Betting by the book

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Charles Allen looks like an everyday business executive.

He works in a high-rise office with leather chairs, expensive paintings and a breathtaking view of the big city.

Wearing a sharp suit, the 40-something family man shoots the breeze with the employees of his reputable company.

But come back at night and everything changes.

There's a full slate of NBA games ahead - and Allen has turned from daytime entrepreneur into gambling tycoon.

The massive office floor is nearly deserted, but Allen's corner office is packed with tension.

He has nearly $15,000 riding on this Cleveland-Minnesota nail-biter, but that's just a drop in the bucket.

He has $100,000 spread across seven games tonight.

"LeBron James nails a three-pointer," he blurts in complete frustration as he watches the scoreboard change on his computer screen. "LeBron, you cockroach!"

Allen needs the game to fall under the total-point line.

It's going to be a wild night.

Almost 30 years after making his first bet in Grade 9, Allen has become one of the biggest sports gamblers in North America. He wagers $2 million a month. From NBA to NFL to CFL, he hammers transactions from several accounts through legal online sports books around the world - from Central America to Asia.

"I use eight to 10 different books," he explained. "You're always looking for the very best line and different sites have different lines. You're always looking for the most value."

Just 9.2 seconds remain in the Cleveland-Minnesota tilt. Allen needs the game to stay under 183 points, but Ricky Davis ruins it with one sweet stroke from downtown.

The three-pointer pushes the game to 184, meaning he has lost $15,000. But there are still games left on the docket tonight.

Allen, not his real name, was unlucky with the first bet he ever made. "I bet $2 that the Minnesota Vikings would beat the Dallas Cowboys," he remembered. "Dallas threw a touchdown late in the game on a Hail Mary pass and I lost. I cried."

But it didn't curb his desire to predict sports.

"When you are a little kid, you're cheering for your favourite team," he continued. "But when you're older, you're saying, 'What team should win?'

"When you're much older, you're saying, 'What team has the better value?' "

CUT OFF BY BOOKIES

Allen graduated from junior high and eventually graduated to bookmakers. His love of sports was increasing, but his relationship with bookies didn't last.

"A few years down the road, they cut me off," he said.

"I was pretty good, and bookmakers don't like people who are successful."

It was time to find a new way of doing business.

"For about 20 years - since the '80s - I had this vision of building a company that used mathematics and modelling to predict the outcome of sports," Allen recalled.

"For years I tried to figure out how I could do it, but I didn't have the resources or the information.

"But two years ago the time was right."

The Internet had become tremendously powerful and reams of sports stats could be found on the web.

"I was connected with strong university people to use artificial intelligence strategies and mathematical and statistical modelling ideas," commented Allen. "It has now evolved to a point where we have very sophisticated and successful models (on sports leagues). They systematically identify edges for predicting games."

In other words, by using years of stats and carefully designed computer programs, Allen's bank of computers spit out predictions for games being played in 2006.

Allen needs to be right on the Pistons-Clippers game or this night will be a complete bust.

With only one winning wager in four games so far, he needs Detroit to win by more than seven points and the game to stay below 187 points. Detroit is up by 11, but is fast approaching the over/under line.

"This freaking game, with 49 seconds left, has to stay downstairs," barks Allen.

The score keeps changing as the computer screen flashes with updates. The tension grows with each second in Allen's office overlooking the bright city lights late at night.

"Detroit has to hold the ball and hope L.A. has some class and doesn't foul them," he continues. "You are down by 10 points with 39 seconds left, don't try to win a hero award, L.A."

The computer screen freezes. The updates stop.

"Show me something," Allen yaps at the screen.

"For God's sake, I just want to see this game finished."

The screen then flashes with the final update - Detroit wins 97-87. Allen wins both bets.

Being successful is nothing new for this family man.

During the day, he operates highly successful companies with a calm demeanour. And at night, his betting record is anything but shabby. He estimates he wagered about $15 million on sports last year, turning a profit of almost $500,000. And it's tax-free money.

AHEAD OF THAT PACE

So far this year, he's ahead of that pace - and it's full steam ahead. Allen will wager on almost 160 NBA games next month. By the end of the year, he will have bet $24 million on sports.

But he won't wager a dime on the NHL. "Last year we had the strike and the data (from stats and computer programs) isn't meaningful anymore," he explained. "With the rules changing, it totally changed the scope of the teams."

It means the NBA is his bread and butter right now - and it's a winning night.

With Allen nailing the remaining late game on the board - Lakers-Rockets - he finishes with a 4-3 record on seven games.

He wanted a stress-free night and 5-2 record, but he'll take the meager $15,000 profit. "If you want to be a professional sports bettor, this is what you live through."

It will take a few hours to calm down, but he's about to take the perfect tonic. He's heading home to play online poker before getting his regular four-hour stipend of sleep.

Tomorrow brings a new day and a new round of games.


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