They say ‘fortune favors the brave’ and this can lead to some pretty reckless behavior in casinos all over the world. But every so often that bravery results in a seriously big win for someone. After all, isn’t it most people’s dream to put their last coin into a slots machine and see the jackpot come pouring out, or to pick their lucky number of the roulette wheel and see it come in? Here are seven stories of victories that have come against all the odds.
Most famous as the quintessential James Bond, Sean Connery has become synonymous with smooth sophistication later in his career, as well as being a natural inhabitant of the casino. But Connery has proved himself as an accomplished gambler all his life. One night in a casino in the Italian Alps back in 1963, Connery was playing roulette. He placed a bet on 17 black. It failed so he repeated it, and lost again. Undeterred, he bet once again on the same number. This time, it came in. Rather than taking his winnings and calling it a night, he put them all on exactly the same number not once but twice and won both times. The result: an actor who was suddenly richer by 17 million lire – or around $230,000 at today’s rates.
When Archie Karas arrived in Las Vegas in 1992, he had just $50 in his pockets, having recently lost £2million in a poker game in Los Angeles. His first stroke of luck was running into a friend who lent him £10,000 to buy into a game of Razz, a poker variant in which the lowest hand wins. Over the next three years he managed to amass a fortune of around $40million through a combination of poker playing and pool hustling, but his luck wasn’t destined to last. In a terrible run of bad fortune, he lost it all at craps, baccarat and poker. But he wasn’t a man to be kept down. Within three weeks he’d already managed to win back $1million, having borrowed $40,000 to set him on his way.
Someone who had rather better luck at craps was Patricia Demauro. On 23rd May 2009, she had what must be one of the best ever examples of beginner’s luck. Demauro, a grandmother from New Jersey, visited the Borgata casino in New Jersey and played craps for only the second time in her life. Starting out with $100, she proceeded to convert it into hundreds of thousands of dollars by making 154 successive winning throws over 4 hours and 18 minutes. The odds of this happening were an estimated 1 in 1.56 trillion – and even she admits that she didn’t really understand what was happening. Demauro absolutely smashed the previous record of 147 successive winning dice throws held by a player known only as The Captain. Quite how Demauro came to hold the craps world bet is one of gambling’s most remarkable stories – and it makes for incredible reading.
2011 was a tough time for casinos in the US with revenues falling thanks to the global economic slump. So many were desperate to attract high rollers in the hope of generating extra income. One blackjack player, Don Johnson, negotiated special terms in exchange for his custom, especially an agreed payback of 20% of his losses. So even if he dropped $100,000 in a session he’d still get $20,000 of it back. This, along with other concessions he’d negotiated to alter the standard rules of the game, meant that within three months he’d made a cool $15million. Johnson now claims he’s not welcome in many casinos, but with that much cash in the bank he may not be particularly bothered about this.
Ashley Revell is remarkable not for the amount that he won at the casino, but the way in which he won it. One day he was with friends in his home city of London when they were discussing what a blast it could be to bet all of your possessions on the spin of a roulette wheel. So that’s what he decided he would do, selling everything off and heading for Las Vegas with $115,000 in his pocket. He was put up in some style by the Plaza Hotel and Casino who saw it as a great publicity stunt. Ashley was planning to put everything on black but family and followers persuaded him to switch to red. This proved to be a good move as, unbelievably, it came up – and he headed home with $220,000 to his name.
When Amy Nishimura headed off to Las Vegas for a Christmas break in 2003, there was no way that she could have anticipated the present she was due to receive. On the very first day of her holiday she put $100 in credit into a slots machine called Megabucks. $60 later she was looking at a jackpot of $8,919,598 at odds of over 1.6 million to 1. Although Amy had been playing the slots since the 1980s she’d never dreamt she’d ever win such a life-changing amount of money. In fact, when she was asked how she planned to spend it, she was simply lost for words.
Our final casino winner was also left speechless when he too won a big slots jackpot. One day in 2005 when he was visiting the Cannery Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas the 92-year-old WW2 veteran felt that a Megabucks machine was due to pay out. It turns out he was right and he picked up a $21,147,947 jackpot, part of which he donated to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund. But what makes the story really incredible is the fact that in 1989 he had already won $4.6 million from a slot in the newly-opened Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip.
Proof, as if it were ever needed, that lightning really can strike twice…