In 1985, Frank Scoblete first set foot inside of a casino not as a gambler, but as a small-time theater actor researching a bit role.
He never left, however, quickly transitioning from the stage to a career as a professional gambler, strategy author, and chronicler of the Las Vegas lifestyle. The author of dozens of books—from Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos to Everything Casino Poker—Scoblete is recognized as one of the industry’s most enduring public voices.
And during his decades in the game, Scoblete has heard his fair share of war stories from players, dealers, and passersby. Below, you’ll find 10 of Scoblete’s most interesting and incredible tall tales* from a life spent strolling the casino floor.
*These stories have been published by various print and online outlets during Scoblete’s career, but only he can vouch for their accuracy.
1 – Roulette Wheel Lands on 7 Six Consecutive Times
According to Scoblete, a man by the name of Barney Vinson told him about the time a roulette wheel seemed to be stuck on 7.
With 38 possible spaces on the standard double-zero roulette wheel, we can use the equation (38 x 38 x 38 x 38 x 38 x 38) to calculate the odds of such a run in roulette. As it turns out, if Vinson’s report is indeed true, that particular wheel beat odds of 1 in 3 billion.
2 – The “Million Dollar Bum” Goes From Rags to Riches and Back Again
This one comes straight from Scoblete’s “100 Greatest Events in Casino Gaming” in Casino Player magazine.
As he tells the tale, Scoblete checked around at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to obtain verification. Back in 1995, a man living on Las Vegas Boulevard—as in, literally living on the street—cashed in a $400 check issued by the Social Security Administration. Instead of spending the funds on food or lodging, he took a shot at the TI blackjack tables.
Unfortunately, he failed to get out while the getting was good. Instead of buying himself a new home, the unlikely blackjack titan wound up losing every last penny back to the house.
3 – Man Turns Four Nickels Into a Seven-Figure Slot Jackpot
Scoblete doesn’t provide much in the way of proof, but he asserts than an unidentified player at Harvey’s Resort Casino in Lake Tahoe was down to just the change in his pocket.
Armed with nothing but four nickels, the slot fanatic took his meager 20 cents to the Nickel Deluxe machine. A few spins later, he supposedly walked away with $1,655,998 in his newly stuffed pockets.
4 – Red Hits in Roulette a Whopping 21 Times in a Row
Another roulette recounted by Scoblete concerns a game in Atlantic City in the mid-‘90s. As the story goes, Scoblete ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon and his server told him that red was hot at a nearby table.
After a bit of inquiry, Scoblete claims that the croupier on hand confirmed that red had been the winner on 21 straight spins. Using the same calculation mentioned earlier—in this case, 2 to the 21st power—we can deduce that the odds of this occurring stand at slightly more than 1 in 2 million.
5 – Aussie Billionaire Kerry Packer Offers an Obnoxious Cowboy a $60 Million Coin Flip
The late Kerry Packer amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune as Australia’s leading media tycoon.
And as Scoblete claims, the Aussie had a penchant for gambling that rivaled any other amateur player on the planet. While playing nosebleed stakes baccarat alongside a loud and lewd Texan, Packer finally told the cowboy to keep quiet.
When the Texan retorted by proudly citing his $60 million net worth, Packer simply sneered and said “I’ll flip you for it!”
They say everything is bigger in Texas, but I have serious doubts that the cowboy in question took Packer up on his offer.
6 – Archie Karas Turns a Modest Loan into $40 Million During “The Run”
The life and times of Archie Karas are far from myth, as the longtime gambler is indeed a living, breathing man originally born in Greece.
Karas made his way to Las Vegas as a young adult, eventually becoming well-known around town for his willingness to bet bigger than anyone around. As confirmed by legendary poker pros like the late “Chip” Reese and Doyle Brunson, Karas routinely won and lost millions playing high-stakes games.
But where fact begins to blend with fiction is an episode widely known as “The Run.” As legend has it, Karas obtained a $10,000 loan from a pal and turned it into $17 million playing poker and pool.
When the action dried up at those tables, Karas started playing craps for $100,000 a roll at the Binion’s Horseshoe. At one point, Karas is said to have held every last one of Benny Binion’s $5,000 chips in his lockbox.
Of course, compulsive gamblers never know when to walk away, so Karas eventually lost it all back when his luck inevitably turned.
7 – Roulette “Wheel Watcher” Becomes a Multimillionaire at the Monte Carlo
This story doesn’t center around the now defunct Monte Carlo casino in Sin City, but rather the original Monte Carlo in Monaco.
Way back in 1911, an Illinois born gambler named William Nelson Darnborough crossed the Atlantic and allegedly crushed the Monte Carlo’s “biased” roulette wheel.
From there, he went to work making large bets and mixing in losses to deter suspicion. Eventually, Darnborough is said to have won a half-million dollars from the Monte Carlo, or more than $13 million today when adjusted for inflation.
8 – The “Suitcase Man” Bets His Life on a Single Roll of the Dice
Like Karas before him, William Lee Bergstrom was indeed a real man who strolled into Sin City during the 1980s.
And just like Karas, Bergstrom—better known as the “Suitcase Man” today—took his astronomical action straight to Benny Binion’s joint. Known for booking bets with unlimited caps, Binion was happy to let Bergstrom put his $777,777 down on the don’t pass line in craps.
After a random shooter rolled a 6 for the point number, they sevened out two rolls later to send $777,777 in profit straight into Bergstrom’s signature suitcase. Bergstrom returned to repeat the process for slightly reduced wagers, but he kept up his winning ways—until 1984, that is…
With a cool $1 million in his case, Bergstrom backed the don’t pass line once more, only to see disaster strike immediately when the shooter rolled a seven on the come out roll. Just like that, Bergstrom was simply another gambler left broke and busted by the bold Binion.
Tragically, he took this huge loss to heart, as Bergstrom sadly retreated to a nearby hotel room and died by suicide.
9 – Jockey “Fast Eddie” Rides a Hot Roll to Turn $100 Into $250,000 Playing Craps
For this less authenticated story, Scoblete cites fellow gambling industry author Michael Konik and his book The Man With the $100,000 Breasts and Other Gambling Stories (1999).
According to Konik’s account, an 80-something year old jockey turned craps player took to the tables starting with a mere $100. But through a combination of sheer luck, bold bet increases, and no hesitation to back exotic bets offering the biggest payout, “Fast Eddie” wound up walking away with $250,000 in chips.
10 – Prop Bettor Gets Breast Implants to Win a $100,000 Wager
The title of Konik’s book originated with the story of Brian Zembic, a high-stakes blackjack player who infamously augmented his body with 38C-sized breasts.
That price turned out to be $100,000 even, an amount Zembic collected when he emerged from the operating room sporting a brand new bosom.
These Are Not Ordinary Results
All gamblers enjoy swapping stories of their prowess at the tables and machines. Over time, however, these factual accounts can take on a life of their own, becoming grist for the rumor mill in gambling halls from coast to coast.
Some of Scoblete’s tall tales cited above are stone cold facts, others likely originated from a kernel of truth, while a few are likely nothing but sheer nonsense. In any event, educational value aside, learning about the legend and lore of casino gambling never fails to entertain.