“The guy is running, what is called, a boiler room operation. He’s cold calling people and trying to hustle them into buying packages of picks,” Haralabos Voulgaris said to iGaming.org about the most recent hot topic in the world of sports betting.
Voulgaris expressed himself on Twitter about a man who goes by the name of Steve Stevens, an alleged sports betting scammer. Stevens seems to be ripping people off with his business VIP Sports Las Vegas, and CNBC is going to air a show about him this September called “Money Talks.” While Stevens wants to let his money talk, we just decided to take the smart approach and let someonewho actually knows what he’s talking about, talk.
Voulgaris is one of the most successful NBA bettors in the world and ESPN’s Scott Eden in last March’s ESPN The Magazine wrote up a great story about him. This very interesting read gives anyone who’s not familiar with Voulgaris’ work, a much better perspective on what he’s about to say.
Let’s start at the beginning with this story that has spiraled out of control over the last few days. It all started with a Tweet from well-respected sports betting analyst and former Caesars Palace odds maker, Todd Fuhrman. Fuhrman was the one that made us aware of a video with a guy called Steve Stevens.
Interestingly enough, the original video has been pulled from the Internet. Stevens uploaded a new version just last night (July 31). The only difference between the two videos; the part where he brags about hitting a 71.5% return on his bets, is missing in the latest version.
“It will probably make for compelling TV regardless and I thought it was pretty well done, but obviously it’s a joke,” Voulgaris said about the video.
Sports betting will never become mainstream when major networks glorify the dishonest components and showcase the wrong industry figures.— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) July 27, 2013
It's time for media reporting on sports gambling to be accountable and responsible for their coverage: My take http://t.co/FOC3ocfPkU— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) July 29, 2013
The line that stands out the most from Fuhrman’s blog goes as following, “There are so many things about this video that crack me up but nothing more galling than Stevens calling himself the “Michael Jordan of sports handicapping” by promising clients he’ll hit 70% + (a number even the computer group couldn’t achieve in its prime)."
Short side note: The computer group, with Billy Walters as the main character, made millions betting sports. The link above gives you a great insight into their world. Voulgaris says the following on Walters’ operation.
“He was the first guy that had a computer when his competition and odds makers were just sitting in a row throwing numbers around. The lines were so soft back then and it was really easy. Nowadays, I’m sure he still has an edge even though it has deteriorated over time. I do think that the vast majority of the money he was making was back in the days when the lines were really soft.”
The website cnbcmoneytalks.com for this new show was also pulled from the Internet, so it’s a good thing we managed to grab a screenshot of their link to this.
“In general there are very, very, very few exceptions of people who are selling picks and are not straight up scammers. It doesn’t make any sense that you can pick winners and you decide to sell picks, instead of actually betting on the games yourself,” was one of the first things Voulgaris said when we asked him for a response on this so-called sports betting genius.
The quote above alone, and we did not need to dig deep for it, should tell you (CNBC are you listening?) that broadcasting a show like this makes absolutely no sense. We get that entertainment sells. Heck, Jersey Shore is a show about full-blown idiots and everyone loves to watch how they go do their GTL routine. But there’s more to this than just simple entertainment.
People who watch this might get influenced into believing that something like this holds actual truth. It’s probably none of CNBC’s concerns that Stevens will go off scamming hundreds of people with his boiler room operation. Voulgaris said the following about the likelihood Stevens actually managed to get the advertised 71.5% return on all his bets.
“The odds that someone can pick 70% sports winners are probably around one-billion to one over a large sample. Of course you can pick ten games and go 7-3, or even going 14-6 is possible, but over a 1,000 game sample getting over 60% would just be flat printing money. All day.”
SportsInsights backed up Voulgaris’s number with a piece on the chances of hitting 70% on bets. For an amateur player the odds are even more outrageous at one-trillion-to-one.
“The last thing that you would do is call people all over the country and tell them about your picks because you have a money tree in your backyard. You wouldn’t want to tell people to come pick stuff off your money tree, because you’re going to be way to busy yourself picking money off that tree yourself.”
There you have it.
Even getting a 60% return of investment would be an outrageous number, but this guy claims to be 11.5% better than a number that would already guarantee you a money tree.
Because it’s so educating and fun to listen to the brightest man in current day sports betting, we’re giving you a little more of what he had to say on probability in sports betting and how he did in his best days as an NBA bettor.
“It’s such an absurd number that it’s almost like saying you can beat the stock market by a 100 times. Without Biff’s almanac, or the option to time travel, there is just no way to beat a major sport for a large sample at -110 prices. Those are, in other words the 50-50 shots, not situations where you’re laying three, four of five to one on boxing matches or props.”
“It’s just not possible to hit 70%. In my hay day, the early 2000s back when the lines were a lot softer, I was not just betting full time stuff, but also halftime bets and even then I was only able to get above 60% maybe once or twice. That was back in the day when there was no efficiency in the market, lines were extremely inefficient, and a technological advantage was a huge advantage over the lines makers.”
So up until this point the “scam” in question is just based on the advertised return of investment, which is unconceivable. The story got a lot more interesting, and took a strange turn, when @WagerMinds Tweeted the following:
The people of WagerMinds.com did the research CNBC should’ve done, or maybe did and ignored its results, superbly. The first thing that stands out is that WagerMinds has never heard of Stevens.
The, self-called, basic research by WagerMinds lead them to the following conclusions. Stevens looks an awful lot like someone called Darin Notaro. Mister Notaro is a convicted telemarketing fraud, as you can read in this Las Vegas Sun article from 1999 (Initial arrest report here). In 2001 he made it into the Sun again, when he was arrested on similar charges according to the Las Vegas newspaper.
WagerMinds also uncovered that the promo video was shot at a location in Las Vegas registered to Notaro’s name. On top of that, a screenshot from the video clearly shows that “Darin” is the highest grossing of the 11 agents working for VIP Sports Las Vegas.
The packages Notaro is selling, or should we keep calling him Stevens, probably work as following according to Voulgaris.
“Generally what happens is someone will buy a package and if that package doesn’t win they will try to upsell a different package that does win. Some of these guys even go to the extreme and pick a single game, and give half their callers one side and the other half to the other callers. That way they are guaranteed a 50% return of customers.”
So while it seems like something that’s too obvious too fall for, Voulgaris believes that this could still get a lot of gambling minded people into trouble.
“Still I think that a lot of people will buy in to what he’s saying. It’s high-pressure sales. In general people who are gamblers, and stuck, and think about calling someone, aren’t the brightest people in the world to begin with. If you’re dumb enough to put your phone number in, because that’s what they ask of you at the end of the video, you’re probably dumb enough to believe that the guy is going to make you money at a ridiculous rate," Voulgaris continued.
“I think that a lot of people, and especially younger college kids, or even just the casual sports bettor might believe this guy. I know they’ve just taking clips of him, and those are probably his best moments, but he’s pretty good with words and a good salesman.”
Notaro seems to be quite the salesman indeed, as he also managed to become a one of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s friends. WagerMinds reports that Notaro makes an appearance in the Turn Left Productions documentary, “30 Days in May” about Mayweather. They also bring to light that Mayweather and Notaro are also involved in business together. Notaro was apparently managing the Philthy Rich Record label owned by Mayweather as seen in the quotes in this story.
We keep adding things to it, because for some reason Notaro is also one of the main characters on the Turn Left Productions website. The front page shows a few large images with tacky inspiring quotes, one of which they thought fits Notaro’s photo best.
Screenshot Left Turn Productions
The question now is, will CNBC still air this after all the negative publicity? In many cases any kind of publicity is good publicity. After all the media attention surrounding this fraudulent business, it seems there will be even more so going forward. Maybe CNBC has a new hit on their hands, but it won’t do the average sports bettor any good. All this will not affect Voulgaris in the slightest as he will continue to run his highly successful business, despite what other people might think of it after basing their opinions on someone like Stevens.
“I don’t really care what other people think. I think it’s more comical than anything. Anyone that assumes that what this guy is doing and what I’m doing is the same thing is probably someone who doesn’t know me very well to begin with," Voulgaris finally added about his life as a sports bettor.