In a nutshell:

"If you don't gamble every day, you could be in the middle of a winning streak and not even know it."
- R. J. Miller



Writer switches from jokes to bets

Pro sports handicapper thinks U.S. policy on gambling is really funny

READYVILLE — Sports handicapper J.R. Miller used to make his living writing comedy.

He said that in sports gambling, the joke is on the U.S. government.

"We need to look at it from a logical perspective," said Miller, who operates out of his home near Murfreesboro.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars are going out of our country to overseas bookmakers. The money we are losing in taxes on those gambling dollars just on the Internet, it's a terrible waste. And many of our senators treat us like fools or children by trying to not allow grown people to gamble."

Miller, who established his site in 1997, is one of many seeking a piece of the nation's multibillion-dollar sports-gambling action. He makes a living helping others try to beat the system.

Although there are no specific statistics on the number of sports handicappers, an Internet search turns up a slew of sites run by people who consider themselves professionals. By all accounts, however, it's tough to stay in business.

"Frankly, I don't know many who do it successfully," said Kelso Sturgeon, a 25-year handicapping professional. "The chances for survival are between zero and none."

Betting expresses freedom

Miller's hook? His passion extends beyond the act of gambling. To him it is about the freedom to choose.

He wrote The Social Impact of Gambling, an article on his site in which he concedes that gambling can become addictive, just like many other things, but argues it shouldn't be illegal.

Miller got into gambling in the 1970s while writing for the TV comedy Hee-Haw. The work had its slow periods, so Miller, his brother, R.J., and his son, J.V., looked for ways to pass the time. They started with blackjack.

"My brother had already moved to Vegas, and together we learned how to play blackjack and beat the system."

He said it's very hard to beat casinos — roulette, craps and slot machines are all set up to favor the house — but sports gambling is different.

"In roulette your odds are always the same. But with you and me deciding whether the Indianapolis Colts are going to win by six points or seven points, all of a sudden it's not written in stone."

As for beating the system, Miller said a lot of it is common sense, like not allowing a hot streak to cloud your judgment.

He has published several books, including How Professional Gamblers Beat the Pro-Football Point Spread. His online service offers analysis and picks of NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB games.

Miller does not offer tips on college games — although he said college lines are softer and easier to beat — because he feels college sports is a "terrible mess," rife with corruption and subject to point shaving.

Miller said he's doing just fine with the pros anyway. He has about 200 customers.

"It's the best way to make a living I can possibly think of," he said. "I am so happy I am waiting for the other shoe to fall."



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