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Lay the Favorite

Click this cover for a(n) Audiobook sample of Lay the Favorite.

Lay the Favorite

A Memoir of Gambling
An eye-popping and hilarious joyride through the underworld of sports betting Beth Raymer arrived in Las Vegas in 2001, hoping to land a job as a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos. In the...
An eye-popping and hilarious joyride through the underworld of sports betting Beth Raymer arrived in Las Vegas in 2001, hoping to land a job as a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos. In the...
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Description-
  • An eye-popping and hilarious joyride through the underworld of sports betting

    Beth Raymer arrived in Las Vegas in 2001, hoping to land a job as a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos. In the meantime, she lived in a $17-a-night motel with her dog, Otis, and waited tables at a low-rent Thai restaurant. One day, one of her regular customers told her about a job she thought Beth would be perfect for and sent her to see Dink, of Dink Inc. Dink was a professional sports gambler--one of the biggest in Vegas. He was looking for a right-hand man--someone who would show up on time, who had a head for numbers, and who didn't steal. She got the job.

    Lay the Favorite is the story of Beth Raymer's years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting--a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the rise of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business explodes, Beth rises--from assistant to expert, trusted and seasoned enough to open an offshore booking office in the Caribbean with a few associates, men who leave their families up north to make a quick killing, while donning new tropical personas fueled by abundant drugs and local girlfriends, and who one by one succumb to their vices. They lie, cheat, steal, and run, until Beth is the last man standing.

    Beth Raymer is a natural storyteller: funny, charming, and fully awake to the ironies around her. But she is also a keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted, rougish types who become her mentors, her enemies, her family. Raymer brings to life a world that teems with pathos and ecstasy in this wild picaresque that also tells the story of a young woman's crazy, sexy, most unlikely coming-of-age.


    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Chapter One

    The Crew

    The thing I liked best about working at Komol was Jowtee, the invisible spirit who controlled the restaurant's destiny. I had never actually seen Jowtee but the kitchen staff swore he existed. They said he was a seven-foot-tall Native American Chief, a ghost from the Indian burial ground beneath the strip mall. If I didn't feed him, pray to him, and bring him presents, something disastrous would befall the restaurant. As the only non-Thai, I had to believe them. So in between seating, waiting, and busing tables I found time to keep Jowtee happy. At the booth that was reserved for him, I'd serve Jowtee imported bottled beer in a frosty mug, whole fish fried in hot sauce, and coconut ice cream for dessert. I'd bring him daily horoscopes and decks of cards from neighboring casinos. After lighting his candle, I'd close my eyes and telepathically beg him to help turn my life around and get me that cocktail waitress job at the Bellagio.

    Jowtee heard my plea. At least part of it.

    During a particularly slow dinner shift, one of the regulars offered to help get me a better job. Her name was Amy and she was a massage therapist. Every Saturday evening she came in by herself and ordered vegetable green curry, extra spicy, and took her time eating it, her oversized black sunglasses never leaving her face. One night, on her way out, she slid into the front booth next to me and watched as I filled out my Stardust and Four Queens cocktail waitress applications.

    "These jobs are shit," she said, flipping through the papers. "I have this one client I give massages to. A professional gambler. Want me to see if he'll hire you?"

    I was twenty-four and had moved to Las Vegas to be with a guy I had been dating for a few months. We broke up soon after I arrived. I didn't know a single person in town. But no one else seemed to, either. It was 2001 and Vegas was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in America. Fifteen hundred people were moving into the city each week. Everyone I met was very much like me and had just ended up there.

    After the breakup, I rented a room in a motel just north of the Strip in a neighborhood known as Naked City. In the fifties, it had been home to strippers who sunbathed in the nude to avoid tan lines. Now, bail bondsmen, hookers, Vietnam vets, and irritable motel clerks added color to the place. My motel was three blocks from the Little White Wedding Chapel and Johnny Tocco's Boxing Gym and four blocks from the downtown casinos: Binion's Horseshoe, the El Cortez, and the Aztec--home of the fifty-nine-cent strawberry shortcake. The cigarette burns in the motel's bedspreads were big enough to fit a leg through and the staccato of stilettos across the floor upstairs made it hard to get a good night's sleep. But at seventeen dollars a night, it was affordable, and it allowed dogs. So Otis, my sixty-pound Chow Chow, and I moved in. The wooden nightstand showcased the room's only décor: a Rand McNally road atlas and a Magic 8 Ball.

    Before moving to Vegas, I was living in Tallahassee, Florida, and working at a residential home for troubled teenage girls. During one Sunday morning shift, the girls kept asking me if I would let them run away. I could get their shoes out of the locked closet, open the back door, wait fifteen minutes to give them a head start, and then call the cops. I could tell the psychologists that they threatened me. That one of them held a knife to my back--no; my face--then stole the keys from my pocket. Come on, they begged, we just want to see our boyfriends and smoke. Please?

    All three of them were seventeen-year-old white girls who got into a lot of...

Reviews-
  • James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street

    "Betting on the come in her wickedly funny debut, Beth Raymer's prose is like a virgin in a sandy bikini festooned with C-notes. From Vegas to Rio, from the boxing ring to the stripper's pole, she rubs shoulders and other things with the sickest crew of action junkies since Roulettenburg. Her ear for sports bettors' patois, for the ins and outs of pleasure, self-pleasure, and getting the best of it, makes Lay the Favorite a kaleidoscope of high-test debauchery."

  • Stephen Frears "Strange as hell, wildly affectionate and very, very funny. It is a world filled with scoundrels, thieves, and gamblers. It is a world we all recognize, where everyone is looking to somehow come out on top while doing what they love. The book is wise and has a relish for life that is a treat."
  • Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist "Beth Raymer possesses one of the most original voices I've encountered in years of teaching, reading, and reviewing young writers. And she puts that voice to ideal use in depicting the demimonde of sports gambling, the place where she finds an unlikely but uncanny surrogate family. Lay the Favorite is a coming-of-age saga like no other you're ever likely to read."
  • Robert Siegel, NPR/All Things Considered "
    "[A] very funny and smart book."
  • Los Angeles Times "Seduced by her stories, we long for this strange, sleazy and alluring landscape, even as the stakes get higher and Raymer's search for 'the best of it' turns into a worst-case scenario. With a film adaptation in the works, it's a safe bet that Raymer's memoir will find a wide audience. In fact, her engaging voice makes her a shoe-in for a sequel. I'm setting the odds at 3 to 1."
  • Marie Claire "Raymer's crackling, hilarious memoir ricochets through the gambling underwold in Las Vegas, and is peopled with all manner of lovable wack-jobs, none of whom is quite as wacky--or lovable--as Raymer herself."
  • Elle, Top 10 Summer Books for 2010 "
    "Candid, smart, funny, wild and crazy."
  • Publishers Weekly "It's hard not to like the breezy, ingenuous voice of this plucky protagonist who proves she's game for any kind of new experience."
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