Gambling is a topic that can polarize opinions. For years it was seen as something shady, dangerous and even morally questionable – and in some areas of society, those views are still commonplace. However, the rise of web-based gambling opportunities has done much to change attitudes, and today, playing a casino game or perhaps placing a few dollars on your favorite sports team is more often seen as harmless fun – and fun of the sort that just might deliver a welcome financial reward.
Just occasionally, however, that reward can be more significant. There are some who have won – and lost – truly eye-watering sums over the years. The gamblers we are about to meet hit the big time in different ways. However, it is worth noting that one common factor is that none of them can thank the internet for their fortunes. It’s no surprise that none of these gamblers made their fortune gambling online. The reason being that it’s much harder to be consistent when gambling at an online casino – proof, if we needed it, that online gambling should always be for fun, and if we occasionally get a payout that will cover dinner and a few drinks, that is rewarding enough.
Here are the Top 10 Richest Gamblers:
1. Archie Karas
Born in Greece in 1950, Karas crossed the Atlantic working as a waiter on a ship and disembarked in Portland with only the cash in his pocket in search of the American Dream. He started his gambling career as a pool hustler, but it was when he switched to poker in the late 1980s that he really struck gold. He never wagered more than $50 at a time, but his two-and-a-half-year winning run between 1992 and 1995 is a record that might never be beaten. At one point, his winnings stood at an incredible $40 million, and even the top pros were reluctant to sit at the same table.
2. Haralabos Voulgaris
Another famous gambler of Greek origin, Voulgaris’ father was a dedicated sports bettor and taught his son all he knew from a young age. The pair spent their time in Vegas as soon as Voulgaris Jr graduated college, and soon the apprentice overtook the master. He seemed to have an almost supernatural ability to read a game, and would confidently bet $1m or more on game day. When he stepped away from gambling, his skills earned him a role with the Dallas Mavericks as Director of Quantitative Research and Development.
3. Patrik Antonius
Finland’s most famous poker player only took up the game on a whim, looking for some way to expend his competitive energy after a back injury forced him to abandon his dreams of playing tennis professionally. Playing first with friends and then against the increasingly challenging competition on the European Tour, his natural talent for the game soon became apparent, and he moved to Las Vegas to play professionally. His career earnings of $4m to date include the largest ever win in an online game – a cool $1.3m from a single hand.
4. Jonathan Duhamel
Duhamel is another household name on the pro poker circuit. He has three WSOP bracelets to his name and was the first Canadian to win the Main Event, claiming poker’s most coveted title by defeating John Racener in 2010. Today, his net worth is estimated at $32 million.
5. Doyle Brunsen
The word legend is thrown around casually in sporting circles, but if any poker pro deserves the sobriquet, it is surely Brunsen. He was a fixture on the circuit for more than 60 years, and when he finally retired in 2018, it was to a standing ovation from supporters and fellow players. He’s earned around $50m from playing poker and topped that up with at least another $10m by writing about it.
6. Howard Lederer
Another poker pro, Lederer was the man to beat around the turn of the millennium. After scooping two WSOP bracelets and winning two World Tour titles, Lederer was in on the ground floor when online poker was introduced, setting up one of the first online gaming sites with fellow professionals Ray Bitar and the next man on our list.
7. Chris Ferguson
Ferguson had a childhood fascination with card games and started playing poker at the tender age of 10. As soon as he was old enough to play for more than matchsticks, he was on the WSOP and winning consistently. Between card games, Ferguson found time to study at UCLA, where he was awarded a PhD in Computer Science. This put him in good stead for his online poker partnership with fellow players Howard Lederer and Ray Bitar.
8. Terry Ramsden
The UK’s most successful gambler, Ramsden accumulated a wealth of $200m through horse race betting. He’s also acquired billions on the stock exchange, and at one point, he owned a 30 percent share in the Chelsea soccer club. His life has included bankruptcy, deportation and even a prison sentence, and will surely be turned into a movie sooner or later.
9. Phil Ivey
Speaking of movies, here’s a poker pro who is already being immortalized on the silver screen thanks to his exploits with “baccarat queen” Kelly Sun. As well as taking the high stakes tables in Vegas for all they were worth, Ivey is also considered the greatest poker player of all time, having won 10 WSOP bracelets before his 38th birthday.
10. Billy Walters
Towering above all these names, though, Billy Walters is simply the most successful gambler ever. He’s spent 40 years gambling on sport, and in all that time has had only one losing year. At the height of his powers, Waters was winning $2m every day, and his current net worth is conservatively estimated at $200 million.