For most people, sports betting is by far not an exact science. It is for professional bettors and the bookmakers themselves, though. To set their odds, bookmakers like Betway.co.za go through years worth of statistics regarding the athletes’ or teams’ performances, all the latest news about any potential injuries, carefully assessing every factor that can influence the outcome of a boxing match, a football tournament, a horse race or pretty much every other sporting event. There are a few professional bettors who can match the bookmakers’ performance in predicting these odds – but most people don’t. And they don’t intend to either – that would take all the fun out of betting. Instead, they treat their bets as some kind of ritual, a means of boosting their enjoyment of their favorite sports. Most of their bets are small, symbolic. Sometimes, in turn, luck smiles on them and turns their loose change into a fortune.
Pique and Football
Football is a sport traditionally followed by men – when their favorite team plays, the guys tend to become totally oblivious of their surroundings, including their significant others. This was the case of a housewife in Leysdown-on-Sea in the United Kingdom: her husband and son spent every weekend watching football on TV and betting on the matches – without success, I might add. This annoyed her, of course. So much so that one day, he took his son by the hand and walked with him into the local betting shop. She picked a dozen matches completely at random – based on her likes or dislikes of the team names – and placed a one-pound (about R19) bet on them.
Imagine her surprise – and her husband’s humiliation – when all the 12 matches had the results she predicted. But these feelings were most likely replaced by happiness when they found out how much money she won: £574,278.41 or more than R1.5 million.
The 50p Millionaire
Predicting the outcome of football matches is one thing – correctly predicting the winner of horse races is a completely different one. Yet this was exactly what Yorkshire local Fred Craggs did in 2008. On the eve of his 60th birthday, he placed an eight-way accumulator bet on eight races worth 50 pence (about R10). The horses he bet on were probably massive underdogs, considering that the odds of his accumulator were 2.8 million to 1.
But against all odds, he won – and he won big. The rules of the betting shop limited the maximum win to £1 million (R18.5 million), so this was the amount he took home that day. If there wasn’t for this rule, he would’ve become richer by £1.4 million.
Who dares wins… big!
Last but not least, let us mention a gambler who was either crazy or a genius – what’s important is that he won big. In gambling “letting it ride” means re-betting all your winnings on the next game. In 2017, an anonymous punter was doing just that in Las Vegas: after a successful bet on a World Series match between the LA Dodgers and the Houston Astros, he let it ride… for six more games. At the end of the run, the bettor – rumored to be under 30 years of age and of Eastern European origin – walked away with total winnings of $14 million (R211 million).