A look at ten famous casino whales
Although it may seem to be a derogatory term initially, in gambling parlance, a Whale is simply another name for the super-rich.
These are the high-roller gamblers with bank balances like an international telephone number and for whom tipping the croupier usually involves a four, five or even six figure sum.
Their winnings, and losses, can be equally astronomical and they play a hugely important role in the casino business, as good luck for the Whale, usually spells a big dent in a casinos profits, and vice versa.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous Whales from the past and the present. Some are famous for their gambling, while others may come as something of a shock to you to realize just how popular hitting the casino is for so many of the rich elite.
1. Kerry Packer – The famous Australian media mogul is reckoned to be THE biggest whale in gambling history, famous for outrageous bets, huge winning and losing streaks. One story widely reported is that after a successful night at the baccarat table, Packer tipped one lucky waitress $100k and challenged a Texas tycoon to a $60m coin flip – which the Texan quickly backed away from.
2. Adnan Khashoggi – Famous for his vast wealth and an expensive divorce, Khashoggi is one of the world’s most famous gamblers. He alone was once responsible for an 19% dip in quarterly profits at the Hilton International chain of hotels and casinos, after one particularly profitable winning streak.
3. Tiger Woods – The world’s most famous golfer has another side to his game. While not a whale to the extent of some of the other billionaires on the list, Woods is famous for frequenting Las Vegas casinos and once reportedly ran up a $250,000 debt in a single night at the Mandalay Bay casino.
4. The Sultan of Brunei – Formerly the world’s richest man, the Sultan of Brunei owns billions of dollars and he has been spotted playing at the exclusive tables in an unnamed Las Vegas casino, placing $250,000 chips all over a roulette table.
5. John Daly – The two-time Major winning golfer is also one of the game’s biggest gamblers and losers. Daly once lost $1.6m dollars of his earnings in just five hours and estimates that gambling has cost him between $50m and $60m in a twelve-year period.
6. Charles Barkley – The famous Basketball star and ESPN analyst revealed that gambling had cost him close to $10m in total. He revealed that he also won $700,000 in a single weekend betting on the Superbowl and playing blackjack, but also lost an incredible $2.5m in just six hours.
7. Mike Ashley – One of the biggest UK-based whales is Newcastle United Football Club owner Mike Ashley. A billionaire due to his chain of sporting goods stores, Ashley once won £1.3m on a single roulette spin in 2007, but in 2011, lost £1m in just a two hour spell at Aspers casino in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
8. George Karas – George Karas is unique on this list as he is famous through his gambling, rather than being a person who earned fame who gambles. Karas once took $50 and turned it into a $40m fortune in 3 years in Las Vegas, before losing the lot in a twelve month period.
9. Michael Jordan – Rumors abound that Basketball’s greatest ever player was forced to retire in 1993 due to gambling debts. Jordan has admitted he gambles in the past, but the extent of the problem has never been fully revealed, Jordan himself claims it is less than $500,000 in his lifetime, though others claim the basketball star has bet more than that with them on a single wager.
10. Larry Flynt – The founder of Hustler magazine made millions in the porn industry, but his real passion is poker and Flynt is willing to play for huge stakes against the best players in the world. He also frequented the casinos of Las Vegas in the 1970s, playing many hands at the Golden Nugget casino.