Jimmy The Greek Sports Betting Bio

Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was born in 1908 in Steubenville, Ohio and is considered to be one of the most famous sports bettors ever. His birth name, Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos, reflected his heritage, as his family had its roots on the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. From an early age, Jimmy was acquainted with bookmakers, and when his industrial ambitions didn’t pan out, he moved to Las Vegas, got on television, and brought sports betting into every household in America. As such, “Jimmy the Greek” was one of the most influential sportscasters of all time, and the draw of his passion fundamentally permeates a big part of the estimated $500 billion that Americans spend betting on sports each year.

Jimmy The Greek Gets His Start

Jimmy the Greek started betting as a teenager, and by the time he was 30 years old, he was ready to make his most famous wager. During the 1948 election, Jimmy placed $10,000 on Harry S. Truman to defeat Thomas Dewey in the Presidential election, primarily because the latter had a crooked mustache. As you know, the national newspapers couldn’t even predict the winner once the votes were already in, making Jimmy’s feat all the more impressive. On 17:1 odds, Jimmy got $170,000, which is a whopping $1.7 million adjusted for inflation. A risky bet, but it paid off – and paid out – bigtime. These are the type of bets you would be able to place if there were legal sports betting available everywhere.

Jimmy The Greek Moves To Las Vegas

Having lost a portion of his winnings from the Truman election to various ill-fated oil-drilling and coal-mining ventures, Jimmy the Greek decided to pursue his lifelong interest in gambling and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. There, in 1956, he started writing a weekly pro-football betting line. He was famous in local sports betting circles, and it didn’t take long to build up a significant audience looking to make a buck off his predictions.

The NFL Goes Greek

After gaining ever more notoriety with his lines and picks, Jimmy was hired as an on-air analyst for CBS’s “The NFL Today.” Alongside Brent Musburger, “Jimmy the Greek” would share his weekly NFL predictions on winners and losers, and he subtly educated a national audience on the then-taboo subject of sports betting.

Before Jimmy got on television, the average NFL fan had no idea what a spread was or how favorites and underdogs worked. And though he didn’t ever explicitly tie his score predictions (from which the spread could be gleaned) to the gambling underground, Jimmy – kind of by proxy – made sports betting in America normal. There aren’t many opportunities for the lowly sportscaster to literally change the culture of an entire country, but if one ever actually did (or even came close), it was Jimmy the Greek.

Jimmy The Greek Exits Stage Left

Arguably one of the first sports industry victims of the so-called “political correctness” movement, Jimmy the Greek’s public life came to an end in 1988 when CBS fired him for “racial comments.” Through the lens of contemporary America, his comments seem innocuous enough – almost comically so. Here’s what happened:

During an interview, Jimmy suggested that selective breeding during the US slave era (which was extremely common) led to physically superior athletes with frames and builds especially suited to explosive contact sports like football. A simplistic theory to be sure, but it isn’t a mean-spirited or disparaging one. Nor is it entirely without merit. Perhaps less judiciously, Jimmy also opined that, should African Americans take over all the coaching jobs (as campaigned for by the Affirmative Action set), “there’s not to be anything left for white people.”

Ironically, Jimmy’s ouster over the above comments reflects the sociopolitical climate of today better than that of 1988. This debate is so constant now, it’s almost impossible to avoid it and similar issues during the course of one’s workaday life. In a way, though perhaps poorly phrased, Jimmy thus exhibited his lasting prescience and trailblazing one last time.

Jimmy the Greek passed away from a heart attack in 1996. He was 77 years old.