Matoupris tell us a story: William Lee Bergstrom, the man with the briefcase
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Matoupris tell us a story: William Lee Bergstrom, the man with the briefcase

You all know the famous expression: "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas". But some legends are so unbelievable that they end up leaving the state capital of Nevada! Among all these crazy stories, there is the one of a man who seems at first sight to be quite ordinary: William Lee Bergstrom. This man was not a great poker player, nor was he an inveterate gambler. Today, Matoupris and Lucky7Bonus take you to meet the man who became a Las Vegas legend with just one round of craps!

Who is William Lee Bergstrom?

William Lee Bergstrom was born in 1951 in Austin, Texas. He had a difficult childhood with his brother Alan, which ended with his parents' divorce. He remained living with his mother and brother, while continually seeking approval in the eyes of his absent father.

He graduated from high school in 1969 and continued his studies at the University of Texas, which he dropped out in 1974. After leaving college, he went into real estate sales, which became his livelihood for the rest of his life. He did very well as a real estate agent, which allowed him to start buying his own properties. He didn't live a life of luxury, but he made a very good living and didn't lack for anything.

What made Bergstrom get into gambling? Well, to be honest, he probably never would have gone to Las Vegas if it weren't for a guy named Benny Binion. Binion was the owner of a casino and had recently launched a new promotion called "The Sky's the Limit". This promotion promised all players who entered his casino that they would match their first bet, regardless of the amount. William was known to be an opportunist, so he couldn't pass up such an opportunity.

When Bergstrom became the Suitcase Man

It was in the early 80's that Benny Binion's casino introduced this promotion that pledged to match any bet placed in his casino, as long as it was the player's first bet. This was another of Benny Binion's tricks to attract more people to the casino and increase the bets at the beginning of the game.

In his home in Texas, William heard about this promise and seriously considered trying his luck. But before he did, he wanted to verify the truth of the promise. He made a call to the Horseshoe Casino to speak to Benny Binion himself. William took a chance by asking him if he placed a $1,000,000 bet, it would still be matched. Binion said yes, but at that point, William didn't have the money.

That's when he started collecting money until he accumulated $777,000. It wasn't quite the million he had announced on the phone, but that's when he decided to take a chance. He filled the first case with the $777,000 and took a second case, this time empty, before flying to Sin City. When he arrived at the Horseshoe Casino, he went straight to the Craps table without any hesitation. In a funny twist, William apologized to Binion for not being able to raise the full $1,000,000 and asked if the $777,000 would be matched as well.

It's also interesting to note that when he entered the casino, he didn't exchange his money for chips, as he usually does. Instead, he simply took his filled briefcase and placed it on the table. He placed his total bet of $777,000 on a single line of Don't Pass craps. But that's not all! Highly confident, Bergstrom not only played with his $777,000 cash bet, but also with the casino's $777,000 match! In total, that was a $1,554,000 wager on a single bet at the craps table!

After three rolls, the dealer rolled the coveted 7, giving Bergstrom the win. Note that the bet was originally placed anonymously, but when he won, Benny Binion himself came over to congratulate and even help William collect his winnings. Together, they packed his empty briefcase with the $777,000 from the casino and thus left with two full briefcases. William Bergstrom was escorted back to his car by Benny's son Ted, and that was the last they saw of William for years.

The legend of the Briefcase Man was born.

A bet that calls for others

After this huge move, some people would have logically stopped. But this is not the case of our friend William! He couldn't stay away from the tables for very long and came back to the Horseshoe to place another big bet, about three and a half years after his record-breaking win.

William returned to Vegas in March 1984. He placed a $538,000 bet, again on Craps. He kept the same strategy as before and ended up winning another $190,000 plus another big win of $90,000. He takes advantage of his earnings to take his dear mother to see the country singer Willie Nelson in concert. A few months later, in November 1984, he made good on his promise and finally placed the million-dollar bet he had wanted to make the first time he entered his friend Benny Binion's casino. He even asked for a favor: to match his bet, just like his first big win.

Benny agreed, for the sole reason that his bet was higher, to match it. Once again, he made the same bet as before and put it all on the "Don't Pass" line in Craps. But unfortunately, luck was not on Bergstrom's side that day. On the first roll, William loses his entire bet. With his pockets empty, he leaves the casino and never returns.

The fatal bet?

A few months later, on February 4, 1985, William was found dead at the Marina Hotel on the famous Strip. The autopsy reveals a suicide caused by an overdose of drugs. He would have left a will in the room, but its content was never revealed.

While many believe that it was that famous million-dollar bet that led to his suicide, his friends and family believe otherwise, adding that William was far from broke, still holding nearly $700,000 in his account. His friends and family believe otherwise, adding that William was far from broke, still owning nearly $700,000 in his account.

He had recently broken up with his partner, 10 years his junior, and it is believed that this was the real reason for his decision to take his own life.

Although his life ended at a young age, William will forever be remembered for the courage he showed in defying a casino's promise to match any bet, no matter how big, and making the biggest bet possible.

A legend never dies

William Lee Bergstrom will never be known as an elite gambler. All this American did was have the courage to take on the challenge of a casino and gamble away his life savings.

His story will forever be that of a man who won everything before he lost everything. In just a few rounds of gambling, William Bergstrom created a legend for himself. A legend that is still told today by those who run the Horseshoe Casino.And like many others in the history of gambling, William will always be known by his nickname, the Briefcase Man.

William's story was even adapted into the popular CSI series. In this episode, a man walks into a casino and places a $1,000,000 bet on a single roll of the dice, and loses. Even though this is fictional, it shows how legendary this story is and how much Bergstrom has left his mark on Las Vegas history.

About the authorClaude Gillet
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Since 2019, Claude has been editor-in-chief. His role is the most comprehensive, as he is responsible for publishing, editing and proofreading. All articles published on the site have been checked by him.

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