Casino Legends The Stories of Famous Gamblers tells the stories of legendary gamblers who won and lost a fortune. These gamblers made it to the top and wowed people with their amazing winning streaks.
The first is Joseph Jaggers – the granddaddy of biased-wheel play who may have invented it himself back in 1873 when he won $325,000 in Monte Carlo.
Wild Bill Hickok
James Butler Hickok, known to many as Wild Bill, was an American frontiersman who died in Deadwood, South Dakota on August 2, 1876. He is best known for his infamous poker death, where he was killed while holding the “dead man’s hand” (aces and eights, all blacks, and a hole card). Hickok was an avid gambler and was said to have won and lost considerable sums of money.
He gained fame during the Civil War as a Union Army scout and marksman, and became a popular character after the war. He was also a skilled professional gambler. His gambling and law enforcement activities often overlapped. He was a frequent participant in drunken bar shootouts and was known for his ability to win large amounts of money at games. He was even a scout for General George Custer, and it is believed that he helped Custer thwart the Sioux encampment at Little Big Horn. He was the subject of numerous dime novel stories, and he was played by actors such as Gary Cooper and Howard Keel, as well as by Charles Bronson in the 1995 film Buffalo Girls, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry.
Benny Binion was a colorful legend in Las Vegas and Texas. He injected courage into a gambling industry too timid to risk a high bet. He helped change poker from a kitchen-table pastime to a major casino game. He also shaped the future of rodeo in Las Vegas. Despite his violent past, Binion left an impressive legacy.
Born in Pilot Grove, Texas, he grew up with his father on horse trading trips. Despite not having any formal education, he ran errands for gamblers and eventually opened illegal gambling operations in El Paso, Dallas, and Fort Worth. After a feud with rival Herbert Noble, Binion moved to Nevada where gambling was legal and established the famous Binion’s Horseshoe.
Charles Darnborough is a little less well-known than the other casino legends. He was a British film producer who worked with director and actor Dirk Bogarde in the 1940s and 1950s. He produced Boys in Brown, a study of Borstal life that featured one of Bogarde’s earliest performances. He also produced a number of films for Rank, including Highly Dangerous and So Long at the Fair.
He was also a skilled gambler and is thought to have used the Martingale system to win at roulette. Like other roulette winners, he observed the wheel and noticed that it seemed to favor certain numbers due to imperfections in the wheel. He would play for years at Monte Carlo, building up a bankroll that was worth millions in today’s dollars.
He retired and bought a country pile in England where he would spend his time playing golf and gardening. He had two children, including the famous film producer Antony Darnborough and his daughter Hermione was a ballet dancer.
Whether it is spinning a Roulette wheel, pulling on a one-armed bandit or a hand of Poker, casino games are still a popular pastime. However, back in the day, gambling wasn’t quite as convenient as it is today. Those who were able to strike it rich playing these games at brick-and-mortar casinos became the stuff of legends.
Among these famous gamblers was William Darnborough who became famous for his wins at the Monte Carlo casino over the course of 1904 and 1911. A high roller from Bloomington, Illinois, he managed to boost his bankroll by over a million francs in total. This was thanks to his skill at Roulette, which he had honed over years of play in illegal US casinos and saloons. He was a so-called ‘wheel watcher’, a man who could anticipate with some accuracy where the ball would land on the Roulette wheel.
More recently, Englishman Sir Philip Green won a cool two million pounds at the Les Ambassadeurs casino in London in 2004. These casino legends show that you don’t need a computer program, a lucky number or wheel bias to win big.