Three World Famous Gamblers

There are countless stories about gamblers who have won and lost millions of dollars. Most of us gamble for relatively trivial amounts, doing so for fun, but some gamblers bet ridiculous sums of money, winning and losing millions in a single session.

William Lee Bergstrom is one of the world’s most famous gamblers. Bergstrom hailed from Austin, Texas, but made a name for himself in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Texan led a normal life, attending Austin High School then the University of Texas. Bergstrom dropped out of university in 1974. He became a legend among gamblers six years later.

Binion’s Horseshoe Casino was the location where Bergstrom went down in history among gamblers. He entered the casino with two suitcases: one empty, the other containing US$777,000 in cash. That massive sum is equivalent to US2.44 million ($3.3 million) in today’s money.

The Biggest Casino Bet Of All Gamblers Ever

The casinos owner, Benny Binion, had a policy of honouring a bet of any size if it was your first bet placed at the casino. Bergstrom put all $777,000 on the crap table, and placed his bet on September 24, 1980. He bet on the Don’t Pass Line, with the shooter establishing a point of six then sevens on two rolls. Bergstrom made $777,000 profit, which Binion helped cram into the empty suitcase.

Bergstrom returned to the casino on March 24, 1984 and won a US$538,000 bet. He won an additional $117,000 on three more craps bets. However, disaster struck on November 16 when Bergstrom lost a cool US$1 million at the craps table on a single dice throw.

The man known as The Suitcase Man never recovered from his US$1 million loss, and committed suicide by taking an overdose on February 4, 1985. Ted Binion, one of Benny Binion’s sons, revealed Bergstrom borrowed the money for his first bet and planned to kill himself had he lost.

The Man Who Turned US$10,000 Into U$$40 Million

Archie Karas (main picture) is not a man who adheres to bankroll management, not in the slightest. Karas drove to Vegas in December 1992 with only $50 to his name. Karas had lost all but $50 playing high stakes poker and pool in Los Angeles.

He recognised a man from his Los Angeles gambling days and convinced the man to give him a $10,000 loan. Karas turned the US$10,000 loan into US$30,000 playing US$200/$400 Razz poker. He gave US$20,000 to the man who loaned him US$10,000 before setting out on one of the most incredible winning streaks other gamblers could only dream of.

Karas won US$1.2 million playing pool, starting at US$5,000 per game and finishing at US$40,000 per game. He gambled everything he had and increased his bankroll to US$7 million within three months.

The Greek-born gambler won millions of more dollars playing poker against the world’s best players. It got to the stage where nobody was willing to play Karas at poker. He turned to craps at this point, betting up to US$100,000 per roll. At one stage, Karas had won all the $5,000 casino chips at Binion’s!

His 2.5-year streak ended in 1995, losing an incredible US$40 million over the space of a couple of years.

Nick The Greek

There is something about Greece that makes legendary gamblers. Archie Karas is Greek, and so was Nickolaos “Nick The Greek” Dandolos. He won and lost vast sums on horse racing, but made a name for himself in the poker world.

Dandolos and Johnny Moss played heads-up against each other for five months in 1949. Dandolos was down US$4 million before stating, “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.”

Nick The Greek won millions more from poker, including one million from an unnamed Texan. Dandolos grew tired and called an end to the game, resulting in the Texan accusing Dandolos of being chicken. Dandolos requested a new deck, shuffled it, and offered double-or-quits on cutting the cards, which the Texan declined.

Dandolos was near-broke when he died on Christmas Day 1966. A player in his $5 limit draw poker game asked how Dandolos could play so low after playing so high. “Hey, it’s action, isn’t it?” he replied.