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 includes money for one of her clients. Vera’s a bookie and also a runner, and to be clear, Vera’s not her real name.
She’s a small-time bookie, or even a bookmaker, a person who takes stakes and makes commission off them. She books soccer tickets and collects them from bars, theater stagehands, workers at job sites, and at times building supers. Printed on the tickets that are the size of a supermarket are spreads for college football and NFL games. At precisely the exact same time, she’s a”runner,” another slang term to describe somebody who delivers spread or cash numbers to some boss. Typically bookies are men, not women, and it is as though she is on the pursuit for new blood, searching for young gamblers to enlist. The newspaper world of soccer betting has sunk in the face of the wildly popular, embattled daily dream sites like FanDuel or even DraftKings.
“Business is down because of FanDuel, DraftKings,” Vera says. “Guy wager $32 and won two million. That’s a load of shit. I want to meet him” There’s a nostalgic feel to circling the numbers of a football spread. The tickets have what seem like hints of rust on the borders. The college season has ended, and she did not do that bad this year, Vera states. What is left, though, are swimming pool stakes for the Super Bowl.
Vera started running numbers back when she was fourteen years old at a snack bar where she was employed as a waitress. The chef called on a telephone in the hallway and she’d deliver his bets to bookies for horse races. It leant an allure of young defiance. The same was true when she first bartended from the’80s. “Jimmy said at the beginning,’I’m going to use you. Just so you know,”’ she says, remembering a deceased boss. “`You go into the pub, bullshit together with the boys. You’re able to talk soccer with a guy, you are able to pull them in, 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 underwent radioactive treatment and denied chemo.
Dead managers left behind customers to conduct and she’d oversee them. Other runners loathed her in the beginning. They could not understand why she would have more clientele . “And they’d say,’who the fuck is the donkey, coming over here taking my occupation? ”’ she states just like the men are throwing their dead weight about. On occasion the other runners duped her, for instance a runner we’ll call”Tommy” maintained winnings that he was supposed to hand off to her . “Tommy liked to put coke up his noseand play cards, and he enjoyed the women in Atlantic City. He would go and give Sam $7,000 and fuck off using the other $3,000. He tells the supervisor,’Go tell the wide.’ And I says, ‘Fuck you. It’s like I’m just a fucking broad to you. I really don’t count. ”’ It’s obviously forbidden for a runner to devote cash or winnings intended for customers on private vices. But fellow runners and gambling policemen trust her. She never speaks bad about them, their characters, winnings, or titles. She whines if she doesn’t make commission. She says she can”keep her mouth closed” which is why she’s be a runner for nearly 25 decades.
When she pays clients, she exchanges in person, never secretly leaving envelopes of cash behind toilets or under sinks in tavern bathrooms. Over time, though, she has lost up to $25,000 from guys not paying their losses. “There’s a lot of losers out there,” she explained,”just brazen.” For the football tickets, she capital her own”bank” that’s self-generated, nearly informally, by establishing her value on the success of this school year’s first few weeks of stakes in the fall.
“I ai not giving you no more amounts,” Vera says and beverages from her black stripes. Ice cubes turn the whiskey to a lighter tan. She reaches for her cigarettes and zips her coat. She questions the recent alterations in the spread for the weekend’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos and squints in her drink and overlooks the bartender. Her moves timber, as her ideas do. The favorability of the Panthers has shifted from three to four four-and-a-half to five fast from the last week. She needs the Panthers to win by six or seven to allow her bet for a victory, and forecasts Cam Newton will direct them to a double-digit win over Peyton Manning.
External, she lights a cigarette before going to a new bar. Someone she did not want to see had sat in the first one. She says there’s a man there who will harass her. She proceeds further north.
In the next pub, a poster tacked to the wall past the counter indicates a 100-square Super Bowl grid “boxes.” “Are you running any Super Bowls?” Vera asks.
To acquire a Super Bowl box, at the end of each quarter, the last digit of the teams’ scores will need to match the number of your selected box in the grid. The bartender hands Vera the grid. The bar lights brighten. Vera traces her finger across its own outline, explaining that when the score is Broncos, 24, and Panthers, 27, from the next quarter, that’s row 4 and column . Prize money varies each quarter, and the pool just works properly if pub patrons buy out all 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. Each of the Bills knelt and prayed for this area goal. “Cops in the 20th Precinct won. It had been 0 9,” she says, describing the box amounts that matched 0 and 9. However, her deceased boss squandered the $50,000 pool within the course of this year, spending it on lease, gas and cigarettes. Bettors had paid payments throughout the entire year for $500 boxes. Nobody got paid. There was a”contract on his life.”
The bartender stows a white envelope of money before attaching an apricot-honey mix for Jell-O shots. Vera rolls up a napkin and spins it in a beer that seems flat to give it foam.
“For the very first bookie I worked for, my name was’Ice,’ long before Ice-T,” she says, holding out her hands, rubbing at which the ring with her codename would match. “He got me a ring, which I lost. Twenty-one diamonds, created’ICE. ”’ The bookie told her he had it inscribed ICE because she was”a cold-hearted bitch.”

Read more: