An article in these pages recently told how the nation's bookmakers had been damaged by the Stanford-California game. The heavy betting on it had been triggered by a football-touting service which advertised Stanford as the "Lock of the Year."
This prompted one puzzled reader to inquire: What, precisely, is a lock?
Perhaps the meaning of the term will be clearer in the context of a complete sentence: "I thought Denver was a mortal lock and bet a nickel on the piece, but I should have known something was wrong when all the eggs were laying the line and all the talent was hammering Detroit like it was a kadoti, and now I'm in total concrete."
Gamblers have a language of their own, and it has evolved for the same reason that other specialized jargon does. Gamblers often need to express subtle shades of meaning that a standard vocabular doesn't permit. One of the things that bettors most commonly need to express is the extent of their confidence in a wager.
If I ask a friend whom he likes today, and he says, "I've got a little action on Notre Dame," I take that as a rather neutral statement. His bet is little more than an antidote for boredom. If, however, he says, "Notre Dame is a cinch," I know he is (given the natural confidence and hyperbole of gamblers) expressing slightly more than a tepid preference.
But if he says, "Notre Dame is a lock" I know my friend means business. The term originated in the sport of wrestling. A mortal lock was a deadly hold that could not be broken. Its outcome was inescapable, and thus "lock" has come to mean an event whose results is a certainty. A lock is properly a stronger bet than a cinch, which originally referred to the tighteining of the girth on pack mules.
There is only one thing more certain than a lock: a cement job. If a knowledgeable handicapper tells me I can cement a horse, I don't bother to look at the Racing Form; I run for the windows. The term has Mafia roots, referring to the finality of encasing a victim in cement booties. (On the dreadful occasions when a cement job goes awry, the bettor usually finds himself in concrete.)
Bookmakers rarely are concerned when a customer bets what he considers to be a lock. Even after Las Vegas suffered such a pounding on the Stanford-California game insiders there were still talking derisively about the amateurs who beat them.
Bookmakers don't have to worry about what they call the eggs - the average bettors, the public. Their concern is the small segment of the gambling population known as the talent, or the wise guys.
The talent is the souce of betting moves based on inside information, larceny or just superior handicapping - that transforms a normal game or horse race into a hotski, a hot piece or a steamer. Some old-line bookmakes used to call such a smart wager (for reasons which have escaped our etymological studies) a kadoti. When a bookie was stung by a wager on a 2-year-old first-time starter with no published workouts, he shrieked. "I'll take your bets - but no more kadoti!"
Bets, and money, are described by special terminology. When a gambler wagers to a football game, he is risking $110 to win $100. (That $10 difference is the vigorish, or vig, or juice). Instead of cumbersomely saying, "I'll bet a dollar." In gambling circles, a $500 bet is a nickel. A $1,000 wager is a dime.
This lingo can cause some confusion, especially when a gambler finds himself broke, or tapioca, or Tap City. If he needs to borrow the price of a hot dog, he must remember to specify "Let me have a little dollar."