When you set foot in a casino, you know that everybody in that room is dreaming of huge gambling wins. Even if you are gambling for fun, there is always that hope that you might be that one lucky winner who walks away with a life-changing sum of money and a great story to tell. These top casino wins are a huge part of the allure of gambling and casinos themselves, and keep the dream alive for players worldwide. Here are our top 5 biggest casino winners, and the stories behind their life-changing strokes of luck.
Don Johnson (no relation to the actor) is a bit of a legend in gambling circles. His game of choice was blackjack, which can be beaten using card-counting techniques, as seen in numerous film and TV plots. Johnson’s technique may not have inspired any films, but is arguably even more brilliant.
Following the 2008 financial crash and its subsequent economic recession, casinos were desperate to attract high rollers. Johnson capitalised on this eagerness, negotiating conditions which would give him a mathematical edge on the game: the most useful of these was a 20% rebate on any losses he made over $500,000, but other small advantageous rules included dealers standing on soft 17 and split aces.
Surrounded by girls, popping expensive bottles of champagne, and demanding luxury perks such as hotel rooms, private jets, and fancy meals, Johnson gave the impression of a party-obsessed high roller, likely to throw large sums of cash at the casino and rely on luck. However, this was calculated: a highly intelligent man, with years of experience in gambling and the support of PHD mathematicians, Johnson combined his negotiated edge with excellent playing to earn huge gambling wins of approximately $15 million within six months. He is now, unsurprisingly, not welcome at most casinos in Atlantic City and a few in Vegas.
Archie Karas is not just one of the biggest casino winners of all time: he is literally the man behind the largest and longest winning streak in casino history. Known as ‘The Run’, his epic winning streak turned a $50 into over $40 million within little over two years, and is one of the top casino wins of all time.
Karas’ epically huge gambling win was not his first: by the time it began in late 1992, he had already repeatedly become a millionaire, only to lose it all again. Seeking bigger games and with only $50 in his pocket, he drove to Las Vegas in December 1992 and convinced a fellow player to lend him $10,000, which he quickly made back. The next two and a half years were spent in Vegas, accumulating huge sums of money in poker facing increasingly better players. When his stakes got too high even for the top players in Vegas, he turned to craps and by early 1995 he had won over $40 million.
However, Archie Karas did not know when to quit. In a period of just three weeks in 1995, he lost all of his money playing dice and baccarat. He has since had a few other streaks of luck, but never again reaching the heights he did during The Run.
Sometimes top casino wins are notable simply because who who they belong to. Everyone knows Sean Connery as the original James Bond, one of the world’s most iconic fictional gamblers. However, you may not know that the actor himself was a keen gambler, with his most famous casino win happening in 1963, the year after Dr.No was released.
Playing at a casino in Saint Vincent, Italy, Connery bet on 17 at roulette and lost twice. Not letting himself being dissuaded from playing the number, he stuck with 17 and won. He did so two more times, always betting on 17, and walked away with £10,000 (approximately £163,000 in today’s money). The odds of this happening are 50,000 to 1.
He would bring this story to the big screen a few years later, with James Bond also winning with 17 in Diamonds are Forever. It will come as no surprise that for many years, the most commonly played number in roulette wheel was 17, as players thought 007’s lucky number might also be their own.
Elmer Sherwin has always loved gambling and casinos, and had spent most of his life playing in the hopes of a top casino win. At the age of 76, while he was spending some time in Vegas with his wife, he attended the opening of the Mirage Hotel and Casino, and played the $100 dollars that he set himself for the day. Losing it all, he then asked his wife for a last $20 to try the Megabucks slot machine one more time – this time, he won the $4.6 million jackpot.
The odds of winning the Megabucks jackpot is less than one in ten million. With this win, Sherwin had already proven himself to be an exceptionally lucky man. He used his winnings to travel and see the world, enjoying his old age. However, he wanted to do it again: not for the money, but for the prestige of being the first to win the jackpot twice.
In 2005, at the age of 92, he succeeded, winning $2.1 on Megabucks. With his second huge gambling win, he donated a large sum of his winning to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund, and ensured his family was well provided before he passed away two years later, having in the last decades of his life become one of the biggest casino winners in the history of Las Vegas.
Many of the biggest casino winners are players who spent their whole lives gambling before hitting it big: however, more impressive are the cases where someone with almost no gambling experience hits an incredible lucky streak. This was the case for grandmother Patricia Demauro, who in 2009 decided to play some craps at the Borgata in Atlantic City, despite only having played the game once.
Craps is fast-paced and relatively complicated, making it both intimidating for beginners and an easy way to lose money fast. However, Patricia decided to take her chances, and won – 154 consecutive times. She never shared how much her winnings were, but with her initial bet $10 she could have made anything from a few thousand to a few million. In case you were wondering, the odds for such a feat are 1 in 1.56 trillion – yes, with a ‘t’.