Improbable sports bet!

Perhaps one of the most improbable sports bets, winning or losing, struck in recent years was the $85,000 placed on Tiger Woods to win the 2019 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Notwithstanding the fact that Woods was attempting to win his first major championship since the 2008 US Open, the bet was all the more remarkable for the circumstances under which it was placed.

The bettor in question was James P. Adducci, a 39-year-old Wisconsin man who lived with his ailing 82-year-old father and had never before placed a sports bet. Nevertheless, Adducci sold $55,000 of Amazon shares to raise his stake money and, after being ‘knocked back’ by two other bookmakers, was finally accommodated at 14/1, for the full $85,000, by William Hill.

The rest, as they say, is history. Tiger Woods won his fifth Green Jacket, despite a bogey on the final hole, yielding a profit of $1.19 million for the intrepid Adducci. Not satisfied with the largest golf payout in company history, shortly before the PGA Championship, in May, Adducci placed $100,000 on Tiger Woods to complete the Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship, US Open and Open Championship at odds of 100/1. The potential payout was $10 million, but the excitement was short-lived as Woods shot 72, 73 in the first two rounds of the PGA Championship to miss the cut by a single stroke.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Adducci originally trained as a commodities trader, but although he described himself as a ‘day trader’, he also confessed to having been $25,000 in debt. He never really explained, at least not adequately, the rationale behind his apparently ‘crazy’ behaviour, but lack of experience certainly proved no hindrance to his success.

David Oancea – Superbowl Success

Despite his epithet, ‘Vegas Dave’, David Oancea was born in the college town of Saline, Southeast Michigan on December 10, 1976 and raised in nearby Ann Arbor. At the age of 21, Oancea moved to Hawaii, where he developed a taste for sports betting. Legend has it that he subsequently moved to Las Vegas on the pretence of attending the University of Nevada but, having secured a student loan for $10,000, placed all his money on a single winning spin of roulette.

Thereafter, Oancea abandoned his studies altogether and embarked on a path that would make him the self-proclaimed ‘best sports information consultant in the world’. He first rose to fame, or infamy, in 2015, when he backed Kansas City Royals – who were available at odds of 22/1 at the start of spring training – to win the World Series. They did so, beating New York Mets 4-1 in the best-of-seven postseason play-off to record their first victory since 1985 and netting Oancea $2.5 million.

Lo and behold, Oancea did it again the following February, collecting $2.3 million when Denver Broncos defeated odds-on favourites Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. However, on that occasion, his winnings were withheld, at least in part, because he was under investigation, for identity fraud, by the federal government. Oancea was subsequently indicted on numerous counts and only escaped conviction as the result of a plea bargain. In any event, he pled guilty of a misdemeanour, surrendered half a million dollars and was bannned from sports betting in Las Vegas for three years. He remains one of the most controversial figures in the field, with a distinctly dubious reputation.

Anonymous Scottish Punter Wins Big

 Horse racing on a Sunday has been a fact of life in Britain since 1992, but Sunday, September 16, 2018 was still a red-letter day for one anonymous Scottish punter. The unnamed father-of-five, who was celebrating his birthday, cast his net far and wide, staking just £5.35 – in the form of four-folds, six-folds, seven-folds and an eight-fold, at a thrifty £0.05 apiece – on eight selections at Bath, Ffos Las and the Curragh throughout the afternoon and early evening. He placed his bet, at starting price, at his local William Hill betting shop in Leith, Edinburgh.

Of course, the nature of his bet meant that at least 50% of his selections must win to guarantee a return, but his confidence was not misplaced. The bulk of his selections were at Ffos Las, where Time Stands Still (8/1) got the ball rolling with a comprehensive, 3-length victory in the 7½-furlong handicap, despite 3lb overweight. The temperamental filly was subsequently followed into the winners’ enclosure at the West Wales track by Syndicate (11/1), Alra Vita (9/4), Homing Star (10/1) and Ascot Day (14/1); the latter, which was his final selection of the day, barely gave him an anxious moment, staying on well under Martin Harley to win by 3 lengths.

In between times, the fortunate Scot also latched on to Havana Grey (15/8) and Barbill (6/1) at the Curragh, plus My Boy Sepoy (5/2) at Bath, for a total return of £682,282.14. The eight-fold bet, alone, netted £203,969.39 and the total return represented a mind-boggling Return on Investment (ROI) of 12,752,837%. Rupert Adams, International PR Manager at William Hill, said, ‘We believe it is the biggest accumulator payout in Scotland.’ In Britain, as whole, the permed accumulator ranked third and was the biggest since Frankie Dettori went through the card at Ascot in September, 1996.

Eddie The Eagle

Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, otherwise known as ‘Eddie The Eagle’, was the subject of 2016 sports comedy-drama film of the same name, starring Taron Egerton in the title role. Although largely fictitious, the film was loosely based on Edwards’ life story.

Born into a working-class family in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Edwards was initially a downhill skier but, having narrowly missed selection for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in that capacity, he later turned to ski jumping as a less expensive and less competitive – at least, as far as Britain was concerned – option.

In the summer of 1986, at the age of twenty-two, Edwards took time off from his career as a plasterer to visit the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in New York, where he concluded that ski jumping looked ‘alright’. He jumped in his first European Cup event at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Boxing Day, 1986 and, the following year, jumped in the Four Hills Tournament at Oberstdorf, West Germany.

Following his return from torn knee ligaments, sustained in the latter event, the British Ski Federation decreed that if he could jump 70 metres in a World Cup event he would be allowed to represent Great Britain in the Winter Olympics in Calgary the following year. In December, 1987, Edwards jumped 69.5 metres and was famously in the mental hospital in Finland – for purely economic reasons – when he was informed that he had been picked for the British Olympic team.

Indeed, Edwards, who was entirely self-funded, became the first British Olympic ski jumper for six decades. He finished stone cold last, by some margin, in both the 70-metre and 90-metre events, but his fearless acts of derring-do earned him the nickname ‘Eddie The Eagle’ and endeared him to a global audience. Indeed, in his closing address, Frank King, CEO of the Olympic Organising Committee, said to competitors, ‘Some of you have even soared like an eagle.’