Updated on 09/17/2011 12:33PM

Sports betting pioneer Mort Olshan dies at 77


Mort Olshan, the founder and publisher of "The Gold Sheet," passed away Monday afternoon after a bout with lung cancer. He was 77.

Olshan must be included on any list of pioneers in the sports betting information industry and making it more accessible to the mainstream public (that list would also have to include oddsmaker Bob Martin, TV personality Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, and oddsmaker Michael "Roxy" Roxborough). Before them, the world of sports betting was conducted in the shadows. They brought it to the masses.

In fact, it was Roxborough that likened the Gold Sheet to Daily Racing Form.

"The Gold Sheet is the industry standard for accuracy," he was quoted as saying. "I wouldn't go to the track without a Racing Form and I wouldn't start handicapping sports without The Gold Sheet."

Olshan was born on April 6, 1926, and grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. He served his country in the Marine Corps in World War II. In 1948, he saw an article on Leo Hirschfield, the "Wizard of Odds," in Colliers magazine. Hirschfield was the creator of the Minneapolis Line, providing odds to bookies all over the country, and published "The Green Sheet." Olshan moved to Minneapolis to personally ask Hirschfield for a job. He started as a statistician but quickly moved up to one of the four oddsmakers that set the line for the country.

Olshan left the business in 1950 and moved to California because he felt the Kefauver Hearings would end sports betting as he knew it. When no legislation came out in the ensuing years, he started up a publication called the "Nation-Wide Football" in 1957, which later became known as "The Gold Sheet," the most recognizable newsletter in the industry.

I never met Mr. Olshan and only talked to him once when I was gathering comments from industry officials about the college betting bill ban that was being debated in Congress a few years ago. But I got many of my earliest lessons in football handicapping from "The Gold Sheet," and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Handicapping contest updates

Handicapper Kevin O'Neill of consumerbet.com went a perfect 7-0 last weekend in his first-round matchup vs. Lee Sterling (2-5) in the Stardust Invitational. Despite reports to the contrary, O'Neill is not the first to go undefeated in the nine-year history of the contest. On Dec. 14, 2001, Mike Orkin posted a 7-0 record in his semifinal victory over Patrick Forsythe. There was some controversy that week because a sheet distributed with the picks had Orkin taking the Cowboys in their game vs. the Seahawks, but Orkin's selection was on Seattle, which won 29-3. This Friday, Andy Iskoe takes on Steve Fezzik in the sports book at 9 p.m. and on KDWN AM-720 (kdwn.com).

* A contestant going under the alias "thesportspage.com" went 5-0 to take over sole possession of first place in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest with a record of 17-3. "Soup du Jour," who had been tied for first entering last week, fell into a three-way tie for second at 16-4 with "Magic Mike" and "Peter and Paul." All of their picks, as well as those of the other 342 contestants who put up $1,500 in the prestigious contest, will be available Friday afternoon in the Hilton SuperBook and at www.nss.net/Hilton.asp.

* "Hammerin Hank," "Jarhead," and "E Paul" are tied for first in the Station Casinos Gambler's Challenge with records of 14-5-1. Their picks will be available in sports books at Station Casinos.

* On a horse racing contest note, the carryover in the Imperial Palace's progressive jackpot in its Super Saturday contest is $8,330. If 180 entries are accepted this week, the winner would collect $10,330. The contest includes three races from Belmont and three races from the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet.

Fights, charity highlight weekend

Aging Evander Holyfield takes on James Toney Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in a non-title heavyweight 12-round fight. Holyfield is a slight -145 favorite. The over/under is set at 12 rounds with the bout favored at -170 to go the distance. This bout isn't generating the buzz of Holyfield's past fights, or even last month's Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley battle, but Holyfield is still a headliner. Tickets range from $75 to $650 with pay-per-view going for $45. Adding to the card is the lightweight bout between Diego Corrales (also a -145 favorite) and Joel Casamayor.

* The bigger draw Saturday night might be Andre Agassi's Grand Slam for Children at 8 p.m. in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Agassi is a Las Vegas native and he holds this annual fund-raiser to benefit underprivileged, abused, and at-risk children in the Las Vegas community. Expected to perform are singers Elton John, Billy Joel, and Sheryl Crow, along with comedians Robin Williams, Dennis Miller, and Jamie Foxx.

The icemen cometh

It seems like yesterday that the New Jersey Devils were holding off the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to win the Stanley Cup four games to three, but the NHL season begins Wednesday night. According to odds from Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the defending champs are the third choice at 6-1, ranked behind the Colorado Avalanche, at 9-2, who added free agents Paul Kariva and Teemu Selanne in the offseason, and the Detroit Red Wings at 5-1. Another top contender is the Ottawa Senators (8-1).