Strange…But True! 7 of The Weirdest Stories as Told by Casino Players

Strange things happen in a world where players believe in a goddess called Lady Luck; where they swear by the powers of a rabbit’s foot or a shiny penny; where one random spin out of a possible million others can change the life of a jackpot winner forever.

But if you think you’ve heard it all, think again! Some of the strangest stories come out of the casino world, and we’re here to share some of the best of them with you. Some of them have been officially confirmed, while others remain within the range of urban legends. Read, enjoy, and believe!

The Ultimate Casino Rags to Riches Story – Or is it?

We’ll start off with the tale of Archie Karas and how his $50 wager turned him into a millionaire – 40 times over!

Karas was an impoverished immigrant from the island of Cephalonia, Greece who landed in Portland, Oregon as a teenager.  

He worked at odd jobs in Los Angeles, first as a waiter and then in a bowling alley, before he discovered the game of poker and discovered his talent for the game.

Karas accrued over $2 million playing poker, but an unfortunate incident wiped out his funds, and he was left with just $50 in his back pocket.

Using the last of his funds, Karas headed to Vegas and started a six-month winning spree which has become known as The Run.  Karas played against some of the biggest poker players in the business, winning millions each time. At the height of the Run, Karas could count winnings of $40 million.

Unfortunately, within 3 weeks, Karas lost nearly three-quarters of his winnings and he returned to Greece with $12 million.  But the lure of Vegas was too strong for Archie Karas and he returned for one last round in Sin City – promptly to lose the last $1 million within a few days.

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Make Sure to Press the Button!

Learn a lesson from this young man: Whatever you do, make sure that it’s YOU who presses the button on the casino machine if you want to win the jackpot.

Jan Flato was looking to win real money by playing no deposit slots at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Fort Lauderdale. He turned to his good friend, Marina Medvedeva Navarro and asked her to give him good luck by pressing the button.  Lo and behold, Ms. Navarro’s touch landed Flato the $100,000 jackpot… or so he thought.

The casino refused to pay out the money to Flato, instead paying it out to Navarro. Casino rules state that the money is awarded to the player who presses the button.

Our understanding is that Flato not only lost $100K, but he also lost a friend.

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You’re Never Too Young to Start!

There’s the famous story of an 8-year-old child from India who was dubbed the “little poker wizard”. Nobody can confirm how he came about playing at an online poker room, with the official version being that he had found his uncle’s poker account and started playing.

The kid was so good at the game that he won $500,000 in one session.

Of course, when the online poker room discovered his very underage age, they rightfully refused to pay out the winnings.

The little poker wizard’s family claim that the online poker room was aware of his age and turned a blind eye to the fact – until they were faced with paying him out.

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Vegas Saved FedEx

One of the most recognizable brands in the world is the global transport company, FedEx. But did you know that the group owes its existence to a lucky streak in Las Vegas?

The story goes that Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, was in deep financial trouble in 1973.  He was faced with a fuel bill of $24K and just $5,000 in his bank account.

With this remaining money, Smith headed to Las Vegas and decided to wager it all on blackjack.  Thanks to a lot of skill and luck, Smith turned the money into $27,000, which was just enough to cover his bills and allow the company to get back on its feet.

The rest is history, as FedEx became a global powerhouse and is still one of the most successful companies in existence today.

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Gambling Session Interrupted to Rob a Bank

In 2016, Kerry Johnson got up from a blackjack table at the Mardi Gras Casino in West Virginia to take a break. But it wasn’t a normal respite from a busy blackjack game. Johnson left in the middle to go and rob a bank!

Telling everyone that he had a bomb, Johnson escaped with $5,000 in cash, which he promptly spent at the blackjack tables when he went back to the casino.

Johnson didn’t get to enjoy his stolen cash for long. A few months later, he was arrested and sentenced to up to 18 years in prison.

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The Suitcase Man

It was 1980 when William Lee Bergstrom walked into the Horseshow Casino with $777,000 in cash, with the intention to place the largest single bet in casino history at the time.

His intention was to make just one bet, and he knew that he could either double his money or lose it all.  Luckily for Bergstrom, his bet on the single dice roll paid out and he walked away with a suitcase double the size of his original one.

Three years later, after disappearing off the radar, Bergstrom came back for another dice roll and won over $600,000.

But it wasn’t ‘third’s the charm’ for the man who tempted fate once too many times. A few months later, he decided to wager $1,000,000 worth of cash, checks and even Krugerrands on a single Don’t Pass line bet.  Sadly, for Bergstrom, this time he wasn’t so lucky.

Defeated and impoverished, Willie Bergstrom took his own life in 1985 by overdosing on pills.

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Deported After Winning the Jackpot

A woman who tried her luck at an Arizona Casino cursed the day that she won a $1,200 jackpot.

Mirna Valenzuela landed the prize at Casino del Sol Resort, but when she went to claim her winnings, she was asked to show her identity papers (as is necessary for all wins over a certain amount).

Authorities suspected that her ID was fraudulent and contacted immigration police, who promptly arrested Valenzuela. She was later deported.

The casino commented that if Valenzuela had shown her Mexican passport, she would have been paid out her winnings. Unfortunately, presenting fraudulent documents crossed the line.

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Published on: 2022/07/28

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