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Get to Know Mark Paul, the Action-Seeking Author of ‘The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told’

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9.8.2020 by Stephanie Chandler

What is your book about?

It is my true story of three gamblers who bet on Winning Colors to win the 1988 Kentucky Derby. Our lives became at risk when we learned we had made the wager with suspected members of a Mexican drug cartel. The book depicts owner Eugene Klein, Gary Stevens, D. Wayne Lukas, colorful gamblers, two feisty women, a few members of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and some surly, scary cartel members.

What inspired you to write your book?

I lived to tell the story!

If you have a business related to your book, tell us about it:

I own interests in three race-horses. It is a money losing business, but it is consistent.

What is a typical day like for you?

I always start early in the morning – with marketing my book – because it is fun! My book is a hobby, but I start everyday working on promoting it. If I have time left I work on commercial real estate or go golfing. Normally I go to the race-track – but I’m can’t now because of the virus- I am probably saving a fortune!

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I like doing the podcasts about my book! Its creative, like writing, but not so damn hard!

What are some favorite books you’d recommend to our readers?

SeabiscuitBringing Down the House, did I mention Seabiscuit?

What advice do you have to offer our readers?

Write in your own voice. Try to make it fun! Hire experts.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

That I only drink at night (usually).

What’s next for you?

I am starting a Gambling business with my son (I don’t know where he gets this gambling thing from).

Stephanie Chandler is the founder of the Nonfiction Authors Association and Nonfiction Writers Conference, and author of several books including The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine. Visit to learn more.


8.13.2020 by Rafe Bartholomew

A 50/1 Longshot Winner, Collecting $250K From A Cartel-Linked Racetrack In Tijuana, And The Surprise Self-Published Gambling Hit Of 2020

What’s cooler than writing a gambling memoir about the time you and your gambling buddy won $250,000 on a 50/1 longshot to win the Kentucky Derby, then traveled to Tijuana — along with a pal who hit the same winner for $1 million — to collect your cash from a cartel-backed racetrack?

Writing that memoir and referring to yourself in the third-person as “Miami,” your Don Johnson-inspired ’80s nickname, from start to finish.

Such is the case with Southern California commercial real estate investor and first-time author Mark Paul’s The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told: A True Tale of Three Gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel. The book recounts the thoroughbred racing season of 1988, when Mark “Miami” Paul, along with pals “Dino” and “Big Bernie,” drove to Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack to place futures bets on a three-year-old filly named Winning Colors to win the Kentucky Derby.

Five months later, after Winning Colors became just the third female champion in Derby history, the bettors had to return to Mexico, convince the track’s cartel-linked owner to make good on payouts worth $250,000 to Miami and Dino and $1 million for Big Bernie, and then smuggle the cash back into the United States without getting robbed along the way or caught by Customs. (The owner, Jorge Hank Rohn, who went on to serve as mayor of Tijuana from 2004 to 2007, was arrested during a 2011 Mexican military police raid of his compound that turned up 88 weapons and 9,000 rounds of ammunition, and is still one of Mexico’s wealthiest and most controversial businessmen.)

Paul’s romp of a book is well-told at 184 pages, cutting back and forth between the parallel narratives of Winning Colors’ path from being bought at auction in 1986 to her victory at the Derby almost two years later and the trio of gamblers plotting and then executing the score of a lifetime. The prose is direct, with few words spent on any literary device besides exposition, and this brevity allows Paul’s storytelling to race along at its own Triple Crown-worthy pace.

That breezy quality has helped Paul’s book become an unexpected hit, logging 10,000 sales since its January 2020 release and holding steady as Amazon’s top-selling horse racing title at the time of this article’s publication. Most books put out by major publishing firms like Hachette and Crown can’t match those numbers.

For a California real estate executive’s self-published gambling memoir to achieve that level of success — well, let’s just say the odds would be far greater than 50/1.

But is Paul’s story really the “greatest” gambling tale ever?

Miami and Dino and Big Bernie’s grand adventure certainly possesses the elements of a spectacular gambling yarn. There’s that spark of genius, the bettors’ intuition that compels them to pick a female winner against the fastest colts in the world, in the most famous race in the world. There’s the drama of sweating out Winning Colors’ races in the months leading up to the Derby, including her first loss, at Santa Anita Park in February 1988. And there’s the whiff of danger — occasionally exploding into a full-on bouquet — that comes with each trip the gamblers make to Tijuana.

But does this story beat Chris Moneymaker accidentally entering an online satellite tournament that led to his berth and victorious run in the 2003 World Series of Poker, inspiring the mid-aughts poker boom along the way? Yeesh, that’s tough.

Does Miami’s bet on Winning Colors top Patricia DeMauro’s 2009 craps run in Atlantic City? The New Jersey grandma, playing craps for the second time in her life, threw the dice 154 times over almost four hours and 20 minutes without rolling a seven. The odds of that occurring are around 5,000,000,000-to-1. Forget the 50/1 Derby longshot.

How would we even begin to compare stories?

The point here is not just that betting lore is packed with sensational tales, but also that it’s impossible to determine, with any certainty, that one gambling saga is better than another. (Except for any story that ends with Floyd Mayweather Jr. holding a money phone of shrink-wrapped hundred-dollar bills up to his head. All gambling stories are better than that.)

University of Nevada-Las Vegas gaming historian David G. Schwartz, author of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, could barely be troubled to ponder a question as unanswerable as “what is is the greatest gambling story ever told?”

“I can’t confirm or deny that it may be the greatest story ever told,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think that this is the kind of thing someone can objectively measure, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in quibbling about which story might be the greatest, second greatest, third greatest, et cetera. Suffice it to say that there are many very interesting stories in the history of gambling.”

Paul’s story, which crescendoes with the hiring of three professional mixed martial artists to provide security as Miami, Dino, and Big Bernie cross the border one last time to meet with the Agua Caliente boss and convince him to release their winnings, is undeniably epic. But the strongest antidote to the title’s grandiose claim is that Paul’s gambling story might not even be the greatest in his own book.

Luis Palos, the groom hired to care for Winning Colors day in and day out, was a 25-year-old immigrant from Mexico City back then, and he saved enough money to bet $2,000 on her to win the Derby at 100/1 odds. The tender relationship Paul describes between Palos and the temperamental horse strums deeper emotional motifs than any other part of the book, and when Palos wins $200,000 while watching his beloved filly accomplish something only two other horses like her had ever done before and none have done since, the moment evokes more than just a thrilling gambling tale — it almost restores one’s belief in the American Dream.

Rafe Bartholomew has worked as an editor and writer at Harper’s Magazine, Grantland, Eater, and The Athletic. He is a co-author of the New York Times Bestselling book Basketball: A Love Story and the author of two other books, Pacific Rims and Two and Two.


7.07.2020 by Brant James

The book being about more than just the race was probably the difference. “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told,” a rollicking yarn about his and some cohorts’ prescient, yet risky futures bets on eventual 1988 Kentucky Derby-winner Winning Colors arrived during the global sports shutdown caused by COVID-19. So maybe readers thirsted for a sports story from when there were actually sports.

Then again, the impact of arriving in the months before the 146th Kentucky Derby was mooted by the traditional Triple Crown-opener being moved from the first Saturday in May to Sept. 5.

But it’s the story, Paul asserts, that makes this tale relevant 32 years later.

Winning Colors becoming just the third filly to win the Derby, ’80s nostalgia, high-stakes bets and some intrigue at the Mexican border make this a tale, Paul told PlayUSA, that has already drawn interest for potential development for television — and attracted readers.

The book reached No. 1 on Amazon’s sports gambling and horse racing lists and is a best-seller in sports history and sports biographies.


It wasn’t a book that Paul, a first-time author, had yearned to write, but the timing felt right for him as distance from some of the more sordid characters and “taxation” issues allowed. And semi-retired afforded more time. In many ways, it’s a love letter to horse racing and horse betting, which Paul became infatuated with sneaking into Santa Anita Park as a teen.

“I started off being fascinated with horse racing, probably from about the time I walked into the track at age 14,” he told PlayUSA. “It was just the most beautiful place. “I kind of fell in with a fairly educated group of semi-professional type gamblers.”,

Paul, who admits in the forward that the dialogue in the book has been paraphrased and spiced to fit the narrative, weaves the reader through instructional but not pedantic passages filling in the background on the horse racing industry. That goes from the auction house with Winning Colors trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owner Gene Klein, to the stables and the backstretch.

Paul seems cognizant of the fact that the title is sure to entice horseplayers and gamblers, but attempts to reach a broader audience. In the process, he finds a middle ground by not belaboring what would be basic principles to the veteran gambler, while keeping those attracted to the narrative up to speed and able to follow along.

Perhaps it’s Paul’s description of picking out the perfect Miami Vice suit for a trip to Tijuana or his indulging in other tidbits from his youth, but the tale takes on a standard-def neon vibe that would go well with a score by Phil Collins.


Winning Colors’ rise from a prodigy of Lukas’ West Coast stable to her mainstream breakthrough as a gender-power symbol is chronicled from her auction to her run through the Kentucky Derby, with the excitement of Paul and betting buddies a constant accompaniment.

The story wanders through the betting parlors and dimly lit inner sanctums of Agua Caliente track in Tijuana, where the bettors laid down a 50-1 future book wager to win a quarter million on the filly, then returned to watch the race and collect their winnings on Derby Day. They hoped. Interspersed with the rise of Winning Colors is the introduction of the antagonist, Jorge Rhon, the track owner they presumed would be displeased to pay out their winnings with his backwater Tijuana track becoming ever less relevant in the age of simulcasting. Paul chronicles Rhon’s supposed ties to organized crime in the book as a means of amping up the suspense.

The latter half of the book, which is an afternoon’s endeavor at just 168 pages, winds through their adventure attempting to collect their prize, constituting a tale that Paul says has garnered interest from multiple television producers. The book was optioned for television or a possible movie deal, he claims, within five weeks of being written and a year before publication.

“It does probably help that I live in Beverly Hills and my neighbors are in the business,” Paul laughed. “I wrote the book, took me nine months and I submitted it to a guy who is a big Hollywood guy, [Creative Artists Agency] agent.

“He said. “Well, if you’re writing a book for gamblers you did a great job.’ He said, ‘But you missed the whole story. The story is about a female winning a world championship. In what sport can a female compete head-to-head with a male? You’re not going to have a female quarterback beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl …. But my god you can have a female race horse go out and win the world’s greatest race. Now you’ll have a story people will want to read everywhere.’”

And, Paul hopes, any time.

Read More by Brant James



LA Times Review – The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told

6 14 2020 by John Cherwa

Don’t know about you, but I’m reading more than usual with entertainment options in short supply. I came across this book — actually I came across it when the author sent it to me — that I think a lot of you might like.

It’s called “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told.” The subtitle is “A true tale of three gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel.” That pretty much covers what the book is about. It’s by Mark Paul, a self-described action and adventure junkie wherever gambling takes place.

Now for the review. It’s a total summer read. It’s light, it moves quickly, it’s fun and I think horse players will really enjoy it. It’s only around 150 pages, so you can polish it off in a day. It’s built around placing a Kentucky Derby futures bet on Winning Colors in 1988. The bet is placed at Agua Caliente in Tijuana. Now, if any of you have been there, you know how things can be, shall we say, interesting.

Santa Anita

Horses race around the turn at Santa Anita in May. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

I once went to Tijuana with friends with a stop at Del Mar for day racing and jai alai at night. I swear we were allowed to bet after the jai alai matches started. We still lost.
Anyway, I thought the book read in the genre called “nonfiction novel” as Mark wrote it in third person. So, I asked him about it and it’s a question he’s been asked before as he had an explanation on his website. You can access it here.

“At first, I chose to write as a first-person narrator. After all, it was my story. It didn’t work, and I tore up my first draft. I started writing again, using third-person point of view, and was delighted to feel freer; I got myself out of the way. I studied the genre of creative nonfiction and knew it would work. For inspiration, I watched every gambling movie ever made and hated them all because each had a depressing ending.

My book had to be fun; I wanted to recreate the colorful gamblers and other deranged characters I’d met during the adventure!”

Now, if you’re not a fan of horse racing (why are you reading this newsletter?), Mark drops in little factoids about the sport and gambling through the first couple of chapters. But it doesn’t get in the way. I’m not going to give away the ending, but the fact he wrote it probably means the cartel didn’t do him in.

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Press Release – Gambling Goes Mainstream f 3 20 2020 v2

New Book, The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told, by Mark Paul, Coincides with New Era of Sports Betting

2018 Supreme Court Ruling Leads to  Upsurge in Books and Movies that Feature Gambling 

Los Angeles  3/20/2020 – The release of a rollicking, true adventure yarn–The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told—coincides with a new era of sports betting that will change the face of gambling forever. Prompted by a May 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn the ban on sports betting, 42 states have now embraced legalizing sports betting.

Hollywood has been quick to jump on the bandwagon: Five new major motion pictures have been released or announced: Dream Horse, featuring Academy Award® nominee Toni Colette and Damian Lewis, Uncut Gems, featuring Adam Sandler, Baccarat Queen (from the producers of Crazy Rich Asians), Dangerous Odds, featuring Margo Robbie, and 7 Days to Vegas. On March 24, 2019, Showtime released its new dramatic series Action, which chronicles the Supreme Court’s ruling on professional gamblers, oddsmakers and the everyday sports bettors.

And now a new book, The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told arrives with the inspiring story of a female racehorse, Winning Colors, who broke through the male-dominated world of horse racing to win the Kentucky Derby in 1988. It is also the story of three wild-and-crazy gamblers betting to win millions—unknowingly, with the Mexican Cartel–on Winning Colors’ 50-to-1 shot to win the Derby, and risked their lives in the process.

At least 56 million people in the U.S. play fantasy sports online, and more than $150 billion is annually wagered legally in the U.S. “That number is going to increase by 500% or more now that sports gambling will be legal in the majority of states in the next few years” predicts author Mark Paul. “Millions of people spend a large part of their free time reading and watching sports while gambling, poker is already huge, and I believe this is a large, budding market for books, audiobooks, and film. Sports betting is going to explode thanks to the Supreme Court ruling,” according to Paul.

The book has reached #1 Best Seller rankings on Amazon: book trailer: Trailer – The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told and for other information on The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told, and additional gambling articles:


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The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told Book Cover

The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told Book Cover

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