Last updated on: December 27th, 2022
Jimmy The Greek Sports Betting Bio
The first sports betting celebrity on television, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was instrumental in the normalization and eventual popularization of sports betting throughout the United States. Born, Demetrios Georgos Synodinos, Snyder is famous for his work as a sports betting analyst on CBS during the 1980s and his fast fall from grace following inappropriate comments. Jimmy the Greek’s importance as one of the most famous sports bettors of all time cannot be understated, as his influence goes beyond his work on TV. Snyder lived from 1918-1996, with the key milestones in his life expanded upon down below.
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Jimmy The Greek Gets His Start
Jimmy the Greek has been betting on sports ever since he was in his teens. By the time he was 30, he was ready to start making some of his most famous wagers. His biggest bet at the time was the $10,000 he placed on Harry S. Truman to become president over Thomas Dewey during the 1948 presidential election. Jimmy won the bet on 17:1 odds, giving him a $170,000 payday. The bet was really risky as even newspapers couldn’t predict who would win the presidential election. If you adjust for inflation. That wager is worth $1.7 million by today’s standards. Jimmy went on to make a profitable career through legal sports betting.
Jimmy The Greek’s Early Life
Having been raised in Steubenville, Ohio to two Greek immigrants from the Greek Island of Chios, those that don’t know the history of Jimmy the Greek may assume that he had an inauspicious start to sports betting before diving in as an adult. That could not be further from the truth, as Snyder placed his first wager at a candy store when he was only 13 years old. Just a few years after that, Snyder dropped out of high school during his sophomore year and became a professional gambler. After dropping out, Snyder made the move from Steubenville, Ohio to Florida.
Jimmy The Greek In Florida
Once in Florida, Jimmy the Greek began making his living as a professional gambler at the Sunshine State’s racetracks and through sports betting. He would live in Florida for about 15 years. Before leaving Florida, Snyder would have his first big win on the 1948 Presidential election. “The Greek” bet $10,000 on incumbent Harry Truman to win the 1948 election at 17-1 odds. Truman would eventually beat out Thomas Dewey and win the election, paying out $170,000. Taking the year into account, that payday for Jimmy the Greek would be similar to winning $1.7 million in modern times. Following the election, and a few failed business ventures, Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder would make the move to Las Vegas to capitalize on the legal sports betting in the state.
Jimmy The Greek Moves To Las Vegas
Having lost a large portion of his winnings from the Truman election to various ill-fated oil-drilling and coal-mining ventures, Jimmy the Greek decided to move himself and his family to Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the few places in the United States where gambling was legal at the time. His move prompted him to dive into the business he loved best, gambling, and sports betting in particular. In 1956, he started selling his weekly pro-betting line tips that he’d write up based on his knowledge of the game. This would make him famous in various sports betting communities.
He began selling his picks nationwide as word spread of his business. However, laws began to come out forbidding gambling businesses to cross state lines but Snyder did not abide by these laws and was soon arrested. In 1961, he started writing a legitimate column for the Las Vegas Sun with both sports and political picks for upcoming events. Only after that did he regain the respect of his peers that he lost after his initial arrest. From there, his career in sports would only get better.
The NFL Goes Greek
After gaining more fame from sports betting, 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. In 2022, with an entire cottage industry of sports betting talk shows, Jimmy the Greek’s influence looms large still.
Jimmy The Greek Exits Stage Left
Arguably one of the first sports industry members to be canceled, Jimmy the Greek’s public life came to an end in 1988 when CBS fired him for “racial comments”. During an interview, Jimmy suggested that selective breeding during the US slave era led to physically superior athletes with frames and builds especially suited to explosive contact sports like football. While this is scientifically inaccurate and racially biased, he might have been able to skate if that was all he said. However, Jimmy also opined that, should African Americans take over all the coaching jobs “there’s not to be anything left for white people.” After his firing, Jimmy shifted out of the limelight inside and outside of the sports betting world, and is now remembered for both his role in bringing sports betting to the masses and for the awful way it ended.
It’s All About The Facial Hair In Politics
Jimmy The Greek had a theory about facial hair when it came to betting politics. His famous wager also known as his “big break” into the betting world came from gambling on Harry Truman to win the 1948 Presidential Election. Why would Snyder bet such a huge sum of money for the time on a candidate that was given 17:1 odds? Facial hair. Truman had none while his opponent Thomas E. Dewey had a mustache. Now Snyder did his research on this before placing the bet and that research was rather sneaky.
He told his sister he was going to grow a mustache and she told him women preferred men without them. Going on her word, he found three ladies from church to survey a total of 500 women about their thoughts on facial hair. Of the 500 ladies polled, 325 did not like facial hair. That sealed the deal for Jimmy the Greek betting on Truman and winning $170,000 to kick off the start of his prolific gambling career.