (Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, 1956) and is a member of Mensa.
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