The World’s Richest Gamblers – Who Made it to the Top?
Who said you can’t become a millionaire by counting cards and following precise strategies when making bets? History has its fair share of players who have managed to achieve astounding heights by doing what they do best: playing their favorite casino games. Other types of gambling have managed to bring about the big bucks, too, with some of the people listed here having reached massive success thanks to horse races, for example.
But without further ado, let us reveal to you some of the most exciting minds who have bent the word of gambling to their will. We’ve listed them in an ascending order by their current net worth, so stick around until the end to find out who’s the richest of them all!
10. Don Johnson – The Fear of Atlantic City
Don Johnson is a professional blackjack player and passionate gambler, who once almost took several Atlantic City casinos for all they were worth. Namely, won $5 million in a single night at the Borgata casino, after which he took the Caesars for roughly $4 million. And then shortly after, Johnson won close to $6 million, also in just one night, at the Tropicana casino – a month’s worth of revenue!
And interestingly enough, out of the three casino hit the hardest by Don Johnson, only Caesars actually banned him from returning. The rest simply restricted his limits, as at one point the man was wagering a whopping $100,000 per hand, playing one hand approximately every minute for 12 hours straight. Here’s the more detailed description of how it all went down, but the bottom line is that Don Johnson made in excess of $15 million playing blackjack. Not a bad career switch, considering he was once a corporate executive.
9. Chris Moneymaker of the “Moneymaker Effect”
Chris Moneymaker made headlines back in 2003 when he won the World Series of Poker. And not only did he do that, Chris was the first ever person to win that tournament by qualifying for it form an online poker site. Furthermore, qualifying at an online gambling site was even referred to by his name as the “Moneymaker Effect.”
And if you think he adopted the name after winning the WSOP, think again. The player’s ancestors actually made gold and silver coins by trade, so one could say that the major win was fated. Moneymaker’s net worth is estimated to be around $16 million, most of which was won playing live poker tournaments, which he still does to this day.
8. Patrick Antonius – the Cold-Blooded Killer
Another master poker player, Patrick Antonius has one of those epic poker faces you can never forget. His emotionless expression has gained him the title of “cold-blooded killer”, which fellow players have referred to him as over the years.
So it’s not difficult to guess that Antonius is a professional poker player. The Finnish gambler played his first ever live poker tournament in Helsinki’s only casino at the time – and won! And at that point Patrick Antonius knew what he was going to do for a living. Or better said – a killing. His biggest win was at the Super High Roller Bowl China NL Hold’em tournament of over $3 million, adding to his total net worth today of only a little bit short of $25 million.
7. Chris Ferguson – “Jesus” of Full Tilt
Chris Ferguson has become somewhat of a celebrity after winning not one, but six World Series of Poker events. He also has a highly recognizable appearance, which is one of the reasons he has been nicknamed “Jesus”. But it’s not just because of the long hair.
Ferguson has had his fair share of losses, just as the overwhelming majority of gamblers out there. But he has been among the very few lucky enough to have come out at the very top. And aside from being a skillful gambler, one of the other things that has helped put him among the top 5 richest poker players in the world is his talent for developing computer software. His is what became one of the world’s largest poker playing platforms – Full Tilt.
Of course, there was a major scandal involving a lawsuit after the US government put an end to all poker sites, but even that didn’t stop Chris Ferguson from accumulating a net worth of some $80 million.
6. Phil Ivey – Caught Stacking the Odds
Phil Ivey is without doubt one of the most successful poker players in history. In fact, he has even been called the “Tiger Woods of poker”, so that’s saying something already. And, ironically, he too had ties to Full Tilt Poker. In fact, the pro player even had a contract that he wanted out of, but decided not to take Full Tilt to court after all.
And as is common with prominent figures, scandal usually tends to follow them around. Thus, one of the major stories Phil Ivey was involved in had to do with Atlantic City’s Borgata casino (remember where we’ve heard that name before?), which he took for $10 million. However, it wasn’t in poker.
Ivey played baccarat with an associate of his, and together they adjusted the odds in their favor, which resulted in the massive wins. However, a court ruling had Ivey pay back the winnings to the casino, even though he and his associate were not found guilty of cheating. It’s a very interesting case you can read more about here. But in the end, it didn’t do much to hurt the pro poker player’s net worth, which today is estimated to be $100 million.
5. Billy Walters – Gambler Turned Criminal
It’s an undeniable temptation to want to cross over to the “dark side” of gambling, especially when you’re playing in the top leagues. And that appears to be what happened to high profile sports bettor Billy Walters, whose net worth is said to be around $200 million, however, estimates tend to lean more towards $500 million, according to some sources.
Walters made his fortune betting mainly on football and basketball, and as he himself had stated, he never had a losing year. And there turned out to be a very solid reason for that, too. Namely, Billy Walters had been relying on insider information for his unbelievable lucky streak. And this led to the legendary sports bettor’s conviction, and subsequent prison sentence of 5 years. In addition, Walters was fined $10 million. But currently the 73-year-old is expecting an early release.
4. Zeljko Ranogajec – the Horse Whisperer
Zeljko Ranogajec is an Australian professional advantage gambler, who made his fortune thanks to the combination of his mathematical skills, impressive memory and overall cleverness. A solid student with great prospects, Zeljko dropped out of college once it became clear that his path as a gambler would lead him to jaw-dropping success.
Horse racing turned out to be Zeljko Ranogajec’s forte and he developed a revolutionary strategy that allowed him to build his fortune of around $500 million, although some speculate that’s actually way beyond that. Over time Zeljko created an entire empire around his betting career, allegedly employing some 300 analysts, bettors and administrators to get hold of betting information.
But starting out, Zeljko also demonstrated enviable card counting abilities when playing blackjack, which even led to him being banned from several casinos. It was those bans, actually, that caused him to focus on horse betting instead. And as a result, today we know him as one of the most successful and admirable gamblers in the world.
3. Alan Woods – Software Genius
Zeljko Ranogajec may have built his entire fortune on horse racing and he may have even come up with an intricate network of helpers to aid his bets. But the real godfather of horse racing is reckoned to be Alan Woods. Another professional gambler from Australia, Woods went down another path, whilst still keeping horse racing as his main focus.
Namely, the gambler created specialized horse racing software together with another legendary name in the gambling world mentioned in this list – Bill Benter. The software was so sophisticated, it could foretell the outcome of any race based on data such as the weather and the track. Aside from that, Woods was also a skilled card counter, which appears to be something all the very best gamblers have in common.
2. Edward Thorp – Card Counting Guru
Everyone knows that gambling and math tend to go hand in hand. So chances are, if you are extraordinarily gifted at mathematics, you might also have a knack for wagering. And such is definitely the case with Edward Thorp. He’s not simply good at math, he’s a mathematics professor. And in addition to that he’s also many other things, such as a hedge fund manager, author of a New York Times bestseller, to name a few.
But the reason he’s on this list is because Edward Thorp proved that the house edge in blackjack can be beaten by card counting. And to prove his theories, of course, he tested them. At casinos. And enjoyed win, after win, after win. So that, together with his phenomenal ability to predict stock market movements earned him an eye-watering total worth of roughly $800 million.
1. Bill Benter – Undisputed Gambling Champion
No list of most successful or richest gamblers would ever be complete without the mention of Bill Benter. Furthermore, unless Benter is at the top of that list – we wouldn’t even consider reading it. (This is a countdown, so technically he’s at the top of ours, too.)
Although he may not have earned a PhD for it, but it’s pretty obvious that Bill Benter is nothing short of a mathematical genius. And just like all three of the other gamblers leading up to this entry, he too was a very skilled card counter. In fact, Benter had honed the skill to the point where it became an art. And he used it take casinos for everything they were worth at their blackjack tables, until eventually he was banned from all of them.
But that didn’t stop him. So what Bill Benter did was simply move from the United States to Hong Kong, where together with Alan Woods they created the aforementioned horse racing software. And thanks to that software, Benter today gets to pocket an estimated $100 million every year, making him thus far the only billionaire gambler.
Clearly gambling isn’t entirely all about losing money as a way to pay for the thrill that it brings us. There are enough people out there who have managed to “ride the tide” of this kind of activity and build entire careers on it. And as we’ve seen, quite a few of them have risen to fame and fortune thanks to their skills and talent.