Some of the details of the night were foggy in Gaynor’s memory. How old was he exactly? Was it 1997 or 1998? Was he alone or with anyone? That stuff he couldn’t remember, nor could he recall any of the other nine games he bet on that day. Because why would he?
The other grueling details — those were indelible. The exact point spread. Where he was standing in the casino (“right in the back near the men’s room, but away from where all the tourists would come in”). Gaynor even remembers asking the bartender nearby to turn up the TV so he could try to hear Phillips’ post-game protests and figure out what in the Sam hell had just happened out there. Why didn’t he send out the extra-point team?
At some point, reality washed over him. The walk back from the casino to the Salvation Army shelter Gaynor was staying was just a little more than three miles, past The Strip and into the parts of Las Vegas the out-of-towners tend not to venture. All Gaynor knows is he got from Point A to Point B and that he made it home safely. The rest he buried that game-changing night.
“I was right there on Las Vegas Boulevard a minute, I know that. I just walked out and I don’t remember anything that happened after that. I don’t know if I blacked out or what. I don’t know if I was drinking, maybe I was … I was still a young man at the time.”
The man who bet daily on games — “baseball, football, whatever” — wouldn’t place another wager for six months.
“I was depressed. For a long time after that,” Gaynor said.
But then again, depression was nothing new. Gaynor suffers from bipolar disorder, for which he takes medication now. He’s asked repeatedly in multiple conversations over the past few months if he wants to share this information, and it’s always a hard yes. Along with the ugly details of his legendary lost wager, it’s all fair game, Gaynor said.
“It’s a true story. I was on hard times. But it’s my story. I want to tell it,” he says without an ounce of shame. “I am telling you the story of my life. It has meaning. I tell it with an open heart.
“I suffer from bipolar depression. I take medicine every day for it. [Losing the bet] sent me down even more. Going back to that shelter that night … I felt like I had nothing there, nothing to hang on anymore.”
He continued working in Vegas (and still lives there now), even working many odd jobs on The Strip close to the casino where everything fell apart. “Promotions, security, strip clubs, convention work, things like that,” he said. “Working for like $8 an hour, whatever minimum wage was. All low-paying jobs. All jobs I could just get here and there. Maybe $40 a day, or $50 if you’re lucky.”
For a while, he kept the failed $10 ticket stub and held onto it but never looked at it. It just sat in his wallet, the fading square of thermal paper eroding at the corners over time before it got thrown out at some point. It wasn’t some momentous event when that happened; Gaynor said he was likely just clearing out space in his wallet.
“Not like it was full of money!” he jokes. Gallows humor has been one of his trustiest companions these past 19 years.