So I have seen various movies, usually bad martial arts movies, where there is a competition going on (usually a fight) being watched by the crowd, and the crowd is placing bets in some insane fashion that involves someone wading out into the crowd and lots of people yelling and flourishing bills around.
Is this style of bookmaking even remotely real? How does it possibly work? How does everyone avoid constantly getting screwed over, intentionally or not?
Well, if you’ve seen video of open-outcry pit trading, or a documentary about cock-fights, something approaching it does happen. What you may not see is a helper guy taking notes. Also don’t forget that with training, people can remember and process a whole lot of information – the craps dealers and pit-bosses aren’t uniformly geniuses, and there is a LOT of action going on in a sometimes-frenetic and loud atmosphere.
In the case of the martial arts movies, I envision it something like this: There’s two tickets, one marked “Tony Jaa” and the other marked “Big Bear”. If the fighter listed wins, the ticket is worth 50 bucks. Tony is favored, of course, so the Tony Jaa tickets cost 35, and the Big Bear tickets cost 20. Assuming the bookie got the odds right, he should make about a 10% vig.
He doesn’t have to keep track of anything this way, as long as he gets the right amount for the tickets.
And as long as he’s certain the ticket is “genuine”. How do they guard against counterfeits?
This was shown in The Deer Hunter when they were playing Russian Roulette at the end of the movie when Walken’s character died.
Well, the fight’s over pretty quickly, so you don’t have much time to do any counterfeiting. Also, these are illegal underworld scary people who have giant martial artists on payroll just waiting to take apart anyone who tries to pull this.