Cleveland Scene: “Degenerate Inc.: The Paranoid and Obsessive Life of a Mid-Level Bookie”

Cleveland Scene degenerate cover

This is my fifth cover story for Cleveland Scene magazine. I spent time this fall learning how a local bookie got so far into gambling debt that his only option was to start taking bets himself and how the whole thing operates. It’s all in there: the money, the “degenerate” clients, the line manipulation, the paranoia, the obsessiveness, the wins, the loses. Take a read:

“When you win and win big, there isn’t a better feeling in the world — you’re on cloud fuckin’ thirty-nine,” Steve says as he turns on his large TV, plops down on the reclining section of his oversized leather couch and pulls a laptop close. “You want to pop bottles of champagne in the basement because Hawaii won some game.”

Steve stops briefly to check several cell phones pinging with non-stop incoming text messages.

“But when you lose, it’s like you got kicked in the balls, twice,” he says. “You get kicked in the balls, and they pick you up and kick you in the balls again as soon as you regain sensation.”

Steve’s a bookie and, according to some daydreams, a soon to be ex-bookie, but for now he’s sitting in his living room commanding a mid-level operation on a college football Saturday. “This shit makes me smoke, drink and chew tobacco,” he says about his life as he ponders moving south after his lease is up to start over. There are customers to be tended to now, however, and scores to watch. It’s both what keeps him tethered to his gig and dreaming of an end — the rush, the cash, the line manipulations, the fights, the all-consuming record keeping, the hindrances to normal life, the paranoia, the sleepless nights and the degenerates that keep him in action. Continue reading on



Comments are closed.