By David Payne Purdum
It’s impossible to capture the sheer coolness of Roxy Roxborough’s life from a 30-minute phone interview and a few emails, but we’ll start on the campus of American University in the hippie days of 1969.
A dorm-room bookie with long red hair was sweating the World Series between the Miracle Mets and favored Baltimore Orioles. At the time, the Mets, a 1962 expansion team, had never finished higher than ninth in the 10-team National League.
The bookie offered the Mets at even money and got pounded by Long Island homers with bets ranging from $10 to $1,000. He had liability of $4,000 if the Mets won and a bankroll of $1,000.
“I couldn’t cover it,” Roxborough, the bookie, remembered, “but I wasn’t too worried about it, because I thought there’d be a spot to hedge somewhere in there. Besides, the Mets were considered pretty close to the worst team ever to make it a World Series.”
The Mets won in five games.
“I had to hold a press conference in the dorm to announce when I was going to pay,” he said with a chuckle. “So I went broke then. I had to borrow money to pay it off. I’ve never considered not paying in my life, so I had to borrow money. That probably set me back about a year, because I had to pay off the debt.”
It was a minor setback at the beginning of a legendary career that at its pinnacle had Roxborough positioned as one of the most influential people in sports. The founder of Las Vegas Sports Consultants from 1982 to 1999, Roxborough played all sides and always stayed a step ahead of the game. He taught a sports book management course at a local college, something he says undoubtedly made him a better oddsmaker. He also jumpstarted the “American Line,” a syndicated column that ran in a reported 120 newspapers.
“I remember him walking into the Royal Inn in the seventies with that long red hair,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, who rose to the top of the Vegas sports book scene at the same time as Roxborough. “We started talking and it didn’t take long to realize that he knew what he was talking about. He certainly did well for himself, and I admire him for that.”
Some might argue that Roxborough’s current life may be more enjoyable than the decades he spent as king of the Vegas point spread.
At 61 years wise, Roxborough spends the majority of his time in Bangkok now. He loves the food that fits his vegetarian lifestyle and has acquired a taste for fine scotch. He travels back to Vegas often and just took in the Kentucky Derby at the Wynn.
“People that say if you retire, you’ll get bored and won’t have anything to do are wrong,” said Roxborough. “I think the days go faster now; sometimes I don’t know where the time goes.”
He still dedicates some of his time betting on sports and pays close attention to the global industry.
“I play baseball futures, but that’s kind of limited on the amount you can bet,” he said. “Actually, the English Soccer League futures are probably the thing that you can get the world’s highest limits on. We get every game on cable, all 380 of them, so that’s the sport I follow.”
Roxborough works with a partner on his investments in baseball futures, trying to create his own markets by betting on teams to win divisions and the World Series. The frequency with which futures odds are updated by English bookmakers helps him control his positions.
“For some reason, English bookmakers are better at updating their NFL and MLB futures odds as the season progresses than U.S. bookmakers,” he said. “For example in the NFL, you can get a new set of regular-season wins and division prices updated each Tuesday.
“I think it’s an advantage for us,” he added, “because you put your opinion into the power rankings and feed that into the computer program and it plays out the rest of the season and gives you what the projected amount of wins is for the team.”
That’s not working out so well right now for Roxborough.
“We look all right on Kansas City under and Philadelphia under, but our big future bet is the Reds,” he said. “Our biggest position to win the division and World Series is on the Reds. And they’re underperforming right now.”