Over the course of its history, poker has made a large number of impoverished people billionaires while also causing others to lose a significant portion of their money. Although the majority of people’s experiences are either positive or negative, there are those who have won a lot of money playing poker only to lose it all and end up penniless.
These are the stories of ten poker players who managed to make a lot of money but then lost it all. It makes no difference whether they went on a losing streak, played for too much money, or simply got lucky to make any money at all; what matters is that they did.
Archie Karas, a gambling legend, has won and lost more money at poker and other forms of gambling than the majority of people will ever see in their entire lives. Karas traveled to Las Vegas in 1992 with only $50 in his pocket after a series of futile gambling attempts throughout his adolescence.
Karas quickly lost his fifty dollars, so he borrowed ten thousand dollars from a friend who was also a gambler, and he quickly turned that money into thirty thousand dollars. And he didn’t stop moving forward after that. Between 1992 and 1995, Karas played poker for the highest stakes against anyone who would challenge him, achieving outstanding success across a variety of poker games and completely dominating his opponents. After starting with a $10,000 bet, he had amassed a fortune of over $40 million by 1995, making him a legend in the city of Las Vegas. However, “The Greek’s” fortunes began to deteriorate, owing primarily to the fact that he was no longer receiving much action at the poker tables. Things only got worse for “The Greek.”
He felt the need to play anything because he was an action junkie, so he would go to casinos and play games like craps and baccarat for extremely high stakes. This is where “The Run” ended, as he suffered two devastating losses at these games, losing over $30 million of his entire bankroll in just two nights.
After his large losing streak came to an abrupt end, it was reported that he was now completely destitute, despite the fact that he had previously been one of the city’s most successful gamblers. Archie Karas is remembered as a legendary figure in the gambling world, but he is also remembered as a cautionary tale about the impact that gambling games can have on incredible poker players.
Stu Unger is widely regarded as one of the best poker players who ever lived, and the majority of his contemporaries referred to him as “The Kid.” Unger began his gambling career as a successful gin rummy player. When his opportunities to play rummy dwindled, he switched to poker as his preferred game. Unger was an expert at card games because he had a photographic memory. This gave him a significant advantage over players in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were not nearly as skilled as players today. In card games, Unger was able to consistently win.
He was said to have won more than $30 million playing cash games over the course of his life. He rose to prominence after winning the Main Event of the World Series of Poker in 1980. Despite the fact that his opponents feared him at the tables, many of them pitied him because of his cocaine addiction and compulsive gambling habit, both of which prevented him from becoming the genuine poker champion he was destined to be. Unger was able to return to the WSOP in 1997 and demonstrate his talent once more, but his addictions were simply too strong for him to overcome.
Unger was found dead in a run-down motel room in 1998, having allegedly overdosed on narcotics. At the time of his death, he had no money or property to his name. Unger was bankrupt despite his massive winnings at the poker tables.
Booth is a more recent poker player than Karas or Unger, and some of you may have seen him competing against Phil Ivey on shows like High Stakes Poker. Despite having a less well-known name, Booth is currently one of the best players in the world.
Despite not having the same level of notoriety as many other players of his generation, Booth was one of the best cash game players of the time and had won a significant amount of money playing poker. He is said to have won between $5 million and $10 million in the early 2000s, only to lose it all during the Ultimate Bet scandal. Booth is said to have lost millions of dollars in the scandal and then squandered the rest of his bankroll on high-stakes cash games that he couldn’t afford to play. As a result of the controversy, Booth was said to be completely bankrupt. The fact that he hasn’t been seen playing poker much since the incident lends credence to the stories’ veracity.
“E-Dog,” a member of the well-known “Full Tilt Pros” crew that established and managed one of the most profitable poker sites in the game’s history, was a small child when the poker industry began to boom. Lindgren was doing very well for himself at the time. He was earning millions of dollars per year from his sponsorship and much more from his poker games.
He excelled in both cash games and tournaments, winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and other major tournaments and establishing a solid reputation in the poker world. However, by 2012, things were not going so well for Lindgren, who was allegedly becoming too involved with sports betting and fantasy sports leagues. Lindgren’s situation began to deteriorate in 2012.
His wagers on various sporting events totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and his financial situation was not made public until he was accused of owing $100,000 for a high-stakes fantasy sports league. Lindgren was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy due to his inability to pay this and other debts. He was formally responsible for a $12 million debt at the time, as well as possibly other obligations that were not recorded.
Furthermore, he had depleted all of the profits and earnings he had accumulated while working as a Full Tilt Pro, resulting in a loss of well over $20 million.
When I switched gears from the well-known poker star Erick Lindgren to a player by the name Gavin Griffin, he was a relatively unknown name. Griffin rose to prominence in the poker world in 2004, when he became the youngest player ever to win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet by winning a Pot Limit Texas Hold’em tournament. In 2011, he became the first player in history to win the Triple Crown, cementing his legacy in the poker world. Griffin’s poker career was just getting started, but he already had sponsorship deals and a slew of other opportunities in the works for the future.
Instead, he succumbed to the allure of gambling, developed a gambling addiction, and lost millions of dollars playing poker and other games of chance. Griffin is open about his gambling addiction and the risks of participating in gambling-related games today. His story should serve as a warning to any young poker players who win a fortune not to do the things he did.
Rheem, David “Chino”
David Rheem is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished tournament players working today. He has three WPT titles, the first-ever Epic Poker League event, and numerous other tournament accomplishments. Despite winning over $11 million in poker tournaments alone, and despite the fact that he is still an active poker player, “Chino” has struggled with debt and has gone bankrupt on numerous occasions throughout his career.
It’s difficult to say when Rheem’s problems began; however, it appears that they were all caused by a gambling addiction and possibly other vices as well, such as drugs.
Rheem was a gambler and a drug addict who openly admitted to having little regard for money. As a result, he was eager to borrow money from anyone who would lend it to him. All of this came back to haunt him at one point, when members of the poker community reminded him of many of his responsibilities.
When the truth began to emerge, it became clear that even the one million dollar prize won by “Chino” in an Epic Poker League tournament would not be enough to dig him out of the hole he had dug for himself. Even if he is still alive today, it is unknown whether he is being staked or whether he is possibly paying off a debt that he has accumulated over the years as a result of living life to the fullest.
Scotty Nguyen is widely regarded as one of the most dynamic figures in poker history. Despite several dry spells, the world series of poker (WSOP) champion and poker master has had a very successful career overall.
Nguyen admitted in a 2014 interview that the majority of his poker winnings were spent on gambling, women, and drugs. The interview occurred in 2014. According to his testimony, one of the perks of celebrity is having access to a wide range of opulent objects with hefty price tags.
The self-proclaimed Prince of the Poker World is said to have gone bankrupt several times during his career, and at one point had to borrow $5 to tip his valet. He was never one to shy away from the finer things in life. Despite this, Nguyen is still a prosperous man in modern times, and his days of going bankrupt in the casino pits are long gone. According to the champion, he has no remorse or shame for any of it!
Tom, the Dwan
Tom Dwan is widely regarded as a poker community living legend. Dwan dominated virtually all of his opponents at Full Tilt Poker’s online poker tables when he was a teenager, winning millions of dollars in a short period of time.
His streak lasted a long time, and despite the fact that he occasionally lost large sums of money playing online cash games, his screennames never went out of the blue.
Having said that, Dwan was alleged to have been violated on a number of occasions over the years, despite the fact that these allegations were never fully proven.
Tom Dwan is unlikely to go bankrupt anytime soon because he frequently and successfully participates in high-stakes cash games all over the world. He has recently made new televised poker appearances, playing a new and more advanced style of poker and proving to the poker community that he still has what it takes to succeed in the poker world.
“The Great Dane” is a dog breed and one of the most infamous players in the history of online poker. Gus Hansen is one of the greatest poker players of all time, having won more tournaments than the majority of his contemporaries combined. Hansen has won a live poker tournament. More importantly, the Danish champion remains one of the most successful players in live cash games. He is frequently seen competing in Bobby’s Room, where he is said to be doing exceptionally well for himself.
Gus Hansen, on the other hand, was able to completely gamble away his fortune by playing poker online.
He has lost more than $20 million in total playing online poker, making him one of the players with the highest lifetime losses in the game’s history.
All of this is to say that Hansen’s losing streak at online poker is long gone, and the fact that he went bankrupt while playing online poker at one point does not indicate that he is a bad player. In fact, “The Great Dane” is still regarded as one of the most feared high-stakes cash game players on a global scale, particularly in mixed games. This is particularly true in mixed games.
Viktor Blom of Sweden, known online as “Isildur1,” stunned the world in 2009 when he appeared out of nowhere and began competing against the best players in the world for extremely high stakes.
“Isildur1,” who was unknown at the time, began with nothing and worked his way up to the point where he was making hundreds of thousands of dollars at lower stakes. Following that, he issued challenges to living poker legends like Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, and Tom Dwan, requesting that they take over the NLH and PLO games, respectively.
He would frequently play six or more heads-up games against these guys at the same time, with the stakes in each of those games being extremely high. Blom had a positive balance of more than $2 million dollars in his FTP account on December 8, 2009, and everything appeared to be going extremely well for him.
However, he was defeated just five hours later by poker pro Brian Hastings, who took away $4.2 million from him. It was claimed that Hastings had studied his game with other professionals and learned how to play almost perfectly against him.
In retrospect, it appears likely that Blom had been running extremely hot for days leading up to the match, which caused him to struggle against Hastings, who was also well-prepared for the match. Despite losing all of his money in that one poker game, he went on to have a very successful poker career, earning money both in person and online for many years to come.
However, “Isildur1’s” story serves as a cautionary tale to novice players who would be wise not to become overconfident and play beyond their bankroll, especially when competing against high-caliber players.