High rollers have been making history at the casino as their stories are just amazing and incredible. The casinos love them because these are the men and women that help the casinos build profits and the playing resorts are run successfully. These high stake players do not arrive at the casinos with few bucks but with handsome budgets that can range from $100k to $1m, or even tens of millions. Whether you choose to become a high whale at the casino or nor but their tales are really remarkable to unfold. Here are the ten most amazing high rollers who left their punting prints in the casino history whose playing strategies seem to be quite extraordinary.
1. Akio Kashiwagi
Akio Kashiwagi, was a mysterious real estate tycoon from Japan who is said to have had ties to the Yakuza, was one of the biggest whales of them all. He earned himself the nickname, “The Warrior” and routinely bet $200k on a single hand of baccarat, which is among the most popular casino games for high rollers, in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Monte Carlo.
In early 1990, Kashiwagi was lured to Atlantic City by another real estate magnate, Donald Trump, to play at one of Trump’s three casinos there. By all accounts, in just two nights Kashiwagi won nearly $6m of Trump’s money. But the Donald would have the last laugh, as he made a deal with Kashiwagi to return and gamble $12m until he either doubled it or lost it all. After $10m in losses, he called it quits and headed back to Japan while still owing Trump money.
It is estimated that Kashiwagi owed as much as $15m in gambling debts to various casino owners, and this could be one of the reasons why, in 1992, he was found dead in his home, stabbed 150 times with a samurai sword. His killer has never been found.
2. Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey is the very best poker player in the entire world. While poker may be a game of skill, Ivey also likes to hit the casino floors with huge stacks of cash to see how lucky he is. An avid craps player, he has been known to fly to five different casinos in five different cities on mega “craps tours”, betting $100k on each roll of the dice.
However, it seems that Ivey may have more than luck going for him at the tables. In 2012, he won around $11m in one stunning baccarat session at London’s Crockfords casino. This came just a few months after he won $9.6m at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. Crockfords, however, refused to pay, stating that Ivey was using a technique called ‘edge sorting’ to predict which cards would be dealt next.
The Aussie Millions hosted a $250,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em super high roller event five times. Three out of five titles in this gigantic event have now been won by this superstar who topped a field of 25 entries in the 2015 LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge to win $2,205,000 AUD ($1,713,285 USD) and his 26th tournament title. As a result Ivey has increased his career live tournament earnings to $22,778,248 and in the process bypassed 2014 Card Player Player of the Year Dan Colman to claim the number three spot on the all-time live earnings leaderboard.
By successfully defending his win in this event from 2014 Ivey earned his third largest career cash. In fact, his top three poker tournament paydays have now all come from wins in this event, with over $7.3 million in earnings coming from his 2012, 2014 and 2015 title runs.
3. Terrance Watanabe
Watanabe was a man who made his fortune as the heir to his father’s party-supply import company. But the Nebraska millionaire treated his money with the same lack of attention as his customers treated the cheap plastic trinkets he got rich selling. Terrance Watanabe became one of the most sought-after whales in the entire world not just because he loved gambling, but because he was terrible at it.
It is estimated that Watanabe lost approximately $220m, most of his fortune, in casinos in a five-year stretch from 2003-2007, with him losing an astounding $127m in 2007 alone. For a time he basically lived in various casino high roller suites, his favorites being the Wynn, Rio, and Caesar’s Palace. Watanabe was known to gamble drunk, play games with huge house edges like roulette or slots, and make idiotic decisions at the blackjack table. He routinely lost $5m a day, and ended up being barred from most casinos for his drunken behavior and inability to pay his debts.
4. Don Johnson
Don Johnson became world famous in 2011 for winning $15m from three of the top Atlantic City casinos in mere days. While the average Joe has to play by the house rules, and whales is by offering them the chance to negotiate the terms of the games they play, such as the betting amounts and even the rules themselves. They also offer discounts on losses, so if a high roller losses $1m, he gets back $100k.
When the Tropicana, Caesar’s, and Borgata casinos came calling, Don Johnson knew the casino tricks used by casinos, did the math and negotiated blackjack rules which would basically make the game 50/50, and with a big loss discount, he was essentially playing the house’s money. He won $15m in total before the casinos cut him off, and they won’t be making the same mistake with Don Johnson anytime soon.
5. Archie Karas
Archie Karas is the man who turned $50 into $40 million. Born Anargyros Karabourniotis, this poor Greek immigrant came to America while working on a cruise ship, discovered how to play poker, and never looked back. He soon became one of the most famous poker players in Los Angeles, winning and then losing, $2m in just a few years.
After his epic loss in 1992, he headed to Las Vegas with $50 is his pocket. From 1992 to 1994, he went on what is now simply called “The Run”, nearly three straight years where Karas simply could not lose. No matter what he played – poker, blackjack, craps, pool – Karas won, amassing nearly $40m during his streak, often betting $100k a hand.
But all good things must come to an end, and Karas proceeded to lose his entire fortune in the years following “The Run”. His epic fall was punctuated by being caught cheating in 2013 and subsequently banned for life from all Nevada casinos.
6. Kerry Packer
The late Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer is remembered by many to the founder of World Series Cricket. But for those in the casino industry, he is remembered as one of the biggest whales who has ever lived.
In the 80s and 90s, Packer’s casino visits became the stuff of legends. He supposedly walked into a London casino one night, simultaneously played £15m on four separate roulette tables and lost every single penny. On the other end of the spectrum, he is reported to have won $20 million in a single night at the MGM Grand in Vegas, wandering from table to table betting $250k a hand. Legend has it that night he tipped the MGM staff $1m.
7. Adnan Kashoggi
Notorious Saudi arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi was one of the richest men in the world in the 80s, accused of participating in the Iran-Contra affair and money laundering with Imelda Marcos, and was one of the biggest whales that casinos had every seen.
In the 80s and 90s, Kashoggi took the casinos of London and Las Vegas by storm, betting huge sums of money, primarily on baccarat. He threw lavish parties in casinos and was known for his taste in prostitutes, reportedly spending half a million dollars on escorts a year. As his fortunes declined in the 90s, he because infamous among casinos for failing to pay his gambling debts. It is said that the refused to pay more than £3m in gambling debts to the Ritz in London, eventually repaying part of the debt a mere 12 years later.
8. Charles Barkley
Barkley, a former NBA star is known for his gambling love and gambling losses. Before taking a break from gambling in 2013, Barkley would routinely visit Las Vegas and he had a single goal every time – win $1m. At first, he would come to town and refuse to leave until he had either won or lost a million at the blackjack tables. He says that in his later years he learned how to lose, and would often leave the casino after only losing $200k. Barkley has become famous in gambling circles as one of the few whales who doesn’t play in a roped-off high rollers area. He often plays at the regular tables alongside people betting $10 a hand, and is known to be remarkably friendly and fun to play with.
9. Kamel Nacif Borge
Kamel Nacif Borge, a Lebanese-Mexican known as “El Rey de la Mezclilla” – “The Denim King.” In addition to being a jeans-manufacturing entrepreneur, he is suspected of being involved in the Mexican drug trade and other corruption scandals.
Nacif would routinely head to Vegas with anywhere from $1m to $5m to play with and bets as much as $200k per hand on baccarat. Although he has run afoul of Vegas casinos by refusing to pay his debts or throwing things across the casino floor when the cards aren’t going his way, the huge amount of money Nacif brings in means that he continues to be invited back. He is so close with certain casinos, in fact, that Ted Binion is reported to have put up $2m to once bail Nacif out of jail.
10. The Sultan of Brunei
He is the head of one of the tiniest countries in the world, the Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest people alive, with a net worth exceeding $20 billion. It seems his whole family is obsessed with casinos and gambling. He often makes secret trips to Las Vegas, Macao, and London casinos where he routinely drops $1m a night. There is no doubt, however, that his family are among the biggest high rollers out there. The Sultan’s former wife, Mariam Aziz, often visited London casinos where she encouraged her female bodyguards to gamble, and is said to have lost £3m during one whirlwind weekend. The Sultan’s brother, Prince Jefri is known to be an avid gambler and frequently stops at casinos to play.