This title may sound strange. I am explicitly addressing all those who keep asking me whether I still have my betting shop. And I don’t want to give an additional excursus on aggression, its causes and its meaning, but this question triggers some in me. There are several reasons why this is so:
a) The lack of truth
Well, I don’t know exactly how you will react if at first you are accused of having a relationship, you laboriously correct and put right that it was only a short, fleeting encounter, without sex at all, at most a flirtation, with a depressing outcome at that. And years later, you are asked again and again by changing figures whom you yourself know only superficially: “Tell me, do you still have that affair there? (You even hear the parenthetical remark: “That was incredibly exciting. We were all talking our heads off about it at the time.”) The first three times, you patiently set the record straight (at least I do, even as a choleric person) and explain that you don’t know why such a rumour could persist for so long. The affair didn’t exist (and that wasn’t even your fault!). But after the fourth time, the answers gradually become less diplomatic.
So it was the same with me. It’s not true. I don’t have a betting shop. But I did have a little flirtation. That too, admittedly and regrettably and rather involuntarily, ended. The regret, however, is not recruited from the fact that it was so nice.
b) This naïve idea that the only way to win is on this side.
I have already made a few confessions. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot more dark sides you don’t know about yet. I am working on clarification. So here’s another one: For a while I also had the idea, even almost the plan, to possibly open a betting office. I even had a name! But more about that later.
So it was 1990 and the EU had agreed on some form of uniform legislation. This nourished the hope that one day there would also be betting shops in Germany. No, even that wasn’t quite true: there already were. In the GDR, a few licences were issued in the final phase of their existence. What these licences actually entailed, however, and how these “companies” wanted to live on, was still quite open. In any case, I was then struck by the thought of being able to do something like that. With the software I had created, many things would have been conceivable, including this.
The concrete experiences I had as a bookmaker, as a bettor, can be read below. However, I would like to present a few theoretical considerations in advance, why I am absolutely not envious today of those who have to or want to earn their money this way (for the theoretical treatise on the subject of “envy and resentment” you will unfortunately have to wait until my fourth book, numbers two and three have already been assigned in terms of content).
If you offer bets, that is, if you are prepared to hold bets, then you are exposed. At the time, they were all fixed odds (more on this in the chapter “The Betting Market”). You put down 200 odds. One of them is a mistake, simply too high. People compare (there were already at that time) and bet only on this one mistake. People went to the trouble of calculating so many odds. All of them are right (just a ridiculous assumption) but only the one is bet on. How much nicer is the other perspective: I, you, we look at a betting slip. Nice, pretty, good work. But maybe we will find one or two games where the odds are temptingly (too?) high. Wonderful!
Don’t offer bets, play yourself. Holding bets and placing bets also differs only slightly in principle, rather not at all. If you bet that Leverkusen will win, then your bookmaker, the one you bet with, immediately bets with you that Leverkusen will not win. Simple as that. But he has no real control over the amount (more on this in the chapter “”). You determine the amount of the bet, up to the limit of course.
c) My actual experiences with this
a. Black and white men
Ok, confessions upon confessions. So by the 1990 World Cup, I had my programme ready to calculate odds. My approach allowed me to calculate odds for all possible events (the probabilities were converted into odds using the odds formula). However, the calculations were already oriented to the current betting offers. So there were 1-X-2, half-time final score bets, result bets but also long-term bets. I also bet on it throughout the entire World Cup.
However, I also offered bets myself. Everyone was betting on the World Cup anyway. So I simply created an odds sheet myself, every day. For the matches of the day and for long-term bets. And people did indeed bet on it. Micha, with whom I had already done everything together at the 1988 European Championships, joined in. This also provided a little financial security.
We must have been lucky, despite Germany’s World Cup victory. Because I remember my deranged computer advising me to pay 1.40 on England against Cameroon. On the other side, i.e. on a Cameroon win (in 90 minutes, without extra time), the result was 6.70. In my boundless naivety, I left these odds unchanged. Although everyone had seen what Cameroon could do. They had already beaten Argentina in the opening game.
As a consequence of my misjudgement of the game, another completely absurd set of odds emerged: For the final score at half-time, the event England leads at the break but Cameroon wins at the end (after 90 minutes), my computer spat out the fabulous odds of 70.0! And if I remember correctly, a total of 110 DM was bet on that. So that alone would have cost 7700 DM.
So there was quite a bit of money on Cameroon winning, Cameroon advancing, Cameroon finishing at half-time, Cameroon, virtually always just Cameroon. Then of course we had to hope for England. And when England took the lead in the first half, we couldn’t complain straight away. But then: While the face colour of the player leading the ball became darker and darker, (Klammerauf Klamauf Klamauk Kalau Komma Kamau Kamü Komma Kame, Cameroon took command) our face colour became lighter and lighter. Cameroon turned the game around, 1:1 and then even 2:1.
We then became pure racists and urgently needed help. This came in the form of the green black man and the white black man. The green black man (jersey skin; will the book now be banned? I refer you to “pun”) had the infinite goodness to miss the absolute monster chance to make it 3-1 at 2-1 to Cameroon, in recognisable arrogance, whereas the white black man, i.e. the whistle man, used his equally great goodness and the whistle responsible for his name to award a penalty to England just before the end. Gary Lineker, I love you, 2:2, extra time, money saved, surely 10000 DM. There another penalty, again Lineker, England was further, even more money saved. Even today, at least every Englishman remembers this extremely fortunate victory. And I believe that even Germany, the semi-final opponent of the winner, wiped off a few beads of sweat. England, after all, they knew.
Anyway, you just have to be honest, I guarantee I didn’t make particularly good odds. You can see that from this example alone. That was pure luck, and definitely not that of the brave. So that also taught me that it’s not so pleasant to offer bets. You make mistakes, people are there, betting.
And that Germany were world champions, as it seemed, everyone knew anyway. There are only a few dreamers left, like me, who think winning the title is lucky. Because even if you were even the best team, you still need the remaining percentage (for Germany in theory 80%, because the chances of winning the title, at least before the tournament, were at best 20%) of luck to get there. A shaky theory.
Gary Lineker himself has also recognised this. “Football? The game goes like this: 22 men, one ball and in the end Germany wins.” I wonder if he said that after the semi-final of all things. At least the semi-final provides confirmation for this theory. And since I’m in such a flow of words right now, I’ll tell you this story as well, inappropriate or not.
Micha and I usually watched the games at the Belmont, the chess café. On this evening, however, everything was somehow different. I can best describe my own emotional state like this: Germany should be eliminated, kicked out, preferably dismantled. And that wasn’t just because of the bets against Germany (by the way, I personally had bet on Argentina as world champions, long before the tournament, the odds were 11.0). I would have been against Germany even without betting. And that’s not because I’m a traitor to the fatherland. It’s more because I’m also an advocate of the Lineker theory. The Germans are so outrageously lucky to have the Pope in their pocket (we are even Pope! according to BILD). But the gigantic luck alone wouldn’t turn me against them. It is the perception of it. But the better word would be “non-perception”. Germans simply don’t know. But it is a standard behaviour among all people who are lucky: At the time, they don’t perceive it. Only when it passes and changes. But more about that elsewhere…
But now I was English in body and soul. It was before I left SEL and I had a total of four English work colleagues. I spoke almost only English in the office. So I liked them anyway, and it hasn’t changed to this day. But the financial swing that day would probably have made you personally forget your roots as well. The Belmont was overflowing. Everything was just black, red and gold. Another celebration was in the offing. All of Germany in World Cup fever. “We’re going to win, for sure (as always).”
It was now unbearable for me. I left the pub. At least I still had a little hope: one of my colleagues lived nearby. I rang his doorbell, anxiously, pleadingly. But he didn’t open. I hadn’t thought about it before, how unbearable it would be that very day, even against England. And all Germans, since 1966, despite all the revenges that followed, are still convinced that the title was stolen from them. So I had to go back to the Belmont after all. The lion’s den was too big, it was practically a whole country big, there was no escape. A whole country in black, red and gold!
Then the deflected free kick, Brehme, 1:0, an explosion, the place shook. What was I doing in this world? And then in this place? But we English still have an arrow in our quiver, Lineker again, a completely honest goal, 1-1! This time the explosion took place in my body alone. At most I could express it with a lightened mine, also out of self-protection. Then extra time. It was such an incredible game. How I wished I could have heard the game with English commentary. Chances on both sides. Chris Waddle, the big chance — post. It can’t be… Brehme knocks Gascoigne down from behind. That’s got to be red, hasn’t it? What does Gascoigne do? He gets up, without complaining … and helps Brehme, who is still lying on the ground, to his feet, smiling. That’s what I call fair play! Is there any justice in the world? That the “good guys” win is probably an invention from the film.
It comes to a penalty shoot-out. Everyone in the pub was carried away. So was I. I had spent the last few minutes standing on a table, and that’s the truth, it didn’t even have anything to do with the improved view from up there. The penalty shoot-out too. There must be one time … You might also have to laugh, “with hindsight”, in retrospect, but I even had a request from a good friend who wanted to bet that Illgner wouldn’t hold a penalty kick in the tournament. That was just more of a joke, though. But at least it expressed what he thought of Illgner. And then: Stuart Pierce runs on, NEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIN, he shoots —Illgner! Illgner was already on his way to the corner, but didn’t get his feet behind quickly enough, the ball bounced against it. He just didn’t manage to avoid the shot. Then the last penalty, Waddle, into the night sky. I guess the English already knew it was an inevitable fate too…. Unforgettable also how Sir Bobby Robson, England’s coach, went up to Beckenbauer straight afterwards, with an honest and friendly smile, and congratulated him.
I just watched the video again on YouTube. Gascoigne’s “honest tears” also made me cry. I beg you, watch it too, then you will understand. And then the final comment of the English TV presenter: “You think it is forever? It is now!” I have now made up for the tears I had laboriously suppressed at that time…
b. Porto – Bayern
The World Cup was over, the money was saved, the job was quit. Now came a form of everyday life, which was also new and exciting for me. I tried to keep the people who had also bet on the World Cup happy. But that was practically impossible. For these people it was also everyday life. There was no betting. But I always made my odds anyway and offered them in the chess café and the billiards salon. But almost nothing came of it.
For the European Cup, however, other laws applied. I and my computer lacked any experience. So it happened that the computer calculated such a hair-raising rate as 1.60 victory port on Porto – Bavaria. Of course, this resulted in utopian rates for Bavaria. And I, in my still boundless naivety, took plenty on Bayern and on a draw. But whoever played that, of course, played a so-called two- or three-way. At another bookmaker’s he got (as I learned later) 2.20 on Porto, at mine so much on Bayern that he was guaranteed to win, no matter what the outcome of the game.
I accepted the money in cash. But somehow I already felt that I had made a huge mistake, a gigantic stupidity. But to accept is to accept. It was at that time that Abi had given me the 25,000 DM as starting capital for betting. So I could pay out. But I immediately informed Abi about this stupidity. He said we’d just have to go through with it. And the game wasn’t lost yet. We just needed a win for Porto.
The game ended 1-1, I saw it live, objectively Bayern was even the better team, and again as much luck as with Cameroon? No, why should I? I was devastated, had lost about 4000 DM.
Bookmaking is really not such a great profession, especially not mine. But what has a head lost in the sand?
c. How do drunks cope?
So I still thought I was capable of learning at that time and kept going. And even still offered bets. As I said, it was just an experiment, I wanted to check my computer programme, get to know the reaction of people, players, a bit. It wasn’t at all (and I guarantee I’m not saying this because I would feel like a sinner if it had been otherwise, let alone out of fear of my dear father, well not that one but the other one, all our dear father, no, not that one either, so just that one: Father State. That I would still owe him something? I would have to get something back!) as a means of earning a living. I developed my programme further and had other, bigger plans.
At the Belmont there was the boss at the time, Ulli Haumer, and he bet for about 100 DM every week. Whether I had plus or minus over time, I don’t know any more. Maybe 200 DM plus. And then came that day. It was also the European Cup. I showed Ulli the betting slip. Normally he only ever played single games. That evening, with so many games and teams, he just wanted to do a combination bet. And Ulli was really drunk that evening. He ticked off 7 teams according to a mysterious system. For 50 DM.
The next day I was back at the Belmont. Ulli greeted me in a friendly manner, his condition the night before may have embarrassed him, if he remembered. When I then leafed the 4600 DM onto his table, he seemed slightly irritated and astonished. He could not easily make the connection between seven games ticked off at will and 4600 DM. It was too late to make an inconspicuous exit (I wouldn’t have done it anyway, what do you take me for?). I explained: “Ulli, the seven games were all correct. Multiplying out the seven odds gives a factor of 92, 92 * 50 = 4600, here’s your money.”
I had his system explained to me. Ulli also agreed immediately. Only with one team did I, we both, not quite get behind his selection criterion: he had played Admira Wacker Wien. I showed him the Austrian table. They were in last place and had to play FC Luzern. Odds 4.75. “Ulli, how did you get Admira?” “What, who did I play?”. And after some thought he added: “Oh, I got them mixed up with Austria Wien.” They were top of the table. But Admira had won, 1:0. So you understand how it works now, don’t you?
What a guy, the bookie
makes money and laughs.
If he wins once
it’s twenty, a hundred, good.
The loss can be higher
the odds take care of that, no:
even the combined bets
are to tick — and live.
Multiplication will do the trick
one has to do without money.
The other one pockets it and thanks
and asks for the next
the next quota list
whereupon one says: “Yes, are you
my money is all gone?
I’m pretty much trapped.
It would be nice to repeat
I’d like to… I’m learning
I’ve got other plans
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
that much is clear, but
I hardly have the dough
to pay out again if you
if you keep on hitting, too, see to it
that you torture someone else.
That’s it for me, you count the money.
the dough, all right?”
“Fine, fine, everything’s fine.
I understand, I got the money,
I’ve already counted it all.
I wouldn’t have known how much
I won in the game.”
d. The long Lutz
Well, it had little to do with making money. More to do with “big payouts”. The long Lutz also made his contribution to this. The long Lutz sporadically asked for my betting slip. He was a reasonably well-known player. I had once beaten him in a memorable semi-final game of the 1988 Berlin Superjackpot in backgammon, swinging about DM 15,000 at the time. He must have had a desire for revenge?
His way of revenge looked like this: 110 DM stake. On a Bundesliga match day. He also picked seven games. He probably didn’t know system betting. Because he combined the games in all variations at DM 10 each. One combination with these five, one with these six and so on. Many high odds in the process. One game was Hertha – HSV, the 2, so HSV win. This game was in almost all the combos.
He wanted to describe his feelings to me later when he looked at the results, Saturday at 17:15. But I was less receptive to that. I only knew my own. They were somehow (diametrically) opposed. He got them all right, of course. The only curiosity was that the Hertha-HSV match was cancelled. The match day took place on 20.4.1991 (I know this thanks to the internet), but the Hertha – HSV match was not played until the following Friday, 26.4.
So I had another whole week to think about the meaning of life in general and my own existence in particular. That I actually went to the stadium together with him was pure masochism. The story is quickly told: Hertha had virtually been relegated (match day 27), HSV had Thomas Doll in its ranks. At half-time I ended my torment on my own. At the score of 0:2, I went home. However, I also had a mission. I had to fill out and sign the cheque. Long Lutz came by after the game, I didn’t ask for the final score (1:4). The amount, you ask? A measly 9200 DM. That’s something you like to take with you, isn’t it?
The only bet he wanted to place with me later was the following: It was European Cup match day again. I had printed out all the games, with odds and kick-off times. Long Lutz called me shortly before 4 p.m. and wanted to bet on Trabzonspor to win. Kick-off time: 4 pm, according to the betting slip. But I had made a mistake. Trabzonspor had already won 1:0. Lutz didn’t know anything, of course, I had a head start. Trabzonspor was his favourite team…
As Otto once said, “I’m not going home with a knife in my back.” However, I now had at least two…
e. June, the month of merriment
I still haven’t surrendered. Especially as I had been reasonably successful in my own bets.
Micha had become my partner again. From the middle of 1991. We struggled through the whole 91/92 season. There was no luck (or was I just incapable of perceiving that?). But we held our own. Then came the final phase of the season. The European Championship was coming up. Almost all leagues were finished. Before big tournaments there is always a longer period without playing. But Italy was still playing! Not the Serie A, though. Only Serie B.
And we knew Luigi. You’ve already got used to it, I suppose, that in Berlin player circles everyone gets some kind of nickname? So Luigi was called “Luigi handsome man”. Luigi was, oh, you know? So he knew a couple of Italians (at least two of them small, in case you’re short on corny). There was even a whole pub full of them. So Luigi wanted to show them our betting slips too. Unfortunately, there were no games.
Well, I quickly entered the Serie B in the computer and bravely issued a betting slip. And the Italians were really keen to play. They all played, and plenty of them. Only: what did we discover when we looked at the bets placed? They had all combined the same games. In numerous, different variations. One of them explained to me later: “I wanted to play 1 at Monza, but then I saw that everyone had X, so I also played X.”
I was out on Sunday afternoon. Curiosity and restlessness prompted me to call Luigi. I will also find it hard to forget his exclamation, “Won them all.”
We gathered the necessary cash and it was time to pay off. How many knives do you need in the back? I made another betting slip for the next weekend. There was one more match day. Pasquale, the forerunner, still jokingly said to me, “Wait, have to call Italy first to see how the games are going.” Anyway, the same scenario: all the games combined, all the same outcomes, in all variations.
Gradually, we began to get the feeling that Pasquale hadn’t been joking. We were facing another bigger payout. We tried to insure the bets. After all, we had betting accounts ourselves. And what did we find? No one was taking money on these games. There were odds, but you couldn’t play. Or for absurd odds that had long since changed.
We called my dear friend Martin Schönegger, the old hand, the clever fox from the Vierklee betting office in Innsbruck. He found the following words of comfort: “June is a wonderful month. You can do so many beautiful things: Cycling, swimming, golfing. Only one thing should not be done: Offer odds on Italian games.
Well, Sunday’s call to the handsome man with the absolutely hideous voice, considering the wording, yielded the expected result: “Won them all.” We really saved well, though. Pasquale must have had a hearing error. For Pisa had not won (“I said Pisa X, Pasquale, Pisa X, not victory”; it’s almost like “The Sting”).
So this June gave us a lot of useful experience. Sure, everything has its price, and this was really a valuable experience. Do you think that 60000 DM is too much?
f. Gifts for patriots
So now the European Championship was coming up. It had to be won, money was running out. So we made our obligatory betting slips. This time on serious games. It was incredibly exhausting. People kept scoring, especially Pasquale. In other respects, too, the European Championship was anything but successful. We just about held our own.
The only funny thing was the one small episode: Germany had to play Holland in the preliminary round. And somehow Germany is always the favourite with everyone. Just because we’re in Germany? Or does Lineker’s Law apply worldwide? Anyway, Micha and I put out a fantastic piece of paper with special bets. The headline of this note: “Gifts for patriots”. So these were not betting offers for German fans, but all gifts. And they were for the real patriot. The offers looked something like this:
Betting offer odds
Marco van Basten does not score a goal: 1.60
Jürgen Kohler scores a goal: 6.00
At least one Dutch player
is sent off: 2.50
At least one German player
is sent off: No
So there was a lot to laugh about. No bets were placed on it, though. It was just the fun. Still, we Dutch were in the game with heart and soul. And Holland won the game easily, 3:1. Germany, with their usual luck, still got through. Because the parallel match Scotland – Russia took the outcome Germany wanted. Russia was also called CIS that year, had 2 points before the match and needed a win against Scotland. But Scotland won the match 3:0.
g. Poor Ronny
But Germany’s luck came to an abrupt end. And that was in the final. Germany met Denmark. Denmark was the substitute for Yugoslavia, which was not allowed to participate at short notice. Legend has it that the Danes were sitting at MacDonald’s on holiday when they heard about their sudden participation and had to go straight to the dressing room for the first game.
It was easy to get to the semi-finals and eliminate Holland. We, as real beginners, fools and amateurs, thought the time had come to bet Germany this time.
Poor Ronny, he was the one who had received some kind of licence from the former GDR. And I got to know Ronny that way, too. There was a betting office in East Berlin. I then went there by bicycle. He had given me the address by phone. And I had promised to present you with the name I had planned for a betting office, if I opened one. My idea was to call it either Tip-Top or alternatively Top-Tip. You may also vote. However, the choice was reduced when I visited Ronny: the name “Tip-Top” was taken….
I had then even tried for a while to do something together with Ronny. But he preferred to do it alone, so I made a bet with him. And Ronny was really born to be unlucky. Of course, I only ever bet if there was an advantage according to my calculations. So, according to my imagination, I should have won. But nevertheless I allow myself the judgement: He had bad luck, really bad luck, it is also called “plague” in gambler’s language. He always had to pay.
For the European Championship final, the following happened: I was at the Café Belmont, as usual. There was also a rather well-known gambler there, Detlef Walden. Germany was, of course, everyone’s clear favourite. How high the favourite position was, however, is speculation anyway and cannot be firmly determined. There is a market assessment, everyone has their own and quite possibly and theoretically there is a truth. Deltlef Walden may have had some qualities that stood in the way of an outstandingly successful playing career. But patriotism was not one of them. He had become a Denmark fan. And when he saw and heard my assessment of the Germany-Denmark match, he was immediately ready to bet Denmark. I had thought to pay about a 4.0 on “Denmark wins the European Championship title” as odds before the final.
Now I allowed myself the fun of turning the tables and upgrading Detlef to bookmaker. Holding bets and placing bets are the same thing anyway. If he bets with me that Denmark will be European champion, then I bet with him that Germany will be European champion. There are two differences between the bettor and the bookmaker, at least in theory: 1. the bettor can (often) control the amount (alone) and 2. the bettor has to deposit the money and gets paid out if he wins.
Well, I saw Detlef’s bulging purse, and besides, we were watching the game together, so I put in with him: “Detlef, today you’re the bookie.” I deposited DM 9,000 with him. He should have paid out 12,000 DM in case Germany became European champion. That was exactly the same as if he had deposited DM 3000 with me (i.e. handed it over in cash) and I had to pay him DM 12000. The division 12000/3000 gives the odds 4.0.
Well, we all remember it, it was the year of the Danish summer fairy tale, Denmark won the title with a 2:0 victory. Germany never had a real chance. And in the Belmont I was known, Detlef kept the 9000 DM, his comment on it: “Kann do ma kommm, kann do ma kommm, oder?” But as we all know: He who has the damage…
Once again, poor, dear Ronny had to pay the price. He had paid a 5.0 in Denmark. We had bet 2000 DM on Denmark with Ronny, so we got paid out 10000 DM. On closer inspection, however, one realises that apart from the ridicule, I had also “reaped” a minus of 1000 DM. On top of that, I had also chosen Germany elsewhere. So the Germans’ luck came to an abrupt end just when I had bet them myself. Is there a connection?
h. The master of ghosts (games): Michael Friedrich
There was a second bookmaker who offered bets “illegally” at the time. A very talented boy, Michael Friedrich. Above all, he had made a new discovery, or however he had come up with it: the ghost games.
Well, anyone who is a little bit involved in football surely has a certain idea of what a “ghost match” is: a game in front of empty stands. The home team is not allowed to admit spectators for one or more games after riots.
Michael Friedrich, however, had found a new version of ghost games. These games did not take place at all. At least one could assume with some degree of certainty that the teams knew nothing about their game being played. I’d best give you an example of this, which we were first offered by Michael Friedrich: Bayern München was playing at home against Stuttgarter Kickers. And 1.FC Köln was playing in Leverkusen. Now the ghost match was the pairing Bayern – Cologne. Sure, everything is a question of price. I would also take Cologne in this “ghost match” if I had got the corresponding odds. Michael Friedrich, however, was prepared to pay 1.60, but on Bayern! The computer considered that far, far too high. You simply had to play Bayern.
I’ll tell you a bit more about how it calculated it later. In any case, we thought the rate was slightly inflated. And that is a serious understatement. We asked Michael what he would be willing to accept on it and came up with 3000 DM. After all.
It was the 12th matchday of the 1991/92 season on 4.10.1991. At that time it was possible to watch the games on “premiere” for the first time. However, there was only one selected match (neither of these two) and during the match goals were always shown at the bottom of the scroll bar. We needed goals for Bayern, of course, at least more than Cologne.
When it was 0:2 for Bayern and 0:0 for Köln at half-time, we weren’t even too worried. Bayern would now have ambitions to make up for a 0:2 against Stuttgarter Kickers. That had happened before in the history of the Bundesliga, hadn’t it? And indeed, Bayern managed the sensation: a goal in the home match against Stuttgarter Kickers! We were leading 1:0, because Leverkusen was still 0:0. With that, however, Bayern had shot their powder, final score 1:4. But Michael Friedrich had kept on calculating: When all the games were already over, Cologne finally managed to equalise.
I immediately ran out of the room where I had been watching everything. However, I quickly abandoned the idea of descending from the balcony on the 11th floor….
But that was only the beginning. The next match day Micha had concocted a new nasty: this time we were allowed to take Eintracht Frankfurt, in a ghost match against Karlsruhe. Well, Eintracht Frankfurt had the best season in their club’s history and were the designated champions until the last matchday, when they lost at Rostock, who had nevertheless been relegated, and had to let Dortmund and, in the 81st minute, Stuttgart pass them (who doesn’t remember? Buchwald’s header in the 81st minute at Leverkusen). Frankfurt had also scored 76 goals in total in 38 games that season, an average of 2 per game. On this day, they failed against the insurmountable bulwark of the Mönchengladbach defence. 0:0. It didn’t matter too much that Karlsruhe scored 3 goals in Bochum. To be on the safe side, I watched the match on the ground floor…
On matchday 14, there was the ghost match Werder Bremen – Eintracht Frankfurt. Michael Friedrich had his own system for calculating the odds. Anyway, it was always immediately clear which side we had to take. And he was a sadist. Because this time he forced us to take Werder Bremen. Werder Bremen already had to play on Friday evening, at home against VfL Bochum. The Frankfurt team, which hadn’t given us the best of luck, played in Wattenscheid.
And Werder really played a great game, winning 3:0. Well, finally ours scored! According to the computer, we were clear favourites before the game, but with a 3 goal lead? That was even better than before, of course.
Frankfurt, however, had given up their lethargy of the previous week and beat Wattenscheid 4:2… “Our money went begging”… Our money went begging, it was gone. Michael Friedrich also became more and more courageous and now also accepted higher amounts.
So the master of ghost games tormented us week after week. And he kept winning.
Once Kaiserslautern played Leverkusen at home and Stuttgart in Nuremberg and he had devised the ghost game Kaiserslautern against Stuttgart, we were forced to take Stuttgart. I sat down in the Belmont that day to follow the results via the teletext broadcast there. I ordered a cup of coffee at about 15:28, got it at about 15:30, answered the questions of the other football fans in the pub about what I needed and didn’t need, my answer: “No goal for Kaiserslautern”, stirred my coffee and looked twice at the teletext. All games 0:0 only Kaiserslautern, at the first glance 1:0 , at the second 2:0.
The coffee was still too hot to drink. Instead, I ran out of the pub with my head directly against the first lamppost. That must have confused my brain even more. Because I began to fantasise and come up with two theories: The simpler of the two? Michael Friedrich was sitting back there, behind the television in a little cubbyhole, typing in the results. The second was this: He is Biff Tannen.
In “Back to the Future II”, this Biff Tannen manages to steal the time machine. He travels back to 1955 with a sports almanac he found in 2015, where he hands it to himself as a teenager. This creates the “parallel timeline”. For the Biff Tannen from 1955 now knows all the sports results of the future and builds an empire for himself with successful bets, virtually a world empire. (To save the world, Michael J. Fox and the Doc must then prevent the handover or theft of the sports almanac in order to cut the “parallel time stream”).
One of the two theories just had to be right. I couldn’t find any other explanation. But you know what? Of all games, we still won this one! Stuttgart lost in Nuremberg, but with 3:4, and Kaiserslautern didn’t manage to score a single goal…
But that was surely just a trap by Biff Tannen, because does he need to win every game? He has to keep his customers happy. So he went on winning anyway. In the whole season about 60000 DM.
Perhaps I need to explain a little more why I was still not broke: I had three businesses, so to speak, all running parallel to each other. The first and original business was the business with Abi Rosenthal. Abi had provided me with 25000 DM. I was supposed to bet with this money because he became convinced, also with the help of my figures that I could present to him (so it was both of us, but he had money), that I would win in the long run.
In the early days, he even participated in the bets I offered, which were supposed to be a form of verification of my numbers and general betting behaviour. I had very little success with the bets I offered, as a few stories above show. Partly it was bad luck, partly stupidity.
But I was successful with my own bets. I was able to keep my head above water with this business. It simply went well. But Michael Greiner, my partner parallel to Abi, had nothing to do with that. Abi always got a list of bets from me before the weekend and a list with the results after the weekend. Whether he ever studied these, I don’t know. Anyway, these deals got mixed up and Abi then didn’t want to be there any more. How successful my time with him and the bets I made were, however, can be seen from the fact that I paid him DM 120,000 when he left. So he had made up for the 25,000 DM and made a profit of almost 100,000 DM. Obviously I had earned as much myself, as we each had 50%.
The other two businesses were that I started (and soon exclusively, since Micha Greiner was also involved) to place bets together with Michael Greiner as well as to offer bets with him. Offering bets was practically always an additional business. That was, just as mentioned above, partly stupidity and partly bad luck or whatever.
In the summer, after the European Championship, I was again in Monte Carlo for the Backgammon World Championship. Michael Friedrich was also there. I was able to meet the master of ghost games in person for the first time. I didn’t let on about the pain he had caused me. But you could see that he was swimming in money. Well, by now I was an auction-dinner veteran and we shared a table. So I could actually talk to a genius in person.
And I will definitely never forget how he told me his view of things: He wanted to be honest. He had won a total of 80% of his turnover in the season (almost reaching the legendary figures of Biff Tannen). He knew, of course, that this would have been too much (so he didn’t want to tell the truth, that he knew the results; logical, business must go on). But he would have earned 20% profit.
Well, 20% is quite a handsome figure. I would be happy if I had earned 5% in my life. But even more curious is: why does one consider an “error” in the statistics of 60% possible? Because: if one considers this possible, then one should actually consider almost everything possible. So there simply can’t be such a discrepancy between reality and prognostics over such a long period of time (for better understanding: he didn’t win the 80% exclusively with me; he certainly had other, even better “customers”).
Another little curiosity: the next season was possibly deleted from his almanac. In any case, the results simply didn’t come as he had predicted. We won back about 30000 DM. However, when we actually threatened to break even, he suddenly stopped paying.
Much, much later, in 2002 in Monte Carlo, he paid me back a third of the DM 7000 still owed. He said he could gladly give me the numbers of the other two partners who owed me the other two thirds. I declined with thanks. That would also be a novelty in the gambling scene. You owe the money to the person you owe it to. And you have to pay it to him.
I closed my betting shop. There was only one very brief comeback. That was again during the World Cup in 1994. We had met Jessi in the meantime. Jessi had a betting shop in Austria. And he believed in us and in our numbers. He really wanted to have them for the World Cup. In return, he offered us to hold 50% of all the bets he received. We agreed. The result: the fax machine did not stand still any more. Bets came in by the metre, no, by the hundredweight. The only problem was that they all had to be settled. But I can say this much, Mr Steinbrück: we won then. And not by a small amount. But the World Cup went well anyway, even with my own bets. The World Championships were all successful for me.