D Hotel Owner Misses on $1 Million NCAA Basketball Bet

D Hotel Casino - Derek Stevens - Michigan Villanova Bet

Derek and Nicole Stevens tried halftime superstition adjustments, but Villainova pulled away in the 2nd Half.

Derek Stevens, owner of the D Hotel and Casino (Fitzgeralds), lost a $1 million payout on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship last night. A month, Stevens placed a $25,000 bet at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino on the Michigan Wolverines.

Had the Wolverines defeated the Villanova Wildcats in the culmination of March Madness on Monday night, Derek Stevens would have been able to claim a million-dollar payout. Instead, Villanova, the #1 seed in the East Bracket, defeated Michigan, the #3 seed in the West Bracket, by a margin of 79-62.

Tony Miller, the sportsbook director at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, breathed a sigh of relief after the favorite won its second NCAA Men’s Title in three years.

Tony Miller: “A Big Hole for Us”

Miller had said that the Golden Nugget’s sportsbook has had a bad year anyway, so a $1 million debt on March Madness would have been a big burden. He said the $1 million payout would have been “a big hole for us to climb out of.”

Derek Stevens and Tony Miller met at the D’s Longbar to watch the championship game on Monday night. With so much money on the line, Stevens brought his usual lucky charms — along with a ticket that had a hedge bet on the Villanova Wildcats.

Derek Stevens Hedged His Bet

Earlier in the day, Stevens had been asking his followers on social media whether he should make a hedge bet. He decided to make a $330,000 bet at the Four Queens Casino, a wager which would pay off about $100,000 if Villanova won. By making a wager which would pay off $100,000 in the case of Villanova’s (likely) win, Derek Stevens was able to have a chance at a $900,000 or more payout, without risking the loss of his original $25,000.

The D Hotel’s owner said he planned to use his winnings to invest in the Golden Gate Casino project, whether he won the larger wager or the smaller one. Even with his loss on the night, Derek Stevens has about $75,000 more to invest in Golden Gate Casino (which is unrelated to Golden Nugget Las Vegas).

Stevens’ Alma Mater Is Michigan

Stevens said this was the biggest stake in his 30 years as a sports bettor on NCAA basketball games. The University of Michigan is his alma mater, so his chance at the big payday had more to do with fandom than his handicapping skill. He said, “I’ve been doing this since the ’80s and I’ve never had a $1-million payout on a college basketball game.”

At first, it appeared that Michigan might pull off the upset. The Wolverines were up 7 points early. They led by 19-14 halfway through the first half, but then Villanova began to take control of the game.

Donte DiVencenzo’s Heroics

Sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench to score 31 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line. Michigan Coach John Beilein said, “When he came off and hit those 3s, we could not answer. I wish we would have maybe gone out and doubled him or something….But he still made some really long shots that I don’t think there’s a defense for.”

Derek Stevens felt the same way. Around the same point of the game, the Wolverines’ shots stopped falling. When Villanova overtook Michigan in the 1st Half and began to build a lead, Stevens began to have a bad feeling.

1st Half Lead Change: Two Perspectives

While drinking his Captain Morgan’s and Diet Coke, he said, “Get down. There’s a lid on the basket,” then later added, “I felt better 10 minutes ago.”

Aaron Kessler, assistant director of the Golden Nugget Sportsbook, had the exact opposite reaction. Sitting across the room eyeing the game warily, Kessler said, “I feel better than I did 10 minutes ago.”

Halftime Adjustments

At halftime, as Villanova held a 37-28 lead, Derek Stevens and his employees made adjustments. Stevens left the building and returned bedecked in Wolverine merchandise, hoping to change his luck factor. Stevens said, “We all have to make adjustments at halftime.”

His employees did the same. Nicole Stevens, Derek’s wife, noticed that the bartenders were not wearing their Michigan necklaces, as they had done in previous games. She sent an employee armed with cash to a kiosk on Fremont Street to buy some necklaces for the staff.

Collecting March Madness Winnings

None of the adjustments mattered. With 8 minutes left in the game, Villanova held an 18 point lead and the game was all-but-over. By that time, Derek Stevens had made some hedge bets around the bar. When it was over, he was still up about $31,000. Golden Nugget Casino had won its $25,000 wager on the original bet, so everyone was happy.

That went especially for Tony Miller, Aaron Kessler, and Tilman Fertitta (owner of the Golden Nugget). When Derek Stevens first made his bet, it was large enough that Tilman Fertitta had to sign off on the action. Stevens said it took guts to do what Fertitta had done.

Aaron Kessler said, “It looks like he made the right call.”