From Rags to Riches: Hope for All

Throughout civilisation there have been stories of people starting with nothing and ending up with vast sums of money and sitting in the upper echelons of society. A perfect example, in recent times, is Sir Richard Branson. At the age of fifteen he started two unsuccessful businesses but at seventeen, after leaving school he created Student Magazine and he was on his way to fame and fortune. Now at 58 he is 236th on Forbes’ Rich List with an estimated personal fortune of $4.4 billion. In casinos it would be impossible for punters to reach the heights of that sort of wealth but large cash prizes have been won over the years turning people from paupers to Prince and Princess’.

Slot machines are a particularly good source for rags to riches stories, especially as players are often gambling with only small amounts. Some of the Megabucks machines in Las Vegas have paid out huge sums to lucky players, thus changing their lives forever. On 26th January, 2000 Cynthia Jay-Brennan, a thirty seven year old cocktail waitress, sat down to play at a Megabucks machine in the Desert Inn Casino in Las Vegas. Playing with a total of just $27 Jay-Brennan scooped the ridiculous sum of $34,959,458 after truly hitting the jackpot. A very similar thing happened at the Palace Station Hotel Casino, also in Las Vegas, when a 65 year old retiree made a cool $27,582,539 on another Megabucks machine, just one month after winning $640,000, at the same casino playing the Wheel of Fortune. Over the years there have been 120 winners who have become rich playing the Megabucks machines. This is made more impressive given that the odds of striking the jackpot are 50 million-to-one!!

Roulette is an enormously popular game on casino floors. The anticipation as the ball rolls around the wheel increases with every revolution and as it begins to make its way to its final resting point, excitement reaches fever pitch usually followed by the cheers of few and the groans of many. As with all other casino games there has been stories of people entering with very little and leaving with a lot. Perhaps the greatest win came in 1873, when Joseph Jagger left a casino with a staggering $325,000, approximately £26 million today, after a week long session. Jagger was a wheel watcher and noted that one of the wheels in the casino had a bias towards the numbers 17, 18, 27 and 28. Jagger occasionally lost so as not to arouse suspicion but after such a winning streak the management switched the wheels around to deter the Englishman. However, Jagger had already marked the biased table and continued to play until finally the wheel was removed.

It appears that Lady Luck doesn’t just shine on the nicest of people. There is a famous Las Vegas story regarding “the million dollar bum.” The gentleman in question remained nameless, but after being kicked out of his house by his wife, he proceeded to cash in a social security cheque. With just $400 to his name, the “million dollar bum” won approximately $1.6 million in a gambling session that spanned a week. When he was at the peak of his success, the player was apparently incredibly rude and obnoxious to those all around him and alienated his fellow players, but it seems karma struck back, as he then lost the vast majority of his winnings to send him back to rags once more.

Possibly the greatest winning streak ever came at Binion’s Horseshoe in 1992 when a Greek immigrant won approximately $17 million playing poker and craps. Arriving in Vegas with just $50, having lost big in L.A after making money playing cards, Archie Karas was able to secure an initial loan of $10,000 after an investor recognised his poker talents. Karas then embarked on a phenomenal run which saw him beat some of the best poker players on the planet, all in head-to-head games. After running out of opponents, presumably they were running scared; he switched to craps where his extraordinary lucky streak continued, gambling up to $100,000 at a time and winning. It was said, that, at one point Karas held $11 million in $5000 chips – all the $5000 chips the casino had!!

So you see, it is possible for average Joe’s to win big at the casino. Just make sure you keep your fingers crossed and your lucky day might just happen just as it did for the people above.

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