You’ve no doubt heard the term on countless movies. But what is a bookie exactly? And how does a bookmaker make a living taking bets on sports events?
According to Forbes, legalized sports gambling has only increased in popularity in recent years. In fact, it’s at the point now where over $10 billion dollars are being exchanged each year.
Not just that, but the number of online sports betting platforms is growing at a substantial rate. You see Fantasy Sports and the like every Sunday when you watch football, but plenty of boutique gambling options are out there now, too.
Bookmakers are largely responsible for this growth, and if you’re considering becoming your own boss, this is one way you can make a living.
In this article, we’ll look at a day in the life of a bookie.
What Is A Bookmaker?
A bookie is a slang term for ‘bookmaker‘, or someone that collects bets on sports or other events. Bookmakers, either on their own or as part of an organization, set the odds on events before a bet is agreed upon.
For example, if the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks were playing, and the Knicks were heavy favorites, the bookmaker might set the odds at +8.0. This means potential bettors will predict whether the Knicks win by 8 points or more.
If the Knicks win by 10 points, the bookmaker then pays out the predetermined odds on the event. For example, the winner might receive $1.50 for every $1.00 they bet. A $100 bet would net those who predicted correctly a payout of $150, which comes out of the bookmaker’s pocket.
Technology And Betting
The various formats for betting available online now make a bookie’s job more diverse than ever. It used to be that you had to call in to place a bet, usually at a large-scale operation with thousands of bets being placed on each individual event.
Now, it’s different. Payments, for example, are more diverse than ever. You can still bet with money online, but you can also use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, too. The obvious difference is that cryptocurrency’s prices fluctuate by the hour, so you are also wagering on the stability of prices when you use this to bet.
Technology also makes it more convenient than ever for bettors to put money down on events. Instead of making phone calls, most price per head sportsbook services now offer great technology tools, like easy-to-use online interfaces. Bookmakers nowadays don’t need a ton of facetime with their customers to take on bets.
Balancing The Book
The first lesson on bookie gambling is learning how to balance a book or protect yourself from losing substantial amounts of money on one single event. Good bookmakers set the odds in a way that ensures he’ll make approximately the same amount of money regardless of who wins or loses a game.
While this can limit how much a bookie makes at one time, it also protects him. Depending on your budget as a bookie, having to pay out tens of thousands of dollars on one upset might destroy your business.
To put it simply, balancing the books is about giving fair odds to both options. If one team is a heavy favorite, for example, the payout on a large bet won’t be big. You can entice people to gamble on the underdog by setting favorable payouts. The more balanced the number of bets placed (and the overall cash amount) acts as an insurance policy.
An example of a balanced bet is last year’s Super Bowl, where the New England Patriots were perceived as 2-point favorites over the Los Angeles Rams. The two teams were very close, so setting close odds helps protect bookmakers from losing substantial amounts of money. Neither team winning would’ve been considered an “upset“.
Is Being A Bookie Safe?
Bookmakers are given a bad wrap in Hollywood, often portrayed as slimeballs or untrustworthy fellows looking to make a quick buck. But as you saw by the sheer number of people engaging in online gambling, this simply isn’t true.
Today, being a bookie is not only possible but profitable for anyone willing to take the time to grow a client base. The key to growing a successful venture is to start in a niche, perhaps just one sport that you’re familiar with.
(Actually, in terms of your day-to-day life as a bookie, prepare to watch a lot of sports games. It’s best to pick one you really enjoy.)
Since there are tons of options online for gambling, it’s important that you build your reputation as being trustworthy, easy to place bets with, and above all, quick on your payouts.
Your most loyal customers likely bet on a regular basis, and your competition will steal them if you aren’t on top of people’s money. Gambling is a lucrative business, but since a lot of money is being exchanged, it can be intense.
That isn’t to say it’s not totally safe if you take the necessary precautions and treat it like a business.
Being A Bookmaker: Wrap-Up
Besides your newly adopted bookie slang, being a bookmaker is totally an option in today’s internet-driven world. The key to longevity in sports betting is to protect yourself by balancing bets and to leverage technology so that the user experience is seamless for your clients. It’s a competitive industry with lots of money being tossed around, so people will find someone else to work with if you aren’t on top of your game.
Top 3 Myths About Bookies, Hollywood’s Misconceptions
Hollywood’s portrayal of gambling is wrong for so many reasons. We’ve gathered our favorite myths about gambling and about bookies here.
While the gambling world has long been full of colorful characters, Hollywood’s portrayal of gambling and bookies never covers the spread. There is a huge gulf between what modern-day bookies are and how they’re characterized in film.
The same goes for gamblers, too. What you see in a major motion picture is often a short cut characterization or a cliche. Every day gamblers and bookies are far different than what you may think.
Here are some of the biggest myths about gambling that need busted.
1. All Bookies are Gangsters
While gambling has always been part of the underworld economy, not all bookies were or are tied to organized crime.
Yes, the history of gambling in America is full of mafia influence. When there was no legal gambling outside of Las Vegas, the mafia ran gambling rings all over the country to supply the demand for gaming.
Stories of mobsters in Las Vegas, Arnold Rothstein and the 1919 World Series Black Sox scandal and the more recent NBA point-shaving scandal have all found their way into beloved films and literature like Casino, Goodfellas, and The Great Gatsby.
Why? Because organized crime fascinates Americans, and scandals make for captivating stories. One of Hollywood’s faults is the constant focus on the dark side of gambling culture.
The truth is, most bookies these days are everyday people you know. The guy who runs your office fantasy football league is a bookie. So is the person who organizes your office block pool, or your Kentucky Derby day bets.
With the proliferation of legalized sports gambling, handicappers now exist in the light rather than in the dark margins of illegal activity. There is software available for anyone with enough skill to organize and run their own legal sportsbook.
2. All Gamblers are Degenerates and Risk Takers
This is one of the most harmful Hollywood misconceptions. If you’ve seen The Hustler and The Color of Money, you may think of all gamblers as Fast Eddie Felson. Loose cannons who take massive risks and pay a dreadful price.
This isn’t true. Problem gamblers exist. Some gamblers find themselves in serious trouble. However, gambling is too popular for every gambler to be one of these characters.
Your average gambler is a person who enjoys gambling as a diversion and a way to make a quick buck. Have you ever seen a charter bus pull into a casino? You know that Fast Eddie Felson and people like him are the exceptions and not the rule.
3. Sports Gamblers are All Down on Their Luck Chumps
One of the major tenets of a plot is rising action. This rising action comes from a character’s desire for something. That desire drives the character through the plot, increasing action as the story moves forward.
What does a sports gambler always need in a film? Money. They made a bad bet, they owe money, and now have to go to great lengths to find it or win it back.
The truth is, big-time sports gamblers are some of the smartest, most money-savvy people around. To learn the ins and outs of sports gambling is similar to learning the rules of Wall Street.
Gambling Isn’t Hollywood
People enjoy gambling in such high numbers. Not all gamblers are who Hollywood portrays them to be. Most gamblers are boring!
The same is true for bookies. Most bookies and gamblers are ordinary people. These people enjoy gambling as a fun way to blow a few hours or make easy money.
Do you think you have what it takes to start your own sportsbook? Sign up today for a free trial.
Hopefully, this answers the question, “what is a bookie?“
Check out our beginner’s guide for more.