When it comes to luck at the card table, 29-year-old David Hayes has it, hands down.
By day, he’s a jewelry maker in Columbus, Ohio, earning a modest salary. By night, he’s Fortune’s favored son.
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His game: blackjack. His winning percentage: freakishly good. When he goes to casinos, he wins thousands.
«We’re talking five, six figures generally when I play,» Hayes said in an interview with «20/20» correspondent Deborah Roberts. «I walk out with ten or twenty [thousand].»
Even more frustrating for the casinos, he never cheats or counts cards, he said.
«It’s just pure luck,» he said.
«20/20» tested Hayes’ luck during a recent trip to New York.
After half an hour playing a mock blackjack game, Roberts was bust and Hayes was up $5,000.
In another quick test of his luck, Hayes bought two scratch-off lotto tickets. He won $10 on a $5 ticket.
Last October, Hayes visited Hollywood Casino Columbus with Nick, his gambling buddy (who asked that his last name not be used).
After a five-hour run of luck, Hayes was riding high.
«People were all around me cheering, seeing me bet their whole month’s salary in one thirty-second move,» Hayes said. «I had stacks of thousand-dollar chips…. I didn’t realize how much I had actually won until I cashed out.»
He’d won $35,800. Then his luck turned.
Hayes said that when he went to the cashier’s cage to claim his winnings, the cashier wouldn’t give him a check, which is customary for large winnings.
«That’s when I knew that something quite wasn’t right,» Hayes said. «I asked her three times about getting a check. … I was forced to take cash.»
The cashier put 358 hundred-dollar bills into a manila envelope, stapled it up the sides and wrote «EMPLOYEE FILE» on it, Hayes said.
Then something else struck him as odd.
«The management asked me, ‘Do you feel comfortable taking this much money home?'» Hayes said. Security video exclusively obtained by «20/20» shows a security guard approach and speak to him. «I said, No, but — I [didn’t] have a choice. But my brother’s home, and I’m sure he’s got his gun, so I’m not really worried.»
A security guard escorted Hayes to his car, and Hayes drove home nervously.
By 6 a.m., Hayes was home. His brother was not there.
«I took the money out, you know, just holding it, thinking, That’s my year’s salary right there.»
As he dozed off, three men entered the house through an unlocked back door and headed up the stairs.
«The next thing I know, I see people,» Hayes said. «All fully masked, [dressed] in black. Ski masks, gloves, everything. The only thing I could really see was around the eyes. One was a thinner white gentleman, one was kind of a well-built black gentleman, and he was the one with the gun.»
«It took a good three to four seconds to realize this isn’t a joke,» he continued. «I immediately saw the revolver, he took his other hand and pushed me back into the bed, put the gun to my head. And that’s when he started asking me about my brother, and that’s when I realized this is real.»
After ransacking the room, they took the brick of cash from the nightstand.
«I actually had to point it out to them, because they were getting pretty insistent on where the money was. I think they were actually looking for the envelope, ’cause they had probably seen me with the envelope.»
«They ran out, or at least I thought they did,» Hayes went on. «And then about maybe 15 to 20 seconds later … I feel the gun pressed up against my head again. He goes, ‘I’m still here.'»