Famous Gamblers Contemporary & Historical

Throughout the course of history there have been numerous gamblers who have become known for a variety of reasons, whether from their outstanding casino success or failure, or for being downright cheaters or hustlers. Some of the most famously successful players have done so through poker, but this isn’t always the case.

Read more about these famous gamblers right here, and you may just pick up a trick or 2 to claim your own little bit of casino history.

Archie Karas

Archie ran away from his home in Greece at 15 and found work as a waiter on a ship, eventually settling at a restaurant at Los Angeles. The restaurant was next to a pool hall and he soon found himself playing opponents for money. As his reputation spread, there weren’t many opponents willing to play him, so he started to play poker. He was a quick study and picked up the game very quickly, and things turned around rapidly.

Between 1992 and 1995, Archie turned a measly $50 into an incredible $40 million fortune by playing a variety of casino games, and is widely considered to be the greatest gambler of all time. Unfortunately he has lost and regained this fortune many times over since then, but has never quite reached the peaks of his 3-year winning streak in the early 90s.

Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer was an Australian media-mogul and highly successful business who founded World Series Cricket. While Packer was certainly a successful businessman, it could be argued that he will be most remembered for his outlandish gambling behaviour.

Packer was a fan horseracing and casino games and would often visit Las Vegas, and other famous gambling destinations, to try his hand at the local tracks and tables. He was often known to play maximum bets and multi-million losing sessions were commonplace. However, he often won big as well, and unlike many high rollers, was known to settle his markers quickly.

Brian Molony

Unfortunately Brian Molony is one of the gamblers on our list known not for gambling success, but rather his notorious failure. Molony had been exposed to gambling at a young age when his father took him to the horserace track, but by his early 20’s he seemed to have everything he could need to ensure success: a degree and a management-track job at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Even though Molony was incredibly intelligent, he was still battling a gambling addiction, and quickly realized he could borrow money from the bank to fund his gambling without anyone realizing. He embezzled over $10 million from his employers, but his crimes eventually caught up with him and he was arrested in April 1982. The day before his arrest he had lost a whopping $1 million at Caesar’s Palace.

Wild Bill Hickok

Many poker players will now that the ‘dead man’s hand’ denotes a 2 pair of aces and eights, but they may not know the origins of this morbid nickname. In fact, it’s owed entirely to the last of our famous gamblers – James Butler Hickok aka ‘Wild Bill’. Wild Bill can be described as a hero of the Old West in America as a lawman and gunfighter, but he was also a highly successful poker player. So successful that he has been inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately for Wild Bill, his poker prowess earned him a few enemies and he was shot in the back in 1879 holding a 2 pair of aces and eights – the dead man’s hand.