For many of us, the dream of becoming one of the world’s casino high-rollers is little more than just a pipe dream. Whilst the bright lights and the thrill of the casino is enough excitement for most players, for those wealthy (or brave) enough to put serious money on the table, the stakes and the rewards mean so much more.
For the high rollers, taking their seat at the poker and blackjack tables takes something more. It takes quick thinking, decisiveness and a special nerve under immense pressure. If you don’t have all three of those attributes, you’re not going to make it onto Online Casino King’s top ten casino high rollers.
1. Kerry Packer
The king of casino high rollers! Packer, who died in 2005, was the richest man in Australia after amassing a fortune of around $4.5bn through a media, tourism and gambling empire.
Packer was renowned for his lavish lifestyle and enthusiastic attitude to gambling. Packer holds what is widely regarded to be the biggest personal loss in UK casino history – a whopping AU$28m in a three week losing streak at a number of London casinos in 1999. He soon made up for it however, winning a reported $33m at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
But it was an even more outrageous event that makes Packer the ultimate high roller in the eyes of many. That event occurred at the Stratosphere Casino when a Texan oil investor, trying to goad Packer into a poker game, claimed “I’m worth $60,000,000!” Famed for his love of confrontation, Packer apparently pulled out a coin and said nonchalantly, “I’ll toss you for it”.
2. Stanford Wong
When you’re name is turned into gambling phrase, it’s safe to say that you’ve earned your place at the casino’s top table and Stanford Wong, originally named John Ferguson, is no exception.
Author of what many regard to be the definitive Blackjack guide, Professional Blackjack, the phrase “wonging” was coined back in the 1980s to describe the technique of watching the play of the cards but only wagering your own cash when the count is in your favour – a technique now banned in many Vegas casinos.
3. Mike Aponte
Aponte is a professional blackjack player and a former member of the MIT Blackjack Team – a group of students who won millions playing Blackjack in casinos around the world through card counting and several elaborate strategies. Aponte was the self-styled leader.
The MIT’s business-like approach to gambling, meticulous planning and constant training to hone their techniques meant that Aponte and his colleagues lived the lifestyle usually reserved for Hollywood actors or world famous sports stars.
In 2004, Aponte went on to win the World Series of Blackjack and three years later, became the first blackjack player ever to be depicted on a trading card in Topps’ Allen & Ginter set.
4. “Hollywood” Dave Stann
“Hollywood” Dave Stann, the self-styled “bad boy of Blackjack”, introduced himself to the game of card counting and blackjack whilst waiting for his big break in the world of acting.
Whilst trying to make it big in Hollywood, Stann tried his hand at blackjack, constantly travelling between LA and Vegas to the point where he claims that his “gambling job” paid for his “acting habit”. Stann’s blackjack break came after he finished second in the inaugural World Series of Blackjack and from then, acting has been very much second on the priority list.
A member of MENSA, Stann also lives up to his “bad boy” tag claiming that he is simply bringing the kind of “psychological warfare” often seen in poker to the blackjack table.
5. Michael Konik
With a CV up there with the best of them, Michael Konik’s past credits include writing, television presenting, jazz singing, “improv” comedian as well as professional blackjack and poker player.
Perhaps his acting skills helped him to perfect his poker face, but Konik has managed to secure an impressive six appearances at the World Series of Poker.
Perhaps his biggest claim to fame though is his book “The Man With the $100,000 Breasts : And Other Gambling Stories”, the highlight of the 26-story collection being that of a man named Brian Zembic who accepted a bet to have breast implants and wear them for a year!
6. Anthony Curtis
After receiving a blackjack book as a gift at the age of 16, Anthony Curtis’ casino career has sky rocketed.
As soon as he turned 21, Curtis headed straight to Vegas with $2,600 dollars in his pocket and dreams of winning a massive jackpot.
It didn’t quite go as planned however, with some early losses soon leaving him down to his last $100 before he took advantage of the numerous free gaming coupons that were, and still are, routinely handed out on the famous strip. That allowed him to get back to the table and, slowly but surely, make his way to the high rollers table.
The rest, as they say, is history. A well respected voice on the casino circuit, Curtis is a familiar face on the World Series of Blackjack and the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
7. Stu Ungar
Arguably the greatest Texas Hold’em and Gin Rummy player of all time, Stu Ungar is one of only two players to have held the World Series of Poker crown on three separate occasions (the other, Jonny Moss, was voted as the winner in 1970 rather than winning the tournament).
With a remarkable IQ, Ungar was able to keep track of every card in a six-deck blackjack shoe. In 1977 he was bet $100,000 by Bob Stupak, an owner and designer of casinos, that he could not count down a six deck shoe and determine what the final card in the shoe was. Ungar won the bet.
A series of personal, drug and financial problems forced him out of poker before, thanks to a donation from a fellow player, he was able to buy-in to the 1997 WSOP – winning his third World Series title before his death in November 1998.
8. James Grosjean
Another ‘human calculator’ who put his mathematics skills to good use, Grosjean dropped out of the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics to write Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker, a set of mathematical theories for beating the casino at blackjack.
That mathematics skill has also seen him become the youngest ever member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame and has secured him regular spots on the UBT.
Well known to a number of Las Vegas casinos – he has successfully taken two of them to court; he secured a $599,999 payout against the Imperial Palace for an “illegal detention” in 2005.
9. Chris Moneymaker
Yes, that really is his name. Not only does he have the perfect casino name, Moneymaker is considered to be one of the catalysts of the poker boom in recent years.
Another mathematical brain, Moneymaker worked as an accountant before winning his way onto the WSOP with a $39 buy-in through an online satellite tournament. He went on to win the 2003 World Series of Poker in a thrilling final, taking the $2.5m jackpot in his first live poker appearance.
In 2005 he published his autobiography, Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker.
10. Andy Bloch
A former member of MIT, Bloch is a familiar face on the WSOP scene.
Although he currently has no wins to his name, the man from Vegas has 2 final table finishes to his name and, in 2008, took home a cool $4m from live tournaments.
A regular player online, Bloch donates 100% of his winnings from the Full Tilt Poker site to charity. He has also donated winnings from live tournaments, with his performance in the Pro-Am Equalizer raising $100,000 for causes in Darfur.