Billy Walters might go down in history as one of the most infamous names in high stakes gambling. From very modest beginnings, he clawed his way to the top, before ultimately falling at the final hurdle.
Walters grew up in a small town called Munfordville in Kentucky in the US. From a young age he didn’t have much and his house didn’t even have indoor plumbing. However from a young age he was surrounded by his family who were avid gamblers. His father was a keen poker player and his uncle was in fact a professional gambler.
By the age of nine, Walters had already wagered the money he had earnt on his paper round on the world series. That first bet would ultimately be the beginning of one of the great gambling careers.
In the early days, Walters began by selling second hand cars to dealers to raise some money. At the same time he set about being a bookmaker, however at the time that was illegal in Kentucky and he ultimately received a $1000 fine. That was all the incentive he needed to move to the gambling mecca of America – Las Vegas
For the most part Walters has always been a sports bettor. But in the early days he also played poker and other table games. He made deep many poker tournaments throughout the years. There are also stories suggesting that he was able to gain an edge in roulette when he identified the fact that older roulette wheels wore in different places, making some of the them predictable and ultimately profitable.
In 1980 when Walters arrived in Las Vegas he connected with Dr. Ivan Mindlin and Michael Kent had formed an early computer group, which used computer algorithms for sports betting. Initially Walters job was to exploit the weakest betting lines with bookies. Before he eventually started placing millions in bets every week in exchange for a share of the profits.
Details about the nature of his sports betting have been largely kept quiet. There are stories of him in action in the pre-internet era, when running his own operation, would dispatch helpers to the airport to get newspapers from interstate in the hopes of getting the latest news on sports. Walters has always used other people to place his bets, as like many successful gamblers, bookies aren’t all that keen to take his action.
As his wealth grew, so did his search for bigger edges. Overtime Walters would expand into property and the stock market.
In 1996 he managed to win a contract to develop a golf course in Las Vegas. Walters is an avid golfer who plays off scratch. As the deal took shape, he negotiated with the city to purchase the land outright. As real estate in Vegas continued to take off, he was able to get the rights to develop the land for housing and it was then that he made one of his biggest paydays.
From here Walters went on to accumulate more than $100 million dollars, which includes several golf courses, car dealerships, a ranch and several luxury homes.
Stock Deals Gone Bad
Walters has had a knack of always coming out on top and always finding an edge. Ultimately his luck did run out.
In 2017 he was convicted of insider trading and sentenced to five years in prison. Walters had received stocks tips from Thomas Davis, the former Dean Foods chairman. It was reported that Davis had a gambling habit and fed tips to his friend Walters. Golfer Phil Mickelson and legendary hedge fund manager Carl Icahn were also embroiled in the controversy but never charged.
Walters has pushed his edge his entire life and to reach the heights he has that’s often what it takes. Unfortunately he pushed his luck a little too far.
To learn more about Billy Walters check out ‘The most dangerous sports bettor in history’