Famous Stars Spotted Gambling In Casinos: How celebrities and Stars came to embody the glitz, glamor and dark side of the gambling world.
It’s hard to think about the bad boys of Hollywood without picturing a smoke-filled room, sitting around a card table, playing poker and telling stories. In fact, up until a huge legal mess drove many of them to the relative safety and security of online casinos canada, it was not uncommon to see the likes of Toby Maguire, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Charlie Sheen, Alex Rodriguez, or lot of other Hollywood A-listers or top Sports players playing poker in a private room at the Wynn or the Bellagio. They even ran underground games at places like the Four Seasons or the Viper Room in Los Angeles, which is where all the trouble started. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Las Vegas and the stars of Los Angeles have always gone hand in hand, from the old mob days with Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra at the Hilton up until now, celebrities have gotten not only their thrills at the tables but the chance to see and be seen as well. And not just the stars of the silver screen, the lure of Las Vegas has been attracting athletes since Bugsy Siegel ruled the strip as well. Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Mike Ditka, Floyd Mayweather and many others have become infamous for their exploits at the tables in Sin City.
The Poker Boom
Much of current Hollywood’s fascination with casinos and gambling would be hard to explain without a little history of the Poker Boom. While the penultimate poker classic movie Rounders with Matt Damon actually came out in 1998, the beginning of the poker boom really kicks off in 2003, with the WSOP being televised and Chris Moneymaker, a celebrity in his own right after winning that bracelet, uses a $86 satellite tourney to go on and win $2.3 million dollars. That year there were 839 players in the WSOP Main Event, just 3 years later on the back of heavy television rotation of poker on all the sports channels, the number was more than 8700.
The only thing celebrities like more than being famous is being seen with other famous people. And in the years from 2003 to 2010, poker players were more famous than rock stars. Phil Helmuth and Daniel Negreanu, along with many others, became household names. Soon you could see Matt Damon, Charlie Sheen, Ray Romano, Leonardo Dicaprio and almost any other up and coming male lead spending more time in the poker rooms than they did on set.
Even some female stars like Shannon Elizabeth, Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton could be found on the Poker tourney circuit. Toby Maguire was rumored to be winning more at the tables than he was getting paid for his role in the Spiderman franchise.
Ben Affleck would actually win the California No Limit Hold’em championship one year. Poker and Poker stars were kings. This whole phenomenon swept around the world , as so much of Hollywood’s infatuations often do. You were as likely to see a celebrity playing High Stakes poker in Europe or perhaps at an online casino Canada had recently legalized.
Then in 2011, it would all go boom as the biggest names in Hollywood were dragged first into a federal indictment of a young woman named Molly Bloom who ran private games in Los Angeles, but had also had some dealings with the Russian Mob. While they had done nothing criminal, their names were dragged through the mud, and then one of the big hedge fund players turned out to have embezzled $25 million to cover losses in these games, and the lawsuits started to fly. This drove at least the majority of these players onto online casino sites and a bit more obscurity, though you will occasionally hear rumors of some famous celebrity spotted playing in an online casino.
The Dark Side
Not every celebrity who hits the tables is looking to match wits with other skilled players in a game of chance however. Some of them are just in it for the escape and thrill that placing large wagers can bring. And when you’ve got a big bankroll, those numbers can get high pretty quick. Charles Barkley is on record estimating his lifetime gambling losses at more than $10 million. Tiger Woods is well known at the MGM in Las Vegas and has a $1 million cap on his trip losses. Alan Iverson is another celebrity who is rumored to have lost more than a million a night in a casino. And there are whispers that a large portion of his $200 million in lifetime earnings that are all but gone now, went to pay gambling debts.
Some of these stars prefer to take big stake bets in sports and boxing. Floyd Mayweather is a legend for some of his bets, many of which he shares with his social media followers. He routinely places more than a million dollar bets on college basketball, boxing or whatever strikes his fancy. There is even talk of at least a 10 million dollar wager on the Super Bowl. Phil Mickelson is another legendary gambler/golfer with a love of just about any wager. But his bets in Vegas have been less spectacular than his occasional clubhouse wagers, with one almost $2 million dollar unpaid bet making its way to the Las Vegas courthouse instead.
Michael Jordan probably deserves a book just about his gambling exploits. There’s talk of games of rock, paper scissors, at a $100k a go. Or a story about betting on whose bags might show up first at the airport, only to find out MJ bribed the baggage handlers. But as far as seeing Michael in a casino, he was very much a regular during his career. In fact there’s pretty well-documented evidence that he lost $5 million in one night at a crap table.
The Golden Touch
Dana White, President of the UFC and sometimes American bad boy is an odd casting choice for a blackjack card counter. But he’s been banned from several casinos from counting and walked out of the Palms Las Vegas one night, winning more than $5 million. Mind you he wasn’t pleased. The Palms apparently didn’t have any bags or suitcases for his windfall and made him take it out in garbage bags. Something that Mr. White apparently never forgave them for. Just a friendly reminder, the casinos will cut you a cashier’s check that will fit in your pocket should you suddenly find yourself up a couple million without a briefcase.
Ben Affleck has also been removed from several casinos, including the Hard Rock for Card counting. Hardly a surprise given his already famous poker skills. But the story is that he has had winning nights well over a million as well at some Vegas strip properties, which while reluctant to ban him because of his star power, finally did.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Many famous celebrities have been spotted in casinos, beside the ones we mentioned you should keep your eyes open for PDiddy, Prince Harry, and 50 Cent, all who all have been known to live it up at the casinos. In fact there’s just no telling who you might end up rubbing shoulders with at the poker or blackjack table. And that’s true whether you play in Vegas or at the online casinos. Maybe, just maybe, bring that autograph book.