Throughout the history of sports betting, there are pockets of bettors who have been able to game the bookmakers. Unfortunately, these gamblers can only enjoy their fortunate streaks for so long until they lose the edge.
This was the case with Haralabos ‘Bob’ Voulgaris, one of the most accomplished sports bettors in history. He lived in the most exquisite hotels, dated the classiest models and traveled the world. The confident six-footer was able to live the dream thanks to his ability to recognize patterns with bookmakers and his passion for the NBA. Read on to learn more about Haralabos Voulgaris’ betting system.
How it all started
Voulgaris was exposed to different cultures at a very young age as his family lived in various parts of the world. He spent his early days in Greece before his family moved to Canada. The Greek Canadian then made a trip to Las Vegas with his father. These two months spent at Caesars Palace would be the beginning of one of the world’s biggest gambling stories.
Voulgaris’ father was into commercial real estate and combined this occupation with overseeing a Greek restaurant called Hermes. He was also a heavy gambler who bet on horses, casino games and stocks. Unfortunately, Voulgaris’ father depended on superstitions, dreams and instincts to make bets. He went broke a couple of times and almost sent his family into financial ruin. However, it was not all a sad story as the young Voulgaris was taking notes. As a teenager, he would follow his father to the casino and watch his blackjack sessions closely.
He would spend a lot of time at the Caesars sportsbook watching the NBA matches. In these formative years, he paid close attention to the game’s fundamentals and had the privilege of first-hand exposure to big gamblers’ opinions and conversations.
The height of Haralabos Voulgaris’ betting system
Bob Voulgaris started serious betting in the late 1990s, and before turning 30, he was already staking millions of dollars daily and smiling to the bank. He specialized in NBA games and achieved a payback percentage of up to 70%. In 2002, he discovered an edge, which kickstarted an unprecedented winning streak.
The discovery had to do with bookmakers’ ignorance of the high-scoring rates during the last quarters of close games. From close observation or perhaps common sense, the young Voulgaris noticed that the last minutes of NBA games were usually plagued with free throws, fast play and timeouts. On the other hand, the bookmakers simply assigned an identical predicted number of points for each half.
He milked out several million using this strategy until the bookmakers became aware of the profit that was going into the young man’s account. This was the beginning of the end.
The downfall of the Haralabos Voulgaris’ betting system
After the bookmakers discovered this loophole in their books, they quickly made the necessary adjustments. This brought an end to Voulgaris’ winning streak, after which he went on a downward spiral. At the tail end of the 2003-2004 NBA season alone, he lost about a third of his net worth.
Like every other avid gambler, he began to increase the stakes to get back what he had lost. What was a perfect betting system became a catastrophe, as emotions and desperation now fueled his wagers. After the first half of the following NBA season, Haralabos decided to take some time off.
With the fortune that he had amassed, one would think he would have spent such a break on an island in the Caribbean, but that was the exact opposite of what he did. The millionaire bettor decided to get machines and computing devices, often called black boxes, used to operate on algorithms and strategies.
Just as the presence of the internet and increased processing power made these devices more advanced, the bookmakers were also not resting on their laurels. They also came up with models and systems to prevent any loopholes.
Voulgaris’ new betting model
After going on sabbatical, Voulgaris came back with a new system that increased the betting frequency at the expense of the size of each stake. This new approach meant the young man would make predictions for all 1,230 games in a regular NBA season. Obviously, this was a herculean task for any human, so he needed a sophisticated computer program to execute it.
It took Voulgaris over two years to find the right mind to help build the new betting model. He and his employee decided on building a program that could simulate basketball games and break the games into smaller segments. The intention was to have mini simulations within the grand one based on the available performance data.
Voulgaris’ collaboration resulted in models such as Ewing, Van Gundy and Morey. The first model was used for actual betting in the 2008 NBA season, but it still was not perfect. A year later, the duo came up with the Ewing version 2.0, which was reeling out over 1000 individual bets. While Voulgaris was close to achieving the hail-mary of sports betting, he decided to walk out on it. In 2010, he revealed his identity and pushed the personality of a basketball expert to the world.
The aim was to get into the basketball business, which had always been his dream. This move turned out to be a success as he got into a contract with one of the top stakeholders of a popular NBA outfit. However, soon Voulgaris felt he could do better than consulting on matters relating to player acquisition and roster assembly. When he couldn’t get more, he went back to sports betting. However, his edge and models could only record success for so long until the bookmakers discovered his strategy once again.
Despite the bittersweet nature of his sports betting story, Voulgaris still feels that these game models and machines remain the future of gambling. Like other sports betting optimists, he believes that a time will come when sports betting will become completely legal in the US. This would increase the market and therefore put a leash on the limits that bookmakers can impose on bets. Such a narrative would give models like Ewing a better chance at success.