Top 10 Famous US Gamblers

Updated by Loren Oller on May 25, 2022

Whilst most of us might consider ourselves to be average players, being average was never an option for these guys from the USA.

It was a difficult task to put together this list and it caused huge debates in our offices. But after much discussion, we narrowed it down to 10 famous gamblers. Here we take a look at the highs and lows of career gambling as well as the millions of dollars of profits.

Edward Thorp

An American mathematics professor who wrote the revolutionary book ‘Beat the Dealer’. Which proved to the masses that card counting in the popular Blackjack games really does work.

Various trips to the casinos of Las Vegas whetted Edwards appetite where he recruited fellow mathematician Claude Shannon. The pair built the first ‘wearable computer’ which helped them to count cards. In his first weekend in Sin City, Edward began with a $10K bankroll and made an extra $11K over 2 days.

Net Worth: $800 million 

The MIT Blackjack Team

The ‘Beat the Dealer’ book by Edward Thorp sparked the attention of Harvard Graduate Bill Kaplan. He recruited other students to the cause, where the team used card counting along with ace and shuffle tracking techniques. This gave the group an edge of 2-4% over the casinos. 

Recruiting new players to his team, a trip to Vegas would typically score the members’ anything between $100,00 to over $1 million on each trip.

Net profits: $58 million

Richard Nixon 

This ex-President makes it onto our list of famous gamblers as he used the proceeds of his casino poker games to finance his political campaigns. Nixon didn’t even win the WSOP or any major games, and despite his many flaws as President - he was still a very good poker player.

Net worth: $15 million

Phil Ivey

Phil is often known as the ‘world's best poker player’, thanks to his multitude of tournament wins. He currently holds 10 World Series of Poker bracelets and is the youngest player to do so.

Phil began playing the game at age 8 thanks to his Grandfather. He discovered a natural prowess and used fake IDs to get access into the casinos of Atlantic City. He is now affectionately known as the ‘Tiger Woods’ of poker and currently offers 3 training programs for wannabe poker pros.

Net worth:  $110 million

Billy Walters

Raised in Kentucky by his grandmother in a house with no running water, Billy came from very humble beginnings. It was at age 6 when he placed his first bet at the local pool hall. He honed his skills and began to place larger bets which soon turned into millions of dollars per week.

His passion turned to poker in the ’80s and Billy then switched his focus to the stock market. It was this move that saw him convicted of insider trading and he received a 5-year prison term. Billy is still known to many as the worlds greatest sports bettor.

Net worth:  $200 million

Phil Hellmuth

PhilADMits that he was never a good loser, even when he used to lose games of Scrabble to his siblings as a child. This competitive nature follows him through his poker career now, where he’s known as the ‘Poker Brat’.

Phil has gone on to win 15 WSOP bracelets and has amassed an estimated fortune of $18 million in winnings. 

Net worth: $75 million

Chris Moneymaker

Chris was definitely born with the correct surname! In 2002 he was working as an accountant with an extra job in a restaurant to make ends meet. Having a flutter on the side in online poker he landed a seat in the WSOP 2003 Main Event for just $86 via satellite. (The regular seat cost is $10,000). 

Chris went on to win the Main Event and the phrase ‘The Moneymaker Effect’ was coined. He pocketed a cool $2.5 million from this tournament and gave hope to many rising poker stars that they too could get lucky.

Net worth:  $16 million

Don Johnson

Unlike other famous gamblers, it wasn’t card counting that won Don $15 million from Blackjack. His savvy nature enabled him to make special deals with casinos in Atlantic City. This gave him a massive advantage when it came to the house edge.

He negotiated a deal that saw him playing against a 0.26% edge. The casinos didn’t have a clue and also allowed him to seal a loss rebate deal too.

Net worth:  $5 million

Stanford Wong

Stanford is the pseudonym given to the man behind the name - John Ferguson. Wanting to avoid the attention of the casino’s security systems, this allowed John to go under the radar throughout most of his career.

John has written many successful books on gambling, his most famous is all about getting an edge in Blackjack. His skills aren’t just writing though, John also played using card counting strategies and won hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Net worth: $17 million

Doyle Brunson

Doyle first began playing poker at a young age with his friends on the streets of Texas. This earned him the nickname of ‘Texas Dolly’ where his games were often run by criminal gangs. Doyle played so well that his opponents thought he was cheating, and often threatened him with guns.

The bright lights of Vegas called Doyle where he began his professional poker playing career. He went on to win 10 WSOP bracelets and has since published a book helping others understand poker strategy.

Net worth: $75 million

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Loren Oller
Loren Oller Author (3 Years of Experience)
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I consider myself to be an avid guitar player, sports enthusiast, and a big fan of blackjack and social casinos. My task is pretty easy to resume.. make sure you are well informed on all US casinos that might interest you. I've been writing reviews based on my experiences for a while and I'm happy to say that my work will truly help you even if it's just by telling you the legal gambling laws of a state or the top games that are trending right now!
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Reviewed by Julia Attard, Senior Author