People

Harry Kakavas

Harry Kakavas was born in Melbourne in the 1970s and moved to the Gold Coast in 2001.

He lost over $1.5 billion at the Baccarat tables at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, making him one of the biggest losers in gambling history.

During the Early Years

Having grown up in Melbourne, Australia, Kakavas worked as an estate agent for Colliers Jardine. A gambling addiction began in 1993 when he began betting at sportsbooks. He mortgaged his parents’ house and borrowed money from his friends to fuel his gambling addiction. He served four months in jail for committing a $286,000 fraud for gambling funds in 1998.

In 2001, he moved to the Gold Coast, where he became a top estate agent.

Gambling addiction

The more properties he sold and the more money he made, the more he gambled. In Melbourne’s Crown Casino, he spent a great deal of time, and this is where he lost his $1.5billion betting $300 000 a hand on Baccarat. Although he occasionally won, he always had to put it back and finally began borrowing from friends, families, lawyers, and banks to fund his habit.

As a smooth talker, he convinced his friends that they were investing in his property deals. They had no idea that they were feeding his gambling habit.

Crown Casino

Despite being banned previously by Crown Casino, he threatened to sue them if they failed to lift the ban. They permitted him to play again a year later and made him feel like a billionaire by flying him to the Philippines in a private jet and presenting him with $50,000 as “lucky money.”

After losing all his money, Kakavas tried to sue Crown Casino for $35million, claiming they misled him and exploited his addiction.

He lost his case at the Victoria Supreme Court, which ruled that Australian courts would not give gamblers their money back.

The Kakvas team is back on the Gold Coast, selling houses on Hedges Avenue once more.

Tommy Hyland

He was born in 1956 in New Jersey, USA, as Thomas Hyland, aka Tommy Hyland.

Blackjack card counting is among his specialities, and he managed the oldest blackjack team in history, which began in 1979.

Growing up

Most of his childhood was spent in New Jersey, and it was here where his interest in gambling began.

He used to throw pennies at a wall with friends as a child and bet on which penny landed closest to the wall. Initially, the bets were just pennies, but they quickly increased to quarters. Tommy then began betting on other things like whether he would win a cricket match or a game of golf.

When he reached High School, he stopped placing his own wagers and instead began collecting them. One time he made a mistake in his calculations and lost $400, so he started focusing on getting a college scholarship to Wittenberg University in Ohio.

Blackjack Gambling Begins

After reading ‘Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Revere, he started playing Poker at the dorms of his friends as a college student.

After practising the methods in the book, Tommy and his friend went to the casino to test out their skills. They weren’t very successful until Tommy read Stanford Wong’s book on card counting. According to the book, working as a team is key to success, which is exactly what Tommy did. He assembled a Blackjack card-counting team.

It was a regular occurrence for these teams to make millions in a single night and lose small fortunes the next.

Afterwards, they created Blackjack computers, a method of cheating that led to Tommy and the team’s arrests many times during casinos raids.

Where is he now?

While Tommy no longer manages a Blackjack team, he can still be found in casinos today playing Blackjack, although not at the same level as before.

 

MIT Blackjack Team

Students from the well-known Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other top colleges made up the MIT Blackjack Team.

Bill Kaplan led the Group

After reading books about card counting, Bill Kaplan, a Harvard graduate with an interest in Blackjack, led the Group.

Although he was not the original founder of MIT’s Blackjack Team, he helped turn it into a profitable venture.

JP Massar

Massar (also known as Mr M ) attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a mathematics student. He became interested in gambling after reading the book ” How to Gamble if you must “. He and a few classmates formed the first MIT Blackjack team. While they had a few wins, they were not incredibly successful.

Teaming up

A restaurant was where JP Massar and Bill Kaplan first met, and JP Massar asked Bill Kaplan to join his team to observe its mistakes. Bill Kaplan joined them after spending a weekend in Las Vegas observing the mistakes the team made.

A formal card counting system and betting system were put in place to become a serious business. On 1 August 1980, the brand new MIT Blackjack team began operating.

For ten years, this team was successful, and investors received excellent returns. But eventually, Bill Kaplan’s management of the team was indefinitely suspended because he was banned from most casinos in Vegas.

A second Blackjack card-counting team, formed by JP Massar and Johnny Chang, was successful for two years, but they too were also forced to shut down as the casinos on the Las Vegas strip and other towns became aware of their tactics and banned them.

What are they doing now?

While JP Massar still plays professional poker online and offline, Bill Kaplan now operates a Real Estate business and runs an emailing solution company.

Isaac Haxton

Introduction

Isaac Haxton is a professional poker player who started dabbling in the game while still in high school. He went to Browns University for a computer science degree, and his nickname in the poker world is “The Lizard King” Right from the start, it was evident Isaac was no ordinary kid from New York. Isaac was adept at chess by the age of four and a seasoned gamer before his teens. He displayed a hidden talent for any game that required deep thinking.

These same skills in his youth has been conveniently gotten utilized in the world of poker. This New Yorker has amassed over $23 million in tournament winnings, including a career-high $3.6 million win after taking down the Super High Roller Bowl in 2018.

Key Career Dates

Isaac Haxton was a member of Poker Stars Team Pro; however, he severed ties with the online poker giant in 2016 and is currently a member of Team PartyPoker.

His Poker career began in 2004 when he decided to play poker full time in the summer after his freshman year and did complete his studies. His first major live tournament was in 2007, and it was the $8000 WPT Championship Event, where he finished in second place and won $861 779. In 2009 he took second place in the WSOP 40th Anniversary event and walked away with $1 168 565.

The list is endless. However, one sure thing is that Isaac Haxton is one of the most successful live tournament players and has over $27.6 million in winnings. Haxton is also in the top 20 biggest winners on HendonMob’s All Time Money List.

The Elusive WSOP Bracelet

Ironically despite all his achievements on the live felt, he has actually never won a WSOP Gold Bracelet, although he did come close to winning one in 2009.

Fouad al-Zayat

Fouad al-Zayat was a Syrian gambler, businessman and investor who died in Lebanon in 2018 at the age of 77. Casino circles called him the “Fat Man.” One of the most secretive and inexhaustive gamblers in Mayfair in London, this billionaire frequently visited Aspinalls Club. In a single visit, he gambled thousands of pounds, which increased to more than a million pounds by the turn of the century.

Extravagant Gambling Lifestyle

A man who lived by the sword, Al-Zayat. He founded various companies, including Mortimer Offshore Services. He was also asked to help with the purchase of a jet for the Iranian President by the Islamic Republic of Iran. By bribing officials within his own government with millions in free gambling chips, Al-Zayat was able to obtain a permit allowing him to sell plane parts to Iran in spite of US trade sanctions. The permit was never granted, however.

He was known for his extravagant gambling style, and he was considered a whale in the casino industry. Between 1994-2006, al Zayat wagered around £91 million at Aspinalls and lost £23 million. Aspinalls also sued him for $2 million plus costs for gambling debts he incurred from Blackjack losses. His argument was that he had been wrongfully credit granted under the Gaming Act, so he appealed and won his case.

Convicted of Fraud in Greece

Al-Zayat was tried in absentia for bribery in Greece in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison. Despite this, he never actually served this sentence because the Greece authorities could not find him. Further to this, he was also wanted for fraud in Cyprus at the time of his death.

The legacy Fouad al-Zayat left was that of a giant, and he blazed a trail for others to follow, despite his fraud convictions in Greece.