Almost every day, Derek Stevens likes to stop at the sportsbook at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, located between the two properties he owns, to plunk down a bet.
On Dec. 5, Stevens walked in and told sportsbook director Tony Miller that he wanted to make a bet on Michigan State to win it all and to make sure that if he did win, he'd win $1 million.
Although Stevens has been a regular customer, Miller's sportsbook doesn't accept bets that could cause such a colossal loss, so he called up his boss, Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget, to approve the bet.
It was a relatively smooth conversation. The Spartans were at 50-1 to win it all at the time, having just lost their third game of the young, eight-game season to Notre Dame.
So Miller accepted Stevens' $20,000 bet, never thinking he'd be sweating the possibility that the Spartans could pull it off.
"In my nine years at this sportsbook, I never accepted a bet that could result in us paying $1 million," Miller said. "The most I've ever seen won here was a $100,000 parlay."
Stevens, who owns The D and Golden Gate hotels in downtown Las Vegas, said he didn't see anything particularly special; he is just a fan and felt like getting aggressive.
"I bet $1,000 on an NFL game," said Stevens, who attended the University of Michigan but said he also pulls for the Spartans. "I don't do bets this big."
Asked whether he will hedge his bet so he comes out a winner even if the Spartans lose, Stevens said he needs to see how he feels over the next couple of days.
Stevens gives the Golden Nugget the business because Nevada state gaming regulations forbid owners from placing bets at their own establishments.
Miller and Stevens have become good friends over the years, which makes the fact that the Spartans have two games to win it all a bit awkward.
"This would be a massive loss for us," Miller said. "I see days where we lose $10,000 to $30,000, but nothing close to $1 million."
Stevens said he plans on watching Saturday night's game versus Duke at the sports bar at The D, inviting Spartans fans to show up in their green and white to root on the team and his $1 million bet.
"If I win, I'll give some bonus money to my employees," Stevens said. "I also want to give some money to the [Jerry] Tarkanian Basketball Academy, and the rest I will reinvest in my properties."
As for Miller, he watched Friday's Sweet 16 game against Oklahoma with Stevens but isn't sure where he'll catch this Saturday's game. All he knows is he'll be watching every second.
Said Miller: "I haven't watched a Spartans game as closely as I've watched the last two."