Biographies of the Biggest Names in Gambling
Gambling has a long and interesting history. It's been a popular activity for almost as long as the human race has existed, and its popularity shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. It continues to be on the up rise: partly because of the consistent improvements in the world of online gambling, and partly because it's starting to become more socially acceptable.
Throughout its rich history, and right up until today, gambling has attracted an incredible variety of different characters. Some of these individuals are famous (or infamous) for their gambling related exploits. Trust us when we say that their stories make for extremely interesting reading. Actually, that's why we've put together this section of our website, featuring biographies of some of the biggest names in gambling.
When we first started this section we focused on the pioneers and innovators who were instrumental in developing the gambling industry in one way or another. We wanted to include individuals that helped turn Las Vegas into the gambling capital of the world, and those who contributed to the evolution of online gambling. We quickly realized that there were far more stories to tell though, so we decided to expand our scope.
We now have detailed biographies on people involved in all aspects of gambling. We address those who have won big, and those who have lost it all. We've written about those who have found legitimate ways to win, those who have cheated and those who have engaged in outright criminal behavior. In short, we've covered the good, the bad and everything in between. If there's a story to tell, we've told it.
You can find all our biographies listed on this page. Because there are so many, we've divided them into the following categories.
Key Individuals in Online Gambling
There have been many entrepreneurs and executives who have helped to shape the online gambling industry into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Many of the big names and important people from the industry could be considered genuine pioneers, and yet they often don't get the credit they deserve. While many of them have become household names, even more of them are virtual unknowns.
The biographies in this category tell the stories of the people who have turned modern betting and gaming into what it is today. Without them, the evolution of this industry might have been very different. It's possible that other pioneers would have stepped in to take their place, but realistically gambling sites probably wouldn't be anywhere near as advanced as they are today.
It wouldn't be very fun if we focused solely on those who have had a positive impact on the industry though, as the "bad guys" have far more intriguing stories to tell. This small percentage of people are responsible for damaging the industry in one way or another, but their influence is still important to learn about regardless.
The mastermind behind online gambling giant Bet365
The charismatic billionaire who founded Bodog
Innovative but private, he created PokerStars
The driving force of PartyGaming's success
Founders of 888, one of the best-known gambling sites
Created Betfair, the most successful betting exchange
The main man behind Full Tilt Poker
Creator of Playtech, one of the biggest gambling companies
- Mark Blandford
Founder of SportingBet
- Scott Tom
Absolute Poker Co-Founder
- The Ben-Yitzhak Brothers
Founder of 888
- Lee Jones
- Robert Raatgever
- Michael Shackleford
The Wizard of Odds
Land Based Gambling Tycoons
Before the online gambling pioneers, the biggest names in the gambling industry mostly consisted of people who built, owned or developed land based casinos. Those names are the inspiration for this category of bios.
Many of the people listed below started small but went on to build huge empires. Some of them had a very significant influence on the way the land-based gambling industry evolved as a whole. Their stories will grab your attention early on and keep you hooked until the very end.
Poker player & President/CEO of Mirage Resorts
Bookmaker & founder of the Clermont Club in London
Billionaire founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Owner of Treasure Island & numerous other casinos
Las Vegas tycoon, the father of the megaresort
Owner of the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas, and other venues
Historical Gambling Figures
In this category we've provided bios of some famous historical figures. Although most of these individuals have earned their fame from something other than gambling, gambling has still played a significant role in their lives in one way or another. The diversity of names found here highlights just how widespread the popularity of gambling has always been.
Notorious Gambling Cheats
Making money from gambling can be accomplished in one of three ways. The most popular way is to hope that luck is on your side. Another way would be to dedicate a huge chunk of time to learning the various skills and strategies in order to gain an edge over the bookmakers. Either of these approaches would perfectly respectable, although the second is far more likely to yield results.
The third approach is in no way respectable. It's to cheat, and no one likes a cheater. Actually, when it comes to gambling, that's not entirely true. Gambling cheats are usually admired by their fellow gamblers: especially when they a share a common enemy (the house). However, no one appreciates a gambler who cheats other gamblers. That's wrong on so many levels.
The gamblers found on the list below are well known for their cheating exploits. We don't doubt that this list would be bigger if it weren't for the gambling cheats who were successful and gotten away with it. As much as we'd love to know THOSE stories, we probably never will.
- Ron Harris
- Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Slot Machine Cheat
- Richard Marcus
Inventor of "The Savannah"
- Louis Colavecchio
Largest Lottery Token Cheat Ever
Gambling and criminals basically went hand in hand at various points in history. At times, gambling was considered an "underground" activity run by criminals. Nowadays, in general, things have changed for the better. With so much money involved in gambling, however, one might suspect that some gambling-related crimes still go on today.
In this category we've provided bios on some of the most interesting criminals involved in some sort of gambling scandal.
Infamous American Outlaw and gambler
Feared mobster and casino owner
- Bumpy Johnson
Mob Boss and Bookmaker
- Brian Molony
- Daniel Tzvetkoff
Violated the UIGEA
Poker Players Past & Present
Poker could easily be considered one of most popular forms of gambling in the world. It has many appealing characteristics, and it strikes a good balance between luck and skill. Players with no skill at all can get lucky and beat much better players on occasion, but the truly skilled players almost always make money in the long run.
The general interest in poker is so widespread these days that successful poker players are genuine celebrities. Televised tournaments and cash games attract huge audiences, and it's not just because people enjoy watching other people play cards. They enjoy watching how the characters at the table interact too, especially the big name players.
It's the big name players that you'll find here. We've compiled biographies on the best-known players: past and present. If you have aspirations of becoming a successful player yourself, then it wouldn't hurt to thoroughly read these biographies in order to see what it takes to make it to the top.
One of the best poker players of all time
Won the WSOP main event after qualifying online
Extremely successful player known as "The Poker Brat"
Charismatic and popular professional poker player
Poker playing playboy known as "The Blitz"
One of the most successful female poker players
No casino game has ever captured the attention of so many quite like blackjack has. This relatively simple card game is intriguing on many levels, and it also happens to be the only casino game that can be genuinely beaten without resorting to cheating. A skilled blackjack player can actually gain an edge over the house by counting cards.
Advantage players have shown a strong interest in card counting for several decades now. Some skilled card counters are considered true legends for their contributions to the subject, while others have earned that title thanks to their exploits in the casino. Learn more about all these interesting characters by reading the following biographies.
Bona-fide genius and successful counter
Successfully sued a casino for banning him
Established Author and "the godfather of card counting"
Manager of the longest running counting team
High Stakes Gamblers
For some, the thrill of gambling is simply not enough. These people only want to gamble if they have the opportunity to win big. It's easy to relate, as gambling obviously becomes more exciting when there's more at stake. For the majority of us, though, our idea of big stakes may just be a few more dollars than we usually bet.
The guys listed below are on a whole different level. They are (or were) REAL high-rollers. They have gambled millions upon millions of dollars, often risking sums that most people would consider to be a fortune on single wagers.
Media tycoon who loved to gamble for big money
A famous gambler who went from rags to riches
Placed some of the largest ever bets in casinos
Won and lost huge sums of money while gambling
For most people, gambling is nothing more than a fun activity to enjoy with friends. For a small percentage of gamblers, however, it's a lot more than that. Professional gamblers, or those who have decided to make gambling their career, are obviously very good at what they do. Many of them also live very interesting lives.
As you might imagine, a lot of professional gamblers are very secretive. They don't want everyone knowing how they do what they do. Nonetheless, we've managed to compile a few bios on some of the more colorful characters that gamble for a living.
Big Gambling Winners
Most gamblers appreciate a win of any kind. We all hope to win big, of course, but even just a small win is better than no win at all. And there's always next time, when maybe we'll finally get that elusive win that will really change our lives. This might be based more on hope than expectation, but that's partially what makes gambling so much fun.
The people below help reassure us that our dreams can indeed come true. These are among some of the biggest gambling winners of all times. If it can happen to them, it can happen to any one of us. Right?
Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo is one of the most successful roulette players of all time. He's considered by many to be the first person to truly exploit the bias that mechanical roulette wheels can show. He invested months of his life to studying and analyzing the behavior of wheels in Spain, before winning hundreds of thousands of dollars based on his findings.
Slots players all over the world share the dream of one day hitting a big jackpot. A select few of them will get lucky and realize their dreams, but we doubt than anyone will ever be as lucky as Elmer Sherwin. Why would we make such an assumption? Well, it's because he won the Megabucks Jackpot not once, but twice. He won $4.6 million in 1989, before following that up with another $21 million win 16 years later. This is a truly unbelievable story.
Conor Murphy is an inspiration to horse racing bettors. He proved that it IS possible to win big, providing you bid your time and wait for the right opportunities. His opportunity came in 2011, while working as a horse racing trainer. He identified five horses that he felt would do well in the following year's Cheltenham Festival, and placed an accumulator accordingly. All five won, bringing him in over $1 million.
There is a great deal of uncertainty over exactly how Charlie Wells landed his big win, but some facts are known for sure. In the late 19th century, he made two trips to the Monte Carlo Casino and won the equivalent of $10 million in today's money. This was all from roulette. He claimed to have a system, but it's been speculated that he cheated. Maybe he just got lucky. Whatever the truth may be, he'll always be known as the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.
This married couple from Scotland made the headlines back in 2011 when they won the lottery. Although simply winning the lottery isn't extraordinary, how much they won was. They won £161 million (around $240 million) to be precise. This was the highest amount ever won in the United Kingdom: an astonishing amount of money from a ticket that cost only £2.
They say you have to be prepared to take big risks to win big. It's hard to imagine anyone has ever taken this more literally than Ashley Revell did. In 2004 he sold all his possessions, and travelled from England to Las Vegas. He put everything he had ($135,300) on a single spin of the roulette wheel. He bet red, and got extremely lucky.
Cynthia Jay-Brennan is another Megabucks Jackpot winner. She won $35 million in 2000, which was a record at the time. This is a story in its own right, but what happened subsequently highlights just how cruel life can be. Just a few weeks after her record win, she was involved in a car accident and paralyzed from the chest down.
Gloria MacKenzie won the Powerball lottery in 2013. This wasn't just any Powerball lottery. She won the largest undivided prize in its history, a cool $590 million. She could have had the full amount paid over 30 years, but she opted from the lump payment of $370 million. At 84 years old, we don't think anyone could blame her for this decision!
No, not the actor. This Don Johnson is a professional gambler who went on one of the most astonishing winning streaks ever known. During a six-month period in 2011, he took Atlantic City casinos for over $15 million. He played only blackjack, and managed to convince the casinos to change some of the game rules to his favor. This obviously helped, but he still needed a great deal of luck to win that big.