Here are just a few of the most famous and infamous sports bets in history that might turn you into a sports better.
10 – Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven
On 28 September 1996, Frankie Dettori had one of the most remarkable days in British racing history, landing all seven winners on the card at Royal Ascot. The odds of such an incredible feat being pulled off were 25,000-1, enough to put off most punters. Dettori himself summed up his own view of his rides’ chances that day before the first when he said, “I could have an each-way chance in the first, and I may win the third.”
This didn’t deter Darren Yeats, who took a punt on Dettori defying the astronomical odds and bet £59 on him landing the card. When Fujiyama Crest, the last of the great Italian’s seven winners for the day passed the post first at odds of 2-1, Yeats walked away with an astonishing £550,000 — even more remarkable given the fact that he had to make the wager in secret, as he had promised his wife he would stop betting on Dettori!
09 – Dreaming of Xabi Alonso
We all have dreams, but few of them are as profitable as the one Adrian Hayward had one night about Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.
In 2006, Hayward dreamed that the former Spanish international Alonso had scored a goal from within his own half. So convinced was Hayward that his dream would come true that he placed a bet of £200 on Alonso achieving the unusual feat at some stage during the season at odds of 125-1 with PaddyPower (more details on this high publicity brand at playright.co.uk).
When Liverpool took on second division Luton Town in their third round FA Cup tie at Kenilworth Road, Liverpool led 4-3 in stoppage time when the hosts were awarded a corner. The Luton Town goalkeeper went forward into the Liverpool box and so when the ball broke for Alonso in his half, the net was unguarded. The Spaniard’s long left-foot shot bounced about 30 metres from the goal and rolled in, and the remarkable shot netted Adrian Hayward £25,000.
08 – Never Bet Against Mali
In one of world football’s most remarkable comebacks, Mali were 0-4 down against Angola in the 2010 African Cup of Nations with only 11 minutes of the match remaining. For some reason only known to him, one punter decided to take up the odds of 1000-1 on Mali being able to secure a draw, and put down a £5 bet.
In a truly astonishing reversal, the hosts Angola conceded two late goals make it 2-4 as the game entered extra time. The comeback was complete when Mali scored another two in injury time, and the match ended 4-4. The brave punter who took on the bet walked away £5,000 richer.
On the other side of the coin, there is the story of Big Matt, a 19 year old student who, equally inexplicably, punted £4,400 on Angola going on to win the match when it was up 0-4. Big Matt took the punt — despite the potential return being only £44 on his investment — and then watched on in horror as his student loan disappeared into the bookie’s pocket.
07 – A Champion in the Making
All punters like to think that they are pretty good readers of form and can spot a potential winner early on, but few have done this better than Richard Hopkins.
Hopkins saw future F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton racing go-karts in 1998 when he was just 13 years old, and so convinced was he by the Briton’s precocious talent that he placed a £100 bet at odds of 500-1 on Hamilton winning the F1 crown before he reached the age of 25. Hopkins showed his faith in Hamilton becoming a superstar with another £200 bet at odds of 200-1 that he would win his first Grand Prix by the age of 23, and he then doubled down with a further bet of £50 at odds of 1500-1 that both of his other wagers would come in.
All up, when Hamilton won the F1 Championship in 2008 aged 23 (after winning his first Grand Prix in Canada in 2007), Richard Hopkins’ belief in the young driver’s ability had earned him an astonishing £165,000.
06 – The Win Was on the Cards
All sports fans like to show faith in their teams, but an anonymous St Louis Cardinals fan took his to another level in 2011.
Five games back from a Wild Card spot on 12 September, the Cards’ fan took a $250 punt on their reaching the World Series at odds of 500-1. He then took it one step further, with another $250 bet on Tony La Russa’s team actually going on to win the Championship, this time at odds of 999-1.
In one of baseball’s most remarkable runs of form, the Cardinals suddenly turned it around, finishing second in the NL Central behind Milwaukee and taking the Wild Card spot by a game over the Braves. They then went on the beat Philadelphia in the Divisional Series, the Brewers for the NL Pennant, and then upset the Texas Rangers 4-3 to take the World Series.
The punter who showed such faith back in September was duly rewarded, and walked away with pay outs totaling $375,000.
05 – Mick Owes it all to Kahn
The name Mick Gibbs is synonymous with huge sporting bet wins. In 2001, the Staffordshire roofer bet 30p on a 15 fold football accumulator that eventually netted him £500,000, after all 15 legs came in at combined odds of 1,666,666-1.
The story has added spice in the fact that after the first 14 legs came in, Gibbs’ potential fortune was resting on the 2001 Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Valencia — a match which famously went to a nerve-wracking penalty shoot out. However, when Man of the Match Oliver Kahn saved Mauricio Pellegrino’s seventh spot kick, Gibbs had successfully pulled off an amazing betting coup.
What is even more incredible about this story is that this was not Gibbs’ first huge accumulator win — in 1999, he landed a £157,000 payout on a £2.50 9 fold football acca.
04 – The Leicester City Fairytale
Leicester City’s triumph in winning the English Premier League in the 2015/16 season against all odds has become the stuff of sporting legend. There were also some great betting triumphs that accompanied it — along with some severe pain for the bookmakers, with their combined losses estimated to be in the region of £25 million.
At the start of the season, the Foxes were quoted at odds of 5000-1 outsiders to win a first ever Championship in their 132-year history. Their manager, the affable Italian Claudio Ranieri, was expected to not even last the season, and was the bookie’s favourite to be the first Premier League boss to get the sack.
However, some incredibly optimistic City fans took a punt despite the astronomical odds. Ladbrokes took 57 bets at 5000-1, although 36 punters weren’t able to hold their nerve and took early pay outs. However, the 21 loyal fans who kept the faith were duly rewarded, with one City supporter taking the bookmaker for £100,000 on his £20 bet.
As well as the triumphs, there were a few new misses as well. A man in Warwickshire cashed out his £50 bet a few weeks before the season ended and took an early pay out of £72,000 — had he stayed on board, he would have netted £178,000.
03 – England Defy the Odds
England’s win in the Ashes Test against Australia at Headingley in 1981 remains one of the sport’s most amazing comebacks. However, the match has passed into legend not only because of the players’ exploits on the field, but off it as well.
The hosts were being thoroughly outplayed and seemed to have no hope of recovering in the match. The bookmakers agreed and were offering odds of 500-1 on an England victory. Such lavish odds proved too much for Australia’s legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee and wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, who for fun placed bets of £10 and £5 respectively on their not being able to get the job done and Australia losing the match.
Up until this game, no team in Test Match cricket had come back from England’s position of being required to follow on and win a match since 1894. It looked an impossible task, until Ian Botham’s swashbuckling innings of 149 not out, followed by Bob Willis’ blistering spell of pace bowling in which he took 8 wickets, saw England home for a remarkable 18 run win.
However, the bets of Lillee and Marsh soon became the focus. Did the £7,500 that they stood to win if England got up affect their performances? Both players have always vigorously denied it, as have other players on that fateful day, but there is no doubt that, given the people involved and the seemingly impossible outcome, that this remains one of the most controversial sporting bets of all time.
02 – Cricket’s Darkest Day
Betting on cricket was again in the spotlight in 2010, when England played Pakistan at Lord’s. As a result of investigations that had begun before the match, the Pakistan captain Salman Butt, along with bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, were found guilty of what is known as spot-fixing, in this case arranging to bowl no-balls on a particular delivery during a specified over, in return for payments from a bookmaker.
Mazhar Majeed, the agent at the centre of the scandal, was caught in an undercover sting operation telling reporters that Amir would bowl a no-ball on the fist delivery of the third over, and that Asif would also bowl a no-ball on the sixth delivery of the tenth over. Both events duly occurred, and the fix was in.
However, the scam was eventually uncovered, and Butt was sentenced to 30 months in prison, while Asif and Amir received sentences of 1 year and 6 months respectively. The cricket careers of Butt and Asia were ended by the scandal, although Mohammed Amir returned to playing international cricket in 2016 after serving a five-year ban imposed by the ICC.
01 – Father Knows Best
Most fathers of sporting prodigies have great faith in their offspring’s abilities, but Gerry McIlroy, father of the 2014 British Open winner Rory McIlroy, genuinely put his money where his mouth is.
In 2004, when Rory was 15, his father put a £200 bet on the up-and-coming star winning the British Open within ten years at odds of 500-1. Several friends of the family also took advantage of the generous odds, as they too had seen at first hand the Northern Irish youngster’s abilities.
When Rory McIlroy won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014 by two strokes, dad Gerry’s joy was compounded by his picking up £100,000 from the bet made with Ladbrokes ten years earlier, while the friends who showed similar faith pocketed £80,000.
Ladbrokes says that it takes around 300 similar bets each year from optimistic parents and supporters, although it’s rare that they come off in the way that this one did for the McIlroy family.