Mistakes To Avoid As A Bookie

Choose Your Customers Wisely

Most of what is contained on this page deals with common sense.  At the top of the list is what type of customers you take on. As with any business, the point is making a profit. You can have written a net $100,00 worth of winners in a particular week, but the only figure that really matters is how much of that you then collect.

While there is no way to guarantee that you will collect in full from a customer, there are some very basic things to consider when accepting new customers.

Obviously, ability to pay is a prime concern

Simple things like where he works, what type of car he drives, or the way he dresses can give indications about what type of scratch this man should have when you are due to collect.

If the guys says he can meet you to settle up anytime before midnight because that’s when his shift starts at Shell, keep a close eye on his figure. If he gets more than a few hundred dollars down, you are getting to a situation where he may owe you a couple weeks’ salary. Customers who earn a small income and make small plays ($100 to $200 a game) are worth having.

A player like that will lose several thousand dollars in a year’s time, and, if dealt with correctly, he will also pay several thousand dollars in a year’s time. What he can’t afford to do is lose and pay several thousand dollars in a week.

Keep an eye on his figure, remind him (in a respectful manner) that all money owed is expected to be paid, and, if need be, have an arrangement with him where his settle up figure is $500, or anytime it gets to $1000. If he has had a bad run at the end of the week and his figure is $1200 on Friday morning, he is not allowed to play until he meets you and gets his figure back to zero. What this prevents is his losing another $1200 before settle up day rolls around and owing you almost $2500. Again be respectful, but keep in mind that your main goal is to collect as much as possible.

Avoid Letting Customers Get Too Far Behind

Preventing a customer from getting completely buried is a way to make sure he continues playing and continues paying. You can collect $500 from a small-time player 10 to 12 times a year. When he loses that amount in one week is when he feels overwhelmed and decides to just not pay at all. Keep him under control, monitor his figure and consider adjusting his settle terms.

A specific scenario to be conscious of is when a newcomer calls you out of the blue halfway through a season and says, “So and so gave me your number, and he says he has been a customer for years and bla, bla, blah.” This guy is wanting to start an account and knows one of your customers.

Usually you want your current customers to spread  your name around like butter, hoping to get interest of a potential player in just this manner. Two things about this situation: first, tell your current customers to always let you now if they have given your number to someone and second, have them give you the reason this guy is starting to gamble halfway through the season.

Maybe he has just moved into town, maybe he has never wagered before and wants to start or maybe he has just run out on a debt with another bookmaker in town and has to find a new place to play.

Don’t assume that all new callers are in this situation, but I can guarantee you that some are. Again, make sure that your current customers know to call you before their buddy calls you. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the potential customer without him already having your number.


You can risk losing your entire business trying to collect $400 from a customer who refuses to pay, but why? In the life of every bookmaker there are deadbeats who inspire the use of swear words and blunt objects. Cursing those customers is fine; doing your best O.J. on those customers is not the way to go.

If you enter this line of work, you are accepting that from time to time there will be customers whom you pay when they have won and then, when it is their turn to pay you, they will become invisible. No use in getting into specifics here, as it will only serve to anger, and the quality of the writing goes way down when that happens.

What you need to always keep in the front of your mind is that the longer you operate smoothly, the more profit you make. Be mad, be angry, be unpleasant, but also be open for business. If Wal-Mart were to set the hounds loose on every 9-year-old who swiped a Snickers, the profit margin on the candy aisle would increase, but the store itself would soon be closed. The same thing occurs in your business.

Understand going in that you may write $800,000 worth of winners during college basketball season, but you ain’t gonna collect all of that. Wal-Mart figures in losses due to theft, and it seems to do all right every year. You should do the same.


This section could also be titled “Laziness.”

  • If you have locked your keys in your car and you have six cell phones and 30 Las Vegas schedules in the backseat, you probably don’t want to flag down a policeman and ask him to help you unlock your door. Pay the $40 and wait the hour for a locksmith to come.
  • If you are filing tax returns that show $9,000 of income for the past year, you need to take the few extra days it may require to have your brother or best friend or whoever go to the dealership and buy the $53,000 Mercedes. After that person has purchased it, you can “borrow” it to do your running around in. Have as little as possible in your name.
  • If the walls of your office are so thin that you can hear the business conversations of the people next door, odds are they can hear yours. Take a few days to find a more suitable spot, hire some movers, and vacate quickly. Remain anonymous at all costs.
  • If you are in the habit of going to bars or strip clubs, getting drunk, and flashing around stacks of cash, you should start drinking alone. You are setting yourself up for, at best, a robbery, or, much worse, being turned in by a dancer or disc jockey or bartender needing to cut a deal with the police.

These are just a few examples of things we have either witnessed or experienced. Do whatever you must to remain in business. This means sometimes you will not be able to take every shortcut, and sometimes you will actually have to do some work. With 95 percent of your workdays consisting of about three hours of work, those occasional days shouldn’t be too much of a burden.

If you do take necessary care to remain anonymous and to act responsibly while you are the main (only?) employee, you should soon be able to hire a clerk or two. At that point you can be much more immature and frivolous.


The root of all evil, right? Well, if not, they are definitely not a positive cash-flow situation, and in this business, it is even more so. Ways women can cause you trouble as a bookmaker?

  • Sometimes a customer’s wife really may find his schedule and phone numbers, but the kind of woman that will ruin your situation won’t threaten the husband first. She will go straight to the police from the outset. This is mostly out of your control. We will label it “bad luck.”
  • In Toronto, we had two main area codes, 647 and 416. As the 1996 football season began we, of course, got new phone numbers. After about a week of being open, I got a call one night on the office line from a woman saying, “If your customers don’t quit calling my house trying to make bets, I am gonna call the police and give them this number!”

When securing the new cell phone numbers, we had been unlucky enough to get the same number as this individual, only we had the 647, while she had the 416. This also goes into the “bad luck” category but is made worse by the “some of your customers must be morons” category. I remade the tape that night, and before any lines were listed, reminded all callers that our numbers began with 647. After opening the tape with that for about the next week, it seemed the problem had solved itself.

What made it frustrating is that only a woman would have called and reacted the way she did. I don’t think a man would have called at all, and if he did he probably would have asked to get some action on the Monday night game.

  • Under the “hell hath no fury” heading, women who have become ex-wives and ex-girlfriends are prime candidates to bring your operation to the attention of the police. Women are mean, spiteful creatures when they have been wronged and exact unreasonable measures of revenge.

Hell, I had an ex-favorite stripper threaten to call the police when I started getting my table dances from another girl at the club I frequented. Be careful when getting involved with a woman, as far as letting her know all the nooks and crannies of your business.

Point to remember: The slightest fit of laziness or stupidity or greed can lead to had things for you. When you are establishing your business, work hard and work intelligently.

The spoils of bookmaking will be yours soon enough, and you can then hire a clerk or a pay per head company like Realbookies to take most of the day-to-day burden of the business off your shoulders. Until that time, use as much common sense as you can muster and bide your time. If you have a good work ethic and good decision-making, your rewards are just around the corner.