Most proline players who visit the internet gambling forums are familiar with the names Poindexter and Dilbert. After playing in the Ottawa area for many years they came to national attention in 1999 with a $1.7 million dollar win against the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. This was not their first nor their last large win against the lottery corporations in Canada. Their successes in Ontario forced the OLGC to implement counter measures to protect themselves. These include the $100 max per customer, the $1000 store sales limit, liability limits on certain combinations and the pulling of games off the proline list if too much money is bet.
Currently Poindexter and Dilbert are engaged in a legal battle with Revenue Canada which seems somewhat confused by the fact that lottery winnings are tax free. While in Ottawa recently to meet with his lawyers, I had the pleasure of meeting with Poindexter for an afternoon to discuss Proline sports betting. He agreed to let me tape the meeting and provide the text of the discussion on this web site.
[Added note: In December 2006 the Tax Court of Canada handed down its decision in the case of Crown vs Leblanc. The judge ruled that their winnings of over $5 million were not considered as taxable income.]
I encouraged Poindexter to go into some of the more amusing episodes of their gambling ventures and I hope that I've managed to convey a least a small part of the afternoon's hiliarity here.
First some background .....
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm 34. Presently living in London, England.
How and when did get started on proline betting?
I've always been interested in gambling, even as a teenager. Used to go the race track a lot, off-track betting, and when the proline started I
got interested in sports betting.
I started playing 13 years ago at the age of 21. I was just barely old enough to buy the tickets. When it first came out I saw that there was an opportunity there.. I'm a lifelong addicted gambler. [laughter all around].
Are you a big sports fan or is it just the gambling part that attracted you to proline?
I like sports a lot. Especially watching sports - mostly hockey football and golf.
I'm curious if you play any other games where someone with your analytical mind would have an advantage - such as chess or backgammon or poker?
Not really seriously. I do like chess a lot but I never play it very much. I just don’t have the time. Any game that involves the mind I like. Poker I like a lot but play hardly ever. I’d like to start playing online, but there’s a lot of things to do on my list first.
I first heard about your wins from an article in the Sun which said that there were three partners. Is that accurate?
No, they got that wrong. Its always just been my brother and I from the start. Although I live in London now Dilbert takes care of the proline bets for us here.
Have you done many interviews in the past?
Several times by various newspapers. About 5 years ago I was interviewed for a CBC documentary. They did a fair story on the proline situation.
With all your winnings I'm surprised they never used your picture for their games list ...
Dilbert had his picture taken by the Quebec lottery corporation. They did use it for advertising. This was before, when they still wanted us to play. Before they lost and realized that they were going to lose and altered history to portray a somewhat different version of events than what happened.
What are your future plans? When you have had enough of beating the Olgc you’ll move on to what?
I enjoy what I do - If I didn't I wouldn't still be playing. We would like to get into other gambling related areas at some time.
When the proline first started I knew a lot of very knowlegeable people who were into high stakes sports betting and I mentioned to them that this looked like a great opportunity and I was surprised that everyone dismissed it as a waste of time because of the high take out (hold)....
Yes. No-one looked any deeper to see how weak the lines were. I would much prefer a high takeout with highly inefficient odds as compared to a low takeout with highly efficient odds. Dilbert and I realized right away that there were advantage plays to be found by comparing the proline odds to the bookmaker odds. When we first started we were just using the lines out of the newspaper every day.
Do you think that the OLGC makes up their own odds or that they buy them from a lines consultant firm?
I think they make their own odds. They use the offshore numbers to set their lines but I think they get greedy and try to manipulate the lines by moving them from where they should be to take advantage of how they believe the general public is going to bet the game. For example if the favourite is 6.5 then they might try to raise that to 7.5, or even higher, believing that most of the public will bet the favourite anyways. Then when someone like me comes along and takes advantage of their greed by betting the other side they get all pissed off.
Isn't it true that to some degree that offshore and Vegas books do the same?
Perhaps in the early days but now it’s not really the general public that determines the lines but the large bettors that would set the market. The offshore or Vegas lines are basically the same as any other type of money market which determines prices. A money market as such tends to be very efficient at determining the right prices.
Do you bet online yourself?
No I haven’t at all. I’ve always assumed the offshore oddsmakers know what they’re doing so I never really saw any point to it.
Many players long for the early days. Is the potential of winning at proline as good as it used to be?
I think the potential is still there. It could be argued that they're better at doing their odds now. I’m not sure if I that’s actually true or not, but the potential is definitely still there. There’s so many more opportunities because there’s many more games on the list than there used to be. They seem to be getting very greedy in offering so many games now. Probably in part because we haven’t been very active in the past few years.
I've often said that their greed outruns their common sense. They come up with an idea to make money and they’re in such a hurry to cash in that nobody takes the time to think it through properly..
Yes, I agree with that - they don’t take the time to think anything through. The problems now are the limits on stores and the liability limits. Now to win a lot of money you have to work harder, but the opportunities are still there.
Any advice for the average player to be a more skillful player?
It's just a matter of looking at the proline odds and comparing them to the offshore odds really. Then just hope that the offshore oddsmakers are right and the proline oddsmakers are wrong. Over time that guess is usually correct. [laughter by all]
I know from our previous conversation that you've played at one time or another in all the lottery areas with the exception of British Columbia. I'd like to go through the provinces and get the best story you have from each .....
Starting with the Atlantic Provinces - the link at the top is for your win of $1.7 million on the Nba - can you tell us more about that?
We were playing proline regularly at a store in Ottawa where the retailer had a brother who owned a store in Moncton. Through him we set up an arrangement whereby we would wire the money out there and then phone our plays in to him.
I remember in a Sun article at the time it mentions you pacing a hotel room out there while awaiting the results in the last game ....
No that was inaccurate. To be honest, in this case the papers got it wrong because I lied about that. We didn’t want the Atlantic Lottery to know that we were phoning the plays in to a store there. When my brother and I realized that night how big our win was, I did arrange to fly out there on the first morning flight to collect our tickets and redeem them.
I believe that it was about the same time that you made your first big win in Quebec.
Can you tell us about that?
We started playing at a store in Quebec and making fairly large, well very large, wagers. The lottery corporation was all happy at first and they accomodated us by allowing the store to raise thier limit from the $25,000 maximum for a half-week period. They did this by getting us to get letters of credit for $50,000 each and depositing $125,000 in advance into the Lotto-Quebec bank account. Once that was done we were allowed a limit of $225,000 for a half-week.
How long did that arrangement continue?
Not that long.... After the $225,000 limit was put in we connected for $1.7 million and a week later for $1.5 million. Then they no longer allowed the advance deposits and refused to accept our letters of credit, in effect bringing us back to $25,000. They also made statements that this game was not intended for that kind of betting! And they were quoted in the newspapers as saying that money laundering was one of several possibilities and that they’d reported us to the Quebec police.
I shouldn’t be laughing because that’s actually getting quite ....
Yes it getting dirty. That’s the best way to put it, although I can laugh about it now. To make a long story short they were willing to aid someone they suspected of money laundering and didn’t care as long as they thought they were making a profit, but when they lost they decided to alter their definition of what their game was for and backdate it.
Let's move on to Ontario and the OLGC ......
Can you tell us the story of the garbage bags full of tickets?
For many years the lottery corporation had no problem with us cashing our tickets at a one local retailer. The lottery corporation had a policy with retailers that if you owed them money it had to be paid by the due date or else they would suspend the terminal. But if the retailer was owed money because he had used the store money to pay winning tickets, then this would just remain as a credit that they had to work off with more sales. That was the general policy, however if the store’s balance was very large they could phone the lottery corporation and request an immediate settlement.
Then one day the OLGC decided that they no longer wanted us to redeem tickets at the store anymore. They told the retailer not to cash our tickets for us and that if he did he would no longer be able to get an immediate settlement for his credit balance. This would of course lead to him having a balance with the OLGC that he might never be able to work off. So although it says right on the ticket that that it can be redeemed at the retailer's, this apparently didn't apply to us. The reason probably being that they are required to pay a 2% commission to the retailer for cashing winning tickets. To avoid this they wanted me to go the head office in Toronto to cash all my tickets. For a while we tried cashing them a different stores but some had their lottery terminals closed down for aiding us. Another retailer was reimbursed for the cash paid out but they refused to pay the commission, clearly in violation of their contract. But I guess if you believe that you’re above the law that doesn’t matter.
After talking to the OLGC, we were told that we had to take all our tickets to Toronto to cash them. So we did. We actually read the rules and follow them. It states in the rules that the ticket control number is the only thing which determines if a ticket is a winner or a loser. According to this rule there’s no actual way of determining whether a ticket is a winner without putting it through a terminal. So every ticket as far as I’m concerned is a possible winner, there’s no way can you can know different. So we got all our possible winning tickets and filled seven garbage bags full of them and went off to Toronto.
Where you standing in the line with these bags of tickets?
I had my mom with me at the time, she helped me carry in all the bags. As far as I was concerned I was just another customer who wanted to check his tickets. We were though getting looks from the other people there. When I got to the front off the line I told them I’d brought all my tickets in to check. They told us that we couldn’t do this. I explained that they were all possible winners and that I was told to bring all my tickets here for validating because I wasn’t do it at the retailers. They said that they weren’t going to take the tickets. My attitude was screw that you have to take them, so I just put them on the counter and walked out.
A week later we got a letter from the OLGC saying that they were not going to check the tickets and that they could make the argument that I had abandoned the tickets and they could therefore throw them out. I knew that there was no way they would ever have thrown them out, as they were all possible winners - they’d leave themselves open to being sued for my estimate of their value. I know for certain that there were winners in those tickets. Or let’s say, that some were not only possible winners but even probable winners. We did put in a few thousand dollars of worth of probable winners just to make sure. I'm almost certain that there would have been even more winners in the bags aside from the ones we seeded in.
Next they sent us a letter saying that they were going to courier the tickets back to us. I then saw my lawyer and we filed a motion in court seeking to force them to check all the tickets. At this point their lawyers got in touch with ours and reached a settlement. I don’t know if I can go into this too much more without checking, as I’m not sure if the agreement included any confidentiality clause, but I can say for sure that they did eventually validate all the tickets.
That must have taken a while
It took them six months to do them all. They want to have rules in place to protect themselves but I see no reason why I can’t use the same rules to protect myself. I told them their rules clearly state that is only the control number which matters not what the games listed on the ticket are. They told me that they didn’t care what the rules say and that was it.
There have been numerous cases in the papers where people sued the OLGC over winnings. Have you ever had to resort to legal measures to get paid?
No, every winning ticket we’ve had has been paid. The only time we’ve needed to use legal action is to force them to check the garbage bags full of tickets. In the cases I’ve read about I always felt that the OLGC were actually right and I’m surprised that they settled. For example the case of the soccer games were they had the wrong dates. The definition of a game includes the team names and the date. If those two teams do not play on that exact date then the way I see it that event didn’t even occur. I don’t get why they settled on those. I wouldn’t have even played them. We check the dates on the games ourselves and if it isn’t correct we don't play. I would fully expect the odds to be reset to 1.00.
How about the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.
I've heard that the WCLC tried all kinds of measures to stop your playing.
They were very quick to put in betting limits and pull games off their lists. Retailers in Calgary told me that they were told by lottery officials to not take bets from us because we were big drug dealers from Toronto laundering money in their system. Many of the retailers had their machines taken out for selling to us.
Once I phoned the Western Canada lottery corporation and asked why they were pulling games off the list and they told me that people who they suspected of being criminal elements were over betting these games.
All these accusations of money laundering confuse me - it just seems a very inefficient way to do it ....
It actually makes no sense. Especially when you’re up money. How are you laundering money while winning? It’s just a smokescreen by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to cover up their mistakes.
Were you ever actually investigated by any police forces?
I do know that I have been investigated by police forces in Canada several times.
At the prompting of the lottery corporations?
Yes absolutely.. Definitely in both Ontario and Western Canada.
It’s a shame that the police had to waste their time and efforts to investigate these accusations from the lottery corporation which was being spiteful. It never did stop us from playing at all so it’s not like it really effected us. The Western lottery we found was the worst of them for using dirty tactics of that nature.
I think it is possible that some criminals have done it, but it has to be a very poor way to launder money. The lottery corporations knew full well that we weren't doing that, but just wanted to do anything they could to hinder us. One of the retailers even told us that a lottery representative told him that we were under investigation by Interpol!
I hope you've enjoying this transcript of my conversation with Poindexter. I found it very difficult to convey the atmosphere of the afternoon in written form. Much of the time was spent in laughter recounting our episodes of betting Proline over the years. Meanwhile, a lot of time was spent on serious discussions of how to gain an edge in proline plays.
Although our methods are very similiar, I was almost awed by Poindexter's ability to apply mathematics in analyzing differing complex betting situations. I was fortunate to receive some valuable tips on improving my own calculation of player edges. Some of which have already been implemented for this site, and others which are still on the drawing board.
Hope you've all enjoyed it - and many thanks to Poindexter!