5:42 PM EDT, May 16, 2013
For Frank Carulli, it's not just a cliche anymore. He really is going to be living the dream in a few weeks.
The longtime Maryland Jockey Club handicapper and race analyst is working his final Preakness on Saturday and will finish out the spring meet at Pimlico Race Course before packing up his speed charts and moving to ... well, where else? Las Vegas.
That's not breaking news, since his pending departure was announced in March to give the casinos on the Strip a chance to build up their cash reserves, but it still calls for further elaboration.
Carulli is happy to oblige, since he's been planning to take his gaming skills to that boulevard of broken dreams for longer than he has been setting the morning line at Pimlico and Laurel Park. He told Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston as much when he arrived in Baltimore — lured away from the Charles Town, W.Va., racetrack back in 2002.
Talk about a long-term strategy. The 51-year-old former Pennsylvania sports editor has spent the past couple of decades building a reputation as one of the most accurate morning-line calculators in the business, but he said the other day that he never set the over-under on how long he would remain in Maryland.
"No, I didn't have a timeline," he said. "I'm not the kind of guy who likes to roam around a lot. It was tough leaving Charles Town, where I was for five years before coming here, but they made me a good offer. Certainly, I came largely on the promise of slots, having seen what slots were doing early on at Charles Town. That was a critical factor. I knew the potential of it in Maryland. No question, that was a huge driving force, thinking what the product could be and the stability that would bring to the job front."
That slots bonanza was never realized, of course, but Carulli settled in and began building the nest egg he would need to make his next move. The only timetable was however long it would take to amass enough money to cover his gambling and living expenses for 18 months. Still, it took a couple of midlife health scares to finally set the wheels in motion.
"That definitely helped fuel my move," he said. "I always wanted to move out there and I can afford to do it, and that's why I'm doing it."
So, you've probably figured out by now that Carulli is not leaving Maryland for some glitzy oddsmaker position at the Bellagio. This is a pure gambling venture … an attempt to find out whether it's possible for a guy with a photographic memory and some mad analytical skills to keep himself alive indefinitely in a place that keeps building more and more giant gambling palaces with all the money left behind by people just like him.
Carulli is well aware of the odds against him. Who could possibly understand them better?
"If I could pull it off, just to live out there, I'd love to do it," he said, "but I think at some point I'll have to make some money somewhere. I'm not going out thinking I'm this professional gambler. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to have a good bankroll to bet with, and if that goes — and we all know how quickly it can go when you start chasing — if that goes, I'll have to reassess the situation and probably get a full-time job. But I'm not worried about that. I still want to be in Vegas."
He'll leave behind a ton of great memories and a very special appreciation of the place that Old Hilltop and the Preakness have earned in racing history.
"As a racing fan and not someone who works here and has to cover it, I think the Preakness deserves its place as maybe the greatest race in America as far as what has actually happened in the race — the drama and the tragedy and the triumph," he said. "Even before I worked here, you had Easy Goer and Sunday Silence, which is kind of timely now that it's Shug McGaughey's first horse back since Easy Goer, which many held was the race of the decade. You had Afleet Alex with Jeremy Rose almost falling off, just an incredible feat of athleticism. The Smarty Jones hullabaloo was just off the charts. It was absolutely neat being part of that. Of course, the tragedy with Barbaro. It's just been a great race. It really deserves its own place."
Carulli already has his own place. He bought a home in the Las Vegas Country Club, within walking distance of LVH, the rejuvenated casino hotel formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton. He'll play the horses, of course, and maybe some Texas hold-em, but his real love is sports betting.
"I'm trying to devise the best plan," he said. "I have X bankroll. I have enough budgeted for a year and a half or two, covering every expense and a bankroll to bet, and basically I'm going to go as far as I can go. If I run empty, I got to get a job. I'm doing it in reverse. I'm retiring first and worrying about a job later. Just something I want to do and I'm going to do it."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog, and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090AM) and at wbal.com.
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