The ‘Almost’ Million-Dollar Bet At DraftKings: But, On Who … And WHY?

Posted on March 9, 2020

The nearly million-dollar bet, an eye-(prop)ping move, came from a New Jersey gambler on an NBA futures bet at DraftKings last week.

  • The player took the Los Angeles Clippers to win the NBA Western Conference.
  • He bet a whopping … $976,000
  • At +230, it would return an astounding $2.2 million if the Clippers reach the NBA finals.
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Sound the sirens. Unleash the wagering swagger. The “almost” million-dollar bet.

This resembles the betting equivalent of National League home run champ Pete Alonso swinging for the fences.

The big cut. The explosive sound if it connects. A mammoth “whoosh” if it’s a swing and a miss.

The type of slugger for whom people say “he looks good, even striking out.”

The Million-Dollar Bet: Daring or Dumb?

These are the stories, the emotional fuel driving the sports betting engine.

Besides marveling at the boldness of this bet, one comprehends the strategy of taking the Clippers now, well before the NBA playoffs begin, because that’s where the value is.

How has the big wager been perceived?

NJ Sportsbooks Weigh In reached out to some prominent sportsbook operators for their perspective.

Johnny Avello, of DraftKings Sportsbook, Nick Bogdanovich, from William Hill and Matt Stetz, from Rush Street Interactive, shared interesting vantage points.

Each operator brings a new angle.

johnny avello draftkings

“This payout would be one of the top five I have ever seen,” said Avello, the DraftKings director of sportsbook operations. “The attention it brings to us is really positive.”

Avello did not recall the largest bet he’s ever seen his book take, but the top five is a huge designation tabbed by someone who has been in the gaming industry since 1979.

Avello opened the Wynn sportsbook is 2005, spent 15 years at Bally’s and also worked for the sportsbooks at the Sands and Las Vegas Hilton before being selected to run the DraftKings operation.

Bogdanovich, a Las Vegas native, concurred with an observation about the legalized sports betting era.

Nick Bogdanovich

Sportsbooks see monstrous bets because gamblers are assured they will be paid, unlike the experience with the illegal books of the PASPA era. The illegal books had limits on what they’d payout, even if one was assured of receiving his money.

“The bigger books can absorb this type of action and make it part of regular operations,” he said. “If you have a million dollars to make a bet, you might be hesitant making it with an offshore operation or illegal book. With us, you know you will get your money.

“There have been some seven-figure wagers here in recent years,” he continued.“Heck, somebody took us for over a million on Tiger Woods last year (to win the Masters). We didn’t like it, but it’s one of those things where you congratulate the bettor and tip your hat.

“We had a million-dollar bet on Conor McGregor to beat Floyd Mayweather in 2017 (he did not). It was a million-to-win like a 1.1 million, something in that range.

“We will win some and we will lose some, but it’s always exciting to be part of that kind of wager.” Big Bets Coming Fast

PlaySugarHouse compiled some big wagers in the short time it has existed in the post-PASPA world.


Matt Stetz, the COO of Rush Street Interactive, which operates PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers properties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana, among others, combed through company records for us to find the biggest bets since 2018.

“The largest was $186,000 on Kansas City winning the Super Bowl with moneyline odds at -123,” he said. “The bet won and paid $336,000.

“The second was on the Patriots winning the Super Bowl versus the Rams in 2019 at odds of -132. It won and paid out $158,400.”

The third was a win for the house.

  • It was a losing wager of $74,827.28 last year in the tennis world.
  • The bet was placed on Novak Djokovic beating Daniel Medvedev in the semifinal of a tournament in Cincinnati last August.

Medvedev managed to pull off the upset after losing the first set to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, and then went on to win the tournament. Medvedev was the No. 9 seed and Djokovic was the No. 1 seed and defending champion.

Blend of Past, Present

In such a short time, new stories are emerging to join the old ones:

  • Casino owner Bob Stupak bet $1 million, successfully, for the Cincinnati Bengals at -7 against the San Francisco 49ers in the 1989 Super Bowl. The Niners won by four.
  • Stupak, the owner of Vegas World, brought two suitcases filled with $1,050,000 to Little Caesars casino hours before kickoff. He left with a lot more.
  • And how about Mattress Matt taking a sack last October?

The Houston furniture owner used gambling as a hedge against his promise to refund customers who had purchased about $25 million in merchandise if the Astros won the 2019 World Series.

When it appeared as they would, he scrambled and made $13 million in bets on Houston, which would have covered the $25 million. About $5 million of that total came at New Jersey sportsbooks.

In the end, it came out roughly even for him, financially. But the publicity was priceless. And the New Jersey books said “Thank You” when the Washington Nationals upset the Astros in seven games.

The gaming circuit contains countless examples of The Big Play. Sometimes it will produce The Big Score. Sometimes it won’t.

But it will always make bettors, and books take notice.

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‘Every’ Day Genius

The wagering community continues to show that big money is not always needed for a big return.

On Tuesday, one DraftKings user threw $5 down on a relatively unknown golfer to lead the Arnold Palmer Invitational after Round 1 (he’s won the Arnold Palmer twice.) 

  • Matt Every was 200/1 to lead going into the second day and won the user $1,000.
  • The bettor had to feel even more like a genius one day later. Every went from leading the tournament to missing the cut.
  • But the bettor had already cashed. Talk about an isolated moment of glory.

Another Big Win with DraftKings

DraftKings reported another significant win via the moneyline route last week. 

A user hit big on a $294.93 parlay.

It’s not a million-dollar bet, but it’s something.

It was nine-legs across various multiple NBA games, this user was paid out $8271.17 when all nine hits.

  • Thunder ML vs. Pistons
  • Grizzlies ML vs. Nets
  • Trail Blazers ML vs. Wizards
  • Celtics ML vs. Cavaliers
  • Heat ML vs. Magic
  • Jazz ML vs. Knicks
  • Timberwolves ML vs. Bulls
  • Bucks ML vs. Pacers
  • Mavericks ML vs. Pelicans

It took some leverage, some hunches and some guts.

  • The Heat had a close call with a 116-113 win over the Magic. And the Mavericks just slid by the Pelicans, 127-123.
  • Every winning parlay needs at least one aggressive move. This one was taking a road team.
  • But the Utah Jazz took care of business against the host New York Knicks, 112-104.


Earlier in the week, DraftKings had a user win big on a $50 parlay. The parlay was four legs across the NBA games, and this user was paid out $9740.25 when all four hit:

  • Trail Blazers +6.5 & O 223.5 vs. Magic
  • Knicks +9.5 & O 230.5 vs. Rockets
  • Grizzlies +2.5 & O 240.5 vs. Hawks
  • Jazz -8.5 & O 219.5 vs. Cavaliers

And here’s a rarity for a parlay bet.

It romped.

No sweat. Every team won easily.

Congratulations to this bettor who had magnificent foresight.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a national multi-award-winning writer, and broadcaster, writes extensively on the evolving legalized sports-wagering world. Over the past four decades, he has called fights for all major networks, authored columns for the Associated Press, Atlantic City Press, and iGaming Player. He is in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame and a Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence, given by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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