Chunce the ‘capper: A look at the life of Vegas mainstay Jimmy Vaccaro


LAS VEGAS – Long before he learned of his impending Sports Betting Hall of Fame induction last month, before legalized sports betting began to spread nationwide in 2018, Jimmy Vaccaro became mainstream.

In 1995, as Mirage’s sports betting manager, he appeared – as his three-dimensional human being – in the popular animated series “The Simpsons”.

Who shot Mr. Burns?

“Everyone thinks Homer and Smithers are safe things, but I’m looking for big-paying suspects,” Vaccaro said on the show. “I spread my money over several long shots.”

Vaccaro installed bartender Moe at 8-1, Bart Milhouse’s pal at 80-1. Krusty the Clown was the 3-1 favorite. Over Vaccaro’s shoulder, the Mirage listed the characters and their chances on his huge tote.

Alas, 70-1 shot little Maggie, angry that Burns tried to steal candy from a baby (her), did the deed.

Months later, when Vaccaro went to Our Lady of Las Vegas school to pick up his young daughter JonLyn, he learned of his newfound fame.

“She said, ‘You were in’ The Simpsons ‘last night!’ I didn’t know, ”says Vaccaro, now South Point’s vice president of sports marketing. “She said, ‘Yeah, everyone at school was talking about it!’ I just said, okay.


In the Pittsburgh suburb of Trafford, Jimmy acquired the nickname “Chunce” from an Italian grocer when he was 7 or 8 years old on daily soda getaways.

This is how all of Jimmy’s friends know him, what his older brother Sonny called his 76-year-old brother – pronouncing him CHUN-see – most of his life.

Sonny, the former sneaker specialist, laughed when he saw a recent photo on social media of South Point owner Michael Gaughan, sports betting manager Chris Andrews, longtime bookie Art Manteris and others .

Among the sports coats, dress shirts and pressed pants was Jimmy, in his usual white South Point long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and dark sneakers.

Modest. Comfortable. Relaxed.

“That’s the beauty of it,” laughs Sonny, from his home near Palm Springs, Calif., Of Jimmy landing in a Hall of Fame. “You can’t physically visualize it. A shot at a million. Chunce has been the underdog from the start.

Jimmy got into numbers and gambling very early on, in particular Barbut, a dice game that would have originated in Greece around 450 BC.

The Shooter wins if he rolls a 3-3, 5-5, 6-6 or 6-5. He loses on 1-1, 2-2, 4-4 or 1-2. The Fader sets the odds before each throw. Bets are made on or against the shooter.

In the early 1970s, Jimmy and his friends AJ and Anthony took a big paycheck from Barbut, then hit the lottery numbers – three random numbers determined by horse racing or the stock market – the next day.

“The best!” Sonny said. “Like hitting a homer loaded with bases in late ninth.”

Sonny remembers Jimmy supporting his boyfriend Mike, from Youngstown, Ohio, like George C. Scott who looked after Paul Newman in “The Hustler.”

“He loved the backcountry pool halls, the thrill of the hunt,” Sonny says. “It’s Chunch.”


Jimmy visited Vegas frequently, settling there permanently in January 1975. He published Gaughan’s book at the Royal Inn, then on the Barbary Coast, where a novice Manteris had already found his account at $ 1,100.

Vaccaro gave the money to Art. Manteris would open the SuperBook at the Hilton (now Westgate) and oversee Station Casinos’ many books. He was inducted into Sports Betting Hall, a virtual entity based in Europe, in 2019.

Manteris retired in May.

“I said: ‘Here, take it [bleepin’] money. Until tomorrow.’ It was a big deal, ”Jimmy says. “Art is a straight arrow guy. He might not have continued [in the business], he felt so bad.

Jimmy helped design and operate Steve Wynn’s book at The Mirage, where he took billionaire Carl Icahn’s $ 2.4 million bet on the Super Bowl. Icahn won $ 300,000.

He set the first winning total of the NFL season when a customer threw $ 30,500 on the counter and asked about Dallas’ number. Such a proposal did not exist in Vegas. Jimmy put a number down. She bet Over. The house won.

The only autograph he ever requested was that of Bears legend Gale Sayers.

“I couldn’t help it. He was sitting right over there, ”Jimmy said, gesturing to the South Point grocery store. “An honor. I said, ‘If you don’t hurt yourself…’ He was so good, he hurt his knee and it all went south.

Today Jimmy straightens the daily linens counter, cleans up after messy customers. During one of my visits, he accepted a $ 50,000 World Series bet from a scruffy kid carrying a backpack.

The famous Stardust bookmaker Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal invited Jimmy to talk shop, twice, during a lunch at the Riviera. He resisted asking the silhouette linked to the crowd why he was speaking so quietly – Jimmy just leaned closer.

“I was amazed he asked me, so it felt good.”

As good as getting those $ 600 monthly checks, which have been coming in for years, from Homer Simpson.

When a new company took over the cartoon network, it offered Jimmy a one-time withdrawal fee of $ 6,000 or the unsecured continuation of the monthly royalties. He says, “I signed up for the 6,000 as fast as I could. “

When the producers appeared with cameras and lights, they found Vaccaro in his typical long sleeve T-shirt. They rushed to a men’s store in the Mirage, returning with a light-colored sports coat and a pink dress shirt.

Jimmy buttoned the shirt to his neck.



“I gave both to someone in sports betting.”


Comments are closed.