Let’s face it, everybody gets lucky sometimes. No matter how deserving they are, sooner or later a gambler’s going to hit a real hot streak that other players just can’t touch. But occasionally, gamblers hit a streak of luck that seems to defy the laws of probabilities. No matter how skilled they are as players, their luck proves that winning isn’t always about skill.
The debate might rage on, is it luck or is pure coincidence that pushes these players to great heights? Whatever it may be, there is no denying that throughout casino history there has been a number of players that have pushed getting “the rub of the green” to the extreme. Whether you’re looking for stories that’ll inspire you or something that will fire up the green-eyed monster, these stories of glory will certainly do the trick.
The following stories in this article will show you the stories of gamblers who defied the odds to win life-changing sums of money – bossing the casino in the process.
Breaking the Bank
The phrase breaking the bank isn’t rooted in actual banks, despite what the words suggest. Rather, it refers to a player who has managed to win every single chip at the table. As you can imagine, this is an extremely rare occurrence. One lucky gambler by the name of Charles Deville Wells managed to do just that all the way back in 1891, at the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco. His winnings totaled half a million dollars in modern terms, which was unheard of at the time. His win even inspired a popular song. It’s safe to say that this man was the originator of big-time gamblers that showed the casino that sometimes the house edge means nothing.
As any lucky gambler in his position would want to do, he did not walk away with his money but instead continued to gamble. Rather than invest his money, he continued to believe that his luck would hold. It did not, and he lost everything within a matter of days. He went back to England, where he was arrested on account of fraud relating to an illegal scheme he was running. Far from the wealth he once held, he died completely broke.
Charles Deville Wells and his story has been told time and time again over the years, with there being many lessons to be learned from his casino efforts. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into a hot streak, always pocket a percentage of your winnings, and don’t be in a rush to return to the table after you’ve cashed out. Always try to be the man that broke the bank, only a fool lets the story twist in the other direction.
Bond… James Bond
Before Sean Connery got into acting, he was a man who had considerable experience with gambling by the time he was old enough to legally partake in it himself. His father was an avid gambler who even exposed his son to the casino in his youth, it’s to say he learned the ins and outs of many casino games before he was barely a teenager. Sean managed to make his fortune in a highly unpredictable way – he placed a bunch of money only on the number 17 on roulette. He lost twice, but actually managed to hit it on his third try, it was that third try that gave birth to the future James Bond’s time at the roulette wheel.
He placed all his winnings on 17 again… and won. These were 35-1 odds, hit twice in a row – this has a less than 0.1% chance of occurring. But it gets better – he did it a third time and won yet again. The odds of hitting the same number three times in a row are under 1 in 50,000. But Sean was far smarter than his strategy would suggest – after winning more than £160,000 in modern terms, he took his winnings, which were tens of thousands of times greater than his initial investment, and left. It was a smart move from the man like it’s shaken not stirred.
His legacy lived on in that many gamblers would default to betting on “17” whenever they played roulette. Despite the fact that the statistical probability of hitting 17 is no higher than other numbers, it remains one of the most popular numbers to bet upon. It was his real-life efforts that likely inspired James Bond’s future casino antics that followed in later years. Mr. Connery can also be considered an inspiration to other celebrities that have become casino fanatics over the decades following his triple win at the roulette wheel, including Matt Damon, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Dana White, and Ben Affleck just to name a few.
From the Land Down Under
Gamblers all over Australia knew Kerry Packer as a gambling fanatic who liked to play with stakes higher than any of us could imagine. Never one to play for peanuts, he would make million-dollar plays like it was nothing. For him, betting sums of money that would be a small fortune to others was just a pastime. Let’s face it, seeing gamblers like this at the tables give us all a bit of a thrill.
When Kerry won big, he won really big. And when he lost, he lost hard. But one particular win actually made headlines in the United States. After a rough night filled with large losses, he managed to pull off a win at blackjack that remains one of the largest wins ever recorded in the game’s history. Each betting circle was $200,000, and after all the chips were totaled, he was ahead of a staggering $26 million. Even by the standards of big casinos, that was an unbelievable sum. It’s fair to say that this left the casino reeling, as a win of this size has the power to leave a casino with nothing but its four walls.
The story had a happy ending for more than just Kerry though, as his cocktail waitress was tipped enough money to pay off her entire mortgage. Now that’s the behavior of a real winner. Seeing Kerry do something this generous, it bashes the stereotype that all gamblers are driven by green. Kerry has a love of the casino, more specifically the games he plays, and it shows, so our hats are off to this true casino legend from the land down under.
Twice is Nice
When the Mirage opened for business in 1989, there was quite a bit of fanfare and attention drawn to one Elmer Sherwin, who managed to win its first major jackpot of $4.6 million at a Megabucks machine. He is frequently cited by slots enthusiasts as to why you shouldn’t ever give up until you hit it big. But what many gamblers don’t know is that if it were not for his ex-wife Florence, he would never have won that money at all.
Elmer had already gone through $80 of his own money playing slots without success. He convinced his ex-wife to loan him $20 more, and it was there that he managed to hit the big payday. One reporter asked if his ex-wife would take him back, to which he responded, “She won’t have me.” At the time his jackpot was the largest ever recorded in Las Vegas, and it made national headlines.
As you might be able to imagine, Elmer was never able to live in the satisfaction of just one jackpot. In 2005, he found fortune again. According to incredulous onlookers, he insisted that he would be able to win another jackpot while gambling at the Cannery. In spite of the staggeringly improbable odds, he managed to do it again – on a Megabucks game no less. Elmer was a good sport about it, and even donated some of his winnings to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, a gesture of generosity that we enjoyed seeing.
He always wanted to win a third time at Megabucks and complete a truly legendary hat trick, but sadly he passed away in 2007. If you ask anybody who knew him, they were certain he could have done it again, maybe Elmer had the true Midas touch when it comes to Las Vegas’ most loaded slots.
Nothing Beats the Don
Don Johnson was no stranger to success, as some of you probably know his legendary name and casino conquests. Before his foray into the casinos of Atlantic City, he was a successful gambler who knew how to use computers and math to boost his odds of victory. Horse racing was where he originally made his fortune, but his legendary status wasn’t cemented until he stopped playing the ponies and started taking on Atlantic City’s biggest and best casinos.
No gambler sticks to just one game. Horses aside, Johnson enjoyed playing blackjack and employed similar numerical methods to boost his chances of winning. He traveled to Atlantic City when he heard that some of its struggling casinos offered exceptionally generous deals and promotions to try and get gamblers to spend money there. Smelling an opportunity, he and his crew used every trick they knew to win big – card counting, ace sequencing, hole carding, you name it. He had other players take on bad cards to throw the casinos off the scent since it meant he didn’t need to vary his bets.
When everything was said and done, Johnson was more than $14 million richer than before. He considers his $4.23 million win streak at Caesars to be his most defining victory. As he puts it, he seeded his run with a $220,000 check from the Taj Mahal, which was funded from previous bets that he had made. Over the course of a weeknight, he kept winning more and more. The manager had to beg him to stop, and when he cashed out his massive chip stack security officers had to follow him to get his payday. When asked what he did afterward, he remarked that he simply went to sleep. “I slept for a couple of hours. I was pretty tired.”
Bringing Atlantic City to its knees through a series of giant wins is something that will remain in the history books, as we don’t think any other gambler will ever get close to matching this historic feat. Don Johnson has certainly earned his nickname as the “Don of Gambling”.
Sticking it to the Slots – The $39.7 million jackpot
Now I don’t know about you, but I enjoy betting money on a good sports match – NFL, NBA, soccer, and more, if the money is there it’s well worth taking a punt. I’m not much in the way of a sports fan, but there’s a certain amount of excitement in wondering if the winning team will make you rich or not. Couple it with some friends and a juicy steak dinner, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a night. Perhaps that was the sentiment of a certain software engineer from California, who decided to run to Las Vegas to watch the 2003 NCAA Finals basketball match.
While waiting for tip-off, he plunked $100 into a Megabucks machine on a whim (yes, this famous game strikes again) while staying at Excalibur. Unbelievably, he won the $39.7 million jackpot on his first spin. Unlike many other gamblers, he requested complete anonymity after all the necessary legal documents were signed. As you can imagine, he was equally smart about managing his windfall. Rather than get a single lump sum, he staggered out his jackpot over a period of 25 years, ensuring that he would be well taken care of in the years to come.
Nameless, faceless, and probably luckier than most, we’ll never know the identity of this lucky player that smashed Megabucks into oblivion. But what we can say is that his win is well worthy of being on this list due to its staggering size alone, we salute you… whoever you are.
Old School is Cool
Everybody knows the classic stereotype; old people love playing the slots whenever they go to Las Vegas. It’s a classic trope to say the very least, but what if I was to tell you that there was some truth to it? Many (and we do mean many) old-age pensioners have won huge sums from the slots, both offline and online. None more so than 71-year-old Amy Nishimura, who gave new meaning to “vacation of a lifetime” several years back.
Trading the sunshine of Hawaii for the neon lights of Las Vegas, Amy rolled into town and scooped a staggering $8.9 million dollars when spinning the same machine non-stop at the Freemont Hotel. She felt that both the hotel and game gave her good luck, which certainly proved to be the case. After 3 hours and putting in less than $100 she walked away with more than $9 million dollars to her name – well done Amy!
A Bit of Beginner’s Luck
Most people might say that beginner’s luck is just a myth, but we’ve got one crazy story that proves otherwise. We’ve often seen players that like to go hard and fast at the tables, however, nothing compares to grandmother Patricia Demauro, who showed no fear stepping up to the craps table in Atlantic City despite only having played the game once before.
During her second craps outing, when she was accompanied by her best friend, she beat the Borgata hotel and casino in Atlantic City from pillar to post, scooping up an undisclosed amount from her $100 starting wager. But, looking at an example scenario, most believe that she walked away with at least $100,000, likely even more. In total, she predicted the correct roll 154 times in a row. The gambling world had never seen anything like her run at the craps table ever before, and likely never will again.
An Easy Million
Whisper the name Mike Ashely in the United Kingdom and you’ll likely be met with plenty of anger and frustration. The owner of Newcastle United – a famous British football team – and SportsDirect, the budget sports clothing store, has become something of a national villain due to his questionable and controversial business dealings. I guess that he gives good meaning to the phrase good guys finish last, as Ashley has a famous history of winning big when playing at the casino.
His biggest and probably most shocking win came at a Mayfair casino in London. Rocking up to the roulette wheel with cash to burn, he placed a massive £480,000 bet on the game, opting for a complete bet that covered all splits, streets, corners, and six-line bets on the inside, including the number 17. With the wheel spinning, his mega-sized bet came up a winner, landing on 17. It turned into a win total of £1,300,000, not bad for a few minutes’ works.
Given that Ashley is a billionaire, this win might be just a small change to him, but given his debaucherously dirty behavior following the payout, it certainly helped him cement his villain status in the eyes of the British public.
Run Archie Run
Archie Karas, where do we even begin? It seems that amazing doesn’t even begin to describe what this man achieved in his casino career – if you can call it that.
Seasoned gamblers refer to Archie Karas’s legendary streak of luck as “The Run.” Now bear in mind that the story has been retold enough to be partially shrouded in legend, but most of the details are true. He originally came to the United States with a whole $50 to his name. Rather than work in labor or start a business, he hustled his way to Los Angeles’s poker scene, where he managed to rack up a fortune of over two million dollars. It’s safe to say that LA was Archie’s playground, where he would wipe the floor with any players brave enough to challenge him at the tables.
As most lucky gamblers do, he blew it all within a short time. Not to be deterred, he fled to Las Vegas in 1992 with $10,000 in borrowed money. He went to what he knew best – poker – and agreed to play absolutely anybody who challenged him. He seemed to win time and time again – even the poker star Stu Ungar lost to Archie. Karas seemed to have an unbelievable streak, and by 1995 he supposedly had a bankroll in excess of $40 million.
Between 1992 and 1995 Karas embarked on the longest hot streak in casino history, losing just once to Johnny Chan. Anyone and everyone stepped up to play him, but the result never changed, as he just kept winning and winning and winning. Karas tore up the craps and poker tables in Las Vegas unlike anyone else before him, but his winning ways came at a price. During his time, he kept millions of dollars in his car as he went from casino to casino, and even carried a gun to protect himself from those out to steal his cash. Sadly, this was a sign of things to come, as he would blow his fortune in the years that followed, showing that even the great Archie Karas couldn’t keep his run of good luck alive forever.
Join This List of Legends!
Gambling and playing casino games (including online casino games) has given us a list of legends that is far too long for just this article. We’ve profiled a handful of names, many of which have busted the casino vaults wide open. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as around the globe you’ll discover more names that have given the casinos a sound beating, and even a few local legends that’ll give you pause for thought.
The question is, are you ready to join the ranks of players that have bossed the casino? There is only one way to make this happen. Sharpen up your skills, load up your bankroll, and start playing. Who knows, we could soon be talking about your big win where you bossed the casino for millions in winnings!