World’s Richest Gamblers and How They Became Millionaires

We’ve all tried it, haven’t we? Chipping in a small amount of money, maybe five bucks, and hoping that we’ll get a jackpot in return. Sometimes we get something, but usually, we don’t. We all know that even the best online casino games come with the odds tilted in the casino’s favor. We’re fighting against the odds regardless of whether we’re trying to beat the dealer in a card game or if we’re playing real money slots. As a result, we ostensibly have to have bags of luck if we want to have any chance of playing casino games for real money and coming out with more money than we’ve walked in with. But is it really like that?

If we look at people who have managed to make a living out of gambling, it seems that they just keep winning and keep getting more money. So much so that many of them earn millions. It would be strange if that was purely down to luck. There’s more to it. Before we go into who they are, let’s see how the richest gamblers make the most of real money casino games.

Best Way You Can Play Casino Games for Real Money

The first thing you need to know about gambling is which games you should play. The truth is, they don’t come with the same chances of winning, so your game selection is the primary step that can take you in the right or the wrong direction. For instance, most players start playing online slots when they begin gambling. And that’s fine; after all, slots are popular as much as they are due to their simplicity and the lack of a learning curve. Since there’s no way for you to influence around, you completely rely on luck, which makes slots games of chance.

Richest Gamblers Top 5

But, if you look at what the richest gamblers do, you’ll see that they don’t play slots at all. You see, while gambling naturally has an element of luck to it, winning thousands of dollars on a consistent level can’t be a fluke. Most of them are either poker players, or they play other games of skill, such as blackjack and baccarat.

The thing is, when you play casino games for real money, you want to give yourself the best chance to affect the outcome, and you can do that with games like poker. Poker is a game heavily reliant on maths, and if you’re skilled enough, you can better predict what will happen. If you excel at it and become one of the best, tons of chips will soon be going your way.

Richest professional gamblers spend years and years playing card games and perfecting their strategies. That’s why they will be able to tell if you’re bluffing or you have a stronger hand, something you would have no idea about when you just start playing. Let’s check out who they are.

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Richest Gamblers

So, who are they? How does someone go from entering a casino for the first time with an almost-empty credit card account to receiving tens of millions in prize money? Did they also spend their early days chasing casino bonus offers so that they could win real money without spending any? We’ll go over each player’s career, be it in poker tournaments or sports betting. But first, let’s announce them; here’s our list of the five richest professional gamblers:

  • Bill Benter
  • Zeljko Ranogajec
  • Phil Ivey
  • Chris Ferguson
  • Edward Thorp

Bill Benter

Bill Benter A Blackjack Hall of Famer, Bill Benter used to be a professor of maths before he started practicing blackjack card counting. After years of practicing, Benter became so efficient with it that casinos started banning him from playing due to the fact that he would almost always win.

Since he wasn’t a welcome sight anymore, he turned to horse races and developed a model that allowed him to predict racing outcomes better. Afterward, Benter created a program to help other bettors with placing bets. Estimates say that Benter cashes in $100 million every year.

Zeljko Ranogajec

Zeljko Ranogajec Photo

Coming from a family of Croatian immigrants, the Australian dropped out of college to earn a fortune playing blackjack. With a photographic memory and a great understanding of maths, Ranogajec was soon earning large sums of money.

He became great at it, and just like Benter, casinos across Australia banned him from playing, which forced Ranogajec to go into earning other gaming experiences, mainly keno and horse racing. Ranogajec holds a record for winning $7.5 million on keno.

Despite his riches, Ranogajec was never one for fame and would rarely give interviews. Subsequently, there have been many rumors and reports of his net worth, with some claiming he earns over $1 billion a year!

This is probably not true, and Ranogajec himself said that reports had inflated that number. Still, in 2019, an Australian finance magazine estimated Ranogajec’s net worth at $600 million AU.

Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey Photo Known as the Tiger Woods of poker, Ivey is the first player on our list who made his fortune playing the game. A Poker Hall of Famer, Ivey has ten bracelets from the World Series of Poker (youngest to do so), as well as one title from the World Poker Tour. 

He is one of the best players in history when it comes to prize money earnings. His net worth is $100 million, which mainly comes from playing online and casino tournaments.

Chris Ferguson

Ferguson has a Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA. As one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker, Ferguson saw his net worth reach great heights, but he also saw it plummet after a scandal shed light on the fact that owners were taking out customers’ money for personal reasons.

Still, Ferguson came into the position of founding one of the major gambling websites by playing poker successfully and getting himself six WSOP bracelets. Ferguson’s current net worth is $80 million.

Edward Thorp

Edward Thorp Photo

With a Ph.D. in maths, it’s no wonder Thorp was able to rake in vast amounts of dollars from gambling. In fact, it was Thorp who invented the strategy we now call card counting. Before he joined the gambling world, Thorp was a professor of mathematics and was the first one to use a computer machine to develop a card game strategy. With his card counting methods, which tilted the house edge in his favor,

Thorp was soon on his way to casinos across the United States, mainly Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Reno. His book on card counting was the first of its kind and is still regarded as the ultimate guide to this popular blackjack strategy.

Thorp went so far as to invent the portable computer to carry into casinos until they became banned in 1985. He used card counting also in backgammon and baccarat. After venturing into other financial markets, Thorp’s net worth is $800 million.

To sum it up, here’s a table of the five richest players, showing their estimated net worth and the games they play:

FAQ: Most Asked Questions About Real Money Gambling

Who is the richest gambler in the world?

Currently, it’s widely believed that Bill Benter is the richest gambler in the world. A maths professor, Benter started using his understanding of maths for gambling purposes. After spending years in training, Benter started visiting Las Vegas casinos playing blackjack using card counting.

Sometime later, casinos caught up with him and banned him from playing, which meant Benter would turn to sports betting, horse racing in particular. He developed software for betting, which allows him to earn money without him himself gambling. Estimates on his net worth range from $100 million to $10 billion annually!

Do professional gamblers make money?

Yes, they do! As their title would suggest, they are professional gamblers, meaning they think of gambling as a means of earning a living, just like a professional baker would think of running a bakery. Similarly, they have to see gambling not as a game you kill your time with, but an actual job that they devote a large portion of every day to.

You can’t be the best if you don’t practice, right? The very best of professional gamblers make tens of millions of dollars, but you don’t have to be the best to make great money. Currently, there are just under 2,000 players who have made over $1 million.

Does gambling make you rich?

The proper answer here is — it might! It’s all about how much you put into it and whether you do it wisely. If you just pop into a casino, sit at the first slot that you see, and start placing thousands of dollars per bet, it will do just the opposite. You have to make sure you’re doing the right thing, such as focusing on games of skill (poker, blackjack) rather than games of chance (slots, lottery). The most important thing, however, is not to get caught up in that wealth-hunting because you can end up creating financial problems and developing an addiction.

Do gamblers ever win?

Yes, they do. They do it often, actually! The problem is, casinos win more frequently than gamblers. You see, the way casinos are set up (i.e., the way real money casino games are set up) is that the house always has a mathematical advantage and will always remain on top in the long term. If it weren’t so, there would be no casinos. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t win at all, it just depends on how you go about it.

For instance, when you play poker, you compete against other players, and you don’t have a house edge to worry about. This way, you only have to be better than all the other players (yes, sounds hard, but with enough practice, you can do it). Casinos make most of their profits off of inexperienced slot players, while seasoned gamblers can tilt the winning percentage in their favor.

How much do professional gamblers make?

At the time of writing this, there were exactly 1,997 poker players who have earned $1 million or more in prize money. That’s a great piece of information for anyone who would try to make it professional and needs something to motivate them. It’s hard to make it pro; you have to devote your time and energy to learning the specifics of a game and then getting the experience to make better decisions.

But, as the number above suggests, it’s highly doable. Richest professional gamblers are worth over $100 million, and there are almost 90 players who’ve hit the $10-million mark.

What games can you play for real money?

Well, all of the casino games are available for you to play them with real money, that’s kind of their purpose. The real question is: which games should you play for real money? Casino games don’t come with equal chances of winning, and it takes some snooping around to figure out which are more generous towards the player than others. Generally, we can divide games into games of chance and games of skill.

As you can guess, the later ones will give you better chances of winning real money, but they’re more difficult, and it takes practice to become good at them. Alternatively, games of chance are easier to grasp, but you will rely entirely on luck, which means that your night could go either way.

What is real money gaming?

The definition of it would be any gaming in which you wager real money on the outcome of an in-game event. To put it simply, if it’s a game you can win or lose real money on, it will fall under this category. Some equate it to gambling in general, and although it’s not really the same (some types of real money gaming wouldn’t be characterized as gambling), we usually talk about casino gaming in this instance.

So, anytime you bet real money on slots, blackjack, roulette, or any other casino game, you’ll be conducting real money gaming. There’s a possibility to play casino games for real money without wagering any of your own. You can do this by utilizing some of the many online casino bonuses that are on offer.

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Bill Profy

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