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"The Smart Money: A Memoir" by Michael Konik

As sports betting continues to rise, this book reads like a reality show/documentary.

We bought this book as early as 2012 but it's only now that it has been fully read. What do we think? Pretty cool, as it writes in a way that's perfect for a documentary series (take note, VICE). Along with some dry but hilarious humor, I think the eager sports fan, sports bettor of all levels, or fans of memoirs will take away something from this.

Let's get one thing out of the way: Some reviewers have complained about not finding tips from this book about handicapping. Did they read the fine print on the book? A MEMOIR, it says on the front of the book. (I don't think it's a conspiracy: some social media platforms aim to shorten people's attention spans, which may explain why many folks don't have the patience, nor the desire, to read.)

Not all memoirs will spill secrets throughout their story-telling. This is why we read the preface and any notes written as a "pregame" introduction before the actual feature presentation. Author Konik may not have made that clear, but don't assume he'll let some secrets slip. It is sports betting after all, and if one person knows the technique, inside information, and secret(s), then it's no longer fun to bet, is it? Think about that, as we digress.

First chapters, you get the most thorough introduction we have ever read in a book. I have never seen such descriptive adjectives presented so eloquently. If you want to increase your vocabulary, you'll get and learn a bunch of them from the first chapters. Konik gradually then dives deep into the people he met and collaborated with, some who have "the ties" with those who are big time bettors. That big bettor goes by Rick "Big Daddy" who runs a little gang hired to place high-limit bets on sporting events, mostly on college sports and some on the Super Bowl and NBA Finals. Does that sound like a great side hustle? Not so fast, as Konik describes the operations and the confidentialities involved when trusted and been given a lot of money to carry these tasks; When we say "a lot of money," we're talking about six- to seven-digit paper money. This money is often delivered by a runner...with a pistol in hand. You've seen it in movies: Break your promise and you're done—permanently done. Throughout the book, it feels like Konik walks on needles, mice traps and lava rocks, trying to place bets while juggling to keep the money on hand without it being inspected, confiscated and/or stolen. It's quite suspenseful.

Along with working for 'the boss,' and being paid for his labor, you learn of the expenses and the "rich" life he experiences with his girlfriend Vivian. Like any other humble male, he's just a writer but gets to live like he's a multi-billionaire. It's neat, and really does make you feel like you should spend that time in Las Vegas. However, during this "job" he kept pursuing, in accordance with this writing gigs, his girlfriend remains pretty nonchalant yet somewhat supportive of his ventures and tasks. Heck, even she has to swear unto secrecy when Konik goes on to carry and fulfill the daily tasks he's assigned. Speaking of his assigned tasks, there are times when Konik has to fly to Vegas, in person, placing bets as there are times he can do it remotely, so it feels like watching a livestream of a man going about his daily work.

Like with any bettor, you also get a feel of Konik's losing bets. Some made him so petrified in fear that his boss Big Daddy would eventually cut him off. You can feel those heart-stopping moments through Konik's words. Again, like a regular employee going about his duties, there are those days when you thought you worked hard but not enough to make you jeopardize your entire employment with the company...until it actually does. In addition, Konik got in touch with former schoolmates and eventually learned of their lives after school, along with collaborating with some new "worker" for Big Daddy. What about Konik's former schoolmates? Getting them into the beauty of sports betting, along with the art of Probability, Game Theory and advanced computer programming, most, if not all, of those schoolmates went on to pursue their own operations similar to Big Daddy. You read that right: It only takes one person to make a impact in your life.

Push comes to shove, Konik eventually hit a zenith in his relationship with Vivian, affecting his emotions and concentration, despite all the phone calls, the yelling, the swearing/cursing fights he would have with her, and the winning bets he almost never got paid for with bookmakers. It took a toll not only on Vivian, but he himself. As Konik tried to get back and move on, this was where my favorite part was. Even someone like Big Daddy reached out to let him know he's there for him, which I thought was sweet. Yes, even high-rolling sports bettors are human beings. Reason I liked that part is because it's a gesture you don't witness often from bosses/employers. In reality, companies swear they pamper and care for their employees but really don't. (Personally, I've worked for companies quietly known for high turnover rates. I'm not sure why I put myself through all that stress, but hey, we all are trying to survive.)

As things looked up again, Konik gave overseas betting a try remotely. According to his experience and tasks, it sounds more stressful than domestic betting, dealing with bookmakers who may or may not be honest enough to pay their losing bets.

Near the end of the book, Konik quietly called it quits and went on to continue living his real life.

You're thinking, "wow Kris, so it's just a book about a man having a job?" Well, this wasn't "just" a job. Would you work for a high roller, who's been banned on all casinos, trying to keep anonymous and tight-lipped, in exchange to living the rich life that many people dreamed of experiencing or living? Given today's standards, and our current economic status, that's hard to achieve but also tough to turn down. Just like in the movies, one tiny leak could cost you your trust and possibly your life. Would I do it? Unlikely, as there's a picture of me here on this website so even changing my looks wouldn't help. Plus, with facial recognition technology being implemented in our daily lives, and even our cell phones, it'll be too easy to track and find out who I am. Good thing Konik did it when he could!

Konik made it clear that he changed names and the "operative company" he worked for to avohd any kind of trouble (they are still in business). Nowadays, according to our research, there are small companies specializing in doing the number crunching and giving you the best odds and best sports picks without all the hassles. One caveat: Their subsription services aren't cheap.

As we are big fans of VSiN—Vegas Sports Insider Network since 2021, a lot has changed, and matured, in the sports betting scene. We're not sure if Konik has made an appearance on VSiN but whether he shares his betting advices, or discusses this book, it should lend a basic landscape and foundation in the world of sports betting. Even if that wasn't the intent, curious bettors ought to take away the goings-on and the "hush-hush" that goes about when placing bets (even if you're betting for yourself). We say, and encourage, secrecy because it's like you holding the winning lottery ticket, holding it up in front of a crowd saying you have the winning numbers. Yeah, that's asking for trouble, as people in the crowd will likely snatch that ticket from your hand or even tear it up. Along the way, you learn of a writer working like a good employee going through ups and down, both in his job and life. Not primarily a staple example of work ethics and morals, but there are some you'll learn as well. Oh, and when it comes to relationships, take caution if they're crazy—the bad kind of crazy—like Vivian.

This was an excellent book. Possibly a great one to recommend as sports leagues are caving in to allow and encourage sports betting. Something to learn from, especially if you're one of those people who "knows someone" you may suddenly work for. Now that we're in the age of high-end technology, remaining anonymous might require some advanced techniques. Then again, we don't know of such entity, so anyone pursuing such paths are very much on their own. Secrecy, again? Yes, because casinos ban bettors who continually 'milk' off their profits to the point where they may no longer be sustainable. Business is business, right?

Highly recommended book!

"I love you, 44."
— Rick, 'Big Daddy'





  • Beautifully written, fully descriptive linguistically
  • Gives reader a roller coaster ride in the world of sports betting.
  • Sports operation company, Brain Trust, is still in business (according to Konik).
  • None.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
Title The Smart Money: A Memoir

How The World's Best Sports Bettors Beat the Bookies Out of Millions
Author(s) Michael Konik
Description [FRONT FLAP]

A riveting inside look at the lucrative world of professional high-stakes sports betting by a journalist who lived a secret life as a key operative in the world's most successful sports gambling ring.

When journalist Michael Konik landed an interview with Rick "Big Daddy" Matthews, the largest bet he'd placed on a sporting event was $200. Konik, an expert blackjack an poker player, was no stranger to Vegas. But Matthews was in a different league: the man was rumored to be the world's smartest sports bettor, the mastermind behind "the Brain Trust," a shadowy group of gamblers known for their expertise in beating the Vegas line. Konik had heard the word on the street—that Matthews was a snake, a conniver who would do anything to gain an edge. Buh he was also brilliant, cunning and charming. And when he asked Konik if he'd like to "amke a little money" during the football season, the writer found himself seduced...

So began Michael Konik's wild ride as an operative of the elite Brain Trust. In The Smart Money, Konik takes readers behind the veil of secrecy shrouding the most succesful sports betting operation in America, bypassing the myths and th rumors, going all the way to its innermost sanctum. He reveals how they—and he—got rich by beating Vegas lines and,


ultimately, the multimillion-dollar offshore betting circuit. He details the excesses and the betrayals, the horse-trading and the paranoia, that are the perks and perils of a lifestyle in which staking inordinate sums of money on the outcome a of a single event—sometimes as much as $1 million on a football game—is a normal part of doing business.
Dedication For my lucky Charm,
who bet on me when I wasn't the smart money.
ISBN-13 / ISBN-10 978-0-7432-7713-6
Book Dimensions Width: 5.5″ (5½″)
Height: 8.5″ (8½″)
Depth: 0.5″ (½″)
Page Count 388
Contents Glossary, Preface, Introduction, One   A Proposition, Season One AUTUMN 1997-SPRING 1998: Two   High Roller, Three   Built In, Four   Close Calls, Five   A Mule or a man?, Six   Super Bowl, Seven   March Madness, Season Two SUMMER 1998-Spring 1999: Eight   Persona Non Grata, Nine   The Wild Frontier, Ten   Ripped Off, Eleven   Milking the Cow, Twelve   Deputy 44, Season Three SUMMER 1999-SPRING 2000: Thirteen   A Little Knowledge Is Dangerous, Fourteen   Bringing Home Baby, Fifteen   Goodbye and Hello, Season Four SUMMER 2000-WINTER 2001: Sixteen   Superstars, Seventeen   The Smart Money, Epilogue, Acknowledgments
Jacket Design Marc J. Cohen
Author Photograph J. Lieberman
Published 2006
Book Number 1106
Publisher SIMON & SCHUSTER (www.ChironPublications.com)
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Copyright Copyright © 2006 by Michael Konik
All rights reserved,
including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.
Manufactured in United States of America
Book Format Paperback, eBook, Hardcover
Genre Games/Biography & Autobiography
Quoted Reviews "Gambler's whisper about a legendary—some think apocryphal—syndicate known as the Brain Trust, a sobriquet earned because they seem to understand more about sports betting than anyone else. Though they operate in secret, the Brains are the most influential force in the world or sports betting. They're to gambling markets what Warren Buffet is to the New York Stock Exchange. Everyone involved in sports betting wants to know what the Brains are doing— which match-ups they favor, which teams they're investing in on any given weekend. Everyone who bets on sports, from the degenerate action junkie to the half-sharp sports fiend who watches ESPN sixteen hours a day. from small-time professionals to big-time bookies—they all try to figure out how the Brains do what they do. And, especially, what they'll do next.

"I'm one of the few people in the world who can tell you. Because for several years I was one of them."

—from The Smart Money

Praise for Michael Konik

"Michael Konik knows the world of high-rollers, big losers, hustlers and handicappers as well as anyone anywhere, and the . . . tales of risk and reward he recounts might read like fiction, but they're not."

—The Dallas Morning News

"Dean of the world's gambling writers."

—Detroit Free Press

"Michael Konik knows the gambling milieu from the inside. His collection of far-out gambling stories is both amazing and authentic."

—The Independent (London)

"You'll search the whole bookstore and never top Konik's gambling writing."

—Las Vegas Review-Journal
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"The dean of the world's gambling writers," Michael Konik is the author of six books, including the gaming classic The Man with the $100,000 Breasts. He's written for numerous, including The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, and Sports Illustrated. On television, Konik has competed in the World Series of Poker and the World Series of Blackjack, and he appears regularly as an expert commentator on FoxSports poker broadcasts. Visit the author at www.michaelkonik.com.

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Jacket design by Marc J. Cohen

Photograph of the basketball player © Jim Cummings/Getty Images

Author photograph by J. Lieberman

Printed in the U.S.A.

Copyright © 2006 Simon & Schuster

SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Joseph Rutt

For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or business@simonandschuster.com

Manufactured in the United States of America

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