Updated August 14, 2020 - 4:52 pm
Shortly after the coronavirus hit in March and locked down traditional sports, Dave Oancea — better known in local sports betting circles as “Vegas Dave” — began making videos extolling his expertise at picking curling, badminton and cricket winners.
“Forget about March Madness, forget about the NBA, forget about baseball being delayed,” he said, sprinkling in expletives for effect or out of habit. “I’ve got the curling whale play of the day. “I’ve been studying curling all (expletive) day. Also, the $99 badminton package, $99 cricket package …”
“Tomorrow, we got archery, checkers and a UNO tournament.”
This is what happens during a pandemic when one no longer is permitted to make sports wagers in Las Vegas casions.
Oancea faced criminal indictments after authorities said he used other people’s Social Security numbers to open player accounts at casinos. He was given three years’ probation in 2019.
But these days, it’s all in the cards for Vegas Dave.
Mike Trout baseball cards. Derek Carr football cards.
He said he sold one of the Trout keepsakes he has been hoarding, an autographed Bowman Draft Chrome Red Refractor, for $922,500 in May.
Now he has an even more valuable card, a singular Trout Superfractor for which he paid $400,000 to a man in Taiwan in 2018, up for bid at Goldin Auction.
Move over Honus?
The high bid so far is $1.45 million. When the auction closes Aug. 22, Vegas Dave predicts the Trout card will break the record $3.12 million fee for a Honus Wagner tobacco card once owned by hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.
He spoke about paying Mike Trout money for Mike Trout baseball cards during a cellphone chat during which he came across far less insufferable than he does in the Showtime series “Action.”
“Everybody laughed at me and said I was stupid for (buying) a piece of cardboard,” he said. “But I made a video when I bought it, saying that this would be the most expensive card in the world, that it would break the record, that it would hit four or five million one day. And now, 24 months later, it’s expected to pass Honus Wagner.”
He also spoke about his beef with the feds and how the resultant three-year betting ban forced him into the sports consultant business. He said he’s also dabbling in real estate in Mexico, but it’s more difficult to make compelling YouTube videos about flipping beachfront property in Cabo that appeal to his audience.
“I was actually running (card) shows when I was 13 at Holiday Inn, renting tables for 40 bucks to dealers and hiring people to sign autographs,” said Vegas Dave, who made news by turning a $100,000 futures bet on the long shot Kansas City Royals into a $2.5 million windfall in 2015. “I was making like four grand a week as 12-year-old, a 13-year-old.”
As a 43-year-old, he has invigorated the business of collecting sports cards.
Card collecting upswing
“He’s moving the big one now,” said Ryan Cracknell, who writes about the industry for Beckett.com. “This will forever be the single most coveted, most valuable card, and it won’t even be close. This is certainly a card that has a lot of mystique already around it, and it’s only 10 years old.”
A form of commerce that had mostly ebbed in recent years is flowing again with huge revenue streams, Cracknell said.
“Basically what happened was everybody who collected in the ’90s stopped collecting, and things took a big nosedive for a lot of years,” he said.
And now? “The way they made the cards evolved, with more autographs, higher-end stuff. When LeBron came along, it got taken up another notch with increased rarity, bigger price tags. It’s not just Trout. You see it with all big-name guys in every sport that are commanding thousands of dollars.”
But you don’t see it with Derek Carr yet, though somebody was asking $429.95 for his 2014 Panini Prizm Silver Refractor Rookie Card on eBay Tuesday.
“I bought Derek Carr because I felt when the Raiders moved to Vegas, it would be the biggest thing to ever hit sports entertainment,” Vegas Dave explained. “Everything with Raiders will go up, and the quarterback is always the main person that will go up in value.”
But if Carr isn’t able to stretch the defense with vertical passes or everything shuts down again amid another virus spike, there’s always the curling whale play of the day on which to fall back.