3 of the most famous gambling wipe outs in Las Vegas
The three of the most famous gambling losers in Sin City’s history lost hundreds of millions of dollars!
It is worth remembering that for every Elmer Sherwin (who won the Megabucks jackpot twice), there are several famous, formerly wealthy individuals who went to Las Vegas to gamble a small part of their vast fortune, only to find that the tables of Sin City hold their own extensive allure. So much so that within a relatively short space of time, these individuals find that Vegas has taken an extensive bite, if not gobbled up entirely, all of their personal assets.
In this article, we are going to examine the stories of three such individuals who created a degree of fame and a vast personal fortune from their business and then managed to lose most, if not all of their vast personal wealth, at the gambling tables of Las Vegas.
1. Allan Iversen – NBA Superstar
For many years, Allan Iversen was one of the NBA’s top basketball superstars. As a player for the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies he was regularly one of the top performers every season and one of the highest scoring players ever to grace the game.
Iversen’s talents also didn’t come cheap for his employers as over the course of his career he earned an estimated $200m in salaries alone from his clubs, which could easily be doubled when you add on his many other sporting endorsements.
Yet off the field, Iversen’s life was in turmoil, he spent wildly beyond his means, which is some going considering how much he earned. Iversen was well known in casinos across the United States, particularly in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Detroit.
By 2011, Iversen’s vast fortune had dwindled to the point of bankruptcy, a large amount of it frittered away at the 3-card poker tables he used to play, not helped by the fact that when he played, Iversen usually ended up very, very drunk.
2. Archie Karas – Winner AND Loser
It’s hard to perhaps bracket a man who has turned $50 into $40m in the space of a year as a loser, but for Archie Karas, keeping hold of his winnings was never a priority. The native of Greece claims to have gambled more money in history than any other person and while he is still relatively well off compared to the average man, his losses in Vegas alone over the years amount to considerably more than £50m.
Karas biggest loss came in the period known as “The Run” which saw him turn $50 into $40m. Within the space of three weeks, Karas lost every single dollar he had earned on that incredible run of fortune. He lost $20m playing dice, then won $2m from Chip Reese, only to lose it back to the same player minutes later. Switching games and after a short break in Greece, he lost a further $19m playing dice and baccarat.
With his last $1m, Karas played Johnny Chan and Lyle Berman in a $1,000,000 freezeout poker event. Karas won, doubling his money, but then lost the $2m he had earned a few days later playing dice and baccarat.
3. Terrance Watanabe – $190m personal fortune wiped out in the space of 12 months
Perhaps the biggest loser and one of the most famous to come out of Las Vegas penniless was Party-favor import businessman and philanthropist Terrance Watanabe.
In 2007, Watanabe decided to visit Las Vegas to play at two Harrah’s casinos, Caesars Palace and Rio. Over the course of 12 months, Watanabe hit what can only be described as one of the worst losing streaks in history, losing almost all of his vast $190m personal fortune.
When several cheques he issued to cover debts at the casino were returned unpaid, he was arrested and faced 28 years in prison if convicted.
In his defence Mr Watanabe claimed that the casino plied him with drink and prescription drugs and held him a ‘virtual hostage’ at the casino over the course of the year, encouraging staff to allow Mr Watanabe to continue betting even though he was clearly suffering from the effects of alcohol.
The issue was settled out of court in 2010, with Mr Watanabe an estimated $190m worse off than when he first started.
What can we learn from this? Never mix gambling with too much alcohol! It is the worst combination and a recipe for disaster.