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Leicester miracle a bookie's nightmare

DO YOU KNOW how much you could make if you placed a legal bet in England that Elvis Presley was still alive and the King of Rock 'n' Roll actually was?

DO YOU KNOW how much you could make if you placed a legal bet in England that Elvis Presley was still alive and the King of Rock 'n' Roll actually was?

Not more than those who placed a wager that Leicester City F.C. would end up as the 2015-16 champions of the Barclays English Premier League – the top division of professional soccer in England.

The annual odds that Elvis will be found alive range from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1.

The odds that Leicester City would win the EPL were set at 5,000-1. The British books took an historic beating.

On Monday, Leicester won the Premier when second-place Tottenham Hotspur played to a 2-2 draw at Chelsea. Despite two games remaining, the Foxes have enough points to assure a finish at top of the table.

"Fantastic, unbelievable, incredible are all words we overuse," said ESPN and longtime English soccer commentator Ian Darke. "They are true here. I think this is the biggest upset, bar none, in sporting history."

Yep, and the sports books aren't happy.

Bet-taking organizations consider upsets when they set their betting lines.

Still, every now and then, circumstances align to where something happens that can genuinely be defined as a "sports miracle."

No sports book can adequately prepare for that.

"The unthinkable has become reality and we're facing paying out the sort of liability that you joke about at the start of the season," a spokesman for SkyBet told the Guardian newspaper.

Before the season, the odds of Leicester winning the title were comparable to those of the Yeti or Loch Ness Monster being proved to exist, Christmas being the warmest day of the year in England or President Obama playing cricket for the English national team after leaving the Oval Office.

At 5,000-1, the Foxes were this year's "joke bet."

By comparison, the Sixers (coming off an 18-64 season) had 200-1 odds of winning the 2016 NBA Finals.

English books reportedly will lose more than 25 million pounds – the biggest lost in British history on a single sports bet.

Many books said they will never again set 5,000-1 EPL odds.

Even as Leicester stayed at or near the top of the table, faith was not strong with all bettors.

After an opening 4-2 win over Sunderland, Ladbrookes said one customer took a 45-pence cash out on a 50-pence bet.

The highest reported cash out was for 72,000 pounds in March on a 50-pound bet – a good return but not the maximum 100,000 pounds payout for a ride to the end.

"Plenty of 5000-1 backers took sums midway through the season when it looked in the balance," said Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Donohue, whose agency has taken bets since 1886, "but we wonder what our man didn't like about the 4-2 win on the opening day of the season."

To comprehend some of these decisions, including the initial 5,000-1 odds, you have to understand what Leicester F.C., founded in 1884, was before this season.

In 111 years of participation in the English football league system, the Foxes had spent more than half (62) in level 2 and one in level 3. They were promoted to the EPL after winning the Football League Championship in 2013-14.

In 47 previous seasons in the highest level, the best the Foxes had done was finish second in Football League Division I in 1928-29.

Since the founding of the Premier League, Leicester has played 10 seasons. Its best finish was eighth in 1999-2000. Last season, the Foxes placed 14th, just six points safe from relegation to a lower tier.

"They escaped by the skin of their teeth, and all signs for us had them pointing toward relegation again for this season," Ladbrookes said.

There are no playoffs in the EPL. The 20 teams play each other home and away and whoever accumulates the most points after a 38-match grind is the winner.

A team cannot fluke its way to a title in a single championship game or win a best-of-seven series with a hot goalkeeper.

It has to be done week after week.

Small clubs like Leicester also have to operate in a system that is rigged to keep the aspirations of the "have nots" as far as possible from those of the "haves."

Success is normally based on the ability to pay for better talent.

At the start of the season, six EPL clubs - Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United - were valued at more than $500 million.

No other club was within $300 million. Leicester was 18th with a value of $133 million.

While the big-money clubs shoot for silverware, most EPL teams have the goal of simply staying in the top flight.

Since the founding of the Premier League as the top tier in 1992, Leicester joins Manchester United (13 titles), Chelsea (four), Arsenal (three), Manchester City (two) and Blackburn Rovers as the only champions.

Sometimes miracles do happen in sports and if you catch one, the payout can be significant. That, or you can keep searching for Elvis and the Loch Ness Monster.