Movie review: Life On The Line is worth your five bucks

Jan 31, 2013 |
By: Jon Campbell
Movie review: Life On The Line is worth your five bucks
A look at the life of Teddy Covers in the latest movie about sports betting.
A look at the life of Teddy Covers in the latest movie about sports betting.
What: Life on the Line. A documentary about being a professional sports bettor.
Where: Available on through the app Pumit.
Cost: About $5 for two viewings.

“Everyone comes to Vegas with these grandiose dreams and it just doesn’t work that way.” – Teddy Covers

Life on the Line is a newly released documentary about making a living at betting on sports while living in America’s heart of legalized sports betting, Las Vegas.

Directed by Isaac Feder, the 52 minute film focuses on the larger-than-life handicapping personalities of Teddy Covers (Sevransky) and John Netto, and their betting experiences in the week leading up to the 2011 Super Bowl between Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

The movie follows their betting processes while giving a glimpse into their lives at home, and of course, it shows you the kind of money that can be won and lost trying to predict outcomes of games.

If you’re picturing private jets and Dom Perignon, think more mid-sized sedans and shelled peanuts. In movie terms, it’s more Bookies than Two for the Money, but that’s the reality of the small handful who can actually hack a living out of wagering on sports.

You may think otherwise early on in the film when Netto boasts he earned over $28,000 with his personal account as a day trader with his company M3 Capital, which he runs out of his home with his brother. Numbers like those are the reason why Covers gets emails on a weekly basis from bettors across America eager to turn their hobby into a career.    

But not every day is a winner for Netto. He rises before 5 a.m. and spends the majority of his time seated in front of eight computer screens, hollering into a phone. Modesty doesn’t come easily for him. He says his “capital aggression” is the reason he’ll be the best bettor in the world someday and he isn’t shy about reminding his audience he was a marine for nine years.

He was candid, though, about his time as a high school bookie, his relationship with his father and he gives a hint into the lonely lifestyle when he talks about the difficulty of finding a girlfriend.

And for all those reasons, I think anybody who ever had any ambition to be a professional gambler needs to watch this movie.

“Gambling isn’t about fun. There’s no fun,” says pro handicapper and two-time Hilton Super Contest winner Steve Fezzik during his appearance in the production. “Treat gambling as a business.”

That’s because you need to win at an almost 60 percent clip in order to turn a profit betting sports. Sounds easy, which Las Vegas Hotel sportsbook director Jay Kornegay points out in the movie. For those who’ve been betting on sports for longer than a week, you know there’s a reason why the books stay in business.

One of the funniest parts in the doc is when the director asks random bettors on the Strip what they think their winning percentage is betting on games. The answers come back – everything from 70 to 90 percent, of course.

You’ll forgive Kornegay if he didn’t quiver in his Elway jersey when those same folks walked into his book that week.

Comedy aside, this movie is the closest thing to the genuine sports betting life we’ve seen in cinema to date. When you’re seated at the table with the ‘Tuesday Group’ listening to them discuss Super Bowl props on the Tuesday before the big game, it resembles something like a cluster of sci-fi nerds sitting down to throw dice in a role playing game. If you're expecting something grander, you're going to be disappointed by this movie.

And that’s the reality. These guys are mostly number crunchers and sports geeks, not jocks and rock stars. They are, in part, outcasts because of their obsession with what they do and in part because society likes to stuff them in a cupboard with its misguided views about sports betting.

Everybody’s a critic

The movie is definitely worth your five bucks if you love sports betting, especially because it’s the first of its kind, but it’s not without its flaws.

I got the feeling both main characters played it up for the cameras at times and you have to remember they’re both self-promoters, which Fezzik openly ribs Teddy about in the film. I would have also liked to see the director dive a bit more into their personal lives, where he tends to just scratch on the surface and predominantly take the main characters’ words for it. It also ran a bit long for focusing primarily on just two characters.

It was the 2011 Super Bowl, so you know the outcome too, but there is still an element of excitement to it as the action unfolds. 

From a tech perspective, I have to add that the viewing froze the first time I watched it. Not sure if that was my computer or the app it was running through. When I closed the window and restarted it, it worked fine but it did cost me my second viewing. Not a big deal for the price tag.

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