Colorado March Madness Parlay ‘Extraordinary’ And Winner Plans To Give Back


When Gonzaga and Baylor tip off tonight to determine college basketball’s national champion, at least two people who wagered in Colorado will be watching … but maybe not with quite as much interest as they might have.

“Mattress Mack,” the Houston businessman Jim McIngvale who has flown to Colorado multiple times to place bets on his DraftKings mobile app, lost his $1 million wager on the national champion Saturday when 1-seed Baylor routed Houston, 78-59, in the first national semifinal. McIngvale stood to win $9 million if Houston won the tournament after placing his bet on the DraftKings app in Colorado late last month. Top-seeded Gonzaga barely got by upstart 11-seed UCLA, 93-90, in the other semifinal.

And Colorado native Eli Sawaged turned $10 into $33,000 on a remarkable 10-leg parlay during the first weekend of the tournament. Interestingly, of the 10 winners Sawaged picked for his parlay, three, including Baylor, reached the Final Four. The other two were Houston and UCLA.

‘I fully went in expecting to lose that $10’

And while Sawaged will likely be tuned in to tonight’s game, he’s probably still recovering from the thrill of his big win, especially the Oregon State-Oklahoma State second-round game.

“I fully went in expecting to lose that $10,” he told CBS Denver last week. “I’ve never been an Oregon State fan, but I’m debating getting a tattoo or something because they came through for me. Nobody in my family has ever been an Oregon State fan, but we all are Oregon State fans now.”

“It was amazing. The amount of people supporting me and sending me DMs. It was unbelievable. It was like nothing I could ever imagine in my life.”

But what makes Sawaged somewhat unusual in the world of sports betting is how he’ll spend the winnings.

“Yes, the money is nice, but it’s about helping people, especially in a time like this,” he told CBS Denver. “It’s just better to help out people.”

Like Mattress Mack, Sawaged made the wager on his DraftKings app. The sportsbook offered Sawaged a $23,000 cash-out option during the Oklahoma State-Oregon State matchup on March 21. He declined to take it, and the 12-seed Beavers upset the 4-seed Cowboys, 80-70.

This parlay was ‘extraordinary’

DraftKings head of sportsbook Johnny Avello called the parlay “extraordinary.”

“We at DraftKings have paid out quite a few substantial parlays during our short existence ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000 with the bet amounts only $10 to $20, but I found this one to be quite unique,” he said.

Sawaged started his parlay on Saturday, March 20, when he picked UCLA and Abilene Christian during games that were already in progress. The remaining eight picks — Baylor, Villanova, Arkansas, Houston, Oral Roberts, Loyola, Oregon State, and Syracuse — were made pregame and on the moneyline, according to Avello. Houston defeated Rutgers, 63-60, after erasing a nine-point deficit with 4:55 left.

The fact that he won was, even by Sawaged’s admission, luck.

“There wasn’t any super-heavy thought,” he told ESPN.

Sawaged has plans to put the windfall from the win to good use — and do a little something for himself.

“I saved some,” he told CBS Denver. “I put most of it into a savings account. I gave some to my mom. I cleaned out my closet. I’m donating all my clothes, and so I’m going to replenish that, and then I’m going to help out the community however I can.”


Jill has covered everything from steeplechase to the NFL and then some during a more than 30-year career in sports journalism. The highlight of her career was covering Oakland Raiders during the Charles Woodson/Jon Gruden era, including the infamous “Snow Bowl” and the Raiders’ 2003 trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Her specialty these days is covering sports betting legislation across the country.

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