Getting rich of gambling… Isn’t that the dream? A lot of people even gamble with the purpose of eventually perhaps becoming rich of it. And yes, it happens from time to time. But who managed to do so and how? And, of course, let’s give a fair warning: mostly, the casino wins…
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For most people, gambling will not result in a significant growth in their personal wealth. Casinos love to make their players think that they have very good chances of winning, but if that was true, they wouldn’t be viable businesses. Some people have managed to amass a fortune through games of chance though, despite al. the ways in which the system was stacked against them.
Standing head and shoulders above the rest is American billionaire Bill Benter. He made his fortune of around 1 billion through playing Blackjack and placing bets on horse races. Benter was originally educated as a mathematician, which is where he developed his skills in calculating probability. He first tried to put these skills to use at the blackjack tables on the Las Vegas strip. It could be said he was both successful as well as unsuccessful. While he won quite frequently and was able to earn enough money to keep living off of, he would eventually be banned from most casinos. After seven years there were no more casinos on the strip that allowed him to play there.
After he was banned from the strip, he came into contact with Alan Woods. Woods was much like Benter himself, a mathematician who used his education to win games of chance. Woods, however, specialized on betting on horse races instead of blackjack. Woods and Benter decided to become business partners. They though that their combined mathematical knowledge would allow them to develop a formula to accurately predict the outcome of horse races.
It turns out they were correct in their assumptions. Their formula was successful and was raking in the money for the both of them. After a few years of this success, Woods and Benter split apart. Benter decided to expand the formula and the software it used further. His most recent software update allows the program to take more than 130 variables into account and calculates where players need to bet a certain amount of money to gain the most.
Benter decided it would be more productive if he were to hire others to do the betting for him. His team of gamblers would bet just a few seconds before the betting round ended. This strategy allows him to reportedly earn somewhere between 5 to 10 million dollars a day at the horse races.
Benter does not just spend his earnings on himself, as he has shown himself to be a major philanthropist. He donates money to numerous charities based in the United States, as well as Hong Kong. A large part of his money is also used on political donations. He has funded numerous democratic candidates on multiple levels of the political scale in the past, most prominently donating to Barack Obama´s presidential campaign in 2008.
Bill Benter is not the only person to make his fortune through gambling. A close second would be Edward Thorp. Thorp is an American mathematician, just like Benter. He used to even teach mathematics as a professor at several well-known universities.
Thorp first started gambling as a young man. His father was fighting for the army at the time, which meant the burden of supporting the family financially fell mostly on his mothers´ shoulders. As such she was unable to spend much personal time with young Edward, as she had to work simply for the family to survive. Edward eventually developed an interest in the game of chess. His interests in games of chance started with chess as well, as he began placing bets on the outcomes of the matches.
When Thorp finished his master’s degree in physics in 1955, he chose blackjack as his next subject of research. He started to research the exact ways in which the odds of the game could be calculated. He would analyse the outcomes of games and would develop formulae to help predict the outcomes. He would test his findings on the Vegas Strip, same as Benter. It turned out that his predictions were more than correct, as he saw immediate profits when using the methods he developed.
Thorp would decide to write a book about his research and the resulting wealth he amassed. He called it “Beat the Dealer”. Many of his colleagues at the time though it odd that he would decide to write a book about his personal methods of playing, as they were usually more secretive about these matters. It was difficult enough to develop a strategy where a player could win consistently, so to them it made very little sense to develop such a strategy and then report these findings in a book you wrote about it. Thorp´s current wealth seems to have disproven the sensibility of these attitudes. His success in the game of blackjack has led to his induction in the San Diego Blackjack Hall of Fame. His net wort lies around 800 million dollars.
Andrew Jack is one of the more unlikely success stories when it comes to gambling. Andrew Black went to college to become a mathematician as well, but he decided to drop out. After taking some random jobs, he had to eventually quit working to take care of his terminally ill brother.
His brother died and Andrew was left with little education, nor practical work-experience. He turned to gambling in the hopes that he would be able to pay his monthly bills with any money he won.
Andrew became unexpectedly successful. He was able to pay his bills and had more than enough money left. He decided to quit his job and become a gambler full-time. He still had doubts about the future though. Andrew had recently gotten married at this point, and was not comfortable with relying on gambling for all his future expenses. He wanted something less volatile he could count on for his future. He opened a software company, but did not stop gambling. He may not have wanted to hedge his future on just gambling alone, but he still enjoyed the games and the money he won from it.
It was in a game of bridge where Andrew met Edward Way. The two hit it off while playing, and Andrew would show Wray a prototype algorithm that was designed to predict the outcomes of horse races based on a multitude of available variables.
Wray was impressed and agreed to invest in the prototype. This led to the eventual development of Betfair, which is the biggest gambling company in the United Kingdom. These days, they have over a million customers and a gross income of more than 70 million pounds per week.
Betfair operated using a unique business-model. Other sites usually offered players singular bets at once. Betfair´s model was based more on the business practices of the stock market. People could place numerous small bets on a position placed by a gambler who wanted to place a larger bet.
Betfair grew to be immensely successful using this approach to betting. They acquired rival company Flutter in 2001, which led to Betfair nearly monopolizing the market, controlling around 90% of the bet exchange market of the United Kingdom.
Andrew Black´s share of the company was worth around 200 million pounds in 2010. Black has not sold much of his stake, and remains a shareholder in Paddy Power after they merged with Betfair in 2016. His current net worth lies around 670 million dollars total.
How to become rich?
These stories of success all seem quite similar. All three men were mathematicians who decided to try their luck gambling. All of them developed their own formulae, and all of them focused mainly on horse races. It seems the likelihood of winning is highest when all these factors combine, but it is imperative to remember that the odds of becoming rich from gambling are astronomically small. These three have been immensely lucky, as there are plenty of mathematicians who are not as successful in games of chance. It also says something when all these men eventually decided to enter the regular business-world. Gambling is an extremely volatile industry and nobody wins forever, not even millionaires like these three.