Author Michael Konik is well known in sporting circles for his entertaining and interesting articles and books on a variety of gambling topics, not the least of which are the most colorful denizensNick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ of the high-stakes betting community, such as those chronicled is his wonderful book, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts. In this book, Konik gets in with a very powerful sports handicapping group, betting millions and getting backed off by nearly every sports book on the planet.
Basically, if you take Ben Mezrich's book, Bringing Down the House, and substitute sports betting for blackjack, you'll have a pretty good idea of what Smart Money is all about. Konik's book has many of the good points of Mezrich's book. It's well written, and we get a rare glimpse into the world of high-stakes sports betting. It also has the added bonus of being written by someone who was directly involved. Events aren't lost in translation because Konik's narrative is a first-person story.
I have to say, though, that overall I'm disappointed in the book. First, we learn essentially nothing about sports betting from Konik's account. For the first part of the book, this is partially because Konik himself is getting his plays from a mysterious computer program with which he does not interact himself. In the second half of the book, though, Konik has a more active role in the business of deciding which games to bet, but we hear nothing about his methodology. He hints about some methods, advantage teasers and correlated parlays, but even though these methods are now widely known, the author still refuses to give us a glimpse inside his black box.
Konik changes a number of names, places, and the chronology of events in order to protect some people, although others' identities are not hidden. Some of the "disguised" individuals are so apparent, though, I wonder whether they're typographical errors rather than true attempts to hide who they really are. Since I know who many, but not all, of the luminaries are whom Konik obliquely mentions, I found the pseudo-disguised names to be distracting, especially as I try to reconcile the events in the book with my recollection of events as they seemed to me to have happened. I wonder which conflicts are due to either my faulty memory or my misunderstanding of the situation, and which are due to obfuscation by the author.
A final complaint I have is that the book ends in early 2001. Why the long delay before publication? A lot of time has passed since the events that occur in the book, and the landscape of sports betting has changed significantly, although by no means completely. Again, this has the effect of disorienting me somewhat, although less "clued in" readers probably won't feel the same level of discomfort. Observant readers will note the sea change in the worldwide sports betting industry that occurred during the timeframe of the book, the years surrounding the late 90s. An interesting shift in the sports betting universe occurs during this time, and from this book the careful reader will be able to figure out many reasons why this occurred, even though Konik does not address these issues directly.
The Smart Money is entertaining, well written, and I'm glad I read it, but ultimately I'm disappointed because I believe the book could have been so much more. Those who are less interested in the nuts and bolts of both advantage sports betting and the sports betting industry will likely enjoy the book more than I. I understand that Konik doesn't want to betray his buddies who are still active in advantage sports betting, and I get that he wants to make this book accessible to the general public, but I belive he could have provided more information without compromising his loyalties or burying the reader in details. At least, I would like to have seen more that we get in this book.
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