Updated on 09/16/2011 8:50AM

Beating the odds to Bangkok

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Las Vegas Sports Consultants
Roxy Roxborough retired three years ago as America's best-known oddsmaker.

BANGKOK, Thailand - It was Monday morning in Bangkok, and just as the rest of this bustling city was getting set to fight the choking rush-hour traffic, Roxy Roxborough was awakening to the live telecast of the Sunday night football game between Minnesota and Green Bay.

Once upon a time, Roxborough would have been fretting over every play, then huddling with his coterie of advisers at Las Vegas Sports Consultants to put out the following week's National Football League lines at game's end. But these days, while retaining a passing interest in the NFL and other sports halfway around the world, Roxborough finds more joy in betting on cricket, the Stanley Cup, and the America's Cup.

Roxborough, 51, retired three years ago as America's best-known oddsmaker and moved to Thailand. He still consults with several Internet gambling companies. But, being set for life by selling several businesses at opportune times and living in a land where the dollar goes a long way when converted to the Thai baht, Roxborough is living, as they say in Bangkok, "high-so," for high society.

"I thought the business I was in was one of the most stressful businesses there is," Roxborough said in an interview here, where he lives in a 17th-floor condominium with a 270-degree view of downtown Bangkok. "Every business has stress, but [as an oddsmaker], you weren't evaluated every week, but every game. I wanted to escape the technology. Now, it's on my own terms. I'm doing some consulting, doing some betting, but I do it at my own pace. And here, it's pretty relaxed anyway."

Roxborough, who is single but has a Thai girlfriend, could live anywhere. Why did he chose Thailand?

"I like the chaos of Bangkok. Every day's an adventure," he said. "The people here are the best. I like Thai people."

They like him, too. At several restaurants, Roxborough is greeted like a dignitary, getting the best tables and reduced prices on drinks. At one Italian restaurant, the chef came out of the kitchen and personally took his order.

There remains in Roxborough, though, the same lack of pretension that endeared him to a cross-section of people in the gambling industry. He was probably best known for putting out the daily "America's Line" that was syndicated in newspapers across the country. But he was a regular at horse racing events like the Kentucky Derby, and he still comes to the United States every spring to attend at least one of the Triple Crown races.

He has a group of close friends, the Known Gamblers, who make a pilgrimage to an exotic racing locale every year. Last month, the K.G.'s, as Roxborough refers to them, attended the Melbourne Cup. Next summer - no kidding - they are going to Ferndale, Calif., for the Humboldt County Marathon.

Roxborough retains a passion for racing, and especially loves to immerse himself in the march to the Derby.

"I follow the Triple Crown," Roxborough said. "I'll get all the charts off the Daily Racing Form website, start following the 2-year-olds before the end of each year. I watch the races on 'Wire-to-Wire' on ESPN, which I get here. So, even though I'm half a world away, I might know more than people in America, because my opinion isn't clouded by all the noise, the touting on stuff that's just not there."

Roxborough sold all of his businesses between three and six years ago, with the exception of America's Line, which was sold this year. His major score was founding and growing Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which is the world's largest independent oddsmaking company, providing prices to about 90 percent of the casinos in Las Vegas. He also made a nice score with Instant Odds Network, a computerized odds update service.

Roxborough became an oddsmaker when he was wooed by casino officials who noticed he was killing them as a professional gambler. Beginning in 1975, before Las Vegas Sports Consultants, before the Internet, there were wildly fluctuating prices on sports events, no coordination among the major casinos, and little expertise in setting prices. Roxborough's bread-and-butter was betting the over-under line on baseball.

"They used to set lines by adding up the respective ERA's of the starting pitchers," Roxborough said. "And they'd adjust their lines based on what happened in previous games of a series. If you had back-to-back high scoring games in Wrigley Field, they would set a high line for the third game of the series. But what if the wind was blowing out for the first two games, and blowing in for the third game? That's the kind of edge we would look for."

He also played poker against tourists in Las Vegas. "Anything where I thought I had an advantage," he said.

Roxborough's knowledge of odds and statistics brought more business his way. Insurance companies, for instance, would contract with his company to do risk assessment on the odds of policies they were going to underwrite, such as bonuses for athletes.

A guy into that much action cannot just walk away from it. So even though Roxborough is retired, he still plays, with a head-spinning variety of wagers enabled by the proliferation of Internet bookmakers. Because he was immersed in the business, Roxborough plays only with well-financed, legitimate companies.

"I've got the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup with a bookmaker in Australia, South Africa to win the cricket World Cup with a bookmaker in England, and the Swiss boat to win the America's Cup with a bookmaker in the Czech Republic," he said.

In addition to the consulting he does with Internet wagering companies, Roxborough still has clients who want the lines he puts out on the Triple Crown races, including an early Kentucky Derby line that usually makes its first appearance in late-February each year. By following the Derby preps, Roxborough gears up every spring to bet the Derby. But not in the usual way.

"I like to bet the head-to-head propositions offered in Las Vegas," he said.

And just about all of it is done from the comfort of home, even if that home is literally halfway around the world from Louisville, Ky.

"I'm 51 years old, I've been here 3 1/2 years, and life couldn't be better," he said.