Thursday 23 May 2024

Rolling the Dice: Biggest Winners and Losers in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, the city of bright lights and endless possibilities, has always been a playground for high rollers and hopeful gamblers. While many come to try their luck, only a few walk away with life-changing fortunes, while others face the harsh reality of Lady Luck's fickle nature. Here are some of the most memorable tales of triumph and defeat in Sin City.

The Biggest Winners:

1. Archie Karas: 

The Man Who Broke the Bank:

Archie Karas's story is legendary in the gambling world. Arriving in Las Vegas with just $50 in his pocket, Karas embarked on an epic winning streak that turned his meager sum into over $40 million. His weapon of choice? High-stakes poker and pool games. His run from 1992 to 1995 remains one of the most astonishing feats of luck and skill in gambling history. Despite eventually losing it all, Karas's incredible journey from rags to riches epitomizes the allure of Las Vegas.

2. Elmer Sherwin: Twice the Luck:

Elmer Sherwin made history by winning the Megabucks jackpot not once, but twice. The first win came in 1989, when Sherwin, a World War II veteran, hit a $4.6 million jackpot. Amazingly, 16 years later, at the age of 92, he won again, this time pocketing a staggering $21.1 million. Sherwin’s extraordinary luck serves as a beacon of hope for every slot player in Vegas, proving that lightning can indeed strike twice..

3. Kerry Packer: The High Roller:

Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer was known for his audacious gambling habits. In 1997, Packer made headlines when he won between $20 and $40 million during a single night at the MGM Grand's blackjack tables. His penchant for high-stakes gambling and his larger-than-life persona have left an indelible mark on the annals of Las Vegas lore.

The Biggest Losers:

1. Terrance Watanabe: The Billion-Dollar Loser:

Terrance Watanabe, an heir to a fortune from the Oriental Trading Company, holds the dubious distinction of being one of Las Vegas's biggest losers. In 2007, Watanabe lost an astonishing $127 million during a year-long gambling binge, primarily at Caesars Palace and The Rio. His colossal losses, coupled with allegations of being plied with alcohol and prescription drugs by casino staff, resulted in a lawsuit that brought significant changes to casino credit policies.

2. Harry Kakavas: Chasing the Dragon:

Australian real estate mogul Harry Kakavas made headlines for his immense gambling losses. Kakavas lost over $1 billion playing high-stakes baccarat between 2005 and 2006. His losses were so severe that he filed a lawsuit against Crown Casino in Melbourne, claiming they exploited his gambling addiction. Though the case brought significant attention to the issue of gambling addiction, Kakavas’s legal battle ended without a victory.

3. Charles Barkley: Betting on Bad Luck:

NBA legend Charles Barkley is not just famous for his basketball prowess but also for his gambling habits. Barkley has been open about his losses, which he estimates at around $30 million. His candidness about his gambling struggles has shed light on how even the most successful individuals can fall prey to the temptations of Las Vegas.


Las Vegas is a city where fortunes can be made and lost in the blink of an eye. For every triumphant winner like Archie Karas or Elmer Sherwin, there's a corresponding tale of woe, like that of Terrance Watanabe or Harry Kakavas. These stories are a testament to the high stakes and the unpredictable nature of gambling in Sin City. Whether it's the thrill of a big win or the agony of a devastating loss, Las Vegas continues to captivate and enthrall gamblers from around the world.