The euros that he has put down on the jockey in the green-striped shirt is part of a "private investment fund" which relies on tipsters and earns him a percent annual return. Just then, his cellphone vibrates: it's a text from another tipster. If his studies prove conclusive, he will program it on his computer, under "Favorite loses first set" so it automatically launches. The race starts at Cheltenham.
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The euros that he has put down on the jockey in the green-striped shirt is part of a "private investment fund" which relies on tipsters and earns him a percent annual return. Just then, his cellphone vibrates: it's a text from another tipster.
If his studies prove conclusive, he will program it on his computer, under "Favorite loses first set" so it automatically launches. The race starts at Cheltenham. It's mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in March, and the gambler is dressed in cords and checkered shirt. His white beard and hair are disheveled, his reading glasses hang from his neck.
His desk is covered in several layers of dust and papers scribbled with formulas and numbers - their degree of yellowing is a like a scale that reflects the strata of his life as a gambler. This is more or less the position in which he spends his days at home in Madrid, although he does inch closer to the screen in order to determine the exact placement of his horse Going Wrong seems to be in third place, maybe second; it's hard to tell on the small screen.
At times he gets up to check the other four computers he has placed in various rooms in his house. They are all buzzing with their own activity, offering players from all over the planet bets that he has programmed. An electronic cry of "Goal! The software immediately updates itself, offering 2. His computers offer bets daily, from which he expects to earn some 15, euros a month, part of which will go to the investors and the remainder to a retirement fund.
It took him a year to study how and what to program: "a degree in sports betting," he calls it. Gonzalo is the patriarch of the Pelayo clan, a family who shot to fame in the s for designing a statistical-based method for winning on the roulette wheel.
According to the family's estimates, they won some million pesetas 1. Their discovery was accidental. Gonzalo had sent his nephew to the casino to learn the ways of the croupiers. He wanted to study their "ways of dropping" in the hopes of determining a pattern in the path, bounces and final resting place of the ball. His nephew took down numbers and dealers' names; Gonzalo analyzed the data on a program on his computer. That was when he discovered that some numbers come up a lot more often than others, a tendency that had nothing to do with the dealer and everything to do with defects in the manufacture and leveling of the tables.
These were the times of the get-rich-quick schemes, of the Seville Expo and the Barcelona Olympics. He has tried his hand at most everything: from radio announcer to matador manager.
In the s, he had a go at the movie industry. His second movie, Vivir en Sevilla or Living in Seville, received the following review from critic Fernando Trueba: "Clumsy dialogue and too calculatedly avant-garde.
He went underground after a judicial order closed the establishment down on rumors that minors were using drugs in its backrooms. So he started looking for a new gig, "beyond the limits of luck," as he calls it. There wasn't anybody over 26 years old in the first group.
Though the figures and dates are now blurred, as often occurs in legends, after a "few months" recording numbers and working with the data, betting began in earnest in the fall of According to the book, they won close to "a million pesetas a day" in the first month.
They played every day, from 5pm to closing. They are interrupted by the sound of their father's cellphone ringing - the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby is the ring tone, and he comments that he would like to see a movie which portrays his clan like the Liverpool quartet, with "producer Phil Spector hovering in the background. Though the film mixes fact and fiction, the script accurately reflects the clan's hostility toward the managers of the Torrelodones casino. The family was involved in long-drawn-out court case against these executives that started when they were kicked out of the establishment in for committing what the casino termed "gaming irregularities.
The movie doesn't say which casino he works for, but all of this attention has understandably caused concern and anticipation among management at the Madrid casino, who were not consulted by the movie's scriptwriters. They represent just another story among the more than 18 million visitors we get here.
We looked into whether they had some sort of advantage over the other players, and we fixed the imperfections in the tables. He tiptoes around the subject of the expulsions. He doesn't know what the family's total winnings amounted to. He says they never - "no way" - broke the bank. They usually won, but their story has been exaggerated. It was immediately discovered that the roulette tables had a pattern; so first the wheels were switched from one table to another, then the entire tables were replaced.
They played three or four weeks in total. One former croupier, who prefers to remain anonymous, remembers that the Pelayos' winning streak happen to coincide with a labor dispute between management and staff over an annual 2.
That probably was a factor. One of the tables, table 13 or 14, was in bad shape. The wheel hadn't been properly leveled, and they discovered this by watching and taking notes.
That is where they had their big wins, about million pesetas. But their method never worked as well in other casinos. The book mentions other wins in Vienna 14 million pesetas in one night , Amsterdam almost 13 million and 40 million in Lloret de Mar, where the movie was filmed.
But apart from one old Casio calculator, little physical evidence of this past remains today in the penumbra of Gonzalo's bedroom. There is something about the Pelayo clan that causes one to suffer a slight case of the Stockholm Syndrome. They welcome every visitor as if he or she may be the beginning of something new; there is a half-carved ham leg in the kitchen, and something about the smell of the house and the bookshelves full of movies and albums activates that part of your brain where memories of childhood are stored.
Beyond this, there is the money. Mazarrasa recalls winning 1. That's another story - maybe another movie. But money doesn't last long in the hands of a gambler and travel lover.
I live day to day," he says. It is still Tuesday when his winning horse, Going Wrong, finishes ninth, Verdasco loses more than four games to Del Potro, and the cry of "Goal!
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La Fabulosa Historia De Los Pelayos / The Fabulous Story of the Pelayos: 579 (Best Seller)
The clan that ruled the roulette wheel