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The best bets in history you never placed

Publish Date: 03/12/2020
Fact checked by: Jordan Noble

1: Amateur golfer hits three hole-in-ones in one round of golf

So here it is: the odds of a regular amateur player hitting a hole-in-one on a full sized golf course is about 12,000/1, according to the National Hole in One Registry website. Over 18 holes, the chances of getting 2 separate hole-in-one scores on the card from one player… we’re talking 67,000,000/1.

The numbers are so big that the phrase “defying the odds” seems like an understatement at this point. Nevertheless - we can’t believe we’re about to write this - but in 2015 former marine and keen amateur golfer Patrick Wills hit 3 different aces in one round of golf, quite possibly being the first person in the history of the world to do so. The odds of this happening are astronomical; somewhere in the billions-to-one range.

His impressive scores over 18 holes actually won him the Summer Solstice tournament. However, the joy of winning that competition must pale in comparison to the hypothetical winnings we all could have had our hands on had we happened to know Patrick Wills in 2015, and were endowed with some kind of foresight.

2: 4 aces loses to a last-card Royal Flush in the main event of the World Poker Series

four of a kind

1 in 4,165 hands — that's the chance of hitting 4 of a kind

Absolute scenes coming up here, as we go back to the 2008 World Series of Poker for something we’re sure some of you already know about. It involves the Japanese player Motoyuki Mabuchi and American Justin Phillips, and the main event of the 2008 WSP. If you think you’ve seen some bad rivers, you’re about to see the absolute worst.

But first, a weird note: Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano was also at the table, observing, which is admittedly irrelevant, but somehow feels like it adds even more statistical improbability to the whole dynamic.

So Ray Romano is there and you’re in the main event of the World Series of Poker (it’s like some kind of sitcom-influenced cheese dream). Mabuchi is laughing (not literally), he’s holding four aces and puts his mountain of chips in the middle, declaring: “gamble”. Why not, right? You’re not going to lose with four aces.

Well, turns out he did. Even though there are only two possible hands that could have wiped Mabuchi’s massive gamble off the table — and Justin Phillips had one of them. With the final cards being revealed as the Jack and Queen of diamonds, Phillips was holding a Royal Flush that allowed victory to be pulled from the jaws of defeat. People around the table can’t believe what they’re seeing, Romano is lost for words, Phillips exclaims: “WOWWWWWW” with all the eloquence you’d expect from someone who’d just pulled off the least likely poker heist in history, and Mabuchi can only stand and stare as his mountain of chips is flushed away.

The commentators stated that the statistical probability of 4 aces appearing in the same hand as a Royal Flush are about 2.7 billion/1 - what a bet that would’ve been.

3: Who could forget Leicester City's league win?

Leicester City premier league win

Come on — you would never have backed it.

Now anyone who’s a fan of the English Premier League will know exactly what we’re talking about with this one. However, if you’re not all that familiar with the English top division, here’s a brief overview: the Premier League isn’t like the NFL; minnows simply DO NOT win the league title. There’s no draft in the Premier League, so basically, the teams with the most money trade the title back and forth. The number one team changes every now and then, but they’re just replaced by one of the other, interchangeable giants with large bank balances.

Leicester City are definitely not one of those giants, and unlike other unlikely wins in the past, the club hadn’t gone out in the summer of 2016 and spent £70m on quality players in order to reach glory. No, they played with, pretty much, the same team as they had the year before - and what a team it was.

Bookmakers had Leicester down at 5000/1 to win the Premier League that season, which may not sound like much, but in terms of English football, those odds equate essentially: “to no chance whatsoever”.

They didn’t just nick it either, they climbed to the top, stayed at the top, and defeated every team who fancied themselves as contenders. Honestly, a completely staggering sporting feat that will never be forgotten. Premier League fans will forever be ruing the day they discounted the possibility of a Foxes’ triumph - though some did have faith, and placed the bet regardless of the odds.

However, many of the punters who did somehow believe a minnow from the Midlands could triumph eventually  second-guessed themselves and cashed out mid-season, much to their eventual shame.

4: Eric Bruntlett unassisted triple play

A triple play in baseball, is a passage of play where one fielder manages to take three of the opposition players out. Three outs in one play might sound feasible, but you might be surprised to hear that it’s only ever happened about 700 times in Major League Baseball, and the vast majority of these plays included multiple different players.

In game 7 of the 2008 World Series though, short-time Phillies baller Eric Bruntlett actually managed to end game 7 with an unassisted triple play, meaning he sent three Mets players out within a few seconds of each other, ending the game and winning the whole thing for the Phillies.

We’re talking odds of like 12,000/1 for there to be an unassisted triple play in a professional baseball game. However, this was the first triple play to end a game since 1927, and combine that with the fact that Bruntlett was far from a Phillies favourite (he spent two underwhelming years there before retiring, hitting .202 in his 2 seasons there), the odds of this happening were as close to “impossible” as you can ever get.

5: Nobodies horse wins against the best there is

Sure, an outside winner isn’t the least likely thing to happen in a horse race, but given that no horse with odds of 99/1 or worse had ever finished higher than third place in the Louisiana Derby until Hero of Order came along, we’d have to say that this was quite the equestrian feat.

Gennadi Dorochenko, a Russian trainer, bought the horse for just $3,000, and took it into the 2012 Derby with odds of 109/1, obviously hoping to break the curse and finish in third place. Obviously, he did better than that, taking the lead about halfway through the race and keeping it until the very end. It was only the horse’s second career victory, meaning that the $1m prize money made up more than two thirds of the total winnings Hero of Order had ever brought in.

Now anyone who knows anything about horse racing wouldn’t have gone near Hero of Order with a barge pole - given that very little was known about the trainer, it had only started 14 races previously, and had very little renown going for it. Unfortunately, this would have been a cracking punt if someone had been gifted with clairvoyance prior to that incredible feat.

6: Liverpool's comeback vs Barca in 2019

barcelona vs liverpool 2019

Better than the Istanbul final in 2005?

Historically, Barcelona are one of those football teams. We’re sure all sports have them; those annoyingly good teams that go absolutely nowhere after their supposed “downfall” and instead persist. They’re one of those mainstays of top level football that just can’t be dislodged despite ostensibly losing most of their iconic players, and when they’re drawn in the annual nail-biting knockout tournament the Champions League, whoever is pitted against them knows they’re in for a tough ride. Oh, and they have Lionel Messi, just the greatest footballer who has ever lived. Which helps.

In 2019, Liverpool managed to climb to the semi-final of the Champions League, after reaching the final the previous year and controversially losing the game.

A year later, and Liverpool had another chance. They played Barcelona in their two-game semi-final. The first was played at Barcelona’s ground, and Liverpool lost 3-0. Being forced to endure the Spanish team’s excruciatingly long celebrations obviously had an effect on them though, because when they played the second and final game of the semi-final, Liverpool dominated.

Before the game, the Reds were 66/1 to beat Barcelona 4-0 (which is the only possible scoreline that would see them through to the final of the competition), which aren’t absolutely astronomical odds, but when you’re playing Barcelona and Lionel Messi, you simply do not keep them quiet for 90 mins… well, unless you’re Jurgen Klopp.

7: Iceland beating England in 2016

God knows how Iceland had odds as favourable as they did when they played the England national team at the 2016 European Championships, because for a country with only 330,000 people going up against supposedly the nation responsible for creating the sport, 10/1 doesn’t seem all that bad.

In reality though, nobody expected the admittedly historically disappointing English to ever lose this game. It was essentially a dead cert in everyone’s mind that England were going to the quarter finals.

But, as England football fans will know, that team is either: a very unfortunate group of individually world class players that just so happen to lose every game they play together OR the greatest pranksters in the history of the world. Despite boasting some of the world’s best players, England have made a habit out of winning nothing, so it should actually have come as no surprise whatsoever when they managed to bottle the game against Iceland, losing 2-1 and crashing out of the Euros.

Obviously massively embarrassing for the players, but just as embarrassing for prospective punters that chose not to put their entire life savings on Iceland, because let’s face it: when you bet against and under-pressure England team to lose in a major tournament, no matter the opposition, it’s essentially money in the bank.

8: Tiger Woods returning to win ANOTHER Masters in 2019

Tiger Woods masters 2019

Not bad for an old fart.

Possibly the greatest, or at least the most well known golf player of all time, Tiger Woods definitely dropped off the pace at some point in the 2010s. As happens with all sports stars, it seemed as though his powers were waning, which is always to be expected of someone who’s had as illustrious a career as he has.

In the build-up to the 2019 Masters, the name Tiger Woods had pretty much been forgotten when talking about the very highest golfing talents, but at over 40 years old, he wasn’t done yet. Some news outlets even went as far as calling the odds offered on Woods “a suckers bet”, claiming that most bookmakers knew that Woods had very little chance of actually winning the tournament and were luring less savvy punters in.

Now imagine betting against Michael Jordan after he came back from the baseball pitch. Imagine betting against Ali at the Rumble in the Jungle. Imagine betting that Cristiano Ronaldo would never score more than 20 goals in a season ever again.

That’s essentially what happened here, as Tiger destroyed the competition to fully complete his comeback and claim his fifth Masters title. 16/1 the odds were against him, which aren’t even all that crazy and definitely should have enticed golf fanatics to put some cash on the legend making a historic return.

9: Aguero stoppage time winner to clinch City their first title ever

Come the nail-biting title race finale of 2012, Manchester City had never won the Premier League. Despite massive financial investment, the greatest prize in English football still eluded them — something they planned to remedy when they played their final game at their home ground against QPR.

As is always the case with the Premier League, all of the final games are played simultaneously to add drama to the whole event. With less than three points between leaders Manchester City and second place Manchester United (United had won many of the previous titles under legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson).

City needed to win, a fact that was cemented when United’s Wayne Rooney put the Red Devils 1-0 up early on. Despite QPR’s apparent shortcomings, they gave the prospective champions a good game, actually managing to take a 2-1 lead over Manchester City with only 20 minutes left to play.

Manchester United finished their game 1-0, knowing full well that Manchester City were still losing 2-1, with only a few minutes left on the clock. The United players celebrate on the field, hugging each other - but Ferguson knows better.

Somehow, Manchester City managed a last minute equaliser. Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko headed the ball past the QPR keeper with less than 2 minutes left (we’re in the 92nd here), but with only a minute and a half or so remaining, surely it was too little too late…

But it wasn’t. Somehow Manchester City managed to get the ball back up the pitch in the literal final seconds of the game. Manchester United players hundreds of miles away listened on radios and mobile phones, desperate to hear their fate in real time. Ironically, it was renowned bad-boy and kooky character Mario Ballotelli who found City legend Sergio Aguero in the actual last second. Aguero scored, City went 3-2 up, and the game was effectively over. The subsequent United tears were truly a thing to behold.

Honestly, you’d have been looking at tame odds for City to win the league before the game, but imagine the in-play options you’d have had here? One thing is for sure, if you’d have put a few quid on City winning the league in the 90th minute, you’d have been staring at a massive, massive payout.

 

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