When bets go spectacularly wrong: gambles that fell short at the final hurdle

  • Gamblers who got so close to the big one – but were let down by fate
  • Tragic tales of lost bets that could have netted millions

Gambling comes down to luck and chance, so every bettor knows they run the risk of a loss.

Nobody likes to lose at anything, and a lost bet will always bring a little disappointment to the player.

However, sometimes the scale of a lost bet is so great, and the circumstances so unusual, we can all feel for the person who missed out.

Here are some of the most tragic stories of players who almost hit the jackpot, but found Lady Luck was really not on their side when they needed her.

One selection away from £2 million…

Jordan Baker golf bet
Jordan Baker almost bagged himself a £2 million return on his £2 stake.

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Accumulator bets are sometimes even more exciting than the games they refer to – and one golf bet earlier this year came close to overshadowing the entire PGA Championship.

Jordan Baker, a golfer himself, took a £2 parlay bet on the ‘golf gambling Grand Slam’ – predicting the winners of the British Open, US Open, Masters and PGA Championship final.

His 40/1, 80/1, 35/1 and 28/1 odds combined to create a potential £2 million return on his £2. The first three bets came in – even the 80/1 long shot on Koepka – and it looked like Baker was about to pull off the gamble of the century at bet365’s expense.

However, the acca’s least risky gamble, the 28/1 Rickie Fowler prediction, fell apart and brought the whole bet down at the last hurdle.

Lotto millions denied because minor bought ticket

A California man thought his luck was in earlier this year when he scratched off an instant win ticket to reveal an incredible $5 million prize.

However, Mr Ward Thomas was in for a nasty shock when he took the winning ticket to be validated, only to be told a short time later that his life-changing prize would not be credited after all.

It turned out that Mr Thomas had not actually bought the winning ticket himself, although his money paid for the card. He had sent his son – a minor under California state law – into the gas station to pay for his fuel and to buy the tickets. When the cameras at the station were checked, as is standard practice for a large lottery win, it was spotted that the younger Thomas made the ticket transaction – giving lottery officials the authority to refuse the prize.

Slot failure on tribal land leaves gambler out of luck

wind-creek-casino-hotel
A row of slots inside the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel.

A slots player at Wind Creek Casino, Alabama was over the moon when he hit a $1.37 million jackpot through electronic bingo.

As the bells and sirens sounded his major win, the shocked player collected his payout ticket and took the life-changing slip to be processed.

However, just a few hours later he was told by the casino that his incredible prize win was invalid. The machine was faulty, operators claimed, and the ‘win’ was just a glitch in the system. The prize was never paid to the winner.

The outraged gambler mounted a legal challenge in order to get his cash, but found himself caught in a legal bind. Under tribal law, a principle of sovereign immunity prevents the tribe being sued through the state courts, or through their own tribal system. With no legal path to follow, the land-based casino player has had to give up on his million dollar prize.

Mobile glitch costs lottery couple £35 million

Imagine picking all the right lottery numbers, only to find you never actually bought the ticket for the draw. That happened to one British couple in late 2015 – and they may have lost out on £35 million because of it.

Mr and Mrs Nylan say they used an online lottery app to buy tickets for a special Christmas draw which had an impressive £35 million jackpot. After trying and failing to make the purchase once, they say they topped up their account and attempted the purchase again – and this time it seemed to go through. They watched the numbers come in, and began to celebrate their very merry early Christmas when it seemed they were millionaires.

However, bad news soon came the Nylans’ way when lottery operator Camelot revealed the ticket purchase had never been made. Though the account showed attempts to top up and buy tickets, the transactions never finalized – and the winning ticket never existed.

’Wrong coupon’ costs gambler £1 million

Jordan Donnellan accumulator invalid
Jordan Donnellan’s accumulator was adjudged to be invalid despite the young punter thinking he had become a millionaire overnight.

When you fill out your betting slip, pay for your bet and get your ticket printed, it is fair to presume your bet is officially placed. Not so if you are the unlucky Jordan Donnellan, a young British sports fan who was a victim of a major case of customer service failure.

Donnellan managed to pull off the near-impossible when he correctly predicted the results of 14 domestic and European matches, which he had placed in a risky accumulator. As the final result of his plucky bet came in, the young man and his friends celebrated his potential £1 million win.

However, the bettor’s luck was definitely not in. The betting shop ruled that the accumulator was invalid, because the wrong type of ticket had been filled out. His ticket required both teams to score in all matches – not just the winner. They ruled that it was a “nice try” by the young man, but that he would not be getting any payout.

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