Everyone knows really big winners can turn into even bigger losers in a matter of seconds. After a wild rollercoaster of spasmodic winning and losing, high-rollers go home either thousands of dollars richer or without a single penny in their pockets. Some rely purely on luck, some on skill and others even set out to beat the system in any way possible—cheating not necessarily excluded. Here’s our list of top 5 gods of casino gambling, people who had all or nothing at one point or other, and how they got there.
1. Dan Bilzerian
There have been numerous fearless betting whales since the dawn of gambling. Right now, Dan Bilzerian has to be one of the most famous names in the gambling world… and on the Internet—mostly for his bad boy persona. Surely you’ve seen Bilzerian on Instagram before; you’ll recognize him by his surroundings which usually include scantily clad ladies, pools and copious amounts of booze.
Dan Bilzerian maintains betting on everything in life is an essential condition.
Dan Bilzerian became widely well-known in 2009 when he played in the World Series of Poker main event and finished 180th with $36,626 in his pocket. The money itself didn’t change his life, considering his already sizeable family wealth, but it did get him to the casino gambling greats. Overall Bilzerian, who says betting on everything in life is an essential condition, claims to have won more than $50 million playing poker. The price of the fast life is apparently several heart attacks before the age of 30.
2. Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Like we said, some gamblers made the name for themselves in the gambling world by being the best cheaters they could be. Tommy Glenn Carmichael is one of them. As an owner of a TV repair shop back in the 80’s, he started out by creating devices designed to cheat slot machines out of their own money. As Carmichael used to say: “Give me a slot machine and I’ll beat it.”
Tommy Glenn Carmichael says Nevada can’t stand the thought of him righting a wrong and making money off it.
Carmichael’s cheating artillery included coins on strings and light wands that controlled the sensors of the newer electronic slots. Selling this tool to other striving cheaters earned him more than $10,000 per day. Tommy got caught several times, ultimately teaming up with the Nevada Gaming Commission to develop anti-cheating devices. Banned from gambling in Nevada for life, Tommy said: “They cannot stand the thought of me righting a wrong and possibly making a little money off it.”
3. Louis Colavecchio
Speaking of great cheats, here’s another one for you—Louis Colavecchio. Nicknamed ‘The Coin’ for a reason, Colavecchio ran one of the most successful coin counterfeiting operations. Having initially forged poker and blackjack tokens with ease, he moved onto counterfeiting slot coins, realizing there was more money in the slot coin business.
Experts sat for days looking at Louis Colavecchio’s forged tokens not being able to tell the difference from the originals.
Colavecchio would steal unique casino tokens and create forgeries. However, he didn’t just make imitations; he managed to craft the exact same replicas that even the most skilled experts couldn’t tell apart from the originals. It has been estimated that Colavecchio managed to steal approximately $500,000 before he finally caught the Feds’ attention.
4. Ron Harris
There’s another notorious cheat that had to make the list, because—how can we not include a Vegas gambler who got blacklisted in casinos all over the world? The man in question, Ron Harris, used to be a computer programmer whose job was to find bugs in software installed on computerized casino games. However, he soon realized there was an even more lucrative side to his work; instead of fixing bugs, Ron decided to tweak the machines to his benefit.
Ron Harris rigged a game of keno, which resulted in the biggest win Bally's Atlantic City Casino Hotel had ever seen.
Namely, when a specific number of coins was inserted, the rigged machines would pay out huge jackpots. Furthermore, he devised a program that predicted which numbers would be selected through Random Number Generator and applied it to keno games. When Harris and his partner in crime, Reid McNeal, won the highest amount on a keno game in a hotel in Atlantic City and showed no emotion—you’d be ecstatic, wouldn’t you?—they raised suspicion, got arrested and spent years in prison.
5. Archie Karas
Let’s end the list with the stuff of legends. Meet Archie Karas, born Anargyros Karabourniotis, who made a fortune out of nothing. The most famous story surrounding Archie Karas dates back to 1992 when he lost all but $50. In the two years that followed he managed to turn that measly $50 into more than $40 million. Those two years are now known as ‘The Run’.
During ‘The Run’ Archie Karas managed to turn $50 into a fortune of over $40 million.
During ‘The Run’, Karas came face to face with some of the other gods of gambling, like Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar and beat them all. Unfortunately, the winning streak came to an end and Karas managed to lose everything over the course of two years. His run may have been over, but his name had already been written in the stars.
That concludes our list of 5 gods of gambling. Would your list look different? Do you know any online casino greats, gamblers who excel at online slots, poker, blackjack or online gambling overall? If you do, make sure you share your knowledge with us in the AskGamblers forum—we’re eagerly expecting you!