All gamblers dream of going on a “heater” – a long winning streak where they seemingly can’t lose, raking in armfuls of chips and booking huge profits.
Craps is particularly suited for some amazing heaters, with shooters going on very long rolls before finally crapping out, but blackjack and poker also have some legendary heater tales of their own.
Heaters may be the stuff of legend or dreams for many gamblers but for some of the lucky few gamblers below they were very real, and their ticket into gambling lore as well as some huge paydays.
1. Archie Karas – Had All Binion’s $5k Chips
Widely acknowledged as the “greatest gambler of all time”, Karas borrowed $10,000 from a friend in 1992 and headed to Binion’s in Las Vegas for what would turn into one of the greatest gambling heaters of all time.
Karas took on the world’s top poker players – including Chip Reese, Stu Ungar, and Doyle Brunson – and ran that $10,000 into a bankroll of over $17 million over several years of play.
When the poker action dried up Karas didn’t miss a beat, betting $100,000 on a single roll at the craps tables and his heater continued; Karas was said to have won every single $5,000 that Binion’s had at one point, up over $40 million in profits at his peak during his three year heater from 1992-1995.
Like many heaters, though, the good times wouldn’t last, with Karas losing $30 million back in just three weeks in mid-1995.
By the end of 1995 he’d have lost it all back, proving that what goes up often comes crashing back down.
2. Stanley Fujitake – 118 Rolls Before Crapping Out
Fujitake was a regular at the California Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas when he bellied up to the craps tables and picked up the dice on May 28th, 1989.
Little did he or anyone else know that he was about to embark on one of the most amazing heaters in casino history, rolling for 3 hours and 6 minutes (for a total of 118 rolls) before finally crapping out.
With Fujitake and most of the table maxing out their bets during his epic streak, the casino lost well over $1 million during his heater.
3.Kerry Packer – $60 Million? I’ll Flip You for it.
Packer is another legendary gambler. Like Karas, he’s equally famous for his huge losses as much as for his amazing heaters.
The billionaire businessman and Australian media tycoon gambled for the highest stakes possible, always looking to up the ante.
His biggest wins include a run that saw him win $30 million at MGM Grand in 1997 over several days of gambling and several other wins of $10 million or more at various UK casinos.
On the flip side, Packer also reportedly lost $20 million in a single night of high stakes roulette in a London casino, with plenty of other losses in the millions of dollars.
While playing poker with a Texas businessman who was trying to impress Packer with the fact that he was worth $60 million, Packer reportedly took out a coin and coolly stated:
“I’ll flip you for it.”
4. The Blackjack Bum – Shoeless Joe
While his identity was never revealed, an old man (reportedly kicked out by his wife and lacking in personal hygiene) walked in shoeless and cashed his $400 Social Security check and took a seat at a blackjack table at Treasure Island in 1995.
Over the next week he’d proceed to win about $1.5 million, seemingly able to do no wrong despite the fact that he ignored basic blackjack strategy (always splitting tens and doubling down on hands such as hard 12s and hard 13s).
His abrasive behavior won him no friends, with few tears spilled when he lost it all back and was finally shown to the door when his money ran out.
5. William Lee Bergstrom – What’s Your Table Limits?
Bergstrom walked into Binion’s in the 1980s and declared he wanted to bet $1 million on a single roll at the craps tables. When told he could, he left and came back with a suitcase full of $770,000 in cash and bet it all on Don’t Pass.
The shooter crapped out after three rolls and Bergstrom took his $770,000 in profits and left.
He’d return for a series of similar bets at craps, placing a $590,000 bet (which he won), a $190,000 bet (which he won), and a $90,000 bet (which he won).
Around 1984 he came back for another stab with his biggest bet yet – $1 million – which proved to be one bet too many, as this time he lost, and would go on to commit suicide about three months later.