Richard Stand walked into his Boston bank and asked for a $75,000 withdrawal. The teller handed him 750 hundreds. He stashed them in his backpack, then boarded a coast-to-coast plane headed to Vegas, with three buddies.
Stand told his friends to keep their eyes on that backpack -- no going to the bathroom for them.
Stand arrived here to compete in the final weekend of the Las Vegas Hilton's NFL SuperContest. People from all over the world bet on that contest -- amateurs, ESPN sportscasters, handicappers and "sharps" who make a living on sports betting.
Stand was just another finance worker in his 30s. He had never been a lucky guy -- he never hit a hole in one; he doesn't win contests.
"I'm originally from Buffalo, so," he says, "I've had my fair share of defeat."
Stand entered the Hilton challenge in August. Every week, he picked five games using the Hilton's Tuesday spread.
After five months, he was in first place. If he could win , he would pocket $207,000.
But he decided to come to Vegas with that $75,000 in cash to make side bets -- "hedges" -- so that if he lost the Hilton contest, he could still win money.
That was the plan, anyway.
He wanted to place big side bets ($10,000 and $33,000) at the Aria and Bellagio, but they turned him away, he says. So he trekked to the M Resort, which took the bets but didn't deem him big enough to sit him in VIP.
So there he was at the M Resort on the final Sunday of the regular season. First, he needed Minnesota to cover the spread against the Lions, but the Vikings were struggling.
Stand went to the restroom and started crying from stress. All weekend, he had been e-mailing updates to ESPN's Chad Millman. And Stand, who hadn't eaten all day and was working on one hour's sleep, worried if he lost, ESPN would broadcast to the world that he was a loser.
"I was going in and out of consciousness," he told Millman afterward on ESPN's "Behind the Bet$" blog podcast, an interview that magnified Stand's story into the stuff of legend.
The Minnesota score finally got to where it needed to be for Stand, who asked God to end the game during last-stand drama, when crazy Minnesota started to lateral the football on the last play of the game.
Nine laterals. If the laterals had turned into a Detroit touchdown because of a turnover, Stand would have lost. He was freaking out.
"It was the longest thing I've ever seen in my life," he says.
At last, the game ended with a score that helped Stand. But he still needed one last team to cover the spread. He picked Green Bay to beat Chicago by 6 points. That seemed like a no-brainer.
However, that game went down to the wire. Stand was a disaster. He was on the floor of the casino, shaking, hiding behind a chair, and feeling like he might pass out from a panic attack.
"I'm going to have to be removed by an ambulance," he thought.
Finally, Green Bay intercepted Chicago in the end and beat Chicago by 7.
That meant Stand had won the vaunted Hilton contest by hitting an improbable 66 percent of his picks against the spread over the 17-week season.
He and his Boston buddies hugged. Boston men don't hug, so they made fun of each other.
Also remarkable: Stark used part of his $75,000 cash to make wild side and parlay bets (including a three-team parlay on Pittsburgh, Tampa and Detroit), winning another $100,000, hitting all of his insane hedge bets, and "middling" a handful of shifting betting lines.
"If the stars align -- which they never do when you gamble -- you could win everything. And I don't know how I did, but I did."
In all, he won $300,000. He went to the Hilton Sportsbook to collect but, as Millman has said, there was no fanfare, no congratulations banner.
"I went up and said, 'Hey, can somebody tell me about the SuperContest?' " Stand recalls. "I think I just won it."
A Hilton worker turned his head, walked away, and returned with a rules sheet, Stand says.
"He goes, 'If you are who you say you are, congratulations, and here is a copy of the rules so you can figure this out yourself.' "
Stand still hasn't arranged for the Hilton to wire his winnings.
He made one more side bet, on Seattle to beat St. Louis. He won that, too, but it left a void.
"I just felt like the $10,000 was nothing to me at this point. You really get at a weird mindset."
He boarded a plane back to Boston with his original $75,000 plus another $100,000 in his backpack.
"I needed a Brinks truck to meet me at the airport," he says. "Then I go to the bank and I feel like Pablo Escobar. I was sure I was gonna get questioned, but nobody questioned it."
He had to explain all this to his wife. When he told her he put "33" down on the Bears for a hedge bet, she asked, "You mean $33?"
"No," he said, "$33,000."
"As the days went on, I think she started to scratch her head and say, 'Am I married to a degenerate?'"
He refuses to tell me his real name. Richard Stand is a pseudonym he gave the Hilton, ESPN and me. He's worried board members at his finance company will frown upon gambling.
So there he is, the biggest winner of one of the top sports betting contests in the world, and he has to defend himself against his wife's thinking he's "some crazy scumbag that's gonna risk everything in our lives," and he can't let his bosses or co-workers know that, for once, he's a lucky man.
The other day, he thought, "Maybe I am on a lucky streak." He bought some lottery tickets. He lost.
Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.