The recent documentary series ‘The Last Dance’ unveiled a lot about Michael Jordan’s career and character. The ten-part series was essential viewing for any sports fan but also offered a fascinating insight into the mindset of the NBA’s greatest ever player for even a casual observer.
During his stellar and hugely successful career at the Chicago Bulls, Jordan nurtured a love for gambling that clearly tapped into his ultra-competitive mindset. Be it on the golf course, in the casino, or even pre-game inside an NBA arena tossing coins at a wall for $20 with his security detail, Jordan simply loved to gamble.
He’s one of seven celebrities whose fondness for gambling has got them in the headlines.
A six-time NBA champion with the Bulls, Jordan is reported to have gambled as much as $300,000 on a single golf putt, according to fellow basketball legend Charles Barkley. The Last Dance series covered his love of gambling and also gave a glimpse into how Jordan sometimes used the activity to free his mind in the run-up to big games.
In 1993, as the Bulls were squaring off against the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan enjoyed a late-night trip to Atlantic City with his father the night before a crucial game in Madison Square Garden where the pair went to the casino.
At the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona, where the USA ‘dream team’ won a gold medal, Jordan was said to have had many late-night poker sessions with Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen.
We also saw him tossing coins at a wall before Bulls games with his entourage and security detail, Jordan seemingly determined to be competitive at all times.
Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night, Hollywood A-Listed Ben Affleck also had a stint as a professional gambler.
Affleck reportedly won $800,000 on the Blackjack tables in the early 2000s, before switching his attention to the poker tables, where he cashed for $356,000 at the Canadian Poker championships in 2004.
Affleck held his own against some noted card sharks in that win, while he’s also said to have squared off against Leonardo DiCaprio in high stakes poker games.
A close friend of Affleck, Damon too has a fondness for gambling; something that he may have worked on during his role as law student and gifted poker player, Mike McDermott, in the 1998 hit Rounders.
Legendary card player Johnny Chan was the man tasked with tutoring Damon, and co-star Edward Norton, for their roles in the cult-classic movie.
Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal is one of the more outspoken advocates for poker amongst Indian celebrities. He is firm in his belief that poker is a sport rather than merely a casino game, and has acted as an ambassador for a major poker site in his homeland.
More recently, Indian cricket skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, once ranked by US Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, has become an ambassador for poker.
A UK-based software developer, Chris Boyd’s name is synonymous with roulette. Having saved up around $220,000, Boyd was ready to make himself the first professional player on the wheel.
Such was his knowledge of the roulette wheel layout that Boyd felt he could succeed on his terms. Roulette is perhaps the simplest of all casino games, players pick a number/or numbers the wheel spins, resulting in the ball coming to rest in a chosen number. Players can also choose a color (red or black) and play on that, increasing the chance of winning, while lowering the returns. A very simple game, with many enjoyable and fun ways to play.
After journeying to Las Vegas in 1994, Boyd eventually struck an agreement with Binion’s Horseshoe Club that permitted him to stake all of his money on red for one spin of the wheel. He won, instantly doubling his money!
Reports suggest that was both the beginning and end of his pro-career on the roulette wheel, as he took his money and went home.
With a nickname as simple as ‘Money’, it is no shock to find retired boxer Floyd Mayweather on our list. Regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, Mayweather amassed more than $400m during his faultless 50-0 career in the ring.
Outside of the ring, he’s reported to have placed seven-figure sums on NBA Playoffs and on the 2014 Super Bowl, where the Mayweather money went on the losing Denver Broncos, costing him a lot of cash.
While he never comments specifically on those reports, the boxer did confirm that he has been ‘one of the biggest sportsbook bettors in Las Vegas’ during an interview with ESPN.
Academy Award-nominated American actress Jennifer Tilly is also one of the best known female faces in the professional poker ranks, winning a World Series of Poker bracelet worth $158,625 in 2005.
Her overall tournament earnings are reported to be close to $1m, and she was part of the Celebrity Poker Showdown series during the poker boom in the early part of this century.
Her love of the game also put Tilly in the path of fellow WSOP bracelet winner and poker celebrity Phil Laak, and they’ve been in a relationship for more than 15 years.