World Famous Gamblers

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Gamblers are rife throughout history. Some are more famous than others, as we’re about to see. The stereotypical scene involves the Wild West gamblers, ready with a shot of whiskey and maybe a six shooter if they don’t like the outcome. 

There are some intriguing and famous gamblers scattered throughout history, so let’s introduce ourselves to a few of them, shall we?

Old school sharks

There are some famous names to discover here, starting with perhaps the most famous of all.

Wild Bill Hickok

His full name was James Butler Hickok, but Wild Bill sounds so much better, don’t you think? He died while playing poker in Deadwood, when another unsuccessful gambler shot him in the back. No one is 100% sure of the hand of cards he was holding when he was murdered, but it’s no surprise to learn it is called the dead man’s hand…

Poker Alice

Poker Alice could count being a gambler as one of her occupations (the others apparently being rancher and brothel operator!). She started playing poker to bring in money after her husband died… and turned out to be rather good at it. Her biggest single win was $6k in an evening… and this was in the late 1800s.

Doc Holliday

Gambler… gunfighter… dentist. Those careers rival the ones claimed by Poker Alice, but Doc Holliday – otherwise known as John Henry Holliday – did not enjoy a life lived into his seventies, as she did. He died from tuberculosis aged 36, having previously participated in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

Today’s top players

Professional gamblers do this for a living. Yes, really! They’re few and far between, but these names should be noted.

Zeljko Ranogajec

His speciality is blackjack, where he put his incredible memory to use while playing the game. He holds the record for the largest prize ever won playing keno – an impressive $7.5 million.

Patrik Antonius

Patrik specialises in poker and has managed to net over $4 million from tournaments alone. It is thought he brought in over $11 million during a five-year period from 2009 onwards.

Casino slang

If you need to get a little gambler’s slang under your belt, refer to this handy guide:

  • Whale – players who spend a lot of money on gambling
  • High roller – another term for a whale, one of the big spenders
  • Card sharp – this is a term given to someone who cheats on cards to win
  • Deuce – a poker term relating to a card bearing the number two
  • Beard – someone used to place bets for another player (perhaps because the real player has been banned)
  • Pigeon – a poker player who isn’t deemed to be good at poker by their fellow players
  • Dead man’s hand – a hand in poker featuring two black eights and two black aces. Thought to have been the hand Wild Bill Hickok had when he met his end…

Celebrity players

There are celebrity gamblers too, you know. Here are a couple of our favourites.

Ben Affleck

Back in 2004, he was crowned champion in the California State Poker Championship. His prowess at blackjack led to him being banned in Vegas, so he must have been good.

Derren Brown

This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his penchant for fantastic illusions. Reports state that he never made big wagers on casino games, but he always seemed to win – much more so than regular players would expect.

Professional gamblers keep on keeping on

The most famous gamblers throughout history are probably those who have been banned for becoming too good at it. Gambling is a game of chance, but some have turned their skills into a profitable way to make some cash. No wonder some casinos have barred certain players – we think we would too!

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