Teddy_Covers's Blog

Vegas Wiseguy Report: 'Life on the Line'

By Teddy_Covers | View all Posts
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013 01:45 AM   7 comments

I write about sports every week.  Next week in this space, I’ll be writing about Super Bowl props.  Two weeks from now, it’ll be all about college basketball through the end of March Madness.  But not today.  Today, I’m going to write about movies.  Nobody needs two full weeks of Super Bowl hype!

There are no great sportsbetting movies --none.  Hollywood has produced a handful of great gambling movies – The Sting, Casino, Rounders, The Hustler and Croupier certainly stand out.  But when it comes to anything resembling realism in a sports betting movie, it doesn’t exist.  Every bettor in a Hollywood sportsbetting movie is a compulsive addict; every bookmaker is evil and they always win. 

There are no exceptions in this tried and true Hollywood formula.  If Richard Dreyfuss isn’t uncontrollably gambling on every race in ‘Let it Ride’, then Matthew McConaughey is forcing his clients into bankruptcy and letting his entire career path depend on a coin-flip in ‘Two for the Money’.  Even Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn couldn’t save last year’s ‘Lay the Favorite’; just more tripe from the big budget studios.  No wonder it’s so hard for new sports betting projects to get the green light!

So when I was contacted by an aspiring young Hollywood filmmaker who wanted to make a legitimate documentary about betting on the Super Bowl, of course I was interested!  The young director, Isaac Feder, was most assuredly not a sportsbettor himself.  The guy was a true novice; a total square.  But he was absolutely fascinated with our world here in Las Vegas, and he wanted to tell our story.


Feder didn’t just contact me – he contacted a virtual who’s who of the Las Vegas betting world.  Legendary oddsmaker Jay Kornegay and the LVH agreed to host; even allowing Isaac to bring his cameras into the back rooms at the sportsbook, a place that most bettors never see.  Well -known local sports talk radio hosts Brian Blessing and Ken Thompson got involved in the project as well.

And the bettors profiled weren’t caricatures – they were real, Las Vegas bettors.  Two time Supercontest champion Steve Fezzik came onboard.  So did hedge fund manager John Netto, who now appears regularly on both Bloomberg TV and CNBC.  Longtime Vegas professional bettors like Erin Rynning, Bryan Leonard, Bruce Marshall and Alf Musketa agreed to participate.  Even former mayor Oscar Goodman got on camera for a handful of memorable scenes.  All of a sudden, Feder’s low budget little movie had a pretty solid cast of characters.

Shooting the movie was easy – we just got mike'd up and let the cameras roll.  There were no second takes – this was a documentary, after all, not a scripted Hollywood production.  What we said was what we said, what we did was what we did, and what we bet was what we bet. 

There was no hidden agenda behind the project either.  Feder just wanted to capture the story as an unbiased observer.  Who are these bettors? Who are these bookmakers?  What are they thinking on a daily basis?  Why do they make the bets that they do? 

And what better way to do that than to follow us around for the week of the Super Bowl XLV as the Packers and Steelers squared off at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington.  So, Feder and his skeleton crew followed us around all week.  And they shot what I thought was a pretty cool movie, ‘Life on the Line’.  The key?  Authenticity! 

Never before has there been a movie that more authentically nails the experience of being a professional bettor.  We haven’t seen a movie that captures the electricity of a packed sports book on the biggest betting day of the year.  And we’ve never watched a movie that gives a real look at the bookmakers at work and their thought processes when setting and adjusting numbers.

The movie also established the love/hate relationship that bettors have with one another.  Wiseguy bettors scurry around town in a race to get the very best numbers before another sharp bettor can scoop them up into his own portfolio.  Yet despite that competition, there’s a real sense of camaraderie as we share information – the bigger battle is against the books, not each other.

The end result was a movie that truly celebrates Las Vegas.  Yes, Super Bowl XLVII kicks off in New Orleans on the first Sunday of February.  But, like every sports bettor in the world, I’d rather be watching the game and soaking up the culture right here in Sin City than watching it in person in The Big Easy.

We shot the movie two years ago.  There was editing to be done, music rights to deal with, all of that post-production stuff that we never see.  Over the course of the 2012 calendar year, Feder submitted the movie to festivals and shopped it around to networks.  But like so many sports betting TV pilots that have been shot here in recent years, it was too hot for the studios to handle.   The movie was in danger of sitting dormant forever, as the Super Bowl that it documented slowly drifted further and further into the rear view mirror.

Feder did not want this project to die on the vine.  For those of us in the movie, it was a week of our lives documented on film.  For Feder, it was a two year labor of love.  The end result was a movie that’s not going to be shown in theatres.  Instead, it’s the perfect 21st century piece, available for download online beginning on Sunday, January 27th. 

And what better place for an authentic Vegas movie than an authentic Vegas website – Anthony Curtis’ Lasvegasadvisor.com, a site that ‘in-the-know’ locals and savvy out of town guests have been visiting for years.  For less than five bucks, you can watch the 55 minute film from start to finish, and soak in the world that professional bettors like me live in every day.

I interviewed Feder for this column, and of course, like any guy from LA, he gave me a real Hollywood quote.   “There are so many similarities between Hollywood and Vegas.  People come from all over the country to take their shot on the big stage; the pinnacle of their profession.  Every bettor that moves to Las Vegas is a longshot to succeed, just like every actor or filmmaker that moves to Hollywood.  And there are no shortcuts to success either – if you’re not good enough at sportsbetting or movie making, you’re not going to last, a true meritocracy in both professions.  That’s what makes it so interesting to examine how the winning bettor and the winning bookmaker both manage to survive.”

You can view the movie trailer right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EogvyCCXOs  If you bet on sports or have any interest in betting on sports, I’d strongly recommend that you check it out.

7 comments
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go_opp says:
01/21/13 11:24PM
Watched trailer and it's awesome! Can't wait for the 27th!
toddwins says:
01/22/13 07:14PM
Looks like a winner!
EazyE11 says:
01/27/13 04:01PM
Where can we watch the entire movie? Today is the 27th. Is it online somewhere? Thanks again.
magicman1642 says:
01/28/13 09:39AM
Watched it last night, gl on the big game this year, hope all is well with your wife and new baby, Decent movie, thought there might be more for the book, but all in all enjoyable. Lets go ravens
glue-sniffer says:
01/28/13 06:50PM
I liked the movie in general, but way too much time spent on obnoxious tourists blabbering about nothing. Can't see the point of including them, as they were not funny and added zero substance.

The parts profiling the wiseguys was OK, but even then I would have liked to have seen how they come up with their advantage plays. Computer models? Intuition? What sets these guys apart from everybody else?

A must see for Vegas sportsbettors, but just a lukewarm endorsement for everybody else.

sincitydealer says:
01/29/13 04:46AM
For the most part I liked the movie. My favorite part was when Teddy Covers got pissed at the "Square Sharp" who claimed he was a 75% to 80% winner. Teddy's vien in his neck became inflated and challenged the man to a bet. I tend to believe these people who make this claim because they do not put in the same volume of bets that Teddy does. Before I started doing high volume in sports betting, I could easily claim a percentage like this because I would wait for rare opportunities such as the -24 point spread against the Patriots a few years ago when the Patriots won every game but the SuperBowl. My friend who was watching the movie with me said he would like to take the challenge from Teddy. All he would have to do is win one bet and stop and his win rate for that week would be 100% and Teddy would be out $1000.
NBA2H says:
01/30/13 03:42PM
I'm surprised ESPN couldn't be convinced to put it in their 30 for 30 group, considering Bill Simmons helped create that franchise and certainly has a bunch of sports gambling material on his site.
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