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Top-10 gambling fantasies

2 April 2012

Last week, lottery fever hit the United States hard. The $640 million Mega Millions jackpot was the largest in U.S. history, and three winners will be splitting a life-changing amount of money.

Millions of Americans bought tickets. Some pooled funds to get a larger number of tickets. Others put in just a dollar for a single ticket. And it had just about everyone talking – even those who didn't participate.

Clearly, winning the lottery is a gambler's fantasy. But it's not the only one. There are plenty of things we gamblers dream about, even though we know that the vast majority of us will never pull them off.

Here's a list of 10 great gambling fantasies.

10. Hit a royal flush in video poker
You've got about a 1-in-40,000 chance of doing this every time you play a hand of video poker, so the odds are a lot better than winning Mega Millions (1-in-175 million). With video poker, you can get oh-so-close, getting four cards to a royal and completely blank on your one-card draw. We remember those close calls, and it's fun to dream about hitting a 4,000-coin payout.

9. Roll for more than an hour at a craps table
There's something compelling about a shooter who gets on a roll and just can't seem to miss. Almost everyone at the table is winning money, and everyone is high-fiving each other and celebrating their good fortune. Get on a roll for 10 minutes, and you've been pretty lucky. Make it a half hour and the casino will probably have to get more chips from the cage to bring to the table. Go for a full hour and your run has reached legendary status.

8. Play high-stakes baccarat
This gambling fantasy exists in large part because of James Bond (see the video below). The baccarat game in casinos that most people are now familiar with is actually "mini baccarat." The game allows multiple players to play against the house, and you can bet on either the player, the banker or a tie. But at high-stakes baccarat tables, players are actually pitted against each other. One person at the table acts as the banker, and must pay off the bets against the player(s). The coolest part of high-stakes baccarat is that you get to deal the cards yourself. But the games aren't for the faint of heart. The lowest high-stakes baccarat table you'll find is $100 per hand.

7. Hit the $100,000 Dream Bet at the Kentucky Derby
While I'm not personally a horse racing aficionado, I do usually watch the Kentucky Derby. And two years ago, when Glen Fullerton of Houston, Texas, was given the opportunity by NBC and Churchill Downs to place a $100,000 wager on the race, I stood up and took notice. My jaw hit the floor when Super Saver, the horse he picked to win, crossed the finish line first and he took home a whopping $900,000 prize. The Dream Bet is back this year, and the only way to make this fantasy a reality is to enter the sweepstakes*.

6. Hit a six-figure bad beat jackpot
An innovation made popular in the last decade, bad beat jackpots are almost standard at brick-and-mortar poker rooms now, and it's no wonder why. Hitting a six-figure score in poker is almost impossible, unless you're playing in the highest stakes tournaments or cash games. But you can sit down at a $1/$2 no-limit Hold'em table and win life-changing money, just for having an amazing hand lose to an even better one. One of the great things about bad beat jackpots is that everyone at the table is also rewarded when it's hit, including those who folded. In fact, about five years ago, I was a one-outer away from an $11K score at Absolute Poker's bad beat tables. Not bad for a $.50/$1 limit Hold'em table.

5. Chip up from red to black at a blackjack table
There's nothing quite like hitting a good run of cards in blackjack. And sitting down with $40 and playing $5 a hand is not too unusual. But when you hit blackjack after blackjack, and hit 21s with split aces and the dealer keeps busting, before you know it, the dealer might be paying you off with $25 green chips instead of $5 red ones. And if you parlay those green chips into a mountain of $100 black chips, you just might notice a crowd around you. Taking a stack of blacks to the cage to cash out after putting two $20s down on the table is certainly a compelling gambling fantasy.

4. Win a 10-team parlay
Picking a single winner in sports betting can be hard enough, but winning a 10-team parlay is next to impossible. When you make a parlay bet, you're saying that you're going to pick a winner in each game you pick. You can pick anywhere from two to 15 games at most sportsbooks, and as your chances of winning decrease with the more games you pick, the payouts increase. With spread bets, a 10-team parlay at most sportsbooks pays 300-to-1, while the actual odds of winning (assuming each pick is a 50-50 proposition) are really 1,024-to-1. But that doesn't stop people from making the bets. It's fun to think about turning $10 into $3,000 by getting 10 correct picks.

3. Play in/win the World Series of Poker
For poker players, there's no greater fantasy than winning the World Series of Poker's Main Event, which has provided the winner with at least $5 million since 2004. But a lot of players, including me, fantasize about just going to Vegas to play in the event. Of course winning would be amazing, but for many of us, just winning a satellite entry is enough to fulfill our fantasy. Part of what makes the idea of simply playing so great is that you just might get the chance to sit down with one of the best players in the world and bluff him out of a pot.

2. Win a progressive slot jackpot
There's a reason the Wheel of Fortune slot machines at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas are almost always occupied, and it isn't because most people leave with more money than they started with. The big flashing six- and sometimes seven-figure progressive jackpot draws people in. Can you imagine winning $1 million just before boarding your flight home from Las Vegas? Well all those people playing Wheel of Fortune can. People love progressive jackpots because there's a chance (an infinitely small one, but a chance nonetheless) that their lives will change forever on the very next spin. It's a powerful gambling fantasy, and so long as you stick to your gambling budget, a fun one to take part in.

1. Win a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot
I never buy lottery tickets. But last week, I put $5 in a pool with 11 other people to buy 60 Mega Millions tickets. I have to say that $640 million grabbed my attention. And we spent a lot of time in the Casino City offices talking about how we would spend the money. As a pretty frugal gambler, it has to be a pretty compelling fantasy to get me to part with $5 for a 175-million-to-1 chance at winning. So congratulations, Mega Millions, you get the number-one spot on the list of most compelling gambling fantasies.

**NOTE: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that NBC and Churchill Downs would not be running the $100,000 Dream Bet again this year. We apologize for the error.
Top-10 gambling fantasies is republished from
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.