Let’s face it: work sucks. Sure, it’s the most dependable way to earn a living, but spending 40 hours a week doing something you don’t want to do should be a crime. That’s one reason why people turn to gambling, especially big bets: so they never have to work again. Unfortunately, most of those big bets come with really long odds that are unlikely to ever pay off. Reading an article about a bunch of people who lost money gambling would be pretty depressing, though, so let’s keep it positive. Here are 10 people who bet it all on a long shot and actually did get rich.
The trick to playing a long-shot bet is coming up with an event that would be feasible, but not likely. Jona Rechnitz thought he had just the thing when he put down $1,000 on the first score of the 2012 Super Bowl being from a safety. Considering that in every previous Super Bowl to date, only six safeties had been called at all, this was a pretty long bet and he got tasty 50-1 odds on it. Needless to say, Tom Brady grounded it in his end zone, the Giants got the safety and Jona made $50,000. Insanely enough, he would do it again two years later and win $25,000 on the same bet! I guess when they say “safety first” they mean business. Sorry for that joke. Sorry. I’m trying to delete it.
People who make long-shot bets typically don’t make just one. In the case of Dean Clay, he had a routine of putting two pounds down on a 14-pick “accumulator” bet every week. These bets require each and every choice to be correct to pay out anything, but when they do it’s a lot of money. In February of 2015, Clay had been having a particularly awful week with the death of his beloved grandmother, but things got a little better when, finally, his accumulator hit on all cylinders. The end result of that two pound investment was a staggering £92,944 — $134,587 in U.S. dollars.
2013 Bayern Munich Bet
The identity of this soccer gambler has never been released to the public, which is probably a good idea because people would cut off parts of his body to use as lucky charms. In 2000, he placed a 30p bet (about fifty cents) on the winners of the five top English leagues and the three smaller Scottish ones for the upcoming soccer, rugby and cricket seasons. The odds for this are something like 1,666,666 to one. But when Bayern Munich took home the Champions League the next year, the lucky punter was a staggering 500,000 pounds richer. That’s a staggering payout for such a tiny bet.
Now this is a pretty crazy story, because it involves a father betting on his own son. In 2004, Rory McIlroy hadn’t even started his professional golf career yet — he was a talented amateur, 15 years old. But his dad, Gerry, had a feeling, and he put down 200 pounds with British bookie Ladbrokes that Rory would win the British Open within the decade. These bets aren’t uncommon, but Ladbrokes takes them because they almost never pay off. In 2014, though, they had to open up the bank vaults when McIlroy took home the trophy, netting his proud father a cool $171,000.
Horse racing is a pretty good way to multiply your money, but to really rake it in you need to hit some pretty serious odds. In 2008, North Yorkshire man Fred Craggs placed a 50p bet (that’s about a dollar in American cash) in what’s called an “accumulator,” where you have to accurately predict the finishes of all eight horses in a race. The odds of doing this are astronomical, but the fates were smiling on Craggs that day. From first-place Isn’t That Lucky to last-place A Dream Come True, all eight of his picks were correct and he turned his 50p into a million pounds. Even better, Craggs found out he’d won the cash on his 60th birthday.
Cardinals World Series Win
Several of the people on this list are going to go unnamed, because they probably don’t want long-forgotten relatives showing up to borrow money. In September 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals looked like they had no hope of winning the playoffs — they were five games away from even grabbing the wildcard slot. But one loyal fan put his money where his mouth was, betting $250 that the team would not only get into the playoffs, but win the World Series. The rest is history — the Cards made one of the best comebacks in baseball, eventually beating the Texas Rangers in seven games. The payoff for that long bet, at 999-1 odds, was a cool $249,750.
Here’s another horse racing success story, but this one features both a better and a jockey having incredible luck at the same time. In 1996, Frankie Dettori was riding in the Royal Ascot, the Kentucky Derby of England. He was set to jockey in seven races that day, and across the nation thousands of his fans were cheering for them. One, workman Darren Yates, thought he could win all seven of them and put down money on each, plus an added “accumulator” even though his wife had forbidden him from gambling. Horse race fans know the rest — Dettori made history that day, and Yates turned his £69.76 bet into 500,000 British pounds, or nearly a million bucks.
So Gerry McIlroy bet on his son Rory’s pro golfing success when he was a teenager. Peter Edwards took this long-shot concept even further — he put 50 pounds down on his grandson becoming a pro soccer player when the boy was just a toddler! Bookmaker William Hill took the wager in 2000 to pay out at 2,500 to 1 odds, and regretted it 13 years later when young Harry Wilson took the field for Wales in his first professional game. Wilson would go on to be the youngest player to represent Wales in World Cup qualifying action as well, and his proud grandfather took home £125,000 — almost a quarter of a million dollars.
Saratoga Springs Superfecta
What would you do if you could turn a dime into a year’s salary? That’s what two incredibly lucky people did in August 2008 when a superfecta bet in the seventh race at Saratoga Springs paid off with ridiculously long odds. Two bettors — one in Arizona and one in Kentucky — went against the predictions and picked Slambino, Blazing Dynamo, Key Event and Holiday Trip to take the first four spots. They did, and each of the gamblers turned that one thin dime into an insane $76,000. That’s the miracle of the racetrack right there.
Some long shots are one-and-done things, but Patricia Demauro‘s insane Atlantic City craps run is a little harder to fathom. The New Jersey grandma sat down at the table at the Borgata and set a world record by rolling 154 times without ever hitting a seven. The odds on that? 1 in 1.56 trillion. Demauro bought in with a hundred bucks, and by the end of her four hour dice-rolling rampage had turned it into an unspecified amount of money (she declined to say exactly how much) that was north of $100,000 and could have been millions. Astoundingly enough, it was only her second time shooting craps. Beginner’s luck is a real thing.