Poker is an addictive and challenging game. The uncertainty of the outcome and the thrill of the game can keep players hooked for a long time. Many professional poker players have lost all their earnings in the game, resulting in a life of penury and tragedy.
Due to the lack of reliable statistics, nobody knows exactly how many poker pros have gone broke. However, it's certain that there are far too many. Arrogance is one of the primary reasons that have caused most players to lose their fortunes.
Self-confidence is undoubtedly necessary for a successful poker player, but one should never think of themselves as too special to die broke. It's tough for an average poker player to imagine winning millions at the tables and then losing it all within a year or two. However, this fate has befallen more pros in the game than any other.
In this article, we'll discuss some of the most prominent poker legends who shockingly went broke.
Stu Ungar is widely regarded as the best poker player of all time. Thanks to his incredible IQ and photographic memory, he managed to win the WSOP Main Event three times in 1980-81 and 1997. However, while taking down main event bracelets and vast sums in the toughest high-stakes cash games, he was fighting addictions that would ultimately see him die a lonely and penniless death in a Vegas motel. Winning $10,000 in a marathon gin rummy game in New York, he lost it all at the Belmont and Aqueduct horse tracks in just a few days. This was just a taste of how his life would go - huge wins and devastating losses. Winning a million dollars at the poker tables and losing more than double on football betting, then more still at the craps table was not an unusual part of the troubled young genius's life. Running from debts and then winning big to pay them off took its toll. When Stuart took down the 1980 WSOP Main Event, he was the youngest champion ever and repeated his success the following year. His legend grew as he took down the best not-titled events the game had to offer throughout the 1980s. But the drugs and gambling problem took their share of anger, often forcing him to play when seriously ill or in dire need to win to cover his debts. It wasn't until 1997 that he managed to win his third main event bracelet, a $1 million payday, which was a result of a last-minute decision to play in the event. That was my greatest performance ever, said a tearful Stu Ungar afterward. The comeback kid became his new nickname, but it was very short-lived. After he died alone at the age of 45, the poker and gambling world mourned the troubled yet meteoric life of one of the game's true legends. It is estimated that his total losses amounted to a staggering $30 million.
However, while for Unger it was drugs and sports betting which took him down to the bottom again, for the Greek, it was dice and baccarat which wiped out his winnings in just three weeks in 1993. Down to his last $50, he returned to the pool tables of his youth and found a very wealthy opponent, one who'd unwittingly bankroll him all the way to the top of the gambling world.
Archie Karras, also known as "The Greek", was a famous gambler and poker player who rose to prominence in the 1990s. He is best known for turning a $50 bankroll into a $40 million fortune in just two years. However, Karras' addiction to dice and baccarat ultimately led to his downfall and he lost everything.
After losing all his money in dice and baccarat, Karras headed to the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles to play against Johnny Chan in a high-stakes heads-up game. Although he doubled up at first, Karras couldn't resist the allure of craps and soon lost his remaining $2 million.
Karras' story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of gambling addiction and the importance of responsible gambling. While some may admire his fearless and adventurous spirit, his downfall serves as a reminder that even the most successful gamblers can fall victim to their own vices.
Scotty Nguyen is one of the true characters of the poker world, known for his legendary poker skills and gambling and drug problems. He built himself up from nothing into a millionaire using only his card skills, but quickly lost it all when the fame and fortune took their toll. His first WSOP win set a trend for blowing his winnings, and he famously lost $150,000 on dice between the cashier's desk and the exit.
Scotty has seen plenty of controversy throughout his long and illustrious career, with alcohol-fueled rants at the poker table and drug access costing him more than money. Despite all of this, Scotty has recovered from his darkest days and now says that whether he has $5 million or a dime in his pocket, he's happy as long as he's playing poker.
Erick Lindgren is a former professional poker player who enjoyed great success during his career, earning millions of dollars in tournament winnings. He won two World Series of Poker bracelets and was named the 2008 World Poker Tour Player of the Year. However, in 2012, Lindgren filed for bankruptcy with debts of over $10 million. His financial troubles were caused by a combination of gambling losses and high-stakes sports betting. He had borrowed heavily to cover his losses and was unable to pay back his debts, leading to his bankruptcy filing.
Gavin Griffin is another former professional poker player who suffered financial ruin. He became the youngest player ever to win a World Series of Poker event in 2004 at the age of 22, and went on to win a World Poker Tour event in 2007. However, in 2013, Griffin announced on Twitter that he had gone broke, stating that he had lost his entire bankroll playing online poker. He admitted to having made poor bankroll management decisions, including playing at higher stakes than he could afford.
Chino Rheem is a poker lowlife who borrows money and doesn't pay it back, instead blowing it on tables, parties, drugs, or whatever. He has a bad habit of dragging others into his lies and deceit, claiming, for example, that Mike Matusow vouched for him when the man had offered no such thing.
Rumor has it he has paid off some of the smaller debts by now, but even if Chino Rheem wins the main event, it will barely put a dent in what he really owes out there.
Gus Hansen has always been famous for his crazy swings. After having won four WPT titles and made six final tables, amassing over $11 million, the Danish player hit rock bottom in 2014. His losses on Full Tilt Poker surpassed $20 million in September, losing as much as $603,000 in a week alone. He managed to get a little bit back, but with his total losses of more than $18 million, the man set the record for online poker losses.
If a reasonable reaction would be to curl up in a fetal position and start crying, the Great Dane kept it cool, saying, "I still have money in my pocket. My online numbers aren't looking too pretty, but I can still afford a sandwich." Hansen plans to come back to both high-stakes games live and online.
See more: Mike Matusow $783,000 debt
Q: Is going broke a common occurrence for professional poker players?
A: While going broke is not uncommon in the world of professional poker, it is not inevitable. Many successful poker players have managed to maintain their wealth by practicing responsible bankroll management and making smart financial decisions.
Q: What can aspiring poker players learn from these stories?
A: Aspiring poker players can learn the importance of responsible bankroll management and the dangers of addiction and high-stakes gambling. It's also important to remember that success in poker is not always permanent and to plan for the future accordingly.
Q: Can these players make a comeback and rebuild their wealth?
A: It's possible for players to make a comeback and rebuild their wealth, but it's often a difficult and lengthy process. It requires discipline, hard work, and a willingness to learn from past mistakes.