Top 5 richest gamblers in the world, and how they made their money

Most people do not get rich from gambling. Although casinos will make you think that you can and every player’s dream is to hear the bell when you win a jackpot, the chances of winning a fortune are nil. Yet there is a top class when it comes to very wealthy gamblers, who have made their fortunes by playing games of chance. In this blog, we introduce you to the five richest gamblers in the world, and we tell you how they came to this extreme wealth.

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1. Bill Benter ($1 billion)

By far the richest gambler in the world is the American Bill Benter. Benter made his fortune by playing Blackjack and betting on horse racing. In particular, the focus on horse racing has made him become a billionaire.

Benter, now 65, is originally a mathematician, professional gambler and a true philanthropist. One of his specialties was probability calculation, a very useful skill in gambling. After obtaining his physics degree at university, he wanted to earn his money with his specialty in probability calculation. He ended up at the Blackjack tables in gambling paradise Las Vegas to improve and perfect his card skills. This went so well for him that after 7 years he was a very known player and was banned from all casinos in Las Vegas, because he outplayed the casinos at Blackjack too many times.

Not much later he met Alan Woods, also a professional gambler with the same mathematical expertise as Benter himself. Woods specialized in betting on horse racing. The two became business partners and traveled to faraway Hong Kong, thinking that if they joined forces, they could develop a formula that could predict the outcomes of horse racing.

This formula caught on and it made the duo an insane fortune. After a while, the partners split apart and Benter expanded the software, his latest updated software analyzes over 130 different variables and it takes a deeper look into the prices of different bets to see which horse has the most potential to make the most money. This software left him with a net worth of $1 billion.

Benter hired a team of professional gamblers who bet for him. He strategically lets them place bets mere seconds before anyone bets as last. Rumors tell us that he earns between 5 and 10 million dollars a day at the racetracks.

As mentioned before, Benter is a born philanthropist, he is very generous with his money. He donates a lot of money to charities in the United States and the city where he made his fortune, Hong Kong. He also donates a lot of money into politics, he and his wife are big democrats, he donated to democratic candidates including our former President Barack Obama. 

Because of all his achievements the University of Hong Kong established a scholarship in his honor. The scholarship is rewarded to students who excelling in mathematics.

The net worth of William Benter is estimated around one billion dollars.

2. Edward Thorp ($800 million)

The second in the overview of the top five richest gamble is Edward Thorp, also known as Ed. Also, the second American of the five. A second similarity with Bill Benter, is that both Thorp and Benter are mathematics. Thorp used to make the casinos unsafe, before that he was a math professor at several well-known universities. You may also know Thorp from the book ”Beat the Dealer” which was a big hit all over the world. 

Thorp’s passion for gambling all started by his free time caused to his mom and dad. His dad was fighting in World War II and due to that his mother had to support the family financially and worked a lot. This caused a lot of loneliness and free time for the young Thorp. This led to playing a lot of chess and betting on chess matches.

Thorp jumped to blackjack after he finished his master’s degree in physics in 1955 and started to research how the odds work at Blackjack after. He analyzed the game and developed schemes with card counting systems. He started testing his schedule with systems in Las Vegas, among some others. He started with a starting amount of $10,000, and after a weekend of testing, he had won $11,000! So, you can say that his strategies worked out pretty well.

Thorp became well known for his discoveries, which is why he wrote the book “Beat the Dealer”. This was very special because most gamblers are a bit selfish and often want to keep their winning strategy to themselves. All his subsequent and big winnings at the Blackjack tables have made him a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame. This is a wall with pictures of players at the Barona Casino in San Diego, California, who have made a difference in the game of Blackjack

Thorp has been expanding his knowledge of the stock market since 1960. Hereby he earned the fortune what he earned, earned in stocks and this earned a net worth of eight hundred million dollars.

3. Andrew Black ($670 million)

It will not surprise you anymore, but the third rich gambler in this blog is also a mathematician. Although Andrew Black dropped out of college and took some idle jobs, he also had to quit his jobs to take care of his terminally ill brother. After the death of his brother, he started to gamble partly to pay his monthly bills.

He had great success with gambling, so big that he quit his job and started a full-time gambling career. The newlywed Black, however, did not believe his gambling money would be rough to fulfill his expanses. With this thought he set up a software company. Black did not stop building and programming this software and also didn’t quit gambling. During a game of bridge, he met Edward Ray. During this game of bridge, the two engaged in conversation and arranged it for Black to show Wray his prototype that focused on an algorithm that would predict conversational outcome of horse racing.

Wray saw something in his idea and invested in the prototype of Black. A few years later in 2000, the two developed Betfair, today still one of the largest gambling sites in the world. Betfair is the biggest gambling company of the United Kingdom. They have gotten more than a million costumers and their turnover is over 70 million pounds a week!

Other bet exchanges launched at the same time but worked based on offering single bets which interested punters would then accept individually. Betfair operated on a model more similar to a financial exchange, allowing among other things, multiple small bets to fill a position offered by a gambler wishing to place a large stake on a wager. This approach, combined with the acquisition of rival Flutter in 2001, secured Betfair 90% of the bet exchange market in the United Kingdom within a few years of their launch.

In 2010 Betfair was floated on the London Stock Exchange at a £13 share price which valued it at £1.4 billion, making Black’s 15% stake worth approximately £200 million. Black is known to have retained much of his stake, benefiting from the share price’s subsequent climb to £44, before Betfair was delisted when it was merged with the company Paddy Power in 2016. 

Due to all his success and entrepreneurship, he has made a network of $670 million for himself.

4. Zeljko Ranogajec ($439 million)

The Australian Zeljko Ranogajec was born on May 22, 1961, the fourth in this list.

The originally Croatian Ranogajec is a real businessman and a professional gambler at heart. Ranogajec, now living in the United Kingdom, has made his fortune through horse racing, blackjack and other forms of gambling.

He was a commerce and law student at the University of Tasmania, specializing in tax, finance and banking. Due to his hard work, Zeljko was offered a scholarship. Majoring in Financial Banking, Zeljko was close to become a lawyer. But when he was almost there, he changed his University, the University of South Wales in Sydney. Due to his poor background, he did need a job, he went to work at the closest casino nearby, the Wrest Point Casino. This is where his interest in gambling began, and he began to perfect his card counting. When he was free of work, he would test and observe strategies in the casino. Here he met the love of his life and his future business partner named Shelley Wilson. Wilson also worked in the casino and captured his heart here.

Ranogajec found that he couldn’t combine his University life and his gambling career so he decided to go with whatever made him happiest, resulting in dropping out of college and focusing on a full time gambling career. After a while he stopped working at Wrest Point Casino, however he did not stop playing Blackjack here. This was ideal for him to learn and practice, also given the fact that he knew all the employees. This also had a downside, at one point Ranogajec was banned from the casino for making too much profit.

The millionaire was one of the best card counting players back in the day and made millions and millions through his strategical approach. In fact, he was so good he got banned from many casinos in Australia and the United States. 

After the end of his blackjack career, he took the plunge with Keno. Ranogajec once won 7.5 million dollars in one week.

After finishing Blackjack and Keno, the fanatic turned to horse racing. He developed a betting system on horses which brought him success. In this system, he took all factors into account, including previous races and performances. Ranogajec is said to gamble an average of $1 billion per race.

Like the first man on our list, Bill Benter, Zeljko Ranogajec is a true philanthropist. He has been off the radar for the past 20 years and is even rumored to be hiding under a different name. He donates a large portion of his winnings to charities, such as the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, which donates medical equipment to children’s hospitals.

During these 20 years under the radar, Ranogajec has been investing in his own bookie site in the UK called Colossus Bets. Through all these milestones, he has a net worth of $439 million.

5. William ‘’Billy’’ Walters ($200 million)

The last one on the list is William Walters also known as Billy. Walters is one of the most iconic sports bettors of all time. He came from a poor existence and made himself a fortune with gambling and his excellent entrepreneurship. 

Billy was born on July 15, 1946, in Munfordville, Kentucky. He was raised by his grandmother, since his father died and due to that his mother became an alcoholic. They lived a poor existence since they had no running water and barely enough money for food. 

The entrepreneurship came early, at the age of seven Billy started his first side job. His grandmother lent him forty dollars so he could buy a lawnmower. After that he delivered papers, every day before school. As he became older, he quit his newspaper job and worked at a donut bakery before school began and at a gasoline station after school. As you can read, he never sat still and worked very hard for his money.

His legendary gamble career began at a very young age, Billy was six years old when he first came in contact with gambling. His grandmother took him to his uncle’s pool hall. He also worked here in the summers, preparing food and observing all the men who made bets with each other. 

Billy’s first real bet was at the age of ten. He made a bet with a man in his uncle’s pool hall. He bet 125 dollars on a baseball game, it was a game between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. He bet on the Yankees but unfortunately, they lost. 

After his high school Billy worked in automobile sales and even started his own company in this sector. However, he left this life to become a professional sports gambler in Las Vegas, Nevada. He became one of the most successful sports gamblers of all time, he mostly placed bets on NFL, basketball and college football. Separately he became a great poker player. He played along some of the best players of all time during poker tournaments.

A couple of years later he retired from gambling. Billy and his wife started their own company in real estate. He invested his gambling earned money into the company and they grew out to two thousand employees. The Walters Group, as they called the company, also entered the golf industry. They had an eye for luxury facilities and even built a golf course in Las Vegas. 

In 2017 Billy was convicted of insider trading, which left him with a recommendation of a sentence of five years in prison and a payment of 43 million dollars (which was not very much for him as you can tell). Despite the recommendation he got 366 days and a 10 million fine. In 2020 former president Donald Trump pardoned him. Billy still denies any allegations. 

Thanks to his early entrepreneurship, hard work and a bit of luck, William “Billy” Walters has a net worth of approximately $200 million.

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