In every movie filled with money and drama, there's always that one scene. The villain, or hero, flips open the two locks on either side of a silver briefcase and opens it ever slowly to see the stacks and stacks of dollar bills placed in front of them.
That's movie magic.
A filmmaker would showcase $50,000 (or more) in that fashion, with a wry smile falling across the face of the actor. They're rich!
Well, I'm here to tell you that $50,000 cash looks a lot smaller than you would think. Imagine 10 iPhones spread out inside of a small manila envelope. Now you can understand how easy it is to send large amounts of money via UPS or FedEx. Package delivery services are popular methods for gamblers, especially ones willing to skirt the law to avoid travel.
Not all big bettors live in states with legalized sports betting. Only a small portion fly to Vegas to place their bets. Those who can't make the trek hire middle men, or "runners," as they are known in the industry in order to place those bets.
Runners need to be dependable. They need to understand the mechanics of betting. And most crucial of all, they reside in Nevada (or the five other legalized states). That is what bettors need most -- someone who can legally bet with a credible establishment.
Make no mistake, this is illegal. It violates the Federal Wire Act (as bets cannot be made across state lines). Thus, the runners are technically betting for themselves, and their "business partner" from another state is merely advising them. However, the actual terms of their unwritten agreement stipulate the runner either gets a salary or a cut of the profits.
While having the cash on hand is definitely nice, it's not as glamorous as you would initially think. A runner typically wakes up around 7 a.m. every single weekend and hangs out at a sportsbook all day without enjoying typical Vegas fun. They are working. They are on the clock. Their boss is the one enjoying himself -- far away. Before cell phones, they would use pay phones to call home base at predetermined times.
Runners can also work for syndicates. Partnerships vary, but the concept remains the same: the work schedule is typically when the average American worker is off.
Which brings us back to those small manila envelopes filled with cash. The sweat begins well before the bets are placed, but as soon as the tracking of the package starts to move.
Here's what I like this weekend (3-3 last week):
Alabama -20, first half (at Tennessee) -- This has become an incredibly popular bet, given the Tide are 7-0 ATS in the first half this season. While oddsmakers are beginning to adjust to where the spread is no longer commensurate with the game line, the Tide are just so overwhelming on offense. They have led by 20-plus points at halftime in six of their seven games. I have some slight concern regarding Tua Tagovaiola's knee injury, but I have to ride the hot streak.
Alabama/Tennesse over 32, first half -- Only once this season has Alabama alone scored under 30 points in a first half. That was the opener, when Jalen Hurts played a predetermined amount of series -- something that no longer occurs now. That game was also the only time an Alabama game produced a combined first half score below 40 points. The Tide score quickly, and I expect Nick Saban to focus on execution after settling for three field goals in the first half last week.
Maryland/Iowa over 45 -- The Hawkeyes no longer have a sluggish, inept offense that makes you cringe. QB Nate Stanley is completing over 60 percent of his passes, leading a club that has gone over the total in four straight games. Maryland has allowed at least 29 points against its two opponents that are currently ranked. The only concern is an Iowa City forecast of 25 mph winds, but the total has adjusted accordingly. The difficult elements can also produce turnovers and short fields.
Redskins -1 (vs. Cowboys) -- Dak Prescott has a QB rating 40 points lower away from home, leading an offense that has mustered one touchdown in each of its three road games. Washington's offense concerns me a bit, scoring just one touchdown in the second half all season. However, I think the Redskins can do just enough on both sides of the ball.
Lions -3 (at Dolphins) -- Let's pump the brakes on celebrating Brock Osweiler's comeback win. He needed a couple fluke completions, in addition to inexcusable turnovers by the opposing team's quarterback. Osweiler's ceiling is still a perennial backup, and that's a generous assessment. Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a bye and Matthew Stafford should produce too much for Osweiler to match.