If you want to become a great gambler, you’ll need a unique combination of luck, skill and perseverance. For the majority of people who visit casinos, one or more of these traits is often lacking, but, from time-to-time, a special gambler comes along that is the perfect blend of all three. In this multi-part series, we’re taking a look at some of the casino industry’s most noteworthy winners. These players made the house edge seem like nothing more than a mild annoyance on their way to big winnings over significant lengths of time. The next figure to claim a spot on this exclusive list is Las Vegas icon Billy Walters.
On the one hand, there are traditional gamblers who specialize in one type of game and hone their skills until they gain the edge. On the other hand, there’s Billy Walters. This resident of Carlsbad, California specializes in winning with style, and he’s got no shortage of experience. Once, he leveraged his high aptitude for golf to win $400,000 on a single hole. In another instance, he netted a $3.5 million payday from a Super Bowl bet. Perhaps Walters’s most famous win, however, came at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget, where he pulled off one of the most legendary roulette marathons in recorded history.
In 1986, Walters and his colleagues entered the Golden Nugget on what seemed like a normal Saturday afternoon. After placing his first bet, Walters went on to enjoy a 38-hour hot streak that resulted in nearly $4 million in winnings. When interviewed about his success, he insisted that being a professional gambler is all about being the best you can possibly be, which means spending every waking moment trying to figure out a way to beat the game. In reality, Walters had researched the Golden Nugget in advance, determining that the casino’s older roulette wheels had a statistical bias toward certain numbers.
Billy Walters also had great success with his gambles outside of the casino walls. In 1996, the Kentucky native won a city contract to develop a golf course on municipal land in Las Vegas. Eventually, he talked local officials into selling the land to him outright – for an estimated $1.5 million less than the city had paid for it – in order to continue development independently. As the Sin City real estate market improved, Walters made a deal with the city to scratch the golf course for a $7.2 million fee, and he made off with a prime piece of Clark County real estate from which he has made a considerable return on investment.
Walters’s gambles both in and out of casinos have helped him gain fame and notoriety within the gambling community. As a player, he used statistics to maximize his chances, and, as an investor, he leaned on strong business savvy to consistently come out on top. Who will be the next entry into the casino industry’s most exclusive club? Check back next time, as we continue to profile some of the world’s greatest gamblers.