High-stakes poker players are the kings of reading the tells of other players, and knowing when to bluff and when to fold a hand, but they are also the masters of risk, and for many, that love of taking a chance goes well beyond games of skill.
While poker is the first choice for these players, and where their most reliable professional income comes from, many can’t resist a flutter on roulette, dice, and other games of chance that involve no skill at all.
Chasing the buzz runs deep for these players, and can culminate in the highest of highs, or the lowest of lows, sometimes in the same night!
Phil Ivey is one of the best known names in poker circles, and is famous for loving a proposition bet, as well as favouring roulette and craps for the occasional big risk, many of which come up well for him.
However, Ivey’s name has been in the headlines in recent years for different reasons, revolving around baccarat, and a controversial big money win.
Well-known for his love of other casino games, Phil Ivey was at the baccarat tables playing Punto Banco at Mayfair’s famous Crockford Club back in 2012, and left on a huge high with around £7.7 million ($10.2m) of winnings.
But those winnings never came, and a huge court case followed, when it was discovered that he was edge-sorting. While not touching the cards himself, Ivey had convinced the croupier that he was superstitious, and as a result, got the most valuable cards rotated in the deck to increase his chances.
A 2016 majority decision ruled for the casino, and this ruling was upheld on appeal in 2017, with the decision being that the tactic Ivey used was not fair, and constituted cheating.
This probably isn’t the end of the world for Ivey though, who is rumored to have once spotted a dealer issue at a Puerto Rico casino and left up by $20 million.
Archie Karas’ insane winning streak over three years is known simply as “The Run” and saw him turn $50 (and a $10,000 loan) until $40 million between 1992 and 1995 predominantly playing poker.
It was only poker that won Archie his huge prize haul though, with $200,000 a roll at the craps table turning into $920,000 in two rolls.
Unfortunately, like many, Archie didn’t know when to stop, and he watched his money disappear, losing $11 million at the craps tables and $17 million on baccarat in just three weeks. The rest of the cash disappeared at the poker tables when Karas tried, unsuccessfully, to return to his first love to win his funds back.
Jake Cody, a professional poker player and infamous high roller, is no stranger to taking a big risk on the roulette table. Known as one of the best poker players ever to come out of the UK, Jake has won well over $4 million in various tournaments, but is arguably best known for one insane moment.
After winning the £42,000 first prize at a UK Poker Championship event in Nottingham, England, Cody (with a fair bit of nudging from his friends) went straight to the roulette table and bet the whole thing on black, which came in, doubling his winnings in an instant.
A gambler so famous that Hollywood made a glitzy movie about him, Stu Ungar is arguably the poker legend with the most insane stories told about him.
Becoming the best poker player in the world in his teens, Ungar had a staggering poker tournament win rate of over 45 percent, including three World Series of Poker Main Event wins and three Super Bowl of Poker titles.
Ungar also loved him some blackjack, but because of his incredible card counting ability, was swiftly banned from all Las Vegas casinos.
One of the most impressive stories about Ungar was when Bob Stupak, a casino owner, set a memory test for the card counting master, flipping over 51 cards in a deck, and asking him what the bottom card was.
Winning $10,000 by correcting stating it was the 10 of diamonds, claiming he did it with mathematical formulas as opposed to memory, Ungar again proved his status as one of, if not the greatest card man of all time.
Happy to bet on anything, Ungar started betting on golf as soon as he picked up a club, losing nearly $80,000 in his first ever hour playing the sport by betting against golf great Jack Strauss.
Whether winning big or losing big – and normally doing both – it’s clear that these poker players can’t resist chasing the adrenaline rush that comes with a big bet on a game of chance, for better or for worse.