It was called the mambo, a slimy con job that pick-selling touts broke out only when they really wanted to put a sucker through the ringer.
In one case, it went something like this:
It’s 2002 in a South Florida office of a big-name sports service that was setup in an old Tae Kwon Do studio in Fort Meyers.
Business is booming. A group of elite salesmen posing as expert prognosticators and Las Vegas insiders are making $30,000 a week. They are ruthless. The parking lot looks like a luxury car dealership with Lamborghinis, Corvettes, Mercedes and Beamers.
Bob, one of the pick-sellers, has gone cold with his guaranteed locks. Vince, a loyal customer with a loose wallet, is down big.
Vince, like most clients, is a lonely gambler. He wants a friend almost as much as he wants a winner. Bob knows this.
“Listen, Vince, I feel really bad at about this. I know I’ve been struggling for you, but there’s a guy out of Vegas, Tom, who is killing them. He’s absolutely killing them. But the only problem is he’s not going to do business with me, because he knows I’m a service. He’s not going to give me his information so I share it with everyone else. But I want you to call him, you call him out of the blue.
“Don’t mention my name. If he asks you how you got his phone number, just tell him you ran into Joey Dogs at the race track. Now, he’s very expensive. If he tells you it’s 100 grand, don’t even blink an eye. Don’t question anything. If he starts talking money, don’t even blink. If they don’t think you have money, they’re not going to do business with you.”
Vince is intrigued. Bob gives him a number with the Vegas 702 area code and reminds him again not to mess with Tom.
Vince calls. Tom, who is sitting right next to Bob in the same Florida boiler room, answers and starts in on Vince.
“Listen, you know who you’re dealing with, right? We’re not messing around. We’re going to need $50,000 to even get started. And don’t mess around with us. You know who you’re dealing with right?”
Excited, Vince quickly calls Bob back and tells him how big-time Tom is and how he wants $50,000.
Calmly, Bob takes the charade to the next level.
“Well, that’s not that bad. He was charging a lot more last week. He must like you. What’d you do, give him a h------?”
Vince laughs and starts to believe he’s really a part of something big.
“Listen, Vince, I can raise most of the $50 grand, but I’m going to need you to chip in a little bit, say $10,000. Get that together and tell Tom the money will be there tomorrow.”
Vince forks over the $10,000 to Bob and calls Tom for his insider’s lock. Tom turns to Bob and flips a coin to decide which team to give Vince.
But the Mambo is just starting. And, if the “lock” loses, it goes to the next level.
Bob presses Vince to confront Tom about why the pick lost. When Vince calls, Tom rips into him.
“I know you’re not a big player, pal. I know that. I already did my homework on you. Don’t think we don’t know things. In fact, we know you’re working with that clown Bob down in Florida. So here’s what we’re going to do:
“What I want you to do is get me out $10 grand. I’m going to give you a blowout, but I want you to give that fraud, Bob, the opposite side of it. I want that a------ to lose his shirt on this game. You bet whatever you want, but you make sure to give him the opposite.
“These scumbags do this all the time. They use you folks like pawns to get to us. You know who we are. You know how we roll. We don’t mess around. We’re going to take care of this guy in the long run. But it’s your job right now to make him move as much money as possible. As long as you do that, we’re going to give you access to our plays that make a lot of f------- money. I know you’re not betting a lot of money. I’ve already checked your account at the casino. You got a lousy $2,000 in there.”
At this point, Vince doesn’t know what to do. He’s amazed that Tom has looked into him. But he doesn’t know if he should do his buddy Bob wrong. He’s confused, desperate and doesn’t want to let anyone down. He oozes money.
“That’s one of the really slimy things, when you get a guy caught up in a web like that,” said Danny Biancullo, aka Danny B., a 20-year veteran of the pick-selling industry who rattles off the Mambo spiel on cue. “He doesn’t know what to do. He kind of likes me, but I can’t win. He starts wondering whether he should listen to the other guy. And when people are down, they start doing desperate (stuff).
“That doesn’t happen at every service. That’s for advanced guys,” Danny B. continues. “They call it a mambo. A mambo is when you take a guy through the ringer. For us to pull out this trick, the guy has to be invested pretty well, $25-$50 grand. And the trust has to be there. You can tell a guy’s mentality on the phone and whether he’s playing with a full deck or not.”
These days, Danny B. owns his own pick-selling business, DannyBwins.com, something he started in 2004 and does it “by the book,” he says. He says he’s not proud of it, but acknowledges participating in the greasiest sides of a notorious industry.
“I talk about it openly, talk about in on the radio show, no reason not to,” said Danny. B. “It’s a part of my past.”
His tout career began in 1994, working for Jack Price. Danny B. gambled and had worked for casinos, but admits he knew nothing about handicapping when he started working for Price. It didn’t matter.
Eventually, Danny B. teamed up with an owner of an early offshore sports book, English Sports Betting. He began writing and doing marketing work for the Las Vegas Sporting News (no affiliation to this website). He even contributed to an HBO special on the handicapping industry and became a familiar voice on 1-900 and score phones.
“I was the voice of American gamblers for five or six years,” he said. “‘Danny B. bringing you odds and scores. Let’s take a look at your action; Games underway ... ’”
Danny B. moved to Fort Meyers to join the Florida sports service in 2001. At first, he was reluctant to go as far as some of the other salesmen. But soon the money became too much to ignore. He turned his hat around and joined in the mambo.
“You have levels of salesmen: Good, great and out of this world. I was a part of the out-of-this-world class,” he said. “We made half-a-million dollars every week like clockwork. Not betting, not doing anything more than getting paid off of clients, whether it was from winners or just stories. I started making huge money. Seven figures in seven months just on sales.”
In 2003, wife pregnant, Danny B. couldn’t take it anymore. “I didn’t like what I was doing,” he said.
He left and started his own business in January 2004. Three months later, he got a knock on the door and was raided by federal and local agents as part of an investigation into the Florida service.
“They seized everyone’s money, even their wives’ money,” said Danny B., who pleaded guilty to violating the Wire Act, served six months of house arrest and re-opened business in New Jersey, where he does radio shows and supports his family selling himself and his picks.
“I sell my personality. People like me,” he said.
Danny B. says the pick-selling scams that go on these days are much tamer, but adds that the boiler room phone shops still exist.
“I know a guy out of New York that has five or six companies, with only six or seven guys all in one little office in Hoboken, N.J., the size of my basement,” Danny B. says. “That’s probably the most common scam these days: multiple companies that actually are just one company with the same guys who just pass you along, when they hit a losing streak.”