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The Ballsiest Living Cheater (Who Never Broke a Rule)

Barney Curley is a name that would be synonymous with gambling if you had ever heard it. We will now spend the next 600 words correcting that.

The Independent
His face, however, will remain synonymous with "old" and "poltergeist."

In 1975, Curley made the equivalent of 2.1 million pounds ($3.3 million) in today's money with perhaps the finest display of loophole abuse ever seen -- exploiting the fact that, in those days, bookies had to get all of their information about the type, amount, and volume of bets being made at a particular racetrack via telephone. Basically, if one horse was getting a lot of attention, they could call a track and adjust their odds to avoid a potentially catastrophic payout.

Curley eventually settled on a County Meath track in Ireland that had exactly one payphone. If someone could keep that solitary phone busy, the bookies would be unable to adjust their odds, and ham-fisted fuckery could then occur.

Julian Herbert / Getty
"That's right, Ham-Fisted Fuckery wins it by a nose!"

So, Curley entered his own horse, Yellow Sam, into a shitty handicapped race with 20-to-1 odds. When this was achieved, he instructed a friend to keep the payphone busy until just after the race had begun, allowing him time to contact hundreds of people around the country to dump his last 15,000 pounds into small bets on his horse without raising any alarms. If anyone got suspicious and tried to call the track, they'd be unable to get through because Curley's friend was tying up the only phone line, bravely withstanding the pressure of a line of piss-drunk Irishmen waiting to use the damn thing.

Getty
"Hello, operator? I'd like to read you a selection of speeches from Atlas Shrugged ..."

Curley did this all within 10 minutes. In 1975. Without texting, Twitter, Facebook, or cellphones.

Yellow Sam handily won the race, as Curley knew he would, earning the staggering payout. While what he did was certainly laced with shit-bearded dickitry, no specific part of it was technically illegal, so the bookies had no choice but to pay him. Out of anger, they paid him in scrunched-up pound notes crammed disdainfully into over a hundred bags, which is arguably the worst attempt at revenge in history.

Not content with just one hilariously brilliant scam, Curley went on to make a career out of it. He raffled off his mansion home in 1984 to circumvent a terrible housing market by selling raffle tickets for $270 apiece, setting a minimum of 2,000 before the raffle would take place (he wound up selling over 8,000). The deal was attractive because a person could theoretically wind up purchasing a mansion for less than $300. Meanwhile, Curley guaranteed himself a healthy sale simply by collecting the sum of all the tickets sold. When the raffle finally went down, he'd sold over $2 million worth of tickets, which is so fantastically genius that we want to punch his face for being such a magnificent bastard.

Getty
Well shit, we know how we're getting rid of our next car.

Curley returned to horse racing and made 4 million pounds on an accumulator bet (basically placing a single bet on several different picks, all of which have to win in order to earn a payout) involving a bunch of his own horses in 2010, then made another million pounds doing the exact same thing two years later. By this point, Curley was well-known among bookies for being a virulent combination of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future Part II and Skeletor, and one betting shop vehemently refused to award him his payout. However, every other bookie paid out, and both the British Horseracing Authority and the Independent Betting Arbitration Service declared that nothing illegal had occurred and that Curley deserved to be given every penny he had won.

That's right -- Curley gamed the system so hard, the system took off its hat and openly applauded his giant balls. Then it muttered a torrent of curses and tossed him his fucking money.



Karl has a Twitter account and he probably won't follow you back because he hates going in circles.

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