Call it luck or recklessness, or a combination of both, but some people risk large sums of money on the off chance of an enormous win. And it does happen, with some paydays so ridiculously huge they are life changing, turning ordinary people into millionaires in a matter of hours.
Some of the luckiest casino wins of all time have happened to ordinary people, many of them down on their luck. But luck always has a way of surprising everyone, although higher payouts do tend to come from the larger bets.
Here are 12 stories about some of the biggest casino winners of all time…
Known as the “king of the casinos,” Archie Karas famously turned $50 into $40 million. Karas worked as a waiter until he learned about pool hustling, where he amassed serious wealth — to the tune of $1 million. Never afraid of losing, he would bet, in a single throw of the dice, what many gamblers might earn in a lifetime. While playing high-stakes card games in Los Angeles, he won plenty of money and was also completely broke on numerous occasions.
It was in December 1992 that Archie began what many consider the greatest hot streak in the history of gambling. He had just lost $2 million during a Los Angeles high-stakes poker game, so he only had $50 to spare. But it was all he needed to start winning big.
Karas began in Binion’s Horseshoe casino where a friend spotted him $10,000 to play high-stakes Razz, a game in which the lowest hand wins. He went head-to-head with 15 of the world’s greatest poker players, including Stu Unger, Chip Reese, Johnny Chan and Puggy Pearson.
He won millions at poker before winning millions more at craps, eventually coming into possession of the Horsehoe’s $5,000 chips — worth $11 million. By the time his run ended, he had won $17 million playing craps and poker at the Horseshoe. Incidentally, he was able to repay the $10,000 loan with 50% interest.
His winning streak continued for over two years, until he had amassed $40 million. He was able to turn $7 million into $17 million by besting some of the best poker players in Vegas at seven-card stud.
He also earned over a million dollars playing nine-ball pool. Even the occasional losing streak was not enough to keep him from winning far more than he lost.
His winning streak, however, did eventually come to an end over a three-week period in 1995, where he lost $11 million playing craps. He also lost $17 million at baccarat and another $2 million at poker. He soon lost the remainder of his $40 million — although he was eventually able to borrow $40,000 to win back $1 million.
Archie’s luck may have ran out in spectacular fashion, but his phenomenal winning streak remains the stuff of legend, and it is proof that anything is possible in gambling.
In 1989, a man won $4.6 million on a Megabucks slot machine at the Cannery Casino & Hotel in Vegas. His name was Elmer Sherwin, and he beat the odds, not once but twice, on the same slot machine. Some people consider certain machines lucky.
After Sherwin won his $4.6 million, he continued playing the same machine until he eventually won $2.1 million in 2005 at the age of 92, despite the odds of winning being estimated at one in fifty million.
Sherwin said he had been a fan of Megabucks for a long time. He believed it would pay off eventually, and that belief sustained him for years until his second win confirmed his instincts. It took 16 years playing the slot machine to duplicate his original feat.
Sherwin’s first win came on the casino’s opening night, leading to speculation about how big wins occur on opening nights. But as everyone attempts to explain what cannot be explained, a mythology arises. People may wonder how to duplicate Sherwin’s feat of superhuman luck, but so far, he remains the big winner — twice over.
There are other big winners of Megabucks slots, including a retired flight attendant who risked $300 in 1998 and won $27.5 million. Such wins may be rare, but they do happen from time to time.
The honor of winning the largest online gambling payout belongs to a Norwegian gambler by the name of Peter. It may not be his real name, but that is not what is important.
What matters is that he became an online casino winner by playing a progressive jackpot slot called Arabian Knights — and it was the fruit slot machine that made his surprise win possible. His winning streak netted him 11.7 million Euros, which translated to 38 million Norwegian Krone.
Peter played at the Betsson online casino which features the slogan, “Anything can happen.” Peter may have taken that to heart, and it was a good thing he did….
Mike Ashley, multi-billionaire owner of the Newcastle United Football Club, was already famous when he won 1.6 million pounds in the span of three hours at a roulette table in a London casino. His lucky number was 17, and his method of betting focused on every possible combination of that number.
As luck would have it, the roulette ball dropped into the 17 slot, converting his initial 480,000 pounds to three times that amount. Ashley retrieved his winnings and called it a day.
The odds of hitting 17 were high. But Ashley must have known that even a lucky number rarely strikes twice in a row. Then again, stranger things have happened. Although in 2011, Ashley lost one million pounds in the span of two hours. Easy come, easy go.
Sean Connery, aka super spy James Bond, also had tremendous luck betting on the number 17. While at a casino in the Italian Alps, in true Bond fashion, Connery put his money on 17. He missed the first two times, but on the third spin, the ball found 17. Leaving his winnings there, the croupier spun the wheel.
Surprisingly, the ball found the 17 slot again. What may have been even more surprising, or perhaps insane, was the fact that Connery once again left his winnings in place. Miraculously, the 17 came up a third time in a row, against odds of 50,000 to 1.
In Bond fashion, Connery coolly collected his winnings of 10,000 pounds, which in today’s market could very well be worth 163,000 pounds.
Curiously, there was a time when “17” was one of the most commonly played numbers in roulette. Not only did Connery win big on the number 17 in 1963, but he did the same in the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever.
Although some have won fortunes on the number 17, it does not mean the rest of us will have the same good fortune with that number. If we have lucky numbers, the challenge is in figuring them out, and they do not always come neatly wrapped in fortune cookies.