The world of gambling has given stardom to many intriguing characters whose stories will leave you impressed. This article will explore the top nine most influential gamblers in history. Let’s get started!
The Top Nine Most Influential Gamblers in History
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There have been many famous gamblers in history, but the following are the nine most influential figures in the world of gambling:
Also known as one of history’s greatest gamblers, Archie Karas achieved fame for his astounding winning streak in Las Vegas, known as “The Run.”
Karas arrived in Las Vegas with just $50 in December 1992, and by early 1995, he had accumulated over $40 million through gambling.
Born on a Greek island in 1950, he left home at the age of 15, eventually finding his way to the USA, where he initially worked in bars.
After building a $2 million bankroll playing pool and poker, he suffered substantial losses, leaving him with just $50.
However, a $10,000 loan from a friend marked the beginning of his remarkable winning streak, which eventually came crashing down in 1996.
Nick “The Greek” Dandalos became famous for his roller-coaster journey in the world of gambling.
Born into wealth, Dandalos moved to the United States at the age of 18 and initially relied on his parents’ allowance. After winning $500,000 by betting on a horse race, he lost it all while gambling in Chicago. However, this was the starting of something new, as Dandalos started spending time perfecting his poker skills.
In 1949, he battled against Johnny Moss in an epic poker match, sparking the inspiration for the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Dandalos is estimated to have won and lost over $500 million in gambling.
Renowned as one of the greatest professional gamblers, Phil Ivey began his professional poker career at 20. He perfected his gambling skills by playing with his grandfather since the age of eight.
During Ivey’s teenage years, he earned the nickname “No Home Gerome” by playing in Atlantic City casinos with a fake ID.
In 2000, Ivey secured his first WSOP bracelet and later became the youngest player to win 10 WSOP bracelets at just 38. He amassed over $30 million in live earnings and an estimated $19 million in online poker winnings, making him one of the world’s wealthiest gamblers.
Legendary professional poker player Doyle Brunson was the most influential figure in poker, having enjoyed a 50-year career before retiring in 2018.
Brunson was the first to earn $1 million in poker tournaments and won 10 WSOP bracelets, a record matched by Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan. He clinched the WSOP main event in 1976 and 1977, one of only four players to do so.
Wild Bill Hickok
A renowned figure in the American Old West, Wild Bill Hickok became one of the era’s most prominent poker players and was among the inaugural inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.
Tragically, in 1876, while playing poker at a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, Hickok was fatally shot in the back of the head by a disgruntled gambler named Jack McCall.
According to the story, McCall had experienced heavy poker losses and felt insulted when Hickok paid for his breakfast, leading to the altercation. At the time of death, Hickok held two pairs of black aces and eights, which became known as the infamous “dead man’s hand.”
Phil Hellmuth, a prominent professional poker player, stands out as one of the most famous gamblers in history.
With a record-breaking 15 WSOP bracelets, Helmuth holds the most records in the poker world and records for the most WSOP cashes and final tables.
He’s also a prolific author and video instructor in the world of poker. Hellmuth’s total live earnings exceed $24 million, and he continues his professional poker career.
Billy Walters, one of the most renowned sports gamblers, boasts a 30-year winning streak, making him the most successful Las Vegas sports bettor.
Walters began gambling at the age of 9, losing his earnings in the 1955 World Series. His luck improved significantly in his late 30s when he won $3.8 million at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City using a biased roulette wheel.
However, sports betting defined his fame. Using computer analysis to predict outcomes, Walter made $3.5 million on Super Bowl XLIV and $2.2 million on a college football game.
His success led to legal trouble, with a conviction for insider trading in April 2017, resulting in a five-year prison sentence.
Considered to be one of the wealthiest gamblers in history, Bill Benter initially applied his mathematical expertise to blackjack in Las Vegas during the 1970s, mastering card counting techniques.
Benter channeled his mathematical skills into developing a highly successful computer software program for horse race analysis.
The advanced formula enabled him to make between $5 and $10 million in daily horse racing bets, resulting in an estimated annual income of $100 million. He’s estimated to have made over $1 billion in gambling.
Edward O. Thorp
Edward O. Thorp, a mathematics professor renowned as the Grandfather of Card Counting, revolutionized gambling history.
Specializing in probability, Thorp pioneered card counting with a program that calculated probabilities in blackjack. He tested his theory with a $10,000 bankroll and won $11,000 in a weekend at Reno, Las Vegas, and Tahoe casinos.
Using disguises like false beards and glasses in Las Vegas, Thorp became a blackjack celebrity with his card-counting strategy. Talking about strategies, don’t forget to read our guide on the best crash strategies to play and win.
In 1962, Thorp published “Beat the Dealer,” the original card counting guide, cementing his legacy as a famous gambler and author.
These 10 famous gamblers and their stories showcase the highs, lows, and unique strategies associated with wagering activities. Whether through sheer skill, luck, mathematical genius, or risk-taking, these individuals have left an indelible legacy in the world of gambling.