Frontier gamblers were in abundance due to towns relying heavily on railways and cattle industries, providing plenty of capital for fast-paced games such as faro, monte, and roulette.
Charles Deville Wells earned legendary status by manipulating a roulette wheel to his benefit and Wild Bill Hickok’s poker hand–two black aces and two black eights–has become part of American culture.
William T. Walters
Billy Walters had the ability to beat the odds at sports betting, poker and stock trading; but his greatest skill lay in roulette. By identifying patterns on older roulette wheels – giving him an edge that allowed him to consistently make thousands per spin – Billy was able to consistently make millions per year from winning at roulette.
After arriving in Vegas, he quickly formed an alliance with a team of mathematicians and computer programmers to assist him with honing his strategy. Over time, The Computer Group would become one of the world’s premier bookmaking syndicates.
Walters’ success did not come without cost, though. According to Walters, mobster Tony Spilotro attempted to coerce him into joining him; when this attempt failed he felt betrayed and has never returned to Las Vegas since.
Archie Karas is one of the best-known gamblers ever. Starting off with just $50 in his pocket, he amassed over $40 million during a remarkable gambling career that saw him battle against iconic opponents like Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss and Puggy Pearson before casinos accused him of marking cards to cheat them out of money.
By December 1992, Karas was down to his last dollar and it seemed as though his gambling days were coming to an end. Yet instead of quitting gambling altogether he switched his focus from low-stakes baccarat and craps tables, where he claimed doubling up before soon thereafter losing it all back again, becoming a recurrent pattern throughout his life.
Charles Deville Wells
Charles Deville Wells placed two of his most cherished assets – an exquisite yacht and Jeannette, his French mistress – into play in Monte Carlo’s world-famous casino during 1891’s summer heat, betting them both to break even and break the bank not once, but ten times; winning what would amount to millions today.
He’s known as “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”, but was he really an innovator or just another fraudster?
Blanc’s casino had been in perilous straits. On the brink of closure and needing every last dollar from it to stay afloat, he desperately sought every edge possible in making profits from it. Within two years his ‘luck’ saw thousands flocking in droves to visit, increasing Blanc family stake in business by over PS120 Million (in today’s values). Could his extraordinary run of luck have come thanks to some outside help from an old acquaintance?
Nick “The Greek” Dandolos
Nick “the Greek” Dandolos was an extraordinary gambler, moving from poverty to riches over 75 times during his lifetime. Born on Crete and having studied philosophy with his grandfather before receiving an allowance of $150-a-week to travel America from them both, Dandolos made himself known by gambling at every turn.
Soon after settling in Chicago, he relocated to Montreal where he started betting on horse races and craps before eventually honing his poker skills and becoming an attraction at local casinos.
Nick the Greek’s finest moment was playing poker against Johnny Moss over five months, arranged by Benny Binion. Their match became legendary, inspiring the World Series of Poker – however some researchers have cast doubt upon its truth and believe something else may have occurred instead; regardless, his legend lives on!
Alice Ivers Tubbs
Leadville, Colorado was an exciting western mining town filled with excitement and risk, where Alice Ivers Duffield (better known by her moniker Poker Alice) lived and worked during times of both prosperity and destitution, joy and danger.
After her first husband Frank died in a mining explosion, Alice decided to use the skills she’d acquired playing poker as a source of income. She began dealing in gambling parlors and quickly gained popularity as both player and dealer; dressed fashionably with small black cigars in hand due to religious upbringing; never gambling on Sunday due to upbringing; armed herself with a.38 firearm – traveling around mining towns of Colorado and Deadwood while gambling regularly; eventually meeting Warren G Tubbs when working in local saloon.