Top 10 worst bets ever
Feel bad about all the bets you lost on England to win the World Cup, the Euros… or anything for that matter? Rue that tenner you bet with a mate that Poirot was French? Take heart, they weren’t bad bets, these are bad bets. The worst bets of all time in fact!
1. Archie Karas loses $40m – Greek high roller Archie Karas also features in our top 10 best bets ever article: where did you think he got the $40m from? However, what goes up, must come down, and Archie came down with a crash, bang, wallop!
In 1995 he lost all of his not insubstantial fortune in the space of just three weeks! Playing very, very high stakes dice and baccarat he very swiftly lost around $30m. THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS!! OMG, as they say. He took a little break before returning to the baccarat table and losing the rest of his cash betting $300,000 a time. Ouch.
2. Betfair… not that fair! – On the 28th December 2011 in the Christmas hurdle at Leopardstown over £29m became available to back at odds of 28/1 on Voler La Vedette. This would have created a liability of around £600m! At the time the money was put up the horse was looking good and it did win, with over £1.6m matched at the inflated price.
There was massive speculation about what happened and whether it was a glitch with Betfair’s own software, a client ‘bot’ gone mad or something other, perhaps more sinister, explanation. Betfair eventually decided to void all in-play bets leading to some very, very angry punters and instantly wiping £40m off the value of the company.
3. The “I bet I won’t have a bet” bet – Vegas regular John Hennigan liked to bet. So convinced were this high-roller’s friends that he couldn’t live without a punt, they were prepared to bet on it! Which doesn’t really say much actually, because they probably quite liked a bet too.
Anyway, to the point at hand: they wagered Hennigan $100,000 that he couldn’t live in remote, gambling-free Des Moines Iowa for six weeks. He took the bet but promptly returned to Vegas after just TWO DAYS, gladly paying up the dosh as it meant he could go back to his fun and games!
4. How to make a $1m… or not! – MTV’s ‘The Buried Life’ featured four plucky young chaps attempting to complete a classic “100 things to do before you die”. One of them was to make $1m and they decided big stakes was the way to go.
In 2010 they scraped together $125k and slapped it down on the roulette table. They won, giving them a quarter of a million dollars and putting them just two successful spins from their target. Following Wesley Snipes’ “always bet on black” advice they spun again. In came red and The Golden Gate Casino took $250,000 of their money.
5. The only dead certs are in the grave son. – So said my granddad, a former bookie and latterly a frequently unsuccessful punter. Sticking close to home, a friend who could ill afford it thought he saw a chance to make an easy £44. Not a lot, but enough for a night out.
With Angola 4-0 up against Mali he lumped his life savings (well, student loan) on Angola at 1.01 on Betfair. In theory it was a pretty good value bet given there were just 11 minutes left. In practice Mali scored four times, including two in injury time, to sink the boat. No night out for you mate. Read the BBC match report here.
6. The bet that lost £800m. – Ok, just to cheer up our plucky student friend, at least he didn’t lose £800m and go to jail. Which is what Nick Leeson did in the 1990s, back when £800m was a lot of money too!
He worked as a financial trader for Barings Bank and in 1993 he made the company £10m, around a tenth of their annual profit that year. However, by autumn the next year he was sitting on a deficit of £208m after some disastrous trades. In true gambling addict style he chased his losses and when the powers that be eventually caught up with him in 2005 Leeson had lurched some £800m into the red.
He was ultimately sentenced to six and half years in prison, got cancer and his wife left him. On the plus side he got to see Ewan McGregor play him in the film, and do a pretty good job too!
7. The bookies don’t always win! – Thank god they don’t. They, like everyone else, are fallible and can make errors. In 1999 spread betting giants Sporting Index made a monster when, after hours of research they decided they expected around six wides per match in the cricket World Cup. Within minutes of them opening their market for total tournament wides at 245-265 punters, aware of the swing-friendly English conditions and impact of the new white ball were smashing into that. After 20 minutes the spread was forced up 100 points and on the day the tournament opened it was almost at the 500 mark. 76 wides in the first three matches confirmed the punters were right, the traders were wrong and SPIN were in big trouble. There were 979 wides in the end and the company lost over half a million pounds.
8. The bet that didn’t win $34m – Back in February an unnamed Russian put a bet of $1m on the Russian Presidential race. He backed Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of NBA side the New Jersey Nets, to beat Vladimir Putin to the prize. Prokhorov was a total no-hoper with odds of 34/1 and realistically was more like a 50/1 shot. He duly lost. Putin’s a judo blackbelt, you don’t fuck with that shit. Prokhorov came third of five with eight times fewer votes than Ninja-judoka-king Putin.
9. You’re not alone Nick. – In real terms Nick Leeson’s £800m fuck up probably won’t be beat but more recently, in autumn of 2012, Kweku Adoboli of Swiss bank UBS was sentenced to seven years in jail (a very comparable sentence to Leeson) for losing £1.4bn, the worst “bet” ever I’d say. He was, so the court heard, “a gamble or two away from destroying Switzerland’s largest bank”. Who cares about the neutral, clockmaking bastards I hear you say. Err, not me. Anyway, they got off light; at one point Adoboli was looking at losses of £7.5bn. £1.4bn seems like bugger all now, especially when you consider it’s only 40 Andy Carrolls!
10. Eating mud off a stick for a quid – Ok, not quite in the same league as Kweku, Nick and some of the rest but someone who shall remain nameless (alternatively we could call him me) once ate some oily mud off a stick for £1. In my defence, I think I may have been on drugs at the time and, financially at least it was a good bet. I also got two Maltesers to soften the blow. Now, will anyone give me $100,000 to have breast implants?