Even In The Shady World Of Sports Betting Tips, This Is A Pretty Bold Con
The hottest new game in Las Vegas: stealing a professional sports gambler's identity.
One way to try to get a leg up on sports betting, Super Bowl or otherwise, is to obtain info from a so-called tout, a person who presents himself as a winning sports bettor selling picks to the public. It's easy to be reluctant, of course, about sending money to some random guy making claims about his own savvy on a gamblers' message board. But what if your source was verifiably successful? How would you like to buy tips from the likes of Steve Fezzik (two-time winner of the Las Vegas Hilton's Super Contest, which is considered the World Series of handicapping), Bill "Krackman" Krackomberger ($490,000 winner of Cantor Gaming's High Stakes Football Contest), and Billy Walters (whom no less a source than 60 Minutes described as "so successful that many Las Vegas bookmakers are reluctant to take his bets")?
It sounds too good to be true, and it is; all three of those gentlemen say their good names have been used by scam artists who put up bogus websites purporting to sell can't-lose picks for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. It's a low-overhead con that's almost brilliant in its simplicity, given that its perpetrators never have to deliver anything besides a guess about the outcome of a sporting event. "It was horrible; people were taking shots at me, saying, 'Krackman went tout,'" says Krackomburger, who says he found out about the krackman.com website when acquaintances started asking him why he decided to get into the tout business, which is generally considered to be a step down from gambling one's own money. "The front page of the site had a picture of me holding up the $490,000 check."
Krackomberger offered "something better than money" as a reward for anyone who could get the bogus site taken down. "I promised to turn a square into a winning player," he recalls. "If somebody could have gotten the site removed, I would have done it. I would have shown him how to beat sports." (Krackomberger is not a man with a small ego.) Ultimately, though, a lawyer friend did it gratis about six months ago. Says Krackomberger: "The site played me up as being a genius. But I [still] was not at all happy to see it."
Billy Walters, who revolutionized sports betting by leading a computer-assisted team of gamblers in the early 1980s, took to YouTube to disavow BillyWaltersSportsPicks.com and two other phony sites. "I do not sell sports picks, I have never sold sports picks, I do not have any intention of ever selling sports picks," he said flatly. "I want everyone to understand that if anyone represents themself to be me or represents themself to be associated with me and attempts to sell you sports picks, that will not be true and that will not be the case." Walters filed suit against three sites that purported to be selling his picks. In court documents, Walters claimed to have received death threats and threatening phone calls from disgruntled customers of the bogus sites, which have since been shut down.
Unlike those two other sham sites, Steve Fezzik's remains alive and well, and, presumably, it will be for the foreseeable future. While Fezzik feels bad "that some Ethiopian prince can make money off of this," he operates under a pseudonym and says he doesn't want the exposure that legal action would require. When Fezzik began betting on sports in a big way, he was vice president of an insurance company and used a nom de gambling to keep his two worlds from colliding. By the time he turned to sports betting full-time and began to enjoy the modest revenue from moderating a paid-subscription chatboard on LasVegasAdvisor.com, he was established as Fezzik; he told told the L.A. Times that he prefers the relative privacy such a setup allows.
Fezzik's decided to take a hint from his identity thief — who charged $699 for an NFL season's worth of bogus picks — and enter the tout business himself via pregame.com. "The fake Steve Fezzik was emailing me and telling me how much he was making. I got frustrated to the point that I said, 'To hell with this guy — I will just go and sell my own.'"