Top-10 gambling miracles
By Aaron Todd
While this isn't exactly a religious column, it seems like a good time to explore the 10 greatest miracles the gambling world has seen.
10. Roulette double-up for $66,200
This isn't actually a miracle, because it's really an even money bet, but when a Hawaiian man wanted to wager $66,200 on a single spin of the roulette wheel, he had a hard time finding a casino in Las Vegas that would take the wager. Finally, after calling seven other casinos, he called Binion's, which said it would take the bet. Not only is it a miracle that he found a casino willing to take the wager, but it's even more remarkable that he won. He put it all on "even" and when the ball landed on the eight, he walked away with $66,200 in profit.
9. Long shot Giants beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII
The New England Patriots had looked invincible for the entire 2007 season and subsequent postseason, so it was no surprise that they were favored by 14 points against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII when the books opened. Bettors in Nevada's sportsbooks bet heavily on the Giants, who had lost to the Patriots by just three in the final game of the regular season, and the line fell to 12 points by game time.
Not only did the Giants cover, they actually won the game. Bettors collected money on their spread bets for the Giants, and some cashed in at nearly 4-1 on their money line bets on the Giants.
Sportsbooks in Nevada took a bath on the game, losing $2.6 million.
8. Mine That Bird wins Kentucky Derby at 50-1
When Mine That Bird lined up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, it was unthinkable that the 50-1 long shot would even show, let alone win. And when the gelding sat in last place, trailing the back of the pack by two lengths after the first turn, the 50-1 odds seemed generous. But somehow, the horse managed to navigate through the pack of 20 horses and win by more than six lengths, giving those that had bet on the horse one of the most miraculous gambling results of all time.
You can watch a replay of the race here – you won't hear much about Mine That Bird since he was in last place for so long, but try to keep your eye on him as he works his way through the field. It's pretty unbelievable.
7. Chase Berger's Kd
Okay, so this one is fictional, but it spawned the greatest web-based animated poker series of all time. Okay, maybe the only web-based animated poker series, but regardless, it's pure genius. Our hero, Chase Berger, is heads up for $1.2 million and is all-in with pocket kings, trailing another player's ace-king with an ace on the board. The only card that can save him is the king of diamonds, and if you don't know what happens, well, just watch the first episode of the series.
6. Mega Millions and Powerball both reach record jackpots in 2012
The two largest lottery jackpots reached previously unseen territory earlier this year when the Mega Millions jackpot reached $656 million and the Powerball jackpot reached $550 million. While winning the lottery requires a lot of luck (and not necessarily a miracle), it is pretty miraculous that both multi-state lottery jackpot pools both eclipsed the half-a-billion mark for the first time in the same year. It would be even more miraculous, however, if I had hit it.
5. Low-stakes player turns FPPs into WCOOP victory
Loyalty points are a nice way to turn your online poker play into a tangible reward, whether it's merchandise from a site's store, cash bonuses or tournament buy-ins. But if your Russian low-stakes grinder Marateik, they're a nice way to satellite into the $5,200 Main Event of the World Championship of Online Poker at PokerStars, and then parlay that entry into $1 million.
4. Lola hits 20 black twice in a row
Okay, another fictional miracle, and a scene that I noted in my Top-10 gambling scenes in non-gambling movies column. But this scene is just too good not to get on this list. And at 1,296-1, this qualifies as a miracle.
3. New craps player goes on four-hour run
Patricia Demauro had never played craps before she sidled up to a table at the Borgata in Atlantic City in May, 2009, so it was a pretty big surprise to her and everyone else at the casino when she went on a 154-roll run which lasted four hours and 18 minutes.
While Demauro declined to say how much she won, the odds of getting luck so many times in a row are 5.6 billion to 1*. Incredible enough that you just might call it a miracle.
2. Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson
If you thought the Patriots looked invincible in 2007-08, that's nothing compared to how Mike Tyson looked in his first 37 fights. Tyson was unbeaten with 33 knockouts to start his career, and James "Buster" Douglas was seen as such an underdog, most Las Vegas sportsbooks wouldn't even offer odds on Tyson's 38th match. The Mirage posted 42-1 odds on Douglas to win, and he shocked the world when he went out and did it.
1. Chris Moneymaker wins the WSOP Main Event
Parlaying a $39 online tournament entry into $2.5 million is quite a feat. Doing it when you're an amateur poker player against the best in the world is something else entirely.
It's been nearly 10 years since Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, and it is hard to believe that it can be eclipsed in the category of gambling miracles. Moneymaker's win marked the start of the "poker boom," and it turned him into an instant celebrity.
As Norman Chad said in his commentary on the ESPN broadcast of the tournament, "This is beyond fairytale, it's inconceivable."
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the odds of 154 successful rolls in craps as 1.56 trillion to 1. (Methodology of corrected odds)