Most dream about striking it lucky and walking away with the jackpot. Others argue that a successful gambler understands how luck has very little to do with becoming a wealthy punter.
So what do the wealthy and famous gamblers have in common, and how did they get to the top? As it is only a handful of people that make it to a level of astonishing wealth through gambling, there has to be a secret.
With seven being the industry’s lucky number, we take a look at the top 7 richest gamblers of all time and what they did to get the title and wealth. A hint we can give is that being skilled at numbers has a lot to do with it.
✓ Tony Bloom
Anthony (Tony) Bloom hails from the United Kingdom and he carries the nickname ‘The Lizard’. Worth approximately $1.7 billion, he owns a Premier League team and is a professional sports bettor, poker player, and owner of Starlizard, the UK’s largest betting consultancy. Add to his resume that he is the chair for Brighton & Hove Albion football club, and it becomes hard to imagine what this gambling superstar does not do.
Bloom’s love for going against odds started as a teen, where he crossed some lines with an illegal ID, but he studied mathematics at the University of Manchester. He worked as an accountant and then as a trader before he became a professional poker player. Since then, he took part in 11 WSOP tournaments, made it to the finals and they report he collected $1.5 million in winnings by 2008. Known as a ‘cold-blooded killer at the poker table’, peers gave him his nickname. Bloom moved into sports betting and owns a few horses as well, which have given him very successful runs.
Although Tony Bloom’s wealth comes from various sources, his gambling career gave him a head start and he once stated himself that he believes poker gives a person a good grounding for many things in life. Like how to observe a situation well and read people.
✓ Bill Benter
This professional gambler is one of the most famous punters because of how he gambles and how much he has made thanks to his system. Reports say that William “Bill” Benter is worth $1 billion, and he started his gambling career at blackjack tables in Sin City. Benter always believed there must be a way to crack the code concerning the casino’s advantage and with his brilliant maths aptitude, he attempted Edward O. Thorp’s card counting strategy.
After 7 years of winning some money, getting banned from Vegas casinos, and realising it is not as lucrative as he had hoped, Benter moved on to greener pastures. Horse racing became his new focus area, and he was hell-bent on making educated investments rather than gambling against odds. The mathematical genius teamed up with Alan Woods and they created a formula for predicting the outcome of horse races. Estimates are that Bill Benter can make around $5M to $10M on a single race day, thanks to his gambling software.
Bill has a physics degree and, apart from being known for his brilliant gambling strategy, he is also a generous man known for philanthropy and supporting political groups.
✓ Edward O. Thorp
It is little wonder that Edward Oakley Thorp is one of the most famous gamblers in history, as he got a PhD in mathematics and applied his genius to betting odds. The ‘Father of Card-Counting’ invented a formula most people have heard of while he was a university professor. They estimated his current worth at $800 million and naturally, his favourite game is blackjack, but Thorp also enjoys roulette, baccarat, and backgammon.
Edward O. Thorp wrote the first book on card counting, called ‘Beat the Dealer’. Here he explained how to tilt the house edge in your favour by tracking the ratio of high and low cards. Together with Claude Shannon, he invented the first wearable computer to take into casinos with his formulas for beating roulette and blackjack. They have since banned these, but the formula remains one of the favourite blackjack strategies. Thorp moved into financial markets and became a hedge fund manager, which is his principal source of income today, but he still loves his game of 21.
Edward is one of the original 7 gamblers to be honoured in the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
✓ Andrew Black
The co-founder of the first bet exchange, Betfair, Andrew Black, has many streams of income but is one of the wealthiest gamblers of all time. As a sports bettor by heart, he owns a few horses, but it is his gambling business that is his mainstream income. He has an estimated net worth of $500 million and the software he developed for making money on bets changed the gambling industry. He originally worked in derivatives, but as his success in gambling increased, he set his sights on bigger things.
Black is also an avid bridge player and his love of this game opened the door for Betfair. One of his favourite opponents in this game was Edward Wray, and this is where he presented his software design for a money-making betting business. Wray was all in and the two launched Betfair at the beginning of the Millenium. Since 2000, the sportsbook gained tremendous momentum, made it to the London Stock Exchange in 2010, and became one of the largest in the world.
✓ Alan Woods
He became a legendary Australian horse bettor and his estimated net worth is AUD670 million ($470 million) but the late Alan Woods wasn’t always on the up. In his family home, he grew up playing bridge and despite his mathematical brilliance, the University of New England expelled him for poor performance and lack of attendance. He started gambling during his university attendance, but it wasn’t until later that he discovered his blackjack skill and knack for picking the right nag.
Woods carried the nickname of ‘The Playboy Punter’ and after a failed marriage, he became a full-time gambler. This decision led him to Hong Kong and there he and Bill Benter discovered their formula for horse betting. Alan Woods went on to become a sports betting tycoon and created his betting network. The punter never left his apartment to place bets, as he had a team of bettors all over the world who bet on his behalf using his formula. He continued to live a life of luxury and did so from his home in Manila with all ‘The Girls’, a Philippine version of the Playboy Mansion.
✓ Zeljko Ranogajec
Zeljko Ranogajec is one of the most elusive gamblers and keeps a low profile, but in the gambling world, he bears the nickname of ‘The Joker’. He holds a record for winning the biggest keno prize worth $7,5 million, but we know him as a blackjack and sports betting enthusiast. Experts believe that Ranogajec’s net worth is around AUD610 million ($430 million) but they also speculate that his gambling turnover can be well over $1 billion annually. The Joker studied at the University of Tasmania and was born in Australia, although his parents are of Croatian origin.
He dropped out of university to become a professional gambler. However, he still holds a day job despite his wealth and successful gambling. Ranogajec had the same fate as Bill Benter as casinos banned him due to card counting and so he moved his focus to the sports betting scene. A strategy that Ranogajec admits to using is favourable discounts and rebates, a tactic that allowed him to buy an apartment in the most expensive development in the world. One of his betting partners and university friends, David Walsh, had an enormous influence on his betting strategies.
✓ David Walsh
From humble beginnings at the Australian University in Hobart and a well-known friend and gambling partner of Zeljko Ranogajec, David Walsh is a fascinating punter with a different take on betting. With an estimated net worth of $200 million, he utilises the wisdom of crowds and says talent has very little to do with his success. Walsh is also a mathematician, and he believes that when considering formulas designed to predict bets, one should incorporate psychology concepts too.
Nicknamed the Tasmanian Devil, Walsh partnered with Zeljko Ranogajec and set up a gambling company called Bank Roll. Through this, they both turned a fortune and had others doing their betting work for them, utilising their formulas and strategies. Some things this eccentric gambler did with his millions included opening the Mona museum, which he refers to as ‘adult Disneyland’ and transferring visitors to this venue in camouflaged ferries. In contrast to his betting partner, Walsh is very open about his gambling and life and makes a habit of sharing his wisdom.
✓ Honourable Mention: Don Johnson
Although Don Johnson did not reach the levels of the aforementioned seven punters, he did make waves in the betting community for his approach. We think he deserves a spot on this list because would-be professional punters can learn from the man who broke Atlantic City. Johnson made a small fortune in a very short period in blackjack and he did this without counting cards!
During 2011 and 2012, the clever businessman used his negotiating skills and persuaded the pit boss to apply the blackjack rule of lower house advantage and a loss rebate. In his winning streak, Johnson banked $15 million thanks to what we now know as a ‘positive expectation bet’.