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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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Top 10 tidbits from Leicester City's 5,000-to-1 payout

5 May 2016

By Gary Trask
If we simply reported today that Leicester City winning this year's English Premier League title is the greatest upset in sports history, we would be doing our audience a vast disservice.

Yes, the 5,000-to-1 odds the team from the East Midlands of England overcame to capture the coveted soccer title is the genesis of the story and the reason it's relevant to our Casino City readers. But the more you read and hear about this unfathomable underdog, the more you realize it may truly be one of those rare accomplishments that may never be duplicated.

Now, before you go ahead and charge us with unwarranted hyperbole, read on. Our guess is that the 10 items below will change your mind and help you realize that the Foxes winning the Premier League is truly a "once-in-a-generation" upset.

10. League history

The Premier League, created in 1992, has historically been a top-heavy competition with little parity. Each year, from August to May, 20 teams — reduced from 22 back in 1995 — play 38 matches apiece until a champion is crowned, with no playoffs. Only six teams have ever won the league, and over the last 11 years the league has been dominated by Manchester United (seven titles) and Chelsea (four).

The league uses a system in which the bottom three teams in the standings each year are "relegated" to the Football League Championship, a lower division that annually gets to promote its top three teams to the Premier League, taking the place of the relegated teams.

9. Team history

Leicester City won the Football League Championship in 2014 and was bumped up to the Premier League, but was on a fast track to be relegated once again late last season.

On April 17 of last year, the Foxes were in last place, but won five of their last six games, marking the first time in league history that a team with fewer than 20 points after 29 games did not finish in the bottom three. The team pulled off the feat despite a major controversy that saw three players kicked off the team after they filmed a sex tape in which they verbally abused three prostitutes. Yikes.

As you can see, this is not a team with a glorious past. In fact, going back to the pre-Premier League days, the best finish in Leicester City's 132-year history in a top-flight league before this year came in 1929, when it was runner-up in the First Division.

8. No salary cap

Unlike the NFL, NBA and NHL here in America, there is no salary cap in the Premier League, which may explain the lack of parity. Leicester City ranked 17th out of 20 in the salary cap department this year, with a payroll of just £48.2 million, up from £36.6 million in 2014-15.

In comparison, the top four teams on the salary cap list this year were Chelsea (£215.6 million), Manchester United (£203 million), Manchester City (£193.8 million) and Arsenal (£192 million).

Image from Paddy Power

Image from Paddy Power

7. The coach

As if this isn't already enough of a "feel-good" story, Leicester City's head coach, 64-year-old Claudio Ranieri, is a "football lifer," with mixed results as both a player and coach. Before Leicester City, he had managed four clubs and never won a top-level championship.

When he was hired by Leicester City in July 2015, the fans and media weren't exactly overjoyed. A column in The Guardian pointed out that while Ranieri was undoubtedly an overall good guy, "few will back him to succeed."

"If Leicester wanted someone nice, they've got him," the column went on to say. "If they wanted someone to keep them in the Premier League, then they may have gone for the wrong guy."

Oh, and while his players and fans were on the edge of their seats earlier this week, watching the game between Chelsea and Tottenham that officially clinched the title for them, Ranieri reportedly missed the game and instead opted to visit his 96-year-old mother.

6. The star player

When — not if — the movie of the 2016 Leicester City Foxes is made, you can bet Jamie Vardy will be a central figure and, if we had to guess, will be played by Matt Damon or Charlie Hunnam. His role will be huge, not just because he was the team's best player, but also because he is a classic "rags-to-riches" story.

Ten years ago, after being charged with assault after a fight outside a pub, Vardy was forced to wear an electronic bracelet and was placed under house arrest. He was later granted probation and worked at a steel plant while playing for the Stocksbridge Park Steels. There were times when, if the game ran long, Vardy would have to leave early in order to go home and make curfew.

This year, he was named FWA Footballer of the Year after leading the Foxes in scoring, including a stretch in which he scored in 11 consecutive games, which had never been done in league history.

Do you get the feeling there are a few screenwriters in Hollywood right now licking their collective chops?

5. It's no fluke

There have been many occasions in sports history where a team simply gets hot at the right time and wins a championship. Buster Douglas, a 42-to-1 underdog, was good enough for one night to beat Mike Tyson.

Leicester City was no fluke. The Foxes, who clinched the title with two games remaining in the season, had to compete over a grueling schedule against teams with far superior talent and more money and prestige. This wasn't an NHL riding a hot goalie in the playoffs or a college basketball team catching fire for six games during March Madness. In compiling the 77 points that clinched the title, Leicester City won 22 of its 36 games and outscored its opponents 64-34. It never lost consecutive games and never went more than three games without a victory.

4. What is it worth?

According to a study by research firm Repucom, fans who bet on the Foxes to win the league aren't the only ones cashing in today.

By winning the title, the club could rake in an additional $150 million, including television bonuses, ticket and merchandise sales; a $30 million "Merit Payment"; and the $50 million it pockets by earning a spot in the UEFA Champions League next year. Repucom said that the Premier League distribution of revenue and prize money for finishing top of the table will see Leicester City potentially earn over £90 million for winning the league. Not bad for the team with a payroll that ranked in the bottom four of the league this year.

3. The stories

When a team cashes a 5,000-to-1 ticket, there are bound to be plenty of legendary gambling stories to follow — and we've heard about many.

Our favorite is the 20-year-old fan from Leicester who placed £2 on her team at the start of the season with Ladbrokes and cashed in for £10,000.

2. What did it cost bookmakers?

The Cinderella story for Leicester City was a nightmare for bookmakers. In Las Vegas, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino said the 2,000-to-1 odds it posted on Leicester City are the highest it has ever paid out. William Hill Sportsbook & Racebook reported it cost the firm £2.2 million. At the start of the season, 25 punters backed Leicester at the 5,000-to-1 price, and the payout from those bets alone came to over £360,000. As the season progressed, Leicester's odds tumbled, but that didn't stop people from backing them. In total, a little more than 30% of the £1.1 million wagered on the Premier League winners market was for the Foxes.

The biggest individual winner at William Hill was a customer from Guildford in Surrey, who placed £75 at 1,500-to-1 and took home £112,500.

Skybook paid out £4.6 million to 57 bettors, and after Ladbrokes Sportsbook & Racebook reported losing £6.6 million, it sent a message suggesting it won't be hanging longshot odds on anything again anytime soon.

1. Putting the odds in perspective

OK, let's put this all in proportion. Just how unlikely is it for a 5,000-to-1 ticket to cash in? Earlier this spring, you could have bet "Kim Kardashian to be elected U.S. President by 2020" or "Loch Ness Monster proven to exist" at 2,000-to-1 odds at Paddy Power Sportsbook.

In sports terms, Holy Cross was 1,000-to-1 to win the NCAA tournament at the start of March Madness at Bovada. Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies were 500-to-1 at Westgate to win the World Series — and finished with a league-worst 63 wins. This year, the Cleveland Browns, a perennial NFL doormat, are a mere 200-to-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Unlikely? For sure. But as Leicester City proved this year, astronomical underdogs do come through. I'm just not counting on seeing another one in my lifetime.

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