There's a reason why there hasn’t been a season-long reality series produced by a major TV network on professional handicappers who bet on sports for a living.
It would probably be boring.
Those “sharps” spend the majority of their time crunching numbers, reading articles, improving mathematical systems and monitoring line moves. It doesn’t make for the most exciting television to watch a guy sitting in front of screens in his sweats all day.
So I don’t blame CNBC for picking Steve Stevens (or Darin Notaro) and his VIP Sports handicapping service for its one hour “doc-soap” Money Talks which aired Tuesday night. It’s entertainment. They're trying to attract eyeballs from a wider audience beyond sports betting and you should keep that in mind when you watch the show.
But it doesn’t exactly paint the prettiest picture of professional handicappers and it’s a totally different depiction of the experience of selling picks compared to most of the pro cappers I’ve dealt with.
Money Talks featured a cubicle environment, high-pressure phone service operation located in a strip mall office in Las Vegas. It has a top salesman who admits he spends his money partying on The Strip faster than he makes it. There’s a whale who flies in on a private jet from New Jersey to hit the sportsbooks. There are nice houses and fancy cars. There's drinking till you puke and a boozy cat fight over a birthday dinner.
But love it or hate it, the part that made the biggest impact on the show was the rhetoric from Stevens/Notaro. It was enough to make Ben Affleck’s character in Boiler Room blush. Stuff like:
“If money’s tight, times are tough, that’s when the old lady has to sell her muff.”
“I am the Michael Jordan of this business.”
“This is the day where I do the old bait and switch. Get everybody that’s all pumped up about the excitement of the Super Bowl and get ‘em to bet NBA where I actually win.”
“We’re not giving a seminar on sports. Let ‘em know what we’re sellin’, what we’re doin’. Ask for their credit card.”
“You know that’s all we do is win, right? Winning is the easy part!”
For those who have any experience betting on sports, you know that winning is not the easy part. You have to win at around a 57 percent clip consistently to turn a profit and there's a small handful of guys who can actually do it.
But that’s all part of Stevens’ image, and I think the series is just showing the viewer how this guy lives while trying to attract an audience. You can decide what to make of it from there.
To his credit, he certainly appears driven in what he does. He also correctly picked the Baltimore Ravens to cover the four points in last season's Super Bowl. And they presented him as a guy who helps his ailing father financially.
But there are also the articles that identify him as a convicted fraudster in his past and if you are looking to become a pro capper, I’d caution you in using this program as Exhibit A for your career choice.
The best thing said in the whole show might have come from “B.A.”, one of Stevens’ tips salesman. It was a Freudian slip for the ages.
“Las Vegas is probably the worst place you want to go to get away from your demons,” he said, “because there’s new ones here and they’re way better here.”