07/03/2010 02:34 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lay the Favorite and Wall Street Ethics

Easy Come, Easy Go

-Bobby Sherman

Lay The Favorite is Beth Raymer's debut book that revolves around her life as an assistant to a professional gambler in Las Vegas. Raymer parlayed that initial job into a series of positions in the gambling industry in the United States, the Caribbean and Costa Rica.

It's a fascinating tale by a first time writer. I think more about Raymer as a writer than I do as a human being. She stole from her customers, and did a lot of unseemly things.

As I note in my book, Son of a Son of a Gambler, my father was a professional gambler in the glory days of Newport and Northern Kentucky. Dad seemed a lot like the character "Dink" in Raymer's book.

Dad and the bookmakers he associated with operated with a unique moral code. They violated the law by being gamblers and bribed politicians to keep from being shut down but they never stole from each other or their customers.

The son of a famous gambler and I discussed our father's worlds. We noted that gamblers operated on a high ethical code more than many business people. Certainly they operated on higher ground than Wall Street.

As dad often noted, all he had was his reputation and the word of his clients. He expected them to honorably pay their debts and most of them did. Dad didn't have the ability to sue for damages. He didn't have fancy lobbyists and didn't get a government bailout if things went wrong.

Unlike the movies, dad didn't have leg breakers. Gary Mayer said in the Bookie, my favorite and most accurate book about bookmaking, "bookies don't carry guns, they don't even carry sharp pencils."

I've always preferred gambling ethics to Wall Street ethics. At least I did until I read Raymer's book.

Most of the people in her book were stealing from someone. Stealing from the boss, stealing from clients, stealing from each other. Everything had an angle and the goal was to put one over on one another.

The ethics of my father's era had been replaced by the ethics of Goldman Sachs.

I had a hard time deciding whether I liked Lay The Favorite. For the first 100 pages, I absolutely loved it.

Ramer's writing style is riveting and her insights into her world are dead on. She weaves her personal story into an overall narrative about a sub culture few people know much about. I wanted to like her book but it is hard to like a book that ends by the author ripping off a client and taking pride in "getting one over on him."

There are very good books on similar topics. The Smart Money by Michael Konik is a fascinating look at big time sports betting, at a level far beyond what Raymer glimpsed. Martha Frankel's Hats and Eyeglasses is a literary masterpiece with a gambling theme.

As I previously mentioned, my favorite is The Bookie, a hard to find 1974 classic by Gary Mayer. Not only is it a realistic glimpse into the life of a bookmaker, it is one of the funniest books I've ever read. If you can find it, I highly recommend reading it.

All in all, I recommend reading Lay The Favorite. I hope the author can someday get past her lack of ethics and conscience.

If not, she has a big career waiting for her on Wall Street.


Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

You can read more about Don at

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at

McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.