Monday, February 18, 2008

Betting on professional tennis (espn)

The gambling parlors along Vienna's Laxenburger Strasse are hungry for customers tonight. A few die-hard punters stand in the rain, peering through steamy windows for the luck that may linger inside. A man in a tight-fitting leather jacket stands on a dimly lit corner beneath a sign he hopes will entice some of them his way. Wetten ist geil. Betting is sexy.

Inside his shop, Bet Paradise, a half-dozen grim-faced gamblers smoke unfiltered cigarettes and sneak peeks at the curvy Serbian cashier as they keep track of various games and matches on flat screens that hang on the wall. Martin Führer, the man in the leather jacket, taps his long fingers impatiently, waiting for them to fill out their betting slips. The pressure of running his own parlor has begun to crease his 30-year-old face. He misses his old life, the one he spent as a party boy on the pro tennis circuit, where his exploits earned him a nickname that would be his undoing: The Gambling King. Führer was everyone's friend, a former model whose looks and live-for-the-moment manner opened doors. The ATP Tour was his NASDAQ. He studied picks in intimate detail, and to do his research, he paid his own way to tournaments from Miami to Monte Carlo. He hung around players' hotels and lounges, got himself invited to the right meals and parties. What began as $100 bets quickly became $1,000 ones. Before long, $10,000 was the norm. But even as Führer kicked back in players' lounges placing bets on his mobile, no one seemed to care much about the fact he'd become one of the heaviest tennis bettors in the world.
The fun ended on May 18, 2004, when Führer won roughly $23,000 on an obscure ATP event held about 40 miles outside Vienna. An Austrian gambling firm immediately froze his bet, accusing Führer of conspiring to fix a match. Since then, he's been poison to bookies; no one will take his action. That's why he has put his savings into this parlor on the edge of the red-light district....

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