Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 | 7:36 a.m.
It was surely the most successful financial portfolio that never graced the covers of those glossy money magazines touting "the year's hottest funds."
It achieved a phenomenal rate of growth, awarding its admittedly select clientele a return of 10 times the original investment in a year.
It ended without fanfare this month, officially dissolved during a meeting "at a tawdry, nondescript restaurant on West Sahara," according to its de facto junior partner.
A year ago the one-name Las Vegas professional gambler Fezzik teamed up with Jeff Jones of Henderson, a part-time bettor and full-time skeptic, to form a small sports betting fund seeded with an initial bankroll of $1,000.
Loosely based on Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's proposal for a "gambling hedge fund," the Fezzdaq would be devoted to sports wagers made at the most advantageous point spreads - often called "rogue," or off-market, betting lines.
(Rogue lines are available at regular sports books to the public, but you have to be diligent enough to snap them up before they are adjusted.)
The goal, Fezzik said, was to demonstrate that it's possible to win money consistently betting sports - not necessarily by using some mystical, magical (and often fictional) handicapping wizardry, but by using footwork and betting savvy to grab the best numbers on the board.
Mission accomplished: After opening at $1,000 in early 2006, the Fezzdaq closed (with one wager pending) with a balance of $10,730 - in real money, not theoretical "terwilligers" or something. It was generated by a series of individual bets made daily ranging from $60 or so to the low three figures.
"There are still some people in the world who believe that gamblers don't or can't win every year," Fezzik said this weekend, sounding incredulous. "The truth is that the people who are the best at this do win, year after year. I think the Fezzdaq helped illustrate that nicely."
The danger in following the picks of a sports handicapper, even a successful one, is that any value in betting their selections disappears once the betting line moves a couple of points, Fezzik said.
"We ran around town playing soft numbers and incorporated some handicapping in our selections," Fezzik said. "The reason the best people win is not because they hit 55 percent of their picks against widely available lines, it's because they're hitting 52 1/2 to 53 percent of their own bets."
The primary reason for closing the Fezzdaq was that it was becoming more unwieldy as it grew, Fezzik said.
For example, if he was making a $1,000 bet from his own bankroll, Fezzik might devote $100 of it to the Fezzdaq. But with the index above $10,000, it began to demand wagers that were too large to justify, Fezzik said, especially considering sports books with off-market betting lines also offer relatively low betting limits.
This is also the major weakness of Cuban's original idea. It might work well on a small scale, but it rapidly turns cumbersome.
Even so, the Fezzdaq experience does offer a lesson to sports bettors, whether their average bet is less than $100 or 10 times higher: Always insist on the best point spread, and never take the worst of the number.
It seems obvious, but how many bettors went to the window last week and took the Colts minus 7 or the Bears plus 6 1/2? Even in a business where there are no locks, it's a sure thing that some did.
Fezzik tracked the index's plays on his Web site (fezziksplace.com) and credited a small group of handicappers he meets each week for their assistance. And if nothing else, Fezzik said, he made a believer of Jeff Jones.
Jones, who did the accounting for the Fezzdaq, is known for his cynical views of the sports touting business. He was impressed that Fezzik's performance came without any "games of the year," "20-star plays," or similar hyperbole.
"Fez turned 1 into 10.73 in a year," Jones said. "And he wasn't selling anything. None of the crap that passes for Las Vegas sports gambling 'wisdom.' "
Oh, and the Fezzdaq's lone remaining wager, to be decided Sunday? It's a juicy one, made earlier this football season.
AFC minus 1 point.