Some of the most famous gamblers had a drive and a willingness to risk in order to become successful personalities in the history of casinos. Presented below, you can find the story and efforts of an array of famous players that left their mark on the world of gambling.
The 37th President of the United States was a notably great poker player who learned how to play while stationed at Green Island with the military. During that stay, he amassed enough money to be able to fund his 1946 run for political office that earned him a seat as a Californian congressman.
Richard Nixon was raised as a dutiful Quaker, a denomination not known for its gambling skills. Despite this, a popular anecdote mentions that one of his fellow sailors of the U.S. Navy swore that he never saw Nixon lose a poker game.
Although his political career ended up with him being the first president in the history of the U.S. to resign, his excellent gambling puts him under a slightly more favorable limelight when it comes to gaming history.
With a physics degree and a mind made for mathematics, Bill Benter decided to make use of his talents to count cards at blackjack tables. After many years, he was banned from most of the casinos in Las Vegas and moved to Hong Kong; there, he and fellow gambler Alan Woods came up with a formula to help other players forecast the outcome of horse races.
One of his most prosperous endeavors was the development of the world’s first software-assisted gambling system in the horse racing market. It is said that Bill Benter can make between $5-$10 million during a race day, making him the wealthiest gambler in the world.
Philanthropy is another of his great facets, and he collaborates with charities and political groups by providing big donations to help their cause. He has also been the president of the Rotary Club of Hong Kong, established the Benter Foundation, and from time to time gives lectures to university students on statistics and mathematical probabilities.
An American mathematics professor and hedge fund manager, Edward Thorp is a famous blackjack researcher and author of Beat the Dealer, a book that proved how counting cards was a method that could overcome the house advantage in blackjack.
The development of this pioneering probability theory made him earn a good amount of money during the decades of the 60s and 70s, while also being successful at other casino games like roulette, backgammon, and baccarat.
His brilliant mathematical mind has been an asset for his prosperous financial and investment endeavors, with a remarkable 20% average return on them. Thorp also worked together with fellow mathematician and electrical engineer Claude Shannon in producing the first wearable computer.
Known for having won fifteen World Series of Poker bracelets and being an inductee of the WSOP Hall of Fame, Phil Hellmuth is magnificent at the table, but also inclined to throwing some noted temper tantrums.
Having won over $23 million in poker tournaments, he is one of the top 20 all-time money earners and has been at the final table in poker events more times than any other player. He is also known for filming some instructional poker videos and authoring several books on the matter. Despite his successful career, it is his public persona and controversial idiosyncrasy what has brought him to the spotlight.
When it comes to sports betting, Billy Walters is probably one of the most famous names in the field. At the early age of 9, he began gambling with the money he had accumulated while delivering papers, but by the age of 22, he had accumulated so much debt from his big losses. His luck changed in his mid to late 30s, when his betting career turned prosperous and he started working with millions of dollars every week, which gave him the ability to hire mathematicians and the top handicappers to help him achieve an edge over the bookmarkers.
Walters also got into blackjack, roulette, and poker, earning and losing millions of dollars, but his 30-year winning streak while betting on sports is what gave him the fame he holds today. He was a very knowledgeable bettor, conquering college football, the NFL, and basketball, and using proxies or “runners” so as not to disclose his identity. During the best years, he was able to earn over $50 million, his holding company being just as successful.
Doyle Brunson is the only gambler of this list that can top the fame of the aforementioned Phil Hellmuth. Also known as Texas Dolly, he became a player of the All-Star Texas basketball team, playing through college but losing a position in the NBA due to a knee injury. His beginnings happened, interestingly enough, playing illegal poker games that were organized by the mob on Exchange Street in Fort Worth, Texas. It was there where he met Amarillo Slim, with whom he moved to Las Vegas and started his licit poker career.
Although he is now retired, Brunson was one of the best poker players of his generation, winning the main affair of the World Series of Poker twice and obtaining ten WSOP bracelets. He has also made it into the Poker Hall of Fame and is an acclaimed author of books about poker. He was also the first person to win $1 million playing poker tournaments and Bluff Magazine named him the most prominent poker player. He decided to retire in 2018, after having played professionally for over fifty years, and currently resides in Las Vegas.
Also a Texas native, Amarillo Slim (born as Thomas Austin Preston Jr.) was a poker player that became good friends with Doyle Brunson and Puggy Pearson. He made most of his money while making very ambitious and chancy bets on the race track. This intelligence also took him to excel at pool and table tennis.
He won the 1972 World Series of Poker and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away in 2012, when he was 83.
Honoring his last name, Chris Moneymaker has an inspiring story. When he began gambling, he worked as an accountant with a side job at a restaurant, and he won a seat at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event after he started getting involved in the arena of online poker. He ended up winning that year’s tournament and became an instant superstar, earning $2.5 million. This phenomenon is referred to by the press as the “Moneymaker Effect” after having won his seat online.
Following his breakthrough, he became a spokesperson for Harrah’s Entertainment and PokerStars, and intelligently employed his earnings to create his own company, Moneymaker Gaming and started travelling in order to play in bigger buy-in competitions.
Originally from Greece, Archie Karas is a Greek-American gambler that arrived in Las Vegas in 1992 and turned the $50 of his pocket into millions in only two years. His key achievement was to play a diversity of high stakes games like blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and poker.
His career as a professional gambler came to a halt when he lost all of his money in 1995, and afterwards got caught up in a card making scandal that put him on probation for three years.
The statistics of Phil Ivey are hardly surpassed, as he is one of the most skillful poker players and one of the top earners. He holds ten World Series of Poker bracelets and multi-million wins gambling in numerous casino games. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of having employed edge sorting, a technique that helped him achieve an unrightful win, and the court decided in favor of the casinos involved in the case.
Despite this fiasco, he still holds the reputation as one of the best poker players of all time and is revered as such.
Quite possibly, Billy Walters can be regarded as the most triumphant professional gambler of our time, after making his money betting on sports in Las Vegas and having a lucky streak for over three decades. His network ascends to $100 million and retired to be a philanthropist and entrepreneur.
As of now, the title of richest gambler in the world is held by Bill Benter, who makes around $100 million per year on horse betting and has also become a widely known philanthropist.
Gambling can be a very lucrative business if done with perspicacity. There are many players that earn more than $1 million every year, although this takes a certain skill, perhaps even a natural talent, and a lot of hard work in order to thrive. The ability to practice and evolve has taken many of them to the hall of fame.
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