The Forty Mile an Hour Couch Potato and Other Greyhound Myths

Lem Banker was full of holiday spirit on Wednesday, though make no mistake about it: he wasn’t dipping into the egg nog.

An occasional glass of wine at dinner, OK, but booze really doesn’t fit into this octogenarian’s routine.

Many people still view Banker as the world’s best living sports handicapper, despite the rise of young computer whizzes who have failed to drive him out of the business.

“My numbers are strange compared to others,” he said.

“But they still work.”

A quick call — Lem gives his home number to cocktail waitresses, his garbagemen and favored writers, but not “casino idiots” — to inquire about Thursday night’s Las Vegas Bowl turned into a rather lengthy conversation, with Banker ascending his soap box to espouse views on myriad subjects

Depending on his mood, they might range from animal rights (fellow gamblers joke that Lem never met a dog he didn’t like) to politics (a true-blue Democrat, he can rant about Gee Dubya all day, given the chance) and “casino jerks” (whom, he argued, resemble Scrooge a lot more than Santa Claus).

Banker likes Oregon plus a field goal in the Las Vegas Bowl, which has caused excitement this year with its Ducks-BYU match-up.

Las Vegas is full of Mormon residents and graduates of LDS-affiliated BYU who aren’t above plunking down a few bucks on the ol’ alma mater.

The Cougars opened as 4-point favorites, but the pointspread had fallen to minus 3 on Wednesday as bettors rode the dog.

“It’s just a so-so play, nothing super,” Banker said.

“My number was 1, so I like it at 3 as much as I did at 4.

“Why do I like Oregon?

“They won a pie-eating contest between the two teams and Donald’s three nephews — Huey, Duey and Louey — play for the Ducks.

“I’ll bet $2 on plus 3 and $1 on the money line.

“Get my drift?

“I bet all my games on the money line.


Asked about the total, Banker could be heard punching numbers into a calculator like those he has used for years.

“My number is 54 and the books have it 62, so it’s much too high,” he said.

“Go under.

“In fact, I’m going to bet it myself.”

His top NFL play this week is Houston, which is getting 9 at home from AFC South Division champion Indianapolis.

“I like the game at 10 too,” he said.

“The Colts will be looking for home-field advantage in the playoffs, but I think emotion is with the Texans.”

Banker believes NFC North Division champ Chicago should be laying a bigger number at Detroit.

“My numbers say 7.07 and they’ve got it 4,” he observed.

“Numbers are going to be shaded because a lot of these clubs that already have made the playoffs won’t be putting their best feet forward, won’t be playing hard because they don’t want anyone to get hurt.

“If these guys can’t play it straight with the numbers, though, they’re not going to get any bets from me.”

Banker cautions players to be careful betting the league this week.

“The lines are tough,” he said.

“Lines all come from Costa Rica and offshore these days and they’re all the same.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to bet in this town when you have to lay 11/10 and you can get $1.04 or $1.05 down South.

“These morons don’t want people betting on the Internet because they want everything for themselves.

“It’s not enough that they have all the suckers who play slots, blackjack, video poker and whatever else.

“They want to stick it to the honest sports gambler too.”

Honesty and integrity are big deals to Banker, who settled in Sin City a half-century ago when young Rat Packers (and the Mafia) ruled the Strip and comps flowed freely.

“I’ve spent a lifetime building my repuation,” he said.

“I’d like to see one of today’s sports services operators step out and accomplish what I have.

“I’m fit and work out regularly.

“My house is paid for and worth $1.5 million, my daughter’s house is paid for, I have four cars in the driveway — two Mercedeses, an Audi and a Cadillac.

“Everything’s paid for, I have no bills and I have money in the bank.

“And people who know me will tell you I’m not a high player.”

Banker doesn’t have a lengthy list of nice things to say about NFL players — he wonders how many give 100 percent all the time — but showers the colleges with accolades.

“The colleges play hard,” he said.

Proving that he’ll wager on favorites when he gets “the feeling,” Banker touted Rice over Troy State in Friday’s New Orleans Bowl.

The Owls opened at minus 6, but the spread was 4 to 4 1/2 on Wednesday.


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