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The Greatest Upset Ever

Unless you’re just waking up from a coma you’ve likely heard. The greatest sports betting upset of all time happened Monday evening when Leicester City clinched the top of the Premier League table after opening the season at 5000-1. 

“In hindsight, we were idiots offering odds of 5,000-1." Irish and UK bookmaker Paddy Power said in a statement. 

They aren’t alone in feeling the sting in the sports betting world. The Telegraph reports that UK bookmakers will pay out over £25 million on the Leicester EPL title victory ($37 million American). It adds up to a loss of about £10 million pounds ($14.6 million).  

"It's a big loss but it's not going to bankrupt us, thankfully," Joe Crilly, a spokesman for William Hill, told the New York Times. "There will still be 5,000-1 shots from time to time, but we will certainly be a lot more careful if offering that price. Our company alone will be paying out 3 million pounds on Leicester City."

David Williams, a spokesman for Ladbrokes, told The Telegraph that 57 people grabbed up the 5,000-1 odds. Twenty-one of them had the stones to refuse early cash-outs and hold out for the full payout with a Leicester City victory. The highest remaining bet is a £20 stake that will earn the winner £100,000.

A 39-year-old carpenter and Leicester City fan, Leigh Herbert, made a 5-pound wager on his favorite team before the start of the season. He already settled on £2 of his wager for a payout of £5,680 but he stands to collect another £15,000 after Tuesday.

It’s all pretty hard to imagine when you look at it. That’s because until now this was all the stuff of unicorns. 

It was only two short years ago that Leicester City was promoted to the Premier League and in 2009 they were third-tier chuck toiling behind the prime rib squads of the EPL. The Foxes narrowly avoided relegation last season, thereby scraping their way back into the league this year. Their top scorer and Player of the Year, 29-year-old Jamie Vardy, was still supplementing his income as a technician with a medical supplies company as recently as 2012. 

It’s a fairy tale storyline with fairy tale odds. By comparison, British ski jumper Eddie the Eagle was a 2500-1 long shot to win gold at the 1988 Olympics except he finished dead last in both the 70m and 90m events. 

The highest exacta payoff at the Kentucky Derby in the past 25 years was in 2005 when Giacomo and Closing Argument combined for a $2 payoff of $9,814.80. That still doesn’t match the $10,000 you would have won on a $2 bet on Leicester City. And that was a parlay bet in horse racing, where the house usually wins at a 20 percent hold compared to just five percent for sports.  

Buster Douglas was a 50-1 long shot to beat Mike Tyson back in 1990. In Las Vegas, bettors almost tore the sports book apart at The Mirage that night. 

And still that upset was 100 times less likely to happen than Leicester’s Premier League title victory. 

It is highly unlikely we’ll ever see anything like this again in this generation – if for no other reason than books will likely stop offering long shots at numbers like this so readily. 

The Premier League Championship title is the first for Leicester in its 132-year history and the Foxes are the first club to be first-time winners of the top league in English soccer since Nottingham Forest in 1977-78. 

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