With fearless wagers, cunning strategies for success and a fair amount of luck on their side, the world’s wealthiest gamblers have amassed tremendous fortunes by playing the odds. Willing to risk it all for big wins, these high rollers win and lose spectacular amounts of money and chalk it up to just another Monday.
Who are these adventurous betting enthusiasts? How did they achieve such immense success and what was the impact on the gambling industry? From the legends forged in professional poker tournaments to mysterious moguls banned for simply being too good, here are the stories behind 10 of the richest and biggest gamblers in the world.
David Walsh: $200 Million
During his college years, David Walsh was fascinated by blackjack and card counting. His affinity for complex mathematics brought him much success in popular card games, but it also granted him the ability to create sophisticated software for horse racing predictions.
Walsh spent $11 million on lottery tickets once, landing the $60 million jackpot for a tidy profit. His intelligence has clearly served him well; he’s proven that he’s not afraid to stake vast sums of money, using his natural talent for numbers to see odds and probabilities that go unnoticed by most.
Dan Bilzerian: $200 Million
Some of the biggest gamblers in the world have lost more than they’ve won. Dan Bilzerian could certainly fit the bill if some rumors are to be believed, but the truth is that so little is known about his poker career that it’s impossible to pinpoint how successful he’s been.
Estimates put his career earnings around $200 million. If his social media posts are anything to go by, Bilzerian leads a lavish lifestyle filled with exotic beaches, wildlife safaris and pool parties. He only plays in private poker tournaments, where he says he can earn up to $50 million per night.
Billy Walters: $250 Million
Billy Walters is one of the most talented and richest sports gamblers, with over 30 years of experience and an astonishing win rate of 50–60%. Like many of the world’s best gamblers, he used a keen eye for analysis and probability to accumulate a growing net worth.
Aided by computer software, Walters was able to gain more accurate odds than those provided by sportsbooks. Basketball, NFL and college football were his go-to betting options. Sadly, he was found guilty of insider trading in 2017 and has stayed under the radar since his early release.
Zeljko Ranogajec: $435 Million
Nicknamed ‘The Joker,’ Zeljko Ranogajec made his millions playing casino blackjack. In fact, he was so adept at counting cards and making money against the house that major casinos in Las Vegas and Australia had no choice but to ban him from playing.
Ranogajec runs his own betting syndicate nowadays, mainly focused on horse racing. The syndicate places bets worth over $3 billion annually, essentially operating one of Australia’s biggest sports-betting networks.
Alan Woods: $500 million
Card counting is a running theme that’s beginning to develop and the pattern continues with Alan Woods. Another blackjack player who eventually crossed the line with casinos, Woods went from blackjack to horse racing to keep his gambling options open.
Shortly after setting up a betting syndicate in the Philippines, Woods was forced to flee the country when the legitimacy of his operation came into question. He now places bets and wins wagers from the comfort of home, playing online casino real money games with his substantial fortune.
Andrew Black: $670 million
Born in Belfast, North Ireland, Andrew Black is a professional poker player with an illustrious career spanning decades. He has competed in several major tournaments including the main event of the 2005 World Series of Poker, where his fifth-place finish earned him prize money of $1.75 million.
Black boasts career earnings of $5,139,690 altogether, making him one of the best gamblers in the world and demonstrating his ability to wield poker hands with extreme efficiency. Now a London-based entrepreneur and successful casino owner, Black co-founded the largest bet exchange in the world, which was listed on the London Stock Exchange with an estimated value of £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) back in 2010.
Edward Thorp: $800 million
Edward Thorp is a renowned author, mathematics professor and professional blackjack player. Credited as the founder of modern card-counting strategies, Thorp has inspired countless gamblers with his proven skill in games of blackjack and baccarat.
His book on how to beat the house edge, “Beat the Dealer,” has sold over one million copies since it was published in the ‘60s. Thorp has also turned his attention to the stock market, with a book titled “Beat the Market” that has achieved similar success.
Bill Benter: $1 billion
With a degree in physics and a fierce passion for betting, Bill Benter used his intelligence to make a fortune off of blackjack and horse racing. It took seven years for Las Vegas casinos to ban him, but by then he had made millions and switched to horse racing in Hong Kong instead.
Together with Alan Woods, Benter created an algorithm that could predict the results of horse races with astonishing accuracy. With tens of millions in profit per year, Benter appears to live a comfortable life giving lectures at universities and donating to charitable causes.
Tony Bloom: $1.5 billion
Despite his status as a man of mystery, there’s little doubt that Tony Bloom is one of the world’s best gamblers — if not the best gambler in the world. His cold-blooded poker style has earned him the nickname ‘The Lizard,’ but it’s his business acumen that sets him apart from the average poker player.
Bloom founded his own betting consultancy firm, Starlizard, believed to be one of the top betting firms in the world. The company focuses on wagers for soccer leagues worldwide. As talented as he is at poker, Bloom’s knack for entrepreneurial endeavors is by far his greatest asset.
Kerry Packer: $5 billion
The prime spot amongst the biggest gamblers in the world goes to Kerry Packer. He wasn’t the world’s best gambler when it comes to win rate, but the richest gambler in the world certainly knew how to take a loss and playing cautiously was never in his rulebook.
Packer is famous for his legendary losing streaks. He once lost around $40 million in casinos in London and Vegas, over a period of 10 months. But his exciting play style also led to incredible wins, like the time he won $20 million by playing several games of $250,000 blackjack simultaneously.
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