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Interview by Lynda Collins
by Al McMordie - 08/08/2005
Interview of Big Al McMordie,
By Lynda Collins
Winning the 10th Stardust Invitational last fall was like copping an Oscar for Professional Handicappers League member Big Al McMordie, who emerged the victor from a field of 16 leading sports analysts.
En route to the championship and $10,000 top prize, McMordie knocked off four of the top names in the business during the opening round, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals -- a grueling campaign for anyone.
"I really enjoyed participating in the Stardust contest last season, regardless of the fact that I ended up winning it," McMordie said. "It was the first time that I was involved in the competition, and what makes it special is that one has to be invited (unlike the Hilton Contest where anyone can enter). It's almost like the Academy Awards. Just being nominated for an Academy Award is special ... if one actually wins the award, that's just icing on the cake.
"But for me, it was nice to be recognized for being an outstanding handicapper for 14 years. In the Stardust last season, I faced off against some excellent handicappers, like Ted Sevransky (a fellow University of Michigan graduate) and Steve Fezzik, so it was especially rewarding to emerge as the champion because I have the utmost respect for their opinions.
"Everyone at the Stardust is so nice to work with. John Kelly does a super job as the host of the show and Bob Scucci always selects a great field which draws in hundreds of people to the casino."
The program airs live at the Stardust from 9 until 10 p.m. on Friday nights during the football season on Las Vegas' largest A-M station.
McMordie will begin defense of his title on the first show, Sept 9.
"I hope to repeat last year's effort, though I expect it will be more difficult this time around," he said. "One problem for me is that I don't enjoy handicapping the first week of the NFL, before any games have been played, and that's my first-round date."
Educated and trained as a lawyer, McMordie decided handicapping was more appealing. He took his shingle down a decade ago.
"I practiced law from 1991 through 1995, but my handicapping business so overwhelmed the law practice by 1995 that I had to make a decision whether or not to continue to work as a lawyer," he said. "I was attracted to the idea of working for myself rather than a law firm, so I 'gambled' on the handicapping career, and it's paid off."
Exclusivity was the name of the game for a while, but these days, many sports analysts -- blessed with more freedom than they've had in the past -- have spread their wings and are selling their selections at different Web sites.
"I work by myself, but I'm engaged in numerous joint ventures through which I sell my selections," McMordie said.
"I don't believe in exclusivity, and I even sell several other handicappers at my own Web site, including Larry Ness, Scott Spreitzer, Marc Lawrence, Tom Stryker, ASA, Lenny DelGenio, and Kevin O'Neill."
Considering his Stardust Invitational championship, It's no surprise that football is McMordie's favorite sport to handicap.
"One of the reasons I like it is that there are the fewest amount of games, so each game, in and of itself, means more than say a baseball game, which is just one of 162 regular season games," he said.
"For a handicapper, that is important because we want our team to be motivated to play at the highest level when we put our money on them. When there's just 16 games, you have a heckuva shot that your team will put forth its best effort. It doesn't mean you'll win the bet, of course.
"But there's nothing more frustrating than to put money down on, say, the Los Angeles Lakers, and watch them go through the motions because to them, the game just didn't matter.
"Another reason I like handicapping football is that I have a lot of great systems that have continuously worked for 25 years. History truly does repeat itself with respect to certain situations in football, so it's a lot of fun to handicap the sport KNOWING you have a great chance to make a lot of money.
"I've won 11 of 14 football seasons (and also 11 of 14 basketball seasons), so being successful impacts my enjoyment as well."
Big Al believes Big Mo is a, well, bigger factor in the colleges than the pros.
"College and pro sports are similar in a lot of ways, but also different." McMordie said.
"Perhaps the biggest difference for me is that I believe college teams have a greater chance to get on a roll than professional teams. Momentum plays a much larger role in NCAA football and basketball than in the NBA or NFL.
"In the pros, teams are much more up and down, so I often look to take pro teams off bad losses, or go against pro teams off big wins. But that's just not the case in college sports."
Just as he divides time between his home in Los Angeles and the world's handicapping hub, Las Vegas, McMordie sees advantages to betting offshore and in Sin City.
"I don't think one can say betting in Las Vegas is better or worse than betting offshore," McMordie declared.
"First of all, if one doesn't reside in Las Vegas, then one really has no option but to bet offshore or with his local bookie. But for Nevada residents, who have the option to do either, it makes sense to do both, and not one or the other.
"After all, one wants to have access to as many numbers as possible. Sports wagering is, at bottom, a numbers game. Sometimes, one gets the best number offshore, and other times one finds the best odds in Las Vegas.
"Last week, I got down on Oakland to win the World Series at 30-1 odds at the Stardust and at the Venetian, but those odds weren't available offshore."
McMordie, who estimates he spends two to 10 hours a day handicapping, depending on the day of the week and sport, tell an interesting story about how he got his nickname.
"My twin brother gave me the nickname "Big Al" when I was 15-years-old," he said. "I've handicapped sporting events since I was 12, and for my 16th birthday, my brother gave me stationery which said 'Big Al's Handicapping Service.' When I founded my handicapping business in 1992, it was a natural moniker for me to use. No, I'm not heavy-set, as some imagine, but I am 6-feet-2, so the name is not a misnomer."