Poker and blackjack may be the most famous card games boasting celebrity casino players of their own, but there are other games that have made millionaires of its players and some players have won big in all major games. Some of the following names are famous today or from the past that have betted big, won big, lost big or became names for other reasons.
LoRiggio is considered the world’s best craps player – a simple dice game played in many casinos all around the world – as he developed something called “controlled shooting”. It is a method of holding the dice in a certain way, throwing them with a specific technique so that they land gently against the back wall. Some people feel that it is impossible to control the landing of dice in this way but LoRiggio (nicknamed The Dominator) insists his success at the game is down to finely tuning this technique.
An electronics expert, Taft developed a computer system to help him win many thousands of dollars through blackjack and other games. He spent most of his life developing techniques and technology after theorising that the game was mathematically predictable and therefore, easy to win once a correct formula was calculated. What he did was not illegal at the time, but it is now, meaning others could not get rich using his methods.
Arguably history’s most famous professional casino player, he started out as a World Series of Poker winner in 1978 (the youngest in the history of the game at the time) but his career did not end there. He eventually gave up on playing games professionally and moved to the other side of the table to manage casinos – beginning in the early 1980s when he began consulting for some of Vegas’ biggest organisations.
The Greek born gambler is famous for the longest winning streak in casino games in the history of gambling (called The Streak). Karas started out with just $50 in in 1992 that, after an eye-opening series of victories at poker and other games, turned that into $40 million in just three years. Unfortunately, he lost all of the money within just one year and is believed to be have spent more money on gambling than any other person on the planet.
Kashiwagi is the biggest winner of the game of baccarat. Unfortunately, he is also baccarat’s biggest loser in terms of money lost. In life, he earnt the name “The Warrior” due to the large amounts of money he put up for stake – typically between $100,000 and $200,000. Professionally, he was a Realtor but was incredibly secretive about it. However much money he made and whether it came from the business or from his gambling is still up for debate. He was murdered in 1992 owing millions of dollars to American casinos.
“Nick The Greek” Dandalos
Like so many others on this list, he lost almost as often as he won. In his native Crete, he won around $500,000 on horse races, then moved to the US to try his luck in the casinos where he lost it all. Not to be put off by a losing streak, he worked hard to become a master of these games so he could turn around his fortunes. They did for a while but towards the end of his life, he was seen in small casinos playing for $5 a hand. It was the thrill he enjoyed and played even when he had no money left.
Harold S. Smith, Sr.
Famous for big wins on roulette wheels, he played many other games in his life-long career. Like other players from the golden age of professional gambling, he betted big and wasn’t scared to offer up everything he had for a bet. He even once betted a casino owner to put up the casino as his stake – naturally, the owner refused. He believed he had ESP that helped some of his biggest wins and said that players should use these skills and be confident in their playing.
His real names was Alvin Clarence Thomas but he earnt the “Titanic” nickname because he “sank everybody”. He did not limit himself in terms of what he played or what he was prepared to place a bet on. He was a keen golfer, card player, billiards player and pool shark and would nearly always play for money. He bet in casinos, people on the street and anywhere else he might be able to raise a bet. A quintessential professional gambler.
William Lee Bergstrom
The man responsible for placing the largest single casino bet in the history of gambling. His first largest bet was an enormous $777,000 at the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. He won that time and went back to place the world’s largest bet – some $1 million – several years later. Unfortunately, he lost the money but not before he had already won a considerable amount of money on other bets. He took his own life in 1985 still having hundreds of thousands of dollars to his name.
The 2008 crisis arguably led to the rise of professional poker players as mini celebrities. Casinos certainly felt the difficulty of the crash and that was why people like Don Johnson were invited to play in high stakes to raise the profile of blackjack, poker and other casino games and encourage others to play. A hard negotiator, the casino that extended the invite accepted several of his demands but later regretted it when he claimed nearly $16m in winnings. He is now banned from most of the casinos that invited him to play.