'I was very bitter': Inside the $20 bet that almost became $50K

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For one 24-year-old ticket writer at Circa Sports in Las Vegas, it was anything but an ordinary weekend. That will happen when you bet $20 on a 12-leg parlay, hit 11 of them and are waiting to see if the Oakland Raiders will cover a 10.5-point spread against the Cincinnati Bengals to win you $50,000.

And that's after you've already won $8,000 on a $20, nine-team parlay on Saturday.

Kenton King has worked the graveyard shift (6 p.m.-8:30 a.m. PT) at the Circa Sports book at the Golden Gate in Las Vegas for a few months and had been casually betting on sports.

"I went to UNLV for school and on my 21st birthday, I went to the casino for the first time and won $50," King told ESPN over the phone. "Ever since then, I was kind of hooked on it."

As with many casual gamblers, interest didn't necessarily translate to success. A film major, he couldn't find immediate work after graduation and went to work at the new Circa Sports book downtown as a ticket writer.

"I remember the very first sports bet I placed was on the Seattle Mariners against the Minnesota Twins, and they lost," he recalled. "That set a precedent for most of my gambling career."

This weekend, however, was different.

King was recently moved to the graveyard shift at Circa, and to pass the time in the middle of the night, he began grabbing parlay cards and comparing those lines to the current ones at Circa. While he couldn't bet them at the book by rule, it was instructive in finding lines where there may be value.

"I found the biggest line moves and was seeing how parlaying them would work," King noted. "Surprisingly, they got killed most of the time.

"The last two weeks I started taking a different approach, just thinking, 'Which of these teams is going to win the game?' From there I circled games I was confident about and thought that if they win, it's very likely they end up covering the number as well."

After narrowly missing on an eight-team parlay last weekend that would've won $3,600, he employed the same method this weekend on a nine-team college football parlay ($20 to win $8,000) at the Golden Nugget and a 12-teamer that mixed NFL and college ($20 to win $50,000). His nine-team parlay (Indiana +14.5, Iowa -3.5, Clemson -34.5, UMass +40.5, Georgia -2.5, Michigan -13.5, Hawaii -6.5, Alabama -18.5, Wisconsin -14.5) included quite a sweat with Iowa -3.5 ("I couldn't watch," he said, "but got an alert on my phone the Minnesota kicker missed the extra point.")

King and his girlfriend drove down to the Golden Nugget on Saturday night before his shift, collected his winnings, deposited them in the bank and then realized then he still had the 12-teamer alive, which used many of the same teams.

"After Utah covered, I logged on to Twitter, which I think I've used about three times since 2009," King said. "I was thinking, 'This is a lot of money and I'm not exactly sure how to hedge this. I reached out to ESPN's Doug [Kezirian] and sent a picture of the bet to show I wasn't blowing smoke."

With potential life-changing money at stake, King spent the rest of his shift on Saturday night figuring out how to hedge. He decided to let it ride through the first two NFL games (Jets +1.5, Falcons +5.5) and hedge on the Bengals against his final leg (Raiders -10.5). After getting home Sunday morning after his shift, he went to sleep and set an alarm. It didn't go off.

"My girlfriend woke me up late in the third quarter and both the Jets and Falcons were well on their way to winning [and covering]. Suddenly I'm getting blown up on Twitter and I have maybe a 40-45 minute window to hedge."

King decided that with the Bengals line up to +13, he'd take as much money as he could out of the bank to hedge against his Raiders -10.5 final leg, because a middle (winning both bets) was also possible. With such a short period of time and because it was Sunday, he was only able to get $2,200 out of the bank to hedge. He put it all on the Bengals +13.

"That was probably my biggest error," King told ESPN. "I put the $8,000 in my bank immediately after I collected. I should've kept it out for a potential hedging opportunity. I would've taken every dollar I made and put it on the Bengals."

He was also offered $25,000 from PropSwap to sell the ticket, but declined due to the brief time frame and unfamiliarity with the company's process.

The Raiders ended up winning the game 17-10, but not covering the 10.5 points he needed to win the $50,000.

"When I was setting up the parlay, I was looking at which teams win and cover," King remarked. "I wasn't thinking, 'If I have 11 winners, I should set up the last one for the Sunday night game to have time to hedge.' I'm filling out a $20 parlay card at 3 a.m., thinking, 'This will solve all my problems if I hit it.'"

Even though the big parlay didn't cash, King still walked away up $10,000 and with a great story. "I was very bitter when the Raiders kicked that field goal and still am," he told ESPN. "But at the end of the day, I won $8,000 and another $2,000, so I'm in much better shape than I was two days ago."

He was on his way to Universal Studios in California on Monday, a trip that had already been planned with his girlfriend. "I have to pay for food and gas now, I think that's the deal," he joked.

As for any other big plans to celebrate?

"Fill out another parlay card and hit it next week I guess."