Lem Banker the “Godfather of Vegas Sports Betting
Lem Banker The Godfather of Vegas Sports Betting
Lester “Lem” Banker never drew a paycheck. He was a successful sports gambler his whole life. He was a pioneer who was good friends with Bob Martin and Mort Olshan. If you remember they were our first two entries in our “History of Gambling” series. He called them close friends when he first moved to Las Vegas. His knowledge was immense. When Lem Banker made a wager he would move lines with every sportsbook, or bookie, in America.
I had a personal relationship with Lem sharing many dinners with him and his wife Debbie. Just the cutest couple, and you could tell Debbie was the biggest win of his life. Any night one could spend with Lem and Debbie was filled with the greatest stories. He remembered every big win, as well as every bad beat. It was always the greatest time spending a night with him. By this time he was a Vegas celebrity. Many times people would come up to meet him and he would always leave them with a tip for the weekend.
Lem Banker Cared for People
Lem was a very caring man. i remember one night he asked if i could get a extra ticket to a fight i was taking him to. I worked it out with my casino host. His guest was Mike Tyson, who at that time was down and out, but Lem stood right by him. Just the most caring guy you could ever see.
His favorite gambling story was a 1964 meeting between Notre Dame and Southern Cal. Notre Dame was undefeated and number one in the country. They came to LA to play the Trojans in the coliseum. Lem was down to his last $10,000 and he bet it all on the Trojans. He knew Southern Cal inside and out. He bet his life savings on the Trojans. Down 17-0 at the half things weren’t looking good. In the second half Southern Cal scored 20 unanswered points. The Trojans won the game outright 20-17. Lem’s instincts paid off.
As good as he was in sports betting he was renowned for his boxing wagers. People would call him from around the USA for his boxing tips.
One of his biggest wins was Marvin Hagler over Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. Lem put a hefty $100,000 into his bank account after a 3rd round tko by Hagler.
He also won big on info when Larry Holmes beat Muhammad ali after 10 rounds.
Once the computer age hit, Lem wasn’t as an advantage over bookmakers. Most books all had the same number as the info sharper. in his later years he was a Vegas personality. He was still earning the respect of Vegas gamblers and sports books. Banker was often doing radio and t.v. sports shows. Never a handicapper he would give picks away and never sold them as most would have.
Lem Banker not just a career winning sports bettor but he was an all-around great guy. To know him and call him a friend is one of the proud moments of my life. To know a man like Lem is truly something you cherish.