Everyone who has ever dropped a buck or two into a slot machine or plunked down chips onto the green felt at a casino has dreamed of hitting the jackpot—one so big that they might never have to work again. These lucky—and in some cases, unlucky—folks beat the odds and struck paper gold at casinos across the United States.
The Suitcase Man
Sept. 24, 1980 - There are a lot of urban legends in the gambling world, but that of the “Suitcase Man” is true: William Lee Bergstrom walked into Binion’s Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas with two suitcases—one filled with cash, one empty—and placed his entire $777,000 on the Don’t Pass line at a craps table. He doubled his money on a single roll of the dice, and then drove off with both suitcases filled with his winnings.
June 1, 1999 - An anonymous, 49-year-old Illinois business consultant dropped $10 into a Megabucks machine at Caesars Palace and hit the jackpot on the first spin. We’re guessing his business consultations after that went something like this: “Play Megabucks!”
The Megabucks Curse?
Jan. 28, 2000 - Las Vegas cocktail waitress Cynthia Jay-Brennan won a then-record Megabucks jackpot of $34.9 million at the now-defunct Desert Inn hotel-casino. Six weeks later, her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her sister and leaving her paralyzed.
ALWAYS START WITH A GOOD BREAKFAST
March 27, 2002 - Stopping on her way to breakfast at Bally’s Las Vegas, 74-year-old Johanna Huendl of Covina, Calif. put about $170 into a Megabucks slot machine when it paid out $22.6 million. That’s some appetizer.
THE MAN WHO BROKE ATLANTIC CITY
Early 2011 - Don Johnson, a corporate executive and former racetrack manager from Bensalem, Penn., won about $15 million total playing blackjack at three Atlantic City, N.J. casinos, including Caesars. He didn’t count cards or use any tricks. He simply played well and took advantage of heightened casino discounts and incentives offered in the wake of the recession.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
Jan. 28, 2014 - Think penny slots can’t pay off big? Think again! A 1-cent Wheel of Fortune progressive slot machine at Caesars Palace paid out a $4.5 million jackpot to one lucky penny-dropper.
Sources: The Atlantic, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sun, People.com, Press of Atlantic City, St. Petersburg Evening Independent