We all know gambling offers a thrill like no other. A one-of-a-kind rush combining skill, unwavering hope, and of course, a little visit from Lady Luck herself. Surely you've thought about what you'd do if you struck it big. Buy a new house? Enjoy an exotic vacation (or five)? Or maybe you'd take a more conservative route and set yourself up for life. Either way, here are some gamblers who have played and won while, in most cases, changing the course of their lives in the process.
Ah, Vegas. The land of dreams built and broken. Perhaps the luckiest gambler to shake up this legendary city is Archie Karas, famous for turning $50 into $40 million in a history-making run lasting from 1992 to 1995. Beginning at the Binion's Horseshoe and ultimately including multiple Las Vegas casinos, Karas worked his way through Sin City playing high stakes poker, pool, and dice, amassing his fortune while beating some of the finest players Las Vegas had to offer. After the dust settled, Karas had transformed his initial $50 into a staggering $40 million fortune, ensuring his name would be forever etched in gambling history. But the very same daring and unwillingness to walk away that made him a rich man by anyone's standards ultimately sparked his undoing, and in 1995, he lost the lion's share of his money in three short weeks. Then, after a brief break, Karas returned to gamble his final million away at the Bicycle Club playing dice and baccarat. But not before cementing himself as a key figure in gambling lore.
Every great story needs a hero, and World War II veteran Elmer Sherwin fits the bill perfectly while also proving himself one of the luckiest people on the planet. Back in 1989, Elmer won $4.6 million playing the Megabucks progressive casino slot game. He took his cash and travelled the world while continuing to play the slots in between trips. Well, 16 years down the line, the blessed vet struck Megabucks gold again, but this time, his jackpot hit a mind-blowing $21 million! And while we can't help but feel envious, our jealousy is tempered with plenty of admiration as this time around, Elmer donated large amounts of money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other charities.
In 1996, former postal worker John Tippin famously won $11 million playing the Megabucks slot in Las Vegas. It was a record-setting win that catapulted Tippin into a financial stratosphere most can only dream of, but it also came with a price. Tippin actually wrote a book chronicling his post-jackpot life titled, "I Did It! My Life After Megabucks," in which he describes the isolation, financial troubles, and inevitable decline of many friendships. Tippin claims he wrote the book as a cautionary tale for winners-to-be in the hopes his experiences could help them avoid some of the pitfalls he faced, but don't feel too bad for John: The book also includes an eight-page pictorial highlighting some of the spoils of his gambling success.
His identity might remain anonymous, but his legendary jackpot is recognized the world over. Known simply as "Peter," this lucky Norwegian man took serious advantage of modern technology when he amassed $38 million in progressive jackpots from the comfort of his own home, proving online casinos can be every bit as fruitful as their more traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts. His weapon of choice? Arabian Nights, the five-reel, ten-payline video slot machine. And the results? A life-altering jackpot that left the stunned man shaken (in a good way). All without leaving his house!
Arguably the most revered and talked about modern gambler who ever cruised the (very high stakes) casinos, Australian billionaire Kerry Packer's gambling prowess is the stuff of legends. In fact, his big personality sparked so much controversy before his death in 2005, it's hard to pin down exactly how much he won and where he won it due to conflicting reports. For example, several accounts claim he raked in anywhere between $20 million to $40 million at the MGM over several days, triggering accounts of plummeting casino earnings reports and the firing of several executives. His favourite games? Baccarat and blackjack. And both, despite the conflicting reports about an exact sum, definitely earned him some serious money. As for what a man of Packer's means did with his casino fun money, well, that's a whole other layer of speculation, but it was reported that he once gave one lucky cocktail waitress a house of her own as a tip. His luck did eventually run out, though, when he lost $28 million at a London casino, but for a person as wealthy as Packer, we're fairly sure he came out alright.
Mike Ashley's story isn't exactly a rags-to-riches tale. As owner of the Newcastle United Football Club, the British billionaire was already doing just fine, financially, but his story is still worth telling as it's one of the biggest casino wins on record. It goes like this: One evening, Ashley made himself comfortable at a roulette table in Fifty London Casino, placed his bet, and walked out $1.6 million richer (but not before thanking the dealer). Unfortunately, though, his gambling luck didn't hold and in 2011, he reportedly lost £1 million in two hours at a Newcastle casino. But to a man of Ashley's financial means, that was likely a mere bump in the road.