Stan Tomchin claims to be "the most powerful gambler in the world," and he may have been. Stan was a chess master, a bridge master, and possibly the best backgammon player in the world. He then progressed to blackjack, horse racing, and, finally, sports betting.
Stan, who grew up on Long Island, New York, began gambling at the age of eight and soon ran a poker game in his parents' basement. "When I was eight or nine years old, I was wandering around with $500 in my pocket," he recalls. When he was 13, he became a chess master, but when he realized there was no money to be made in chess, he switched to bridge. Stan won a national bridge tournament and went on to represent the United States in the bridge Olympiad.
Stan found backgammon in a bridge club in New York, and within a few years, he was regarded as the world's top player. Backgammon sent Stan on the road, from New York to London, to the Caribbean, and finally to the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills. In 1975 he was ranked #1 in the world in backgammon!
Stan became serious about bridge and rose to the top of the game in the 1970s. He was talented enough to finish second in the 1975 Vanderbilt with Al Roth. And, in 1978, when my team needed to supplement a player for the (first) Rosenblum teams, he paired Mike Lawrence.
He was also a very effective card-counting blackjack player in the 1970s. He was "burned out" (caught counting at too many casinos) in 1976, so he resorted to plan B. He coached and backed Ronnie Rubin, Norman Kurlander, and me before sending us to Vegas to take on the casinos. We wagered enough to get free rooms, meals, drinks, and shows, as well as airfare. We had a happy life despite not having much money. I've also gained some weight. We didn't make a lot of money, though.
His bankroll expanded in tandem with his reputation. But, as was his wont, he abandoned it for something new: big-time sports betting.
Most people identify the Computer Group with famed gambler Billy Walters. However, it was another man behind the scenes who devised the techniques that finally led to their remarkable levels of success. Michael Kent is without a doubt one of the true pioneers of computer-based betting.
We were doing it out of our heads. We were gathering information in certain conferences. We had certain good handicappers. Then Ivan met a guy named Mike Kent in Las Vegas. Kent really didn’t know how to bet, but he’d developed this computer program. Ivan helped him get down. Ivan called me and said, “This is what I need.” And I said, “No problem.” Kent would bet something and then Ivan would add something on and then I would show it to someone else and all of a sudden we’re betting a lot of money. And I’m talking a big edge—maybe our edge was twenty percent. We busted bookmakers. We just destroyed them.
My job was to cultivate markets and to keep developing markets. Because of the volume of games we bet, we started devoting our business to finding bookmakers, getting down, and collecting.
Michael Kent had no notion in 1972 that he was about to revolutionize the gambling industry. He worked for the electrical conglomerate Westinghouse during the day. His job was to use computers to aid in the development of nuclear submarines.
Kent's initial focus was on beating the point spread. He discovered that a variety of factors related to a team's spread. They included home or road games, the number of first downs, and, of course, the lineup's strength. Once he was confident in his model, he began placing tiny wagers on his own while still developing and improving the model in his spare time.
He fine-tuned his computer technique over the next seven years, until he ultimately quit his job at Westinghouse and chose to become a full-time professional gambler. Of course, he had to go where the action was... Las Vegas.
Dr. Ivan Mindlin and Kent met through a mutual friend. Mindlin was a surgeon with a gambling problem. He owed some bookies $100,000 at the time and was searching for a method to pay it off quickly.
In the years that followed, the group grew. Kent was so preoccupied in crunching numbers that he didn't realize how vast the operations were becoming. The couple had agreed to split the profits 50/50, and Mindlin was free to put bets anyway he pleased. The club swiftly grew and at one point had a network of bettors from all around the country. Other notable gamblers who were members included Billy Walters and Stan Tomchin.
During one notable run in 1983, the Computer Group wagered $23 million and generated a roughly $3 million profit.
Stan was a founding member of the Computer Group. He and his partners gambled a lot of money on football, basketball, and hockey, sometimes as much as $3 million to $5 million in a weekend. They pushed the lines one way, then the other, occasionally betting on both sides and catching a midway to win.
He eventually established the betting lines for Pinnacle.com(he had some stake in the online bookmaker Pinnacle Sports, but it’s not clear if he’s a primary owner of the site) when sports betting went online in the 1990s. Then, with a large sum of money in his pocket, he became a philanthropist, devoting most of his time to making life better for those who were less fortunate.
Tomchin avoids jail time
The defendants were charged with using runners to place unlawful bets with Nevada sportsbooks. These individuals were most likely members of the syndicate known as the 'Jersey Boys,' who bet on the east coast. The number was accused in the charges of running an illicit gambling enterprise that took more than $50 million in bets. In the indictment, Tomchin was identified as a top bookmaker, and press reports following the indictment claimed he may have ties to organized crime.
Those charges may have resulted in significant jail time. Instead, after completing the case with only one course B misdemeanor, Tomchin will avoid both prison and supervised probation. The charge is conspiracy in the sixth degree, the lowest level of a criminal misdemeanor under New York State law.
Stan made considerable contributions to two famous Nevada nonprofits, both of which focused on educational support for impoverished youngsters. But, as is his wont, he went above and above. He hosted exceptional events and taught life lessons. One of his favorite outings with some of the older aspirational youngsters was taking a large number of them to Wimbledon to see tennis at its best.