Famous Gamblers Throughout History

Gambling has been a part of human history for centuries, with notable figures emerging in various cultures and time periods. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, individuals have made their mark in the world of gambling, often becoming legends in their own right. Let’s explore the lives of some of the most famous gamblers throughout history.

Early History of Gambling

Gambling dates back to ancient times, with evidence of early games of chance found in archaeological digs. These early forms of gambling were often tied to religious rituals or used as a form of entertainment among ancient societies.

Notable Gamblers in Ancient Times

Ancient China

One of the earliest recorded instances of gambling comes from ancient China, where the game of “Bo” was popular among the ruling class. Legend has it that the game was used to finance the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, gambling was a common pastime among both the elite and the common people. The game of dice, known as “Tesserae,” was particularly popular, with players often betting large sums of money on the outcome.

Renaissance and the Birth of Modern Gambling

The Renaissance saw a resurgence of interest in gambling, with card games like poker and blackjack gaining popularity. Notable figures of the time, such as the French mathematician Blaise Pascal, contributed to the development of probability theory, which had a significant impact on the world of gambling.

Famous Gamblers in the 18th and 19th Centuries

During the 18th and 19th centuries, gambling flourished in Europe and the United States, with many famous gamblers emerging during this time. One such figure was Giacomo Casanova, a notorious womanizer and gambler who reportedly won and lost fortunes at the card table.

Wild West Gamblers

The American Wild West was a hotbed of gambling activity, with saloons and gambling halls dotting the landscape. Figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday were not only known for their gun-slinging skills but also for their prowess at the gambling table.

Modern Era: 20th Century to Present

In the 20th century, gambling became more regulated, leading to the rise of casinos and other gambling establishments. Figures like Benny Binion, who founded the World Series of Poker, and Archie Karas, who famously turned $50 into $40 million, became legends in the world of gambling.

Some famous gamblers throughout history:

  1. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich: Known for popularizing the sandwich, he was also an avid gambler, spending hours at the card tables.
  2. Nick “The Greek” Dandolos: A legendary figure in gambling circles, he was known for his high-stakes poker games, including a famous match against Johnny Moss that lasted for five months.
  3. Amarillo Slim: Thomas Austin Preston Jr., known as Amarillo Slim, was a professional gambler and poker player. He won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1972 and was known for his colorful personality.
  4. Eleanor Dumont: Known as Madame Moustache, she was one of the few successful female professional gamblers in the Old West, operating gambling establishments and winning fortunes at the tables.
  5. Billy Walters: Considered one of the most successful sports bettors in Las Vegas history, Walters amassed a fortune through his expert sports gambling skills.
  6. Archie Karas: Famous for turning $50 into over $40 million through a legendary winning streak in high-stakes poker and pool hustling. Unfortunately, he also lost it all in a remarkably short period.
  7. Brian Zembic: Known for his outrageous prop bets, such as getting breast implants for a year for $100,000, Zembic is a professional gambler who has gained notoriety for his unconventional wagers.
  8. Kerry Packer: An Australian media tycoon who was also a fearless and high-stakes gambler, known for his massive bets in casinos around the world.
  9. Edward O. Thorp: While not a traditional gambler, Thorp revolutionized the world of gambling with his book “Beat the Dealer,” which mathematically proved that blackjack could be beaten with card counting techniques.
  10. Don Johnson: Not to be confused with the actor, this Don Johnson is famous for beating Atlantic City casinos out of millions of dollars by negotiating special rules and exploiting casino promotions.

These are just a few examples of the many colorful and influential figures in the world of gambling throughout history.


Throughout history, gambling has been a part of human culture, with famous gamblers emerging in various cultures and time periods. From ancient China to the modern era, these individuals have left their mark on the world of gambling, becoming legends in their own right.


  1. Who was the most famous gambler in ancient Rome?
    • Answer: One of the most famous gamblers in ancient Rome was the emperor Nero, who was known for his extravagant gambling habits.
  2. What is the oldest known game of chance?
    • Answer: The oldest known game of chance is believed to be the Mesopotamian game of “The Royal Game of Ur,” which dates back to around 2600 BCE.
  3. Who was the first person to win the World Series of Poker Main Event multiple times?
    • Answer: Johnny Moss was the first person to win the World Series of Poker Main Event multiple times, winning in 1970, 1971, and 1974.
  4. What is the largest amount ever won in a single gambling session?
    • Answer: The largest amount ever won in a single gambling session is believed to be $40 million, won by Archie Karas in a legendary run at the poker table.
  5. Are there any famous female gamblers throughout history?
    • Answer: Yes, there have been several famous female gamblers throughout history, including Alice Ivers, also known as Poker Alice, who was a legendary figure in the American West.

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