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Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling Hardcover – June 22, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526456
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's hard not to like the breezy, ingenuous voice of this plucky protagonist who proves she's game for any kind of new experience. Hailing from Ohio, Raymer eventually made her way to Las Vegas when she was 24 and found a lucrative position assisting a Queens-born, Stuyvesant High School-educated gambling operator, Dink Heimowitz. The lovable, irascible, big-bellied Dinky had shucked life as a bookmaker back in New York, having run into trouble, for professional sports gambling; he put Raymer and the other motley staff on the phones setting up bets for all kinds of sports matchups (baseball, football, horse racing, hockey) in order to find a line that gave him an edge. Dinky referred Raymer to a high-flying bookie on Long Island, Bernard Rose, who had his own offshore network. As girl Friday Raymer fetched doughnuts, placed calls, and acted as a runner, making wads of dough, but mostly Raymer cherished working among the assortment of gambling types, the low-end hustlers and misfits she chronicles with evident tenderness. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Betting on the come in her wickedly funny debut, Beth Raymer’s prose is like a virgin in a sandy bikini festooned with C-notes. From Vegas to Rio, from the boxing ring to the stripper's pole, she rubs shoulders and other things with the sickest crew of action junkies since Roulettenburg. Her ear for sports bettors' patois, for the ins and outs of pleasure, self-pleasure, and getting the best of it, makes Lay the Favorite a kaleidoscope of high-test debauchery.” –James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street
 
“Strange as hell, wildly affectionate and very, very funny.  It is a world filled with scoundrels, thieves, and gamblers.  It is a world we all recognize, where everyone is looking to somehow come out on top while doing what they love.  The book is wise and has a relish for life that is a treat.” –Stephen Frears
 
“Beth Raymer possesses one of the most original voices I've encountered in years of teaching, reading, and reviewing young writers. And she puts that voice to ideal use in depicting the demimonde of sports gambling, the place where she finds an unlikely but uncanny surrogate family. Lay the Favorite is a coming-of-age saga like no other you’re ever likely to read.” –Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist

Lay the Favorite reads more like a novel than a memoir. The rich characters are drawn in depth, yet simply and honestly.”—Wall Street Journal
 
“[A] very funny and smart book.”—Robert Siegel, NPR/All Things Considered
 
“Seduced by her stories, we long for this strange, sleazy and alluring landscape, even as the stakes get higher and Raymer's search for ‘the best of it’ turns into a worst-case scenario. With a film adaptation in the works, it's a safe bet that Raymer's memoir will find a wide audience. In fact, her engaging voice makes her a shoe-in for a sequel. I'm setting the odds at 3 to 1.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Raymer’s crackling, hilarious memoir ricochets through the gambling underwold in Las Vegas, and is peopled with all manner of lovable wack-jobs, none of whom is quite as wacky—or lovable—as Raymer herself.”—Marie Claire
 
“Candid, smart, funny, wild and crazy.”—Elle, Top 10 Summer Books for 2010
 
“It’s hard not to like the breezy, ingenuous voice of this plucky protagonist who proves she’s game for any kind of new experience.”—Publishers Weekly

More About the Author

Beth Raymer grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. She has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. Lay the Favorite is her first book.

Customer Reviews

The actual book is not really worth your time.
Bukowski
I recommend the book as a very enjoyable read that is alive, pointed in its observations and just fun.
Peter G. Keen
Raymer recounts their stories well, and if you like interesting characters, here they are.
K. Swanson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By K. Swanson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
-450 Gamblers
+350 Author

I enjoy books on players of all sorts---criminals, athletes, entrepreneurs, traders, gamblers and noir types in general. They detail the underbelly of our society (often posing as the glamorous top layer) without the reader having to lose all his money, go to jail, or get his legs broken by Angelo. What distinguishes Lay The Favorite is that it's a true story of someone who observes and then slowly becomes corrupted by that world...and doesn't even realize it.

The book ends {mild spoiler here, but not really} with Beth jetting off to Rio on money she's stolen from a "sicko" bettor who had just tried to steal money from her. Her quick moral bookkeeping, apparently done in separate ledgers, seems to escape her irony filter entirely, and in the end she is absorbed seamlessly by the seaminess. It's the perfect ending, for all the wrong reasons.

The best things about LTF are the true tales of the professional sports bettors. Raymer recounts their stories well, and if you like interesting characters, here they are. Dinky is the "hero", for beating the odds as a wildly successful bettor for decades (a million to one shot), while Bernard has the much easier job of fleecing the suckers as a bookie. They both consider themselves losers despite millions stashed away in various shoeboxes (for a while), and their stories are full of fascinating, funny moments, including odd tales of barely legal offshore sports books in Curacao and Costa Rica. These guys might be nutty as squirrels in some ways but they're also very bright, and lots of fun to read about. I'm not sure they and their families will be too thrilled about how they all come off here, but apparently they gave their ok for this. Perhaps not the best wager of their careers.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Beth Raymer, narrator of "Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling", was not so much a gambler as an employee of a professional gambler and a bookmaker. She called for rundowns, did pay and collect, dealt with clients, kept the books, and was generally a factotum for a couple of talented sports gamblers and bookmakers in Las Vegas, New York and Curacao in the 2000s. She was in an ideal position to observe how these people and their businesses operate, being in the center of the action but also a bit of an outsider. Raymer was dreaming of being a cocktail waitress at a Vegas casino when she lucked into a job at "Dink, Inc." and into the colorful and somewhat depressing world of sports betting that would consume her for the next few years.

"Dink, Inc." belongs to Dink Heimowitz. A gambler since childhood, Dink ran an illegal and highly successful bookmaking business in New York until a brush with the law convinced him to stay on the legal side of the business. He moved to Vegas to gamble his own money, with much success, but Dink never liked it as much as he did bookmaking. Raymer's only qualification to work in his office seemed to be that her happiest childhood memories were of her father's gambling, and she was friendly and game for anything. Fate later takes Raymer to work for Long Island bookmaker and gambler Bernard Rose, who made $2.5 million betting sports by the time he was 19 years old. Their move to Curacao provides an inside, unflattering, look at offshore sports books.

Raymer clearly adores Dink and Bernard, a pair of talented, self-loathing misfits. It's easy to see with whom her sympathies lie or don't, but her ability to get the reader to agree is sometimes surprising. She has a talent for painting people's flaws with a colorful brush, her own included.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By sarabella VINE VOICE on August 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The world of gambling that Beth Raymer introduces is certainly interesting, but I wouldn't say her book about it was particularly "must read". Not that I was looking for a How To, but I never entirely understood how it all worked (but that could just be me).

Beth was an interesting character, from her past as a private dancer to her actions at the conclusion, but I never really quite got the "why" to some of her actions.

Would also have liked an epilogue of sorts- where is she now, etc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Anasi on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As many of the reviewers here note, Raymer expertly portrays the sleaze, glamor and humor of the various offbeat subcultures that attract her. With a true writer's instincts, and a real feeling for language, she also has an uncanny ability to profile oversized characters in all their glory and horror (Dickens would have loved these people). Perhaps because of the assumed transparency of the memoir, however, less attention has been paid to Raymer's most remarkable character: herself. Our narrator is alternately shrewd, naive, wondering, cruel, honest, and manipulative but never less than open to the full range of experience. She's a 21st Century Huck Finn with boxing gloves and a stripper pole. A true American original.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Standiford VINE VOICE on December 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As someone who has placed a bet or two on various sports or horse racing events, I was immediately drawn to Beth Raymer's book on her experiences in the sports betting industry. She gets started as a gofer for a professional bettor in Las Vegas but moves on from there working with an off-shore book in the Caribbean and with an illegal bookie in New York.

I've had a few arguments with a friend of mine who believes that she might have stretched the truth a few times in the book and possible exaggerated a few things for dramatic license. I'm not sure that's true -- or even relevant. Raymer's a good writer and I enjoyed who she recounted her experiences.

What I especially appreciated was that in the beginning of her story, she is a gambling novice and didn't know anything about money lines, odds, point spreads or other gambling terms. As she recounts that part of her experiences, her writing is more detailed and tends to reflect the challenges she faced in learning about sports and betting. As the narrative proceeds, she soon becomes as sharp as anyone and the prose in her book starts to flow as fast as the bets made by various clients to the off-shore sports book. Somehow through all of this she works in details about her personal life involving her dog, her dad and love interests.

Overall, I enjoyed everything about it, but I wonder if people who aren't into the subject matter, like I am, will feel the same way.
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