The biggest gambles ever taken
When it comes to gambling, most of us can only ever afford to play it safe, placing bets within our budget in order to ensure we gamble responsibly. But what about those who can afford to play big – or those who can’t, but choose to risk everything on a single bet anyway? Often big risks result in big losses, but every once in a while, the decision to go all in can pay off, and then some. Take a look at our snapshot of some of the biggest gambles ever taken, and see for yourself.
1. William Lee Bergstrom – The Phantom Gambler
Also known as the story of the Suitcase Man, the tale of William Lee Bergstrom and his three bets is the stuff of legend. Imagine it from a fellow gambler’s perspective. You’re sitting in Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas having yourself a merry old time (the year is 1980, by the way). Then out of nowhere, a man walks into the casino carrying a suitcase. He goes to the craps table, opens his suitcase, and inside – an amazing $770,000 in cash! Even more unbelievable, this anonymous man tells the croupier that he wants to bet it ALL on a single throw of the dice. The casino owner is nervous, but promises to honour the bet. The man takes his chips, places his bet… and WINS! On a $770,000 single bet!
You are incredulous – you can’t believe what you’ve just seen. And yet the man barely bats an eyelid at his phenomenal win. Instead, he coolly goes to the cashier’s cage to claim his winnings – $2.6 million in total – which he then puts back in his original suitcase, and a second one that he seems to have brought with as well. Then he leaves the casino, gets into his car, and drives away.
That was the scene that Binion’s played host to, and that’s what led to the man being known as the Phantom Gambler – a stranger that showed up out of nowhere and won millions in a matter of seconds. It was a success story like none other, and gamblers ate it up.
The tale of the Phantom Gambler doesn’t end there though. Four years later, history repeated itself when the man, by then identified as real estate mogul William Lee Bergstrom, again walked into Binion’s and placed another huge bet – this time in the amount of $538,000, again on craps. In a stunning reoccurrence of previous events, Bergstrom won AGAIN – and just like last time, cashed in his chips and quietly left.
Just a few months later, Bergstrom returned a third time to place a bet – this time in the amount of $1 million! Unfortunately at this point his luck ran out and he lost, however he still retained his now famous composure, ate an enchilada (because Mexican food is life) and left.
Unfortunately the story of the Phantom Gambler came to an end in the most tragic of ways when Bergstrom was found to have taken his own life, only a few months after placing his final historic bet. It was surmised that his suicide had come about as a result of his depression, and that his bets were made in an attempt to be remembered for having achieved something extraordinary.
Today his ashes rest in an urn labelled as the ‘Phantom Gambler of the Horseshoe, who bet $1 million on November 16, 1984’ – but while he may no longer be with us, his legend lives on forever!
2. Kerry Packer – The $100 million bet
If the name Kerry Packer sounds familiar to you, that’s because this Australian media tycoon had a personality that was larger than life. Worth an incredible $6.5 billion, Packer was notorious for his love of gambling – a pastime he was so passionate about, he was once rumoured to have lost $40 million in bets over just 10 months.
But nothing beats the $100 million bet he made when he went up against a Texas businessman. In an effort to impress Packer, the Texan bragged about his net worth of $100 million – which, while considerable, didn’t exactly stack up to Packer’s billions. Showing just what he thought of such a boast, Packer flippantly offered to toss him for it – to wager all $100 million on the flip of a single coin. Quickly realizing he was out of his league, the Texan backed down and the bet was never officially made. But we love to wonder about what would have happened if it had!
3. Conor Murphy – The $75 accumulator
Of course, it’s easy to put all your money on the table when you’re a billionaire. But what about if you’re a stable boy, with only a few dollars to your name? That’s the situation in which 29-year-old Conor Murphy found himself in 2012 – with a deep love for horses, and not much more. However, he took his steadfast belief in his horses to the track, and placed a $75 accumulator bet on five of them to win, against the odds.
Unbelievably, Murphy’s faith in the horses under his care was borne out – all five of them won, turning his small $75 bet into a massive $1.5 million win! It didn’t take long for Murphy to find a new job, this time working for himself and training horses in Kentucky. Going to prove that if you have dreams and drive, anything is possible.
As you can see, whether you have billions, millions, or only a few dollars to your name, it’s still possible to place your bets and change your fortunes. All it takes is a love of gambling, a steely nerve, and a sprinkling of luck too. Of course we’re not suggesting you take huge financial risks yourself and blow your bankroll in minutes – responsible gambling is always the best way to play. But it’s still exciting to see how sometimes when people bet big, they win big too – and that’s as true of gambling as it is of life.