The 5 Most Rich and Famous Australian Gamblers

australian gamblersIt’s no secret that Aussies love to gamble. While many people lose money on this infamous pastime each year, there are some who hit it big. We’re talking really big. Some successful players owe their fortune to playing smart, while others’ success is the result of what can only be explained as a stroke of good luck.

So, who are the richest Australian gamblers? Each one has a unique story about how they won big. Get to know the 5 most rich and famous Australian gamblers and how they earned – or won – their place in history.

Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer began his gambling career after he inherited his family’s fortune. When his father passed away in the 1970’s, he left $100 million in assets to Packer, including television and casino investments that were made outside of government regulations.

In the 1990’s, Packer had a long streak of bad luck and lost $28 million in less than a month. He was, however, an expert in horseracing and cricket. Good fortune found him again during a one week stay at the MGM Grand Casino, during which he walked away with more than $33 million from various table games and slots. He’s also known for winning twenty hands of baccarat in just 20 minutes, of which each hand was worth $115,000.

The late Kerry Packer is the founder of World Series Cricket, his son James is also the owner of several casinos.

The late Kerry Packer is the founder of World Series Cricket, his son James is also the owner of several casinos.

Kerry Packer was a risk taker in both gambling and business. He was fortunate that his risks usually ended with good payoffs. One of his biggest risks was selling off his father’s business and biggest moneymaker, Nine Network, in 1987. This turned out to be a very wise move as the man he sold it to couldn’t manage it properly, just as Packer had predicted. A mere three years after he sold it, he bought it back for a quarter of the price, re-invested his profit and reaped great benefits from his 25% share in the Foxtel Pay TV Consortium.

Kerry Packer passed away at 68 years old in December 2005. At the time, his net worth was $6.5 billion. His son, James Packer, is still one of the richest casino owners to date.

Zeljko Ranogajec

Zeljko Ranogajec is an expert at horse race betting, but is very secretive about his winnings. Insiders from the industry consider him to be the biggest racing gambler in the world, and his global betting turnover is estimated to be more than $1 billion per year.

Ranogajec was born into a Croatian family who had immigrated to Australia. While he was studying Commerce and Law at the University of Tasmania, he began working at the Wrest Point Casino doing card counting in Blackjack. He eventually dropped out of school to pursue advantage gambling, and boy did it pay off.

According to professional blackjack players, Ranogajec is still one of the most prolific and innovative advantage players of all time.

According to professional blackjack players, Ranogajec is still one of the most prolific and innovative advantage players of all time.

Not only is Ranogajec an expert at horse betting, through which it is rumored that he bets throughout Japan, Hong Kong, England, New Zealand and the United States, but professional blackjack players have said that he is one of the most innovative advantage players in the history of the game. He is known for starting play with a few hundred dollars and walking away with millions. He has won such large amounts of money that most of the big casinos in Australia have banned him, including Gold Coast, Jupiters and Wrest Point. He has even been banned from casinos in the United States following his move overseas. He was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2011.

Another of Zeljko Ranogajec’s big wins includes $7.5 million from a Keno jackpot in New South Wales in 1994.

Lloyd Williams

Lloyd Williams is a businessman and another of the top Australian gamblers. He was good friends with Kerry Packer and is the founder of the famous Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne. The casino opened in 1994 remains the largest casino in the country as well as one of the largest in the world.

In 1999, Williams sold most of his interests to the Packer family’s entities, including their Publishing and Broadcasting Limited business. He later became the co-executor of Kerry Packer’s estate along with David Gonski following Packer’s death.

With his wife, Suzie, Williams has won Australia's most prestigious race, the Melbourne Cup, on four occasions

With his wife, Suzie, Williams has won Australia's most prestigious race, the Melbourne Cup, on four occasions

In addition to his successful business ventures and ties to the Packer family, Lloyd Williams is one of the largest thoroughbred racehorse owners in Australia. He is famous for winning the prestigious Melbourne Cup on four different occasions, making him a record breaker as just one of four thoroughbred owners in the world to win the race four times. In 1981 he won with his horse, Just a Dash. In 1985, What a Nuisance was the horse to take the prize. In 2007, he won with his horse, Efficient, and in 2012 his horse Green Moon took the win.

As of 2012, Lloyd Williams’ net worth was assessed as $670 million by Forbes Asia.

Alan Woods

Alan Woods wasn’t only one of Australia’s biggest gamblers, but was one of the best and most innovative gamblers in the world. He passed away in Hong Kong in 2008 as one of the top three gamblers worldwide, and is still regarded as such today.

Woods started his gambling career playing blackjack at local casinos in New South Wales. He was a skilled mathematician and honed his skills to get ahead in the games. In the 1980’s, he traveled to Hong Kong with his friend and gambling partner, Bill Benter. They formed a gambling syndicate and got into horse racing. Little did they know that they would be taking the industry by storm as one of the most successful teams in the history of horse racing – without ever attending the racetrack.

Woods has been deemed one of the top three horse race gamblers in the world.

Woods has been deemed by many experts as one of the top three horse race gamblers in the world.

Alan and Bill’s success was all thanks to their skills in mathematics, which allowed them to develop an innovative computer program that used formulas to choose race winners based on form, track, weather and a number of other variables. Woods viewed racing much like he viewed everything else in life – as just another equation to be solved. When the duo parted ways in 1987, their betting syndicate continued to operate successfully in Hong Kong, even while Woods was in Manila.

Alan Woods’ estimated net worth at the time of his death was $670 million.

David Walsh

While David Walsh is perhaps best known for his Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), he is also a professional gambler who earned his fortune through the industry. Before getting into art, he attended the University of Tasmania, where he majored in computer science and mathematics – a move that would change his life. It’s thanks to this schooling that he was able to develop a system for gambling by betting on horse racing and various other sports.

Australian newspapers have described Walsh as the leader of the biggest gambling syndicate in the world. This syndicate is comprised of 17 people known as the Bank Roll. The other leader of the group is Zeljko Ranogajec, famed gambler and Walsh’s best friend.

David Walsh with his wife Kirsha Kaechele which he married in 2014. Walsh is known for his extravagant lifestyle.

David Walsh with his wife Kirsha Kaechele which he married in 2014. Walsh is known for his extravagant lifestyle.

Ranogajec and Walsh met thanks to Australia’s first legal casino, which was opened six years before Walsh began attending school at the University of Tasmania. Other Physics Club students would go to the casino for fun, to try out calculations and win a little bit of money, but Walsh was the only one serious about scaling up. That is, until he met Ranogajec, who approached him because he heard about Walsh’s calculation skills in gambling.

After a bad trip to Las Vegas, Walsh and Ranogajec returned to Australia where Walsh began writing his computer program for horse racing. In 1987, they tried it out for the first time and won. They spent years developing the program and winning money. Then, in 1995, Walsh’s interests shifted to art, and he eventually poured all of his winnings into art collecting and museums. In 2008 he borrowed $80 million from Ranogajec to work on his biggest project, MONA, which opened in 2011. Since then, he has run into tax issues with the ATO, but everything has been cleared and his museum has been a success.

Like anyone else who gambles, these famous Australian gamblers started with a dream and ended up achieving it in their own unique ways. With some brains, luck, perseverance and optimism, your name could be the next to go down in history next to these big winners.

About The Author

I grew up with healthy gambling in my house when my father would bring his buddies over for a game of cards. It was only natural when I grew up that I would continue the tradition, but doing it online is the best. Online gambling keeps me at home in my pajamas just the way I like it.

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