Just like Don King, Mike Tyson’s inimitable promoter, and Tyson and James “Buster” Douglas themselves, longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro had a pivotal role in making the Tokyo fight on Feb. 11, 1990, a historic occasion.
Then working at The Mirage, a Vegas casino, Vaccaro has the distinction of being the one associated with the now-famous 42-to-1 odds placed on Douglas.
“I was the only one who posted odds on that fight,” Vaccaro said in a recent interview with Gambling Online Magazine. “Everybody who booked the Tyson fights at that time would just have a round proposition, over or under a certain amount of rounds. And I thought that was phony, because you can make the odds high enough to get two-way action. That’s what line-making and bookmaking is all about.”
He added: ” I opened the Buster Douglas/Tyson fight at 27-to-1 and people jumped on Tyson. The first bet I took was for $81,000 to win $3,000. I moved it to 32-to-1 and the next guy bet something like $93,000 to win $3,000. And since we were the only place offering odds, everybody had to come to The Mirage if they wanted to bet. … So, eventually it got up to 42-to-1 and by adjusting numbers to get two-way action, we were in a spot where if Tyson lost we could win $104,000 and if Tyson won we would gain $3,000. So we had no risk in the outcome and great publicity with every news outlet in the world coming to the Mirage. And after Tyson lost, we were the only place that could talk about it because we were the only ones who had odds on the fight.
“In the world of Las Vegas sports wagering, there’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing.’ Never was that old adage truer than on that February night when the 42-to-1 long shot shocked the world by knocking out Tyson in the 10th round to become the new heavyweight champion. One bettor had placed $1,500 on Douglas at 38-to-1 for a $57,000 payday.”