Eric Barger figured he was throwing his money away when he and a group of friends bet on a No. 16 seed to upset a top-ranked team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But the group’s $800 bet on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball team paid off big when the Retrievers shocked No. 1 Virginia 74-54 on Friday.
No. 16 seeds had been 0-for-135 against No. 1s, but UMBC’s win was lucrative for Barger and friends, who cashed a $16,800 winning ticket at The Venetian in Las Vegas, ESPN reported.
"I go with my boys to Vegas every tournament, and we did pretty well on Thursday," Barger told ESPN. “Me and my buddy Dan went to UMBC, so we spent all day talking up how much we were going to bet.”
Barger said he did not think he had a winning ticket.
"We, of course, thought we were throwing our money down the drain," Barger, 42, told ESPN. “We expected to be down pretty quickly, but we hung in there, and they won by 20. It was surreal.”
Feeling lucky, Barger said he and his friends took $200 each out of their winnings and gambled it on a game of roulette. Their number hit, so they collected an additional $1,900, ESPN reported.
Barger said his group will bet on UMBC again in the Retrievers’ game Sunday night against Kansas State.
“With odds at about 5-to-1, we'll have at least a couple hundred on the game,” Barger told ESPN. “How could we not?"