As James Adducci watched Tiger Woods' pursuit of history in the final round of the Masters on a 23-inch TV screen in a "tiny, jail cell-sized" room in his parents' house in a rural Wisconsin town, he had to continually wake up his father. His father, at age 82, and with significant health issues, maybe didn't fully grasp the gravity of what he was watching. Tiger was on his way to perhaps completing the best comeback story in sports history, but more importantly to the Adduccis, it would determine the outcome of a $85,000 wager he placed on Tuesday at a William Hill casino.
The younger Adducci, a 39-year-old self-employed daytrader, was a nervous wreck. He flew from Wisconsin to Las Vegas earlier in the week to place the wager, which he claims to be his first-ever bet on sports in his life. A man with a mortgage on his house, two student loans and two car loans decided he would take $85,000, which he said was "everything I had that I could afford to lose," and place it on Tiger. Why? "I just thought it was pre-destined for him to win," Adducci explained when reached on the phone on Monday afternoon.
Adducci describes taking the $85,000 cash out of a bank in Las Vegas after ordering the cash a week beforehand out of a business account comprised of some failed stock money. He sat in a shared Lyft ride, "so he could save $2," with a mother and her child, who were talking about how they were struggling to find the money to pay rent. "That was an awful feeling," he said. But with a backpack he had just bought at the local Walmart to hold the cash, he went from casino to casino to see who would accept the wager. After being turned away by two casinos, Adducci arrived at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, operated by William Hill, and after Director of Trading Nick Bogdanovich discussed with his boss, the sportsbook decided to accept the wager, which ended up being the largest individual payout on a futures bet in the sportsbook conglomerate's U.S. history.
The $1.2 million is a portion of what sportsbooks around the world lost on Tiger winning his fifth Masters title. And the fact that significant wager came from a man from western Wisconsin makes this story even more unlikely.
Sitting with his father in a room that was previously his mother's favorite TV room until she passed away, Adducci and his father watched the roller-coaster round. He was "a nervous wreck" as Tiger went down by three shots after his bogey at the fifth hole. But he never lost faith, he said.
"A month before is when I knew I was going to do it," Adducci said. "I had been thinking a lot about this. I watched Tiger's performance at the Tour Championship, and things seemed to be going his way. I looked at how well he did there, and some other factors you can't put stats behind. It wasn't about the stats for me. The fact that this was going to be his first major in front of his kids, I was convinced he would win."
Weeks before, he told his wife about wanting to place this wager, and though he faced a little opposition initially: "She said to me, 'I can't stop you from doing this, because if he wins, I'll never forgive myself.' She's a keeper."
And so as Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau found Rae's Creek at Augusta National's famed par-3 12th hole, Adducci had to wake up his father, a former caddie at Olympia Fields Country Club back in the day. He says his father didn't fully understand what was happening. His wife, back home, wasn't able to watch, as his family doesn't even have cable TV in the house.
So he texted her updates as he woke his father up. And he celebrated like a mad man, likely alarming neighbors in this tiny Wisconsin town (he asked not to name which town it was) with all the noise.
When it was over, his father asked him to go buy him some Culver's frozen custard, probably like many other conversations going on in Wisconsin homes on Sunday. But unlike any other, Adducci has cashed in on one of the biggest sports wagers in history.
What will he do with the money? He and his wife are eyeing up new garage doors. And they plan to pay off most of their debt.
"I'm a responsible guy," he said. "My background is finance. I'm going to invest most of it. And we're going to grow it."
How about another wager on Tiger for the next couple of majors, at familiar confines in Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach?
"If he wins both of those, which I think he'll do, he'll go to Portrush, and I think there's no doubt he'll win the Grand Slam, then go to Augusta next year and take the all-time majors title. That's really the same feeling I had that led me to bet on Tiger in the first place. He can just do amazing, superhuman things that you can't even imagine are true. But he has this aura that makes him different than anybody else."