William Lee Bergstrom

In 1980, Benny Binion, founder of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, confirmed his ‘sky’s the limit policy’ by offering to match a bet of any value, provided it was the first bet placed by the player in question. The gimmick attracted the attention of William Lee Bergstrom, a.k.a. ‘The Suitcase Man’, a successful real estate agent from La Grange, Texas.

Having borrowed $777,000 on the pretence of buying gold, Bergstrom duly arrived at Binion’s Horseshoe in September, 1980, with two suitcases; one contained the money and the other was completely empty. Without further ado, he put all his money on the even-money ‘don’t pass’ line at the craps table, won, packed the money into the empty suitcase and left.

Bergstrom paid off his bankers and disappeared from the scene for a while, before returning to Binion’s Horseshoe to win $538,000, $119,000 and $90,000 in similar fashion in March, 1984. He was back again in November that year, armed with $1 million in cash and cashier’s checks. Once again, he placed everything on the ‘don’t pass’ line on the craps table. However, on this occasion, the shooter threw seven on the come-out roll, making his bet a loser, and he left empty-handed.

The following February, Bergstrom, 33, was dead. Apparently heartbroken by the departure of his lover, John, he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of pills. His lifeless body, along with a suicide note, was discovered by a maid at the Marina Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. He wrote to a friend, ‘[John’s] leaving me was the only reason I gambled the $1 million in the first place. I knew that if I lost the million dollars that I would for sure fully and completely do away with myself.’