Back in the day when E.F. Hutton talked, people listened.
Some of us remember, forty-three years ago, the ad campaign on how beneficial it was to be an E.F. Hutton client. When a Hutton client talked, a stillness came over a conference room, meeting, airplane, gym, bar, restaurant, you name it. The 1979 television commercial, nine years before being acquired by Shearson Lehman Brothers, convinced us that the Hutton stock tip was so solid nobody wanted to take a chance and miss it.
Today, the anti-Hutton whisper is when Herbie Shainker speaks. People can’t help but hear him. Even carnival barkers take cover.
They were/are both considered experts in the same field: gambling. Hutton in the stock market; Shainker in team sports betting.
The major difference is Hutton clients carried themselves with a hush-hush dignity. Shainker is Rodney Dangerfield bombastically crashing a library.
They were/are both good at what they did/do. When push comes to shove, comparing winners to winners, Hutton couldn’t hold a put or call to Shainker’s win percentage in sports.
Shainker and I are members of the same golf club in Las Vegas, Red Rock Country Club. That in itself is disturbing that a private club would admit either, never mind both of us. Shainker is a character and a caricature of himself. Everybody knows him and has a Herbie-story. If you are looking for a relaxing, insult-free day on the golf course, you want to avoid playing in his group. He’s Ralph Kramden at a poetry reading. He’s an airplane middle seat nightmare.
His buddy Jim Nettles sums it this way: “I met Herbie the first day I joined Red Rock. I was warned not to play with him because his back and forth banter would destroy both my concentration and my golf game. They were right. My handicap was a four when I met him; today it’s a 10. The funny thing is, I don’t care. I wouldn’t trade one minute I’ve spent with Herbie. He’s a pain in the ass but a lovable one.”
His personality is an acquired taste. His golf game is not too bad for a golfer named Shainker. However, there’s no second guessing his ability to handicap team season win totals in football, baseball and basketball. He has no match and if you ask him, he’ll tell you just that.
“I’ve been doing this for the past 46 years, since 1976, and I’d guess I have a winning percentage of probably 75-80%,” Shainker said. E.F. Hutton clients would have mortgaged their kids for that type of return.
After graduating from Boston University he returned home in the late 1970s to Cleveland, Ohio, and worked in the family business, Ohio Furniture, with his father and brother. In his spare time Shainker would bet sports with Leon, the neighborhood bookie. One morning he called to make a bet and Leon didn’t answer as he always did. He was busted by the cops the day before.
“I would bet individual games and pick the winners but lose because they didn’t cover the spread,” Herbie remembered. “After I lost my bookie I changed my strategy and went with the season-total bets. I upped my wagers, enjoyed the daily action, and the point spreads didn’t matter to me anymore.”
In 2004, a few years after his family sold the business, he and wife Laurie moved to Las Vegas. He no longer had to send his wagers out here with friends. He now had a sportsbook on every corner.
Shainker decided a month after arriving in Vegas that it might be a good idea if he spent a majority of his time in one of the books; not betting, but working behind the counter. In a decision they still regret, Caesars hired him. He was fired six months later for giving out too many free drink tickets.
“If someone complained they didn’t get a drink ticket or wanted another, I gave them one. What’s the big deal, they were betting nice sums of money,” he questioned? “I guess management didn’t see it the same way I did.”
These days his sportsbook action is limited to up to six visits a year: betting a team in football, basketball and baseball. And hopefully, three more visits to cash the tickets.
Season win-total bets are not popular with most players. The instant gratification a gambler gets for winning a bet or the despair in losing one, doesn’t happen when the wager is spread over five or six months. Plus, most gamblers don’t want the casino holding their money that long.
For Shainker it’s different. “I enjoy it, I’ve got action for six months whether its every day in baseball, multiple days a week in basketball or even once a week in football,” Shainker, 67, said and added, “This way I don’t have to run to the sportsbook every day. One preseason bet takes care of the entire season for me.”
You can’t argue with his success. He’s won 14 of his last 15 plays. His bankroll is moderate. He bets $4400 on a side. If he wins he goes to $5500 for the next season on the calendar. Win again and it’s $6600, which is the ceiling. Any season total wager he loses he goes back to $4400 and starts again. “Don’t ask me why,” Herbie quipped. “OCD, I guess.”
He won 12 straight over the three sports going into the 2021 baseball season. His $6600 went on the Cubs, under 76 wins. They cooperated by only winning 71.
Finally, his 13 consecutive streak was snapped last NFL season. His play was Washington over 8.5 wins.
“I liked Washington for one reason and one reason only,” Shainker said. “Their quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wins wherever he goes. He’s 39 years old, has a long beard and is a Harvard guy playing in the NFL. None of it makes much sense. But he wins so I played Washington solely because Fitzpatrick was their quarterback.”
What Herbie didn’t envision was Fitzpatrick getting hurt in the second quarter of Washington’s opener and being lost for the season. “Somehow they still won six in a row giving me some hope,” he smiled. His long winning streak finally ended when Washington only mustered seven wins for the campaign, two short of what he needed.
Having a reputation as a good loser but a terrible winner, it’s been rumored Shainker has tutored a certain former president on pomposity. As word of his long winning streak circulated the Red Rock clubhouse, more and more guys jumped on his selection of Washington last football season. Ultimately, Shainker brought down more investors than Bernie Madoff.
“Truthfully, I’d prefer people don’t play my picks,” he tried unsuccessfully to convince me. “I don’t want to be responsible for all that. I never encourage it.”
Yes he does. After every victorious season Herbie throws a Sunday Victory Breakfast for everyone who follows his wagers all season. Of course, he is the guest of honor at his own party. Normally about twenty are invited to celebrate Herbie-Fest. It’s an opportunity for Shainker to not only praise himself, but most speculate an easy way for him to use his required annual country club food minimum. During the course of orange juice and omelets and pancakes, Shainker prepares written remarks taking good natured swipes at almost everyone else in the room. If this were an Academy of Motion Pictures event, he would leave with two bloodied cheeks.
His last breakfast, a week ago, was to revel the beginning of a new streak, cashing in on the NBA Chicago Bulls over 44 wins. As of last night, with one game remaining on the schedule, they’ve won 45. That’s pretty solid handicapping.
“I really liked Chicago the year before when they picked up (Nikon) Vucevic from Orlando,” Herbie pontificated. “Then during this past off-season they signed (DeMar) DeRozan from San Antonio. I love him as a shooter and knew he would be the push the Bulls needed to get close to 50 wins. It pretty much worked out the way I had figured it on paper.”
Roy Abrams has followed and bet Shainker’s NBA selections the past eight years. He has won seven, including the Bulls. The only one he didn’t cash was during 2019-20 when the season was shortened because of Covid, and all bets were refunded. That was a big break for both Shainker and Abrams who would have been on the losing end with Charlotte and under. It resulted in a no-bet. Shainker calls it the greatest non-loss of his betting life.
Abrams said, “I’m not a sports bettor per se but you can’t ignore Herbie’s success.”
To which Shainker responded, “The guy (Abrams) has won seven in a row, you think maybe once he’d grab the lunch check. I’m still waiting.”
Fellow golfer Mike Rubin says Shainker’s success isn’t a fluke.
“Herbie studies and considers his bets very seriously,” Rubin said and added, “He is a student of trends, team’s divisional play, player acquisitions, injuries and everything else he can absorb. There is no emotion in his selections, only fact-based decision making. It’s impressive.”
Since Laurie passed away in 2011, Shainker spends his time playing golf, doting over his three daughters and six grandkids and watching his team, whomever it may be, in whatever season, on television.
“Sadly to say, away from the golf course and my family, I have no life,” Shainker said. “I watch every game my team plays. I’ll watch all 82 in basketball and 162 in baseball if it goes down to the wire. I watch the crawl on the bottom of the screen to keep current with trades and free agents on how it might affect any future bets I make. Probably my biggest expense these days is satellite television, I’ll buy every sports package I can find.”
However, once the fate of his season wager is determined, off goes the television. “I won’t watch a single game after that, I really don’t care anymore and have no loyalty to any team after the bet is settled.”
Shainker prefers to bet on the ‘over’ because “it’s more fun to root for a team during the course of a season to win” but noted, “in reality every bet should be an ‘under’. There’s always an injury to a key player that needs to be overcome. Plus, sportsbooks tilt their totals toward the ‘over’ because the bettors always favor playing that way.”
Three days ago, Shainker put down the notebook and finally made a decision on his baseball choice for this season. He had three teams he was looking at: Boston, Baltimore and Washington. He expects all to have down seasons, so ‘under’ the published total was going to be the play.
“I didn’t think Baltimore (projected win total 63.5), or Boston (84.5) were going to be very good,” Herbie reasoned. “Baltimore struggles every year and I thought Boston’s number was too high especially in a division that had better teams with the Yankees, Toronto and Tampa. What bothered me is Boston and Baltimore play each other 19 times and even if they split the season series, that’s at least or nine or 10 wins for a team that I am pulling for to lose.”
Washington was the other team on Shainker’s under-achieving list. “They are in a division (NL East with Atlanta, Philly, Mets, Miami) where every other team is as good as or better than they are. Washington has Juan Soto but other than that, I don’t think they have anything,” he analyzed and added, “I see this a lot like the Cubs last season. I think Washington is on the verge of a major rebuild and will sell off their roster just like I figured Chicago would do last year. But in this case I need Washington to lose 92 games. That’s a lot, but if things go wrong for them like I think it will, it’s doable.”
Shainker lives in a high rise condominium just east of the Strip close to the Westgate Hotel and Casino, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton. This past Monday morning, with the season opening on Thursday, he stuffed fifty-five one hundred dollar bills in his pockets and strolled across the street to the Westgate SuperBook. With all his handicapping conviction, he walked up to the betting window and in an uncharacteristic hushed tone that would have made E.F. Hutton smile, told the clerk to plunk it down on the Washington Nationals under 70.5 wins.
There’s no word on whether or not he got extra drink tickets.