People

Walter Pearson

Introduction

Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson is an American professional poker player who tweaked his poker skills in the Navy, which he joined at age 16. During his Navy career, he learned how to palm dice and calculate pot odds, and by the time he got discharged in the early 1950s, he had scooped up more than $20000 in winnings. Pearson was also a legend on the golf course and could putt and chip just as well as PGA Tour members and won $300 000 on a game of golf. Doyle Bronson said that if he ever had to pick anyone in the world to make a putt with his life on the line, it would be his best friend, Pearson.

Puggy Pearson’s Poker Career

After his career in the Navy, he moved to Nashville, where he spent a decade operating a small three-table pool hall called Pugs. Pearson then moved to Las Vegas in the mid-1960s, where he made the city’s card rooms his office alongside Moss and Roberts.

Pearson had an ultra-aggressive playing style and saw himself as the “boss”. Any poker player that wanted to win had to go through him; that was his attitude. He won four WSOP bracelets but none after 1973 and never missed a WSOP Main Event until his death, age 77, in April 2006.

Pearson was known for his marathon card sessions that would go on for 24 hours at a time, and there would always be a giant stogie clenched between his lips. When he passed away, dozens of newspapers published a photo of the RV with the mantra painted on the side “I’ll play any man from any land, in any game he can name, for any amount I can count, provided I like it”

Walter Pearson was a colourful character and lived life to the fullest, and he is still remembered as one of the toughest players and prop bettors ever to have lived.

Kerry Packer

Introducing the Media Tycoon and Gambler

Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, an Australian media tycoon, born was born on 17 December 1937 in Sydney. He became one of the world’s greatest gamblers, and his legacy was gambling away up to $200 million during his gambling career. He was well-known for his generosity and humbleness because, unlike many high rollers, he did not expect casino bosses to be at his beck and call. Furthermore, his requests were minimal, which were nice rooms for himself and his entourage and an empty table.

Packers Gambling career

Packer not only gambled in casinos but with his marriage. He had several extramarital affairs, including one with Carol Lopes, who reportedly committed suicide after being shunned by him.

Packer was known as a Whale as he gambled for stakes that kick-started the adrenal glands of even the most jaded casino executives. Gambling was Packer’s passion, and he wagered very high stakes. Terry Packer once lost 28.2 million in Blackjack losses to a London Casino, the most significant reported gambling loss in British History. He also had some huge wins like the $33 million he won at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas and often won as much as $7 million a year during his annual holidays in the UK.

His Generosity

Amidst his losses and wins, Terry Packer was known for his generosity and would often give his entourage $100 000 bankrolls before turning free-spending night on the casino employees doling out six-figure gratuities. On another occasion, he paid off a waitress’s mortgage highlighting his generosity amidst his sometimes volcanic temper and perennial contempt for journalists.

Terry Packer passed away on the 26 December 2005 from kidney failure nine days after his 68th birthday. His memorial was attended by big names like Russell Crowe, Prime Minister John Howard, Richie Benaud, Tom Cruise, and the Australian Cricket Team. Terry Packer lived a short life, but he certainly made it count.

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.