Very few people don’t enjoy a flutter at the casino or on the horse races, but most of us have the self-control to stick to a budget, remembering that gambling is a way to have fun, and fun only lasts as long as it’s affordable.
But some bets are just too good to miss, and some streaks too lucky to break… Here’s a look at four of history’s top gamblers: the big winners, and the big losers…
The Chance in Two Million
Fred Craggs isn’t a name mentioned often when discussing history’s famous gamblers; he certainly never threw money around on multiple wagers like Marie Antoinette or the Duchess of Devonshire. He wasn’t making huge bets like Aussie tycoon Kerry Packer, either.
All the humble Yorkshireman did, to celebrate his 60th birthday in 2008, was place an eight-horse accumulator bet on the local races for 50 pence. Except that the horses he picked were such outsiders, the accumulator gave him odds of two million-to-one… Only to see the longest of long shots come off, leaving Craggs a million pounds richer.
The Greek on a Vegas Streak
Archie Karas worked his way from Greece to America as a waiter on a ship while he was a penniless teenager in the 1980s. He later moved to Las Vegas, where his flair for poker soon had once-bitten gamblers refusing his action. He spent a few years winning and losing until 1992, when, armed with a borrowed stake of $10,000, he embarked on the longest poker, craps and baccarat winning streak ever seen.
It lasted until 1995, by which point Karas had amassed $40-million. He gave it all back to the casinos in the space of a few weeks, but his name is carved in the annals of gambling history. Karas still lives and gambles in Las Vegas today.
Biggest Loser (Legit)
US businessman Terrance Watanabe inherited a small fortune and took 20 years turning it into an enormous one, before blowing it all in a spectacular losing streak in Las Vegas. In 2009 alone, he burnt through $127-million at the Vegas tables.
He then famously sued Caesar’s Palace owner Harrah’s, claiming they plied him with too much free booze while he was playing, but his losing streak continued all the way into the courtroom.
Biggest Loser (Crooked)
The only man to come close to breaking Watanabe’s dubious record is Shanghai-born Chinese-Mexican gambler Zhenli Ye Gon, who played away $125-million in Vegas in the early years of the millennium. The casinos really loved this whale: the Venetian even gave him a Rolls Royce as a consolation prize once, after another huge loss.
Sadly for the Vegas operations, they lost the high roller in 2007, when he was arrested at his mansion in Mexico City and jailed. Unbeknown to his glad-handed hosts, Ye had been one of Mexico’s biggest crystal meth kingpins.