Five Most Famous Gamblers of All Time

Most Famous Gamblers of All Time


Gambling has been around since the dawn of time. However, it always gets referred to as a hobby, a form of entertainment. Most people consider it a leisure activity that exists to infuse their life with some thrills, give them a shot of adrenaline from time to time. Yet, a small portion of the population has made a career of betting on games of chance.

These individuals have managed to stay ahead of the system, to beat it. All casino-style gambling is luck-based because skill cannot tilt the odds so far in your favor that the game advantage transfers over to you from the house. It always will hold the edge

Despite this fact, some people have morphed this pastime into a profession, becoming successful gamblers in the long term.

The text that follows will seek to clear up what it takes to become a professional gambler, a career bettor, by answering the following questions:

  • What percentage of gamblers are successful?
  • How much do professional gamblers make?
  • What makes a successful gambler?
  • Who is the biggest gambler of all time?
  • Who is the richest gambler?

Key Takeaways On Professional Gamblers

So, what do the most successful gamblers in history have in common? Many will say that the traits that the best gamblers in the world share are:

  • Experience
  • Attention to detail
  • Consistency
  • Impulse control
  • Psychological steadiness

Gambling can be a nerve-racking activity, filled with emotional peaks and valleys. It is paramount that those that partake in it never lose their cool. That they always keep a level-headed approach, playing a long game. Knowing when to quit is as vital as seeing sizeable bet opportunities, even more so.

It is also essential to stick to one’s area of expertise. Not to deviate from a system by breaking established patterns or experimenting with new gaming options. Famous gamblers understand their strengths, and they play to them, maintaining a confident and positive attitude that consistency will yield results.

For a player to be profitable, his win percentage must be in the 55% to 58% range, which is extremely difficult. Most only win 30% of the time, per a Wall Street Journal article. That is why less than 1% of those that gamble regularly can make a career out of this activity. Realistically, some claim that this percentage is lower than 0.5%. 

According to the 1987 Supreme Court decision in the case Commissioner v. Groetzinger, for a person to be a professional gambler, they must engage in this activity as a full-time job, with their primary motive being to acquire profits.

It is hard to pinpoint an average regarding what pros make, but rough projections say that middle-tier casino gamblers earn up to $100,000 per year, while top-end pros may pull in high six figures. It is unknown how much those that gamble in trusted online casinos make. But it is likely lower than the mentioned numbers, as land-based venues attract high-rollers, while players with less money to risk prefer to stick to internet platforms.

Five Most Famous Gamblers of All Time

Regardless of what Hollywood movies show you, it is not simple to win money at casinos. Slots found on gaming floors in destinations like Las Vegas and Atlantic City get set to feature a return-to-player that can be as low as 75%. Online, this minimum percentage hovers around 92% to 96%. Still, when spinning reels, shooting dice or getting dealt hands at a blackjack table, it is always hard to come out ahead, as you are continuously at a disadvantage that stops you from consistently generating long-term gains. The five famous gamblers below are the exceptions that have filled their pockets while emptying those of multiple operators they have faced.

·        Edward Thorp – Edward Thorp is a hedge fund manager, a mathematician, a professor, and a blackjack gambler. He is best known for writing the book Beat the Dealer, which came out in 1962. In it, Thorp proved that players could overcome blackjack’s house edge by card counting. He figured this out in the 1950s by using the IBM 704 computer as a research tool to investigate the game’s winning probabilities. Thorp then tested out his theories at gaming locales in Las Vegas and Reno. In the 1980s, he got involved in computer-assisted roulette gambling via a device he co-developed, a practice that is now illegal.

·        Archie Karas – Archie Karas is a legendary figure in casino circles. His story of turning a $10,000 loan into $40 million in the mid-1990s is the stuff of legend. The same applies to his claims that he has wagered more money than anyone in history. Of course, that does not make him the best gambler of all time, only the most prolific. Nicknamed the Greek, Karas’ fall from grace came when he lost over $30 million in less than 48-hours at craps and baccarat tables. Due to marking cards, he has gotten a lifetime ban from all Nevada venues. Despite this, he still resides in Las Vegas.

·        Don Johnson – Donald Johnson is a corporate executive that took advantage of struggling Atlantic City casinos by negotiating blackjack rule changes that forced dealers to stay on soft seventeen and for him to get a 20% rebate on all losses over half a million dollars. With these stipulations in place, he netted over $15 million in profits at the Tropicana, the Borgata, and Caesars in Atlantic City. The first two immediately revoked Johnson’s blackjack privileges following his massive wins.

·        Stanford Wong – Stanford Wong is the second professor on our list. He holds a Ph.D. in finance from Stanford University, is the author of the book Professional Blackjack, and is the developer of the Blackjack Analyzer software, which calculates odds on twenty-one tables. Edward Thorp inspired Wong to get into card counting, hitting Nevada casinos as soon as he turned of gambling age. Wong regularly played blackjack at night while teaching finance courses at San Francisco State University during the day. He is also an avid craps player and wrote a book on the game called Wong on Dice.

·        Chris Moneymaker – Many top-end gaming establishments have dedicated poker rooms. That said, poker is not a casino game, as most territories consider it one of skill. That means that it requires separate regulation. Though, video poker is casino-style gaming. Expertise on such machines cannot tilt the odds in your favor. So, adding Chris Moneymaker, the first person to become a WSOP champion after qualifying online, to our list is a bit of a cheat. Still, his win revolutionized the internet poker sphere and made him a household name.

To Sum Up

Making a living by only playing games of chance or poker is incredibly difficult. The people featured in this article are either math wizards or ones that have been super lucky. It is never a good idea to stake substantial amounts on games with uncertain outcomes. 

If you wish to experience some of the thrills associated with gambling, the best course of action is playing at online casinos by making low-stake wagers. Making a career in the gambling world is a path that only a select few have walked and is not a viable choice for most, as it requires a distinct toolset.

About the Author

Shelly Schiff has been working in the gambling industry since 2009, mainly on the digital side of things, employed by Safest Betting Sites. However, over her eleven-year career, Shelly has provided content for many other top interactive gaming websites. She knows all there is to know about slots and has in-depth knowledge of the most popular table games. Her golden retriever Garry occupies most of her leisure time. Though, when she can, she loves reading Jim Thompson-like crime novels.