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PUNTING HALL OF FAME: How I beat the bookies for €630k on darts, Wimbledon and a nerve-wracking World Cup

Luck or skill? Call it what you want. What's in no doubt is the bank balance. This punter quit the job when these massive accumulator bets landed after a nerve-shredding few weeks. Read this Urban Legend's true story of how he left the bookies weeping...

by Paddy Power | August 14, 2014

July 2013.

I had long decided the whole ‘working for the man’ thing wasn’t for me. It just doesn’t agree with my stomach. I had just clicked a big treble: Michael van Gerwen to win the Premier League of Darts, Bayern Munich to win the Champions League and Andy Murray to win Wimbledon. A couple of people said it was some bet, but it seemed fairly obvious, except maybe the Murray leg.

On the back of that treble I decided to go for the jugular. It just required some patience. It was the first week of my holiday, so with my bags packed I set off to Co Donegal, armed with an empty physics homework copybook (from the year 2000) and a pen.

I had one aim: to retire after the 2014 World Cup.

Urban Legend copybook

THE RESEARCH: Our Urban Legend took his old physics copybook to the wilds of Co Donegal

In Donegal, and the months after, some serious time thinking and studying was done. I settled on the premise that my betting would centre on selections to win the major tournaments of their respective sports. Except on rare occasions, it seemed only certain individuals/teams won the major sporting events repeatedly. I wasn’t going to have a one-off football match – where anything can happen on the day – in any of my bets. I am of the view that there is a pattern for victory in the elite tournaments.

The events I chose boiled down to the sports I am most passionate about and feel I have good knowledge of: darts, snooker, football and tennis. It would all culminate in the summer with Wimbledon and the World Cup. Deciding on the selections was an elimination process where in my mind certain favourites were just not going to win (e.g. Brazil!)

My favourite sport is darts which has eclipsed football in recent years. It provides more excitement, drama and entertainment than other sports. A nine-dart finish is a perfect leg in the game of darts, checking out from 501 using just nine darts, the fewest possible.

The philosophy I came to in choosing certain selections was this: it is this person’s/team’s time to win. After months of analysing past winners, defending champions, current holders, shock exits, length of time without title and head-to-heads, this is how a nine-dart finish in betting terms rolled out…

Urban Legend Bet 1

Treble 20 Neil Robertson (UK Snooker Championship)

Robertson was winning 4-0 against Selby in the quarter finals the previous year and ended up losing 6-4. He’d have gone on to win the tournament had he won that match, I feel. I figured he would make up for that one year later and complete snooker’s Triple Crown.


Treble 20 Michael van Gerwen (World Darts Championship)

This was always between ‘The Big Three’: MVG, Taylor and Lewis. Taylor had enjoyed a spectacular season, winning tournament after tournament and I couldn’t see him winning the World Championship. He had won enough tournaments as it was! Lewis, as good as he is, was not winning three out of four World Championships. That left van Gerwen. He was destined to win it and after the Premier League victory he was getting knocked out in the Sky Sports majors. I thought, ‘Grand. He’s saving himself for the Worlds’… which he was.


Treble 20 Stephen Bunting (BDO World Darts Championship)

Although he suffered early-round exits in previous years and had not enjoyed good World Championships Bunting is simply better than everyone else.


Treble 20 Mark Selby (World Snooker Championship)

The title would be between Ronnie and Selby. I ruled out Trump and Robertson. Trump, because he doesn’t seem mentally prepared yet to win a World Championship, and Robertson because he wasn’t going to win multiple World Championships before Selby had tasted glory. With Ronnie winning the previous two World Championships, I figured he had his day in the sun since working with sports psychologist, Steve Peters. It was someone else’s time to shine. That someone was Mark Selby. He is too good not to win a World Championship and it is his time. Although, I did keep coming back to Ronnie, thinking he is the best ever and deserves to equal Steve Davis’ six titles, but, happily, I settled on Selby.


Treble 20 Manchester City (Premier League)

This seemed a no-brainer. I always thought it was between Chelsea and Man City and City just had much more quality than everyone else, although Liverpool almost spoiled the party. Chelsea didn’t have a goalscorer up front and you simply can’t win a Premier League without a striker.


Treble 20 Arsenal (FA Cup)

I just felt that because Arsenal had gone so long without a trophy (2005 was the last time they had won one) it was well overdue. They were certainly not going to win the Premier League or Champions League.


Treble 20 Real Madrid (Champions League)

Barca were not winning the Champions League one year after losing 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich. This was always between Real and Munich for me so I had both in my bets.


Treble 19 Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon)

I ruled Murray out straight away because only the crème de la crème wins Wimbledon back-to-back e.g. Federer and Sampras. It was some achievement for Murray to win Wimbledon once. Nadal can’t win on grass anymore and Federer looked finished in 2013, which left Djokovic. Novak – who had a splendid 2011 season, winning three Grand Slam titles – seemed to lose that mental edge required to win a Grand Slam final, losing four out of five Grand Slam finals afterwards. It was these losses which would spurn him on and give him the drive and hunger again to achieve victory.

Lionel Messi

Double 12 Germany (World Cup)

I always saw this as a two-horse race, the Argies and Germany. Brazil were not going to win the World Cup with that squad – it just didn’t compare to the 2002 World Cup winning squad. Spain, having won the World Cup and two European Championships, would lose that hunger needed to get over the line, although they had the best squad. For Argentina, having Messi (above) would not be enough and he was the only Argentinian player I could see lifting the trophy after the four weeks (and maybe Mascherano). So the Germans. They had superiority in midfield which would be crucial in that heat and it is the German generation of football, like it was with the Spanish and French before them. I figured since 2002 after losing a World Cup final and the 2008 European Championship final as well as several semi-final matches, they were always knocking at the door and soon enough somebody was going to answer. Also, I thought Klose, who played in both finals would not be losing another final should they reach one, would sign off his international career with a flourish.


So, from the summer until the end of November 2013 when the UK Snooker Championship started, the bets were getting placed every week in various accumulators. From then, in it was a matter of letting nature takes it course.

After Robertson won the UK Championship and then Taylor got knocked out of the Worlds I was getting excited early doors, thinking van Gerwen has this title. And when Selby won the World Championship on the Monday May Bank holiday and Liverpool drew 3-3 the same night with Crystal Palace, I thought, ‘hang on a sec’ it’s time to do some totting up here.

That’s when I thought: HOLY F*****G S**TB***S.

Ronaldo celebrates

With City for the league, Arsenal in the FA Cup final and Real in the Champions League final left, it would come down to €70k for a Germany single, €170k for a Djokovic single and €390k for the double on Germany and Djokovic which meant €630k in total. I had no idea that much was at stake!

After City won the League and Arsenal won the FA Cup, all eggs were in the Real Madrid basket. I was very confident before the start of the match. I thought Ronaldo (above) was definitely lifting this trophy up at the end, so when it was 1-0 to Atletico with a few minutes left I was in Travis Bickle mode. Then up popped Ramos with that header. I proved that night that humans evolved from apes because this was no human the barman witnessed. Get the zookeeper! I went f**king bananas.

Novak and Deutschland to go, it was gonna be an interesting summer. New balls please.

Wimbledon was excruciating

The backs were up against the wall in six of the seven selections so far. Robertson was losing to Selby in final 5-2 and 6-3 in first to 10 frames. Van Gerwen was losing 3-1 to Gary Anderson in the third round in a first-to-four sets match. Bunting was plain sailing all the way. Selby was 9-9 in a first-to-10 frames match in first round and losing 7-2 and 10-5 to the greatest snooker player ever in the final. Liverpool were looking like they were going to win the league. Arsenal won the semi-final on penalties and were trailing 2-0 in final. Real Madrid were losing 1-0 in injury time.

Was luck on my side!?

I was calm watching Germany’s matches but seeing every point, game and set of Wimbledon was excruciating. It was like watching Requiem for a Dream on loop. After the quarter-final match against Cilic, where Djokovic was losing 2-1 in sets and came back to win 3-2, I was shaking like a leaf. Please just hack my arm off and let this be over. This was horrific stuff to go through.

Nerve shredding

NAIL-BITING STUFF: Our man was waiting on Germany and Nole to do the business. They obliged…

Friday, July 4, 2014

Djokovic was playing Dimitrov at 1.30 BBC2 in the semi-final and Germany were playing France at 5.00 in the quarter finals on RTE 2. I realised this was a fairly big day here and I was on a half day from work. I made a decision that I would watch these two matches in solitary confinement, so into a city centre hotel after work I went and checked in.

Into the elevator, upstairs, door open, telly on and no f*****g BBC2! Back downstairs.

“Do you have BBC?”

“We have BBC1 but not BBC2.”

Sweet Jesus! I don’t think a receptionist had ever seen someone so animated about TV stations. I thought she was going to call the paramedics.

Cash back, check out and into another hotel I go.

“Do you have you BBC2 and RTE2?”

“We do indeed.”

“Are you sure!?”


Grand. Room for the night please. I’ve never done heroin but I went through withdrawal-type symptoms watching that Dimitrov match, rolling around the bed with the sweat dripping from me.

Djokovic was 2-1 up in sets but it should have gone 2-2 with Dimitrov leading 6-3 in the fourth-set tiebreaker and then Djokovic somehow won the fourth set and match.

Hummels scored as Germany beat France in the World Cup quarter-final and I knew it was in the bag. The rest is history. Federer probably should have beaten Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and Gotze scored in extra time of the World Cup Final to seal the bet.

Andy Dufresne crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit-smelling foulness and came out clean the other end.

Bye-bye workies.

  • Follow this writer under @theperfectnine on Twitter and read the Paddy Power Blog for his tips on the year’s biggest sporting events, starting next week. The bets detailed above were not placed with Paddy Power. Phew.
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