While most people argue that all casino games are based on pure luck, there are some experienced players with a professional career made out of gambling. These gambling experts hold to the belief that winning at land-based or online casinos involves a lot of gaming experience and knowledge. So, before we reveal more details about each of them, here is a list of the richest gamblers in the world:
- Bill Benter
- Tony Bloom
- Edward Thorp
- Andrew Black
- Zeljko Ranogajec
- Billy Walters
- Terry Ramsden
- Phil Ivey
- Chris Ferguson
- Doyle Brunson
- Howard Lederer
- Jonathan Duhamel
- Patrik Antonius
- Haralabos Voulgaris
- Archie Karas
We've taken a look back through the years and, in honour of these masterminds, we’ve put together a list of 15 wealthiest gamblers of all times. Most of these bettors started as simple players and later improved their skills and strategies, winning more money to the point they became the top gamblers in the world.
Now let’s find out more about these famous professional gamblers, shall we?
Richest Gamblers in the World
Net Worth: $100 million annually
Famous for playing: Blackjack, horse racing
A mathematics genius, Bill Benter studied physics at the university and, after getting his degree, he decided to use his knowledge to count cards at blackjack tables. In fact, he has improved his methods with the little help of Edward Thorp’s book.
After 7 years of bringing the house down, Benter ended up being banned from most of Las Vegas casinos and moved to Hong Kong. While living in Asia, together with Alan Woods he created a formula that later helped gamblers predict the outcome of horse races.
More notably, he helped in the creation of the world’s first software-assisted gambling operation which is identified as one of the most successful ones. The rumour has it that Bill Benter makes $100 million annually, often raking in $5-$10 million in a single race day which makes him the richest gambler in the world.
And, apart from being one of the most famous professional gamblers, he’s also known as a philanthropist and a big donor to charity and political groups.
Net Worth: Estimated combined net worth - up to $1.7bn
Famous for playing: Sports Betting and poker
Anthony (Tony) Bloom is a poker legend and a football club chairman. He is the owner of the UK's biggest gambling consultancy syndicate Starlizard, a company that is believed to make hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
The company’s workers use complex methodologies, as well as their understanding of the game, to make football odds that are even more precise than the ones offered by bookmakers. These odds are then sold to certain punters so they can beat the market and generate long-term winning returns.
In 2009, Bloom took control of Brighton & Hove Albion football club and oversaw promotion into the Premier League in 2017. It is believed he has invested over £200 million into Brighton, while also giving a £93 million in 2011, so the club could move into a modern stadium with a bigger capacity.
Bloom started gambling as a child, as he used his pocket money to spin the reels of the fruit machines which continued on to his teenage years. He even used a fake ID in order to place a few bets at the meagre when he was 15. After working as an accountant, and later as a trader, he decided he wanted to become a professional sports bettor and enter the circle of rich gamblers.
Net Worth: $800 million
Famous for playing: Blackjack, Baccarat
As a mathematics professor with a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate degree in mathematics, Thorp had above-average intellect. Known as “the father of card counting”, Edward Thorp invented the original system and later used it in real-world situations.
What’s more, he is the author of the book: “Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One” which detailed his card counting as well as his revolutionary point system that has been successfully used by card players all over the world. He was the first player to use a computer simulation to develop his blackjack strategies, and later invented card-counting methods that very much helped improve players’ odds.
Thorp studied blackjack in a systematic method and thoroughly examined every part of it. He became the attraction for casino bosses when he began winning the insane amounts of money filling his pockets with cash. Eventually, Thorp applied his intelligence to the stock market and made a fortune in securities and hedge funds.
Net Worth: $670 million
Famous for playing: Horse racing and bridge
A British entrepreneur Andrew Black is a keen racehorse owner and professional bridge player. He co-founded Betfair, the world's first and largest bet exchange.
When he was young, Black worked in a derivatives business but was becoming more and more successful as a gambler, eventually earning enough money in winnings to give up work and focus on gambling as a full-time activity for a while. As gambling didn’t provide him with sufficient financial support, he made a decision to set up a software business. At that time, he occasionally played bridge with Wray and showed him a prototype he had programmed which caught Wray’s attention and prospered in securing Wray's interest and investment.
The two of them launched Betfair in 2000. In 2010, Betfair was listed on the London Stock Exchange at a share price of £13 (which valued it at £1.4bn), making Black’s 15% share worth about £200m.
Net Worth: $600 million AU
Famous for playing: Blackjack, horse racing, keno, sports betting
Known around the globe as “The Joker”, and one of the richest gamblers in the world, Zeljko Ranogajec is a master mathematician who studied banking, finance, and tax laws. He is a famous Australian businessman and professional gambler with an estimated annual betting turnover claimed to be over $1 billion. Although he enjoyed playing various types of gambling, Ranogajec mastered blackjack card counting and started making profits while placing bets at casinos in Australia. Holding a record for winning $7.5 million on keno, he's known as the one of the world's richest gamblers.
According to the Daily Mail, Ranogajec studied Commerce and Law at the University of Tasmania in the 1980s, when he partnered up with a talented mathematician, David Walsh, to cash in at the casino. Although horse racing is Ranogajec's main focus, sports betting is also an area of interest. In spite of outlying almost $3 billion on gambling every year, this middle-aged man tries to keep his life private.
Net Worth: $200 million
Famous for playing: Sports betting
William Billy Walters, whose net worth is estimated to be $200 million, makes about $15 million a year and has once made $2 million in a single day. What’s interesting is that he is a high roller gambler, making bets as high as $3,5 million. (If you're not familiar with the term high roller, we suggest you visit our comprehensive guide to essential gambling terms for more info.)
For almost 40 years, Walters has faced only one losing year with a 30-year winning streak. Due to his reputation, and being one of the most famous gamblers in history, Walters often used other people (including famous actors) to place bets on his behalf.
In 2017, he lost his biggest gamble when he was found guilty of insider trading after using non-public information from Thomas C. Davis, a board member of Dean Foods. Walters even faced some jail time, but the case is currently being appealed.
Net Worth: $200 million
Famous for playing: Horse racing
Terry Ramsden is an English investor and gambler famous for his knowledge of horse betting and the Japanese stock market. In 1984, he purchased Glen International, an Edinburgh-based company which had a small annual turnover of £18,000 and, within three years, he had increased its income to £3.5 billion annually, throwing him on the top of the UK’s rich lists. Apart from being described as the most successful gambler owning expensive cars, properties and racehorses, at one time Ramsden owned 30% of Chelsea football club and all of Walsall FC.
In 1991, he was arrested in the USA and did a 6-month jail time while awaiting deportation to the UK. His debt grew up to £100 million and Ramsden declared bankruptcy in 1992. A year later he pleaded guilty and received a two-year suspended sentence. After it was revealed that Ramsden broke the Insolvency Act in 1997 and was hiding £300,000 worth of assets, he was sentenced to 21 months in prison but served 10. He was also forced to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs.
Net Worth: $100 million
Famous for playing: Poker
Sometimes being referred to as “the Tiger Woods of poker”, Phil Ivey is famous for making his fortune playing the game. With his net worth of over $100 million, he is one of the most famous gamblers of our time. At age 38, Phil Ivey became the youngest player to win 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, one World Poker Tour title, and appeared at nine World Poker Tour final tables.
With more than $15 million won in live tournament earnings, Phil Ivey was considered to be poker’s GOAT, and on top of the poker world with the greatest poker face known to the game.
His ex-wife Luciaetta got millions of dollars in 2009, as a divorce settlement, receiving millions of dollars. According to multiple resources, she got a purse collection valued at more than $1.2 million, jewellery worth around $1 million, $180,000 in monthly alimony payments, half of the proceeds after their home sale, and 40 percent of all business interests.
Net Worth: $80 million
Famous for playing: Poker
After winning six World Series of Poker events, as well as the 2000 WSOP Main Event and the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Chris Ferguson entered the circle of the best professional poker players in the USA, and the entire world. Interestingly, Ferguson was only ten years old when he began playing online, so he went down in the history of online gambling as one of the youngest players.
When he grew up, Ferguson got his PhD in computer science from UCLA and ended up founding a Full Tilt Poker. When Ferguson's company's profit was reaching great heights, Full Tilt Poker's Alderney license got suspended, as it turned out the owners - Ferguson, Howard Lederer, and Rafe Furst - were taking out customers’ money for personal reasons.
The case was dismissed in 2013 when Ferguson reached a settlement with the Department of Justice in 2013, agreeing to pay back a part of the funds owed to players. Today, Ferguson’s current net worth is estimated to be around $80 million.
Net Worth: $75 million
Famous for playing: Poker
Doyle Brunson is a veteran American poker pro, who played for over 50 years. Not only did he play poker professionally, but he was also a two-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion, a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, and is the author of several books about poker.
According to the Hendon Mob, Brunson has won more than $6 million, but he has earned much more while playing at high-stake poker tournaments. In fact, Brunson was the first player to earn $1 million in poker tournaments, plus he won ten WSOP bracelets throughout his career.
In 2008, he announced that he was retiring from tournament poker and, during that summer, he entered the $10,000 2-7 Single Draw at the 2018 WSOP and came in sixth place, earning almost $44 million.
Net Worth: $60 million
Famous for playing: Poker
Howard Lederer is an American professional poker player who has won two World Series of Poker Bracelets and two World Poker Tours. Altogether, Lederer had eight final table appearances at the World Series of Poker before earning his first bracelet in 2000 and his second in 2001.
Together with Chris Ferguson and Ray Bitar, he founded the company that created the Full Tilt Poker online gambling site. Lederer was accused of fraud in 2011 but managed to settle with the government a year later, losing more than $2.5 million in assets although not admitting to any charges.
As a teenager, Lederer played chess and eventually left Columbia University to move to New York to pursue a poker career. That’s when he started mentoring his sister in the game. He also appeared on "Poker After Dark" many times as well as did video commentary for other competitions. In addition, Lederer contributed to several books on poker strategy, provided commentary for poker programming, and was on the board of the Poker Players Alliance for 5 years.
Net Worth: $32 million
Famous for playing: Poker
Winning 3 WSOP bracelets in his career, Jonathan Duhamel is best known as the winner of the Main Event at the 2010 World Series of Poker. Jonathan Duhamel net worth is estimated to be $32 million.
What’s interesting about Duhamel is that he defeated John Racener heads-up which is when he won the 2010 Main Event title, earning $8,944,310. In doing so he became the first Canadian player to take the Main Event bracelet. Since Duhamel is a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens, he decided to donate $100,000 of his winnings to the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation, which happens to be the largest individual donation ever made to the organization thus far.
Net Worth: $4 million
Famous for playing: Poker
Born in Helsinki, Finland, Patrik Antonius always wanted to become a professional tennis player but had to quit, due to his back injury. Out of curiosity, when he was 18, he began playing poker at a local casino where he discovered his talent for poker. Since he enjoyed playing card games with friends, Antonius started entering big poker tournaments at one point and ended up participating in the European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour. As he progressed to playing online poker, Antonius decided to relocate to Las Vegas to focus solely on the game.
By 2016, Antonius made over $17million playing poker online, scoring the biggest win in online poker history in 2009, having won a hand worth over $1,3 million. So far, Patrik Antonius is Finland’s top money-maker with total career earnings exceeding $4 million.
Net Worth: $500,000-$2 million
Famous for playing: NBA Sports betting
Haralabos Voulgaris, also known as Bob, has a reputation of being one of the most accomplished and the most prolific NBA sports bettors in the world. As Bob’s father was a passionate gambler, it explains why Haralabos Voulgaris showed so much interest in the betting world. After graduating from high school, the two of them went together on a trip to Las Vegas where Haralabos spent most of his time in the sportsbook watching NBA games and mastering his skills.
Years later, some sources say he put all of his life's savings on one bet: the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to win the 2000 NBA Championship. For several consecutive years, he was making an irrational amount of money as he was able to read coaches and predict their every move. It resulted in him risking over $1m on any given day of NBA matches. Being a successful bettor, he even tried his luck playing poker and managed to finish as fourth in the 2017 World Series of Poker’s Big One, with live winnings reaching $3 million.
In 2018, he became Director of Quantitative Research and Development for the Dallas Mavericks.
Net Worth: Got close to $40 million, but lost it all
Famous for playing: Pool, poker
An American of Greek origin, Archie Karas is another high roller on our list. He spent years in poverty which made him believe he had nothing to lose, so he approached betting bravely. At first, he started earning from the pool and later from playing poker.
From 1992 to 1995, Karas earned more than $40 million, making the longest winning streak in history with only $50 wager. What’s more, he managed to make an unbelievable turnaround when he strived to turn $10,000 into $17 million just a few couples of months and succeeded. At one point, he was so good that nobody was ready to play against him.
Although he almost went bankrupt in 1995, Karas remained popular and well-respected among players.
But his gambling journey did not end well as he was arrested for cheating in San Diego, in 2013, for marking cards. He received three years of probation and served 73 days in jail.
Notable Historical Mention
If we travel through the history of gambling, it would be impossible not to mention these names -
Charles Wells - The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
Born in London, UK, in 1841, Charles De Ville Wells was an English gambler and fraudster who was famous for his series of successful gambles. In 1891 he broke the bank at Monte Carlo when he won 1 million francs at the roulette table. Ironically, Wells was celebrated by the song "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo". Afterwards, he was often referred to, especially by the press, as "Monte Carlo Wells."
Alan Woods was a genius who used his mathematical skills to become one of the most advantageous players and the richest gamblers of the twentieth century. With a strong focus on blackjack and betting on horse racing, Woods was an Australian and Hong Kong professional gambler who managed to become one of the biggest gamblers in the world.
Amarillo Slim (Thomas Austin Preston Jr.) was an American professional gambler best known for his poker skills and proposal bets. After winning the 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event, Slim was welcomed into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992. While some consider him to be an extraordinary gambler, poker ambassador, and a living legend, others feel he was a hustler, a criminal, and a cheat, especially after he was accused of child molestation. Although felony charges were dropped, he was fined $4,000, given 2 years probation, and ordered to take counselling.
Who is the richest gambler in the world?
Currently, the richest gambler in the world is Bill Benter, who is believed to be making around $100 million every year. Being a maths professor, Benter started using his knowledge for gambling purposes and after years of playing (and winning), he began visiting Las Vegas and playing blackjack at the casinos, using card counting.
Who is the most successful gambler?
American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and retired professional gambler, William T. Walters (Billy Walters) is one of the most successful sports bettors in Las Vegas. His winning streak extended for over 30 years.
Do professional gamblers pay taxes?
Yes, professional gamblers must pay taxes. Anyone who earns money through full-time or part-time gambling, off-line or online, and makes a living from playing games is obligated to pay taxes on their winnings.
Looking for more gambling insight? Go to the AskGamblers Podcast on Spotify for a range of interesting topics.