It's often said that the house always wins - but people have still made fortunes gambling. There are two ways to do it. You either have to put in the time and effort to work out how to win in a casino, or you need to get extremely lucky!
⚠️ Gambling is a bad way to get rich - you are more likely to lose money than make some! Odds are generally stacked against you regardless of the game you decide to play.
Getting Rich Through Luck
If you want to get rich through gambling the easy way, you're going to have to get extremely lucky. And you will have to work on your bankroll management. Without a proper bankroll, your expenses will feel like a waste of money.
The good news is that games with big jackpots like slots, lotteries or keno don't cost much to play. The bad news is that the chances of winning a big jackpot is incredibly small. We're talking odds of millions-to-one. But the low-risk, the high-reward model offers something else - the ability to dream about winning a life-changing sum for a very small outlay.
There are many other luck-based gambling games - roulette, slots, baccarat, and craps, for example - where the chances of winning aren't so tiny. But the problem is these don't have the same possibility to win enormous sums.
If you want to win big on this sort of game you have to risk a lot. And that means you're more likely to go broke than get rich off the casino, because the house's mathematical edge will come into play over the long term.
If you want to get rich on a luck-based gambling game, best to pick ones with the possibility of winning a life-changing sum from a small bet, rather than ones where you have to risk a fortune to win a slightly bigger fortune.
You aren't very likely to succeed in either, but at least with the first, you won't bankrupt yourself trying!
Earning a Fortune With Skills
If you want to know how to win at gambling, then you need to focus on skill-based options. What you are looking for is games where you can have a mathematical edge over either the house or your fellow players. By spending time in refining your skills, you are turning gambling into a form of investment.
There are three main opportunities to make money gambling without relying on dumb luck: blackjack, poker, and sports betting.
Blackjack is a solved game, but even if you play perfectly the house still has a small edge. This is because the player must always go first - and if you bust, you lose.
However, this edge can be swung in your favor if you learn to card count. This involves monitoring how many high cards are left in the shoe compared to low cards. Low cards favor the house, while high cards favor the player. You bet bigger when the count is in your favor and small when they aren't.
Card counting was once a license to print money, but these days casinos have wised up and made it as difficult as possible to do. And if you do still manage to succeed, they'll kick you out if they think you're winning too much!
Poker is unique among casino games in that you play against other players and not the house itself. The casino just takes its commission (known as the rake) from each pot. This means that unlike blackjack, they don't care if you have an edge.
However, the standard of poker play has increased a lot over the last decade or so. Nowadays you will need to put in some serious study time to improve your game if you want to make a living, let alone get rich.
Tournaments are a better choice than cash games to win big, because they offer massive payouts - but there is a lot more randomness involved. With cash games, you need to play very high stakes and be an incredible player if you want to make millions.
For most people, sports betting is just a bit of fun that makes watching games more exciting. But for a small group of serious gamblers, sports betting is one type of gambling where they can turn the tables on the house.
The goal is to have a better understanding of the odds that the bookmakers themselves - either by insider information or through the use of powerful computer algorithms. That's not easy, but it can be very lucrative once you come up with the right betting models and systems. You'll find some examples below of people who've managed to make millions betting on sports.
Like anything in life, if you want to get rich via skill-based gambling, you will have to put in the work. As the old saying goes, it's a hard way to make an easy living!
Gamblers Who Became Rich
Some people claim that nobody gets rich gambling except the casino, but this just isn't true. Not only are there plenty of successful professional gamblers who make a modest living wagering, there are also a number of people who have made massive fortunes. Let's take a look at a few examples of the richest gamblers of recent times.
Born in Australia in 1945, Alan Woods started out a losing gambler but ended up worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death - even after giving huge sums away. It was a divorce that caused Alan to get serious about gambling, learning how to beat blackjack by card counting.
He retired from blackjack in 1982 and moved onto horse racing. He teamed up with Bill Benter in Hong Kong and together they created an algorithm that predicted winners based on various factors such as weather, form and track conditions.
Woods was a mathematics graduate and insurance actuary who recognized that at its heart, gambling is really a mathematical problem - one with great rewards if you can solve it correctly!
A true rags-to-riches story, Billy Walters grew up in rural Kentucky in a home without running water. He was raised by his grandmother after his father died and his alcoholic mother abandoned him.
He started gambling when he was 9 years old, but didn't become a winner until he was nearly 40! He won millions from the Golden Nugget after noticing their roulette wheel was biased toward certain numbers.
Walters is one of the most successful sports betters of all time, using computer algorithms to come out on top 30 years in a row, with only one losing year in a 39 year period.
In 2017, Walters was convicted of insider trading, using information from a company director to make $32 million in profits and avoid $11 million in losses. He was sentenced to five years and fined $10 million. His sentence was commuted in 2021.
If there's anyone who can say they know how to win at the casino, it's Don Johnson. He's made over $15 million playing blackjack - most of it in a short period of time in 2010.
Johnson worked in gambling his whole life. He started as a jockey then moved onto managing racetracks and casinos. He also worked as the regulator and started a company that specialized in analyzing horse racing odds.
Johnson took advantage of Atlantic City casinos' desperation for high-rollers in the years after the 2008 global financial crash. Instead of asking for expensive comps, Johnson negotiated rules that would erase the house edge.
Johnson won $5 million from the Borgata, $6 million from the Tropicana, and $4 million from Caesars. He would probably have won more but the casinos refused to continue booking his action under the negotiated rules.
Jon Heywood is the odd-one-out on this list. The former soldier won $18 million from an online casino, relying entirely on lady luck rather than skill. It was only 25 minutes after he created his account that he hit the Mega Moolah slots progressive jackpot using a 35c bet.
Heywood and his best friend had a pact that if either won any serious money gambling they'd help the other out - and he was a man of his word, giving his mate $5.5 million. This life-changing win couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!
The self-styled "Poker Brat" may not be the biggest earner in poker, but he is undeniably a legend of the game - with a record-breaking fifteen World Series of Poker bracelets to his name.
That's not to say Hellmuth hasn't made a fortune along the way. His lifetime earnings stand at $24 million, putting him at 21st on the all-time list. But that's without taking into account his lucrative sponsorship and book deals, or his business investments.
Phil lives a relatively modest lifestyle too - so he's been able to hang on to his winnings, unlike some other big winners.
If you want to know how to win in a casino, then follow the footsteps of the examples above. It's definitely possible - just don't expect to make a fortune unless you get very lucky or you put in the work to give yourself an edge.
This article was published on April 13, 2021, and last updated on October 20, 2022.