LAS VEGAS — Behind steady play from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Vegas Golden Knights notched victories in their first three regular-season games and created a believer in John Lytle.
Lytle strolled over to the sports book at Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in North Las Vegas to make a futures bet that the new N.H.L. franchise would capture the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season. When Lytle, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq, posted his $100 ticket on Instagram, a few of his friends purchased their own, locking in odds as high as 200-1.
Lytle is among a contingent of Las Vegas residents in line for a massive payday if the Golden Knights prevail in the best-of-seven series against the Washington Capitals. The series is tied, 1-1, with Game 3 on Saturday in Washington.
While the winnings will not be the windfall the soccer club Leicester City delivered to fans who got 5,000-1 odds on the middling club winning the Premier League two years ago, the money will be nothing to sneeze at.
Lytle, a rising senior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has plans to use the $20,000 in potential winnings to pay for a portion of his law school tuition.
Across the area, bettors on the Golden Knights include nonhockey fans who purchased $5 futures bets to commemorate the team’s inaugural season and sophisticated bettors who employed complex arbitrage strategies in search of a healthy profit. At William Hill, one of the largest sports books in Nevada, there are 350 outstanding bets on Vegas to win the Stanley Cup at 100-1 or higher.
Lytle has had numerous opportunities to hedge his bet throughout the N.H.L. playoffs, but in a nod to the team he is opting to let it ride.
“I ride with my city the whole way,” he said. “We’ll either raise that Cup and have a parade from downtown to the Strip, or we will bow our heads and get them next year.”
Others are not taking the chance. Hermin Soriano, a food server at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, placed a $300 wager on the Knights at 100-1 and a $100 bet on a mobile betting platform at the same odds in October.
Last month, while on vacation in the South Pacific, he boarded a flight as the Knights took an early lead in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks. Shortly after arriving in the Philippines, Solario thought the Knights took a 2-0 series lead on a double-overtime score by Jonathan Marchessault, only to see the goal disallowed on a goaltender interference call.
“I had a bad feeling about it; the next thing I knew the Sharks won the game,” Soriano said. “It was nail-biting.”
Unwilling to lose the bet on a fluke call, Soriano promised his wife that he would hedge the wager if the local team advanced to the finals. Through PropSwap.com, an online marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of sports bets, Solario completed the sale on May 22. The buyer, Brad Feinberg, a real estate investor from Bryn Mawr, Pa., spent $12,600 for a chance to win $30,300.
Soriano plans to use the money to celebrate his wedding anniversary next month in Paris.
“That really makes me smile; I hope he has an amazing time,” Feinberg said.
Another bettor could use his winnings when he backpacks through Europe this summer. Joe Ellis, a recent graduate of San Diego State, split a $100 wager with two roommates last fall, at odds of 150-1. An avid surfer, Ellis has tentative plans to go to Portugal’s famed Nazaré Beach on the trek.
Some tourists holding Knights tickets will gladly return to Sin City to collect their winnings. Last fall, Adam Vosding, a commercial property manager from Tampa, Fla., booked a last-minute flight to Las Vegas to spend the weekend with a friend. While making a futures bet on his beloved Lightning at William Hill, Vosding noticed what he considered a good price on the Knights at 200-1. He placed $100 on both.
Vosding cheered for both teams during the conference finals, posting a hockey card of Vegas Coach Gerard Gallant in a Lightning uniform on his Facebook page. Vosding plans to use some of his winnings to expand his food blog, Traveling Food Dude.
Vasilios Pangalidis, a restaurant owner in Macomb Township, Mich., is an ardent sports bettor, and frequents Las Vegas often enough to consider it a second home.
Should Washington win the series, Pangalidis will collect around $8,200, roughly $3,000 more than he will take home if the Knights complete the storybook ending.
“My wallet might be pulling for Washington, but my heart is with Las Vegas,” he said.
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