Whether you realize it or not, there are a number of high-profile gamblers who have made their names on the floors of various casinos but have the notoriety that extends far beyond the gambling world. Whether it be for their good deeds, great play, or controversy shrouding them, the following well-known gamblers all have interesting, unique stories that we will touch on below.
Phil Ivey is a man from the East Coast of the United States and is someone who began making a name for himself during World Series of Poker tournaments in the early 2000s. By 2002—after years of playing poker in Atlantic City by way of a fake ID—Ivey reached star status thanks to his unbelievable performances at those aforementioned WSOP events. In 2002 alone, Ivey racked up 3 bracelets and more or less stole the show. In total, Ivey has accrued 10 WSOP bracelets and was a feature at the WSOP Main Event year after year. His total haul from World Series of Poker events has far exceeded $1 million and is edging in on $2 million.
While Ivey’s play on the grand stage of the WSOP is noteworthy, he has recently made headlines thanks to him being accused of cheating by a UK-based casino. At a casino in London, Ivey reportedly won more than $11 million playing punto banco. Unfortunately, he was not paid anything beyond the $1 million he initially staked thanks to him being accused of a tactic known as edge sorting, something that is widely regarded as cheating.
In short, edge sorting is done when a player notices certain patterns on the back of cards, and certain irregularities in those patterns. By taking into account the differences between the back sides of the card, Ivey would, in theory, be able to have a better chance of knowing the type and suit of card that was lying face down. Because Ivey was not paid his winnings, he moved to sue the casino in question. The suit lasted a few years, but by the end of 2017 a UK Supreme Court decided that Ivey’s edge sorting conduct did constitute cheating and, as such, he is not owed the $11 million won during his time playing. Ivey still plans on disputing this, but at this point, it does not seem as though he will have much luck with that.
Phil Hellmuth is an American poker player who is just as well-known for his play as he is his actions at the poker table. Hellmuth’s playing career got its start back in the 1980s, but really took off throughout the 90s and 2000s. He is now the owner of 15 WSOP bracelets and has been seen at the Main Event regularly. As of 2017, his total tournament winnings exceed $20 million and are continuing to grow.
Phil is known as “The Poker Brat” thanks largely to the way in which he acts at the tables at which he plays. An example of this was during an episode of “Poker After Dark,” which was aired on US television. During regular play when it was his turn to act, Hellmuth became overly perturbed at the conversations happening between other players at the table. He snapped and demanded that his fellow players be quiet when it was his turn to act.
Hellmuth was subsequently mocked by the players at his table and, at this point, walked off set, threatening to never return. While this is one example, there are plenty of other stories regarding Hellmuth’s actions at the poker table. He is known for overreacting after bad beats, and lobbing insults and threats to the players who knock him out. To say that Hellmuth is a bit of a character would be a massive understatement.
Chris Moneymaker is a name anyone familiar with poker is familiar with. Moneymaker rose to fame in 2003 when he won the WSOP Main Event. While his winning of Main Event was assuredly unexpected, what made it even more noteworthy was the route he took to the final table. Moneymaker was the first player to win, or even participate in, a WSOP Main Event after having qualified through an online game. Being that online poker was just beginning to catch on at the time, Moneymaker is often credited with being the sole person who moved online poker from the fringes to the mainstream.
Beyond his initial success in 2003, however, Moneymaker has largely avoided the spotlight and has not had much large-scale success. He wrote a book about how his $40 online qualifier eventually resulted in him winning more than $2.5 million at the final table, but beyond that book release, Moneymaker has largely stayed out of the public eye.
Even some die-hard poker fans may be unsure of where they have heard the name Barbara Enright, but chances are they have heard her name tossed around a time or two. The reason for this being that Enright is regarded as being the first woman to experience success on the big stage; the World Series of Poker. Over a period of time spanning the late 1980s to the 1990s, Enright laid claim to 3 WSOP bracelets and just shy of $250,000 in winnings.
Outside of the annual World Series, Enright is no stranger to success. It is estimated that her total winnings from tournaments over the course of her career has exceeded $1.5 million and is still continuing to grow. Having been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007, it is safe to say that Enright is the one of the most popular, well-known female poker player on the planet.
Archie Karas may now call the United States his home, but he was born in Greece and lived there until he ran away from home during his teenage years. After years of struggling to get by, Karas eventually found his way to Los Angeles, California where he began pool sharking for fun, but then to make money. After some time, Karas’ expertise on the felt pool tables resulted in no one wanting to play him, so naturally, he moved on to playing poker.
There are many popular stories regarding Karas’ exploits, however, few are more well-known than his run during the mid-1990s. During that time it is rumored that he turned an initial investment of less than $50 into more than $40 million. While this feat is truly remarkable, perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that his winnings—all $40 million of them—were just about exhausted by the end of 1995. This was a theme for Karas, who would regularly win tens of millions only to lose it all a short while later. This is something Karas has done many times throughout his career. Karas does not have much renowned as it relates to the World Series of Poker, but for people who think that massive upswings are impossible, Karas has proved that you can run well for an elongated period of time over and over again. The one thing Karas has not demonstrated, however, is an ability to retain the winnings he accrues. He still calls Las Vegas home to this day and continues playing poker and pool.
These are just a few of the most famous gamblers from around the world. There are plenty of other players who have made a name for themselves through gambling, but the 5 folks mentioned above are more well-known than just about all others.