Whether it be all the cash, fame or uncontrollable competitive drive, many athletes seem to be avid gamblers. Here are a few big losers, as well as one who has found success in his part-time hobby.
Some people seem to have it all. They are just more talented than others, finding profound success in multiple activities. Others are great in one area but don’t seem able to transfer that ability to anything else. The following list has some examples of both.
The greatest basketball player of all time was and is a prolific gambler, allegedly playing a playoff game in New York the day after spending an all-night gambling session in Atlantic City. Jordan reportedly places wagers on everything from friendly games of golf to whose luggage will be unloaded first from an airplane. But he is especially wild about blackjack, the game he was playing during the infamous night in Atlantic City.
He’s been to known to have both good and bad nights, although his reckless attitude has led to more losses than wins. He admitted to losing $165,000 at casinos over the course of 1993, and businessman Richard Esquinas once claimed that he and Jordan wagered $1.25 million over a game of golf.
Jordan’s career gambling losses are estimated to be around $3 million. His habit has also tarnished his public reputation; allegedly paying $57,000 to a known drug dealer in 1992 in order to cover gambling losses caused him to lose some of his endorsements. While kids across America wanted to “be like Mike” during the 1980s and 1990s, Mike wasn’t nearly as good a gambler as he was a basketball player.
Like many football stars, the striker for Manchester United has an insatiable appetite for wagering. Not only does he love the activity, he seems to be pretty bad at it, blowing massive amounts of cash at casinos, race tracks and sportbooks across the UK. At only 20 years old he incurred GBP 700 million in gambling debts. That failed to teach him a lesson, as in 2008 he dropped GBP 65,000 in just two hours at a Manchester casino.
The culprit? Losing blackjack strategies. Anonymous casino staff told reporters that Rooney bet more with his balls than with his brain, and that he didn’t seem to know when to push for more and when to stand down. His GBP 80,000 weekly salary at the time (how now pulls in 300,000) meant he could flush money down the toilet if he so wished, but it looks he should get a new hobby.
The American golf pro is the everyman hero for a lot of household sports fans. He’s fat, ugly and drunk, but has made millions of dollars as a professional athlete. His very existence seems to spit in the face of flawless physical specimens like Lebron James and Novak Djokovic.
He’s had a pretty impressive golf career, but the truth is he’s more famous for his off-course antics than his actual achievements. That includes countless drunken incidents and outrageous gambling losses.
Daly claims that have lost between $50 and $60 million dollars throughout his career, a number that is almost certainly exaggerated. However, it is confirmed that after winning $750,000 in a tournament with Tiger Woods he immediately drove to a casino and blew $1.65 million in five hours playing $5,000 slots. That’s right. Slots.
He also has a hard time putting down blackjack cards. While sometimes winning $400,000+ during overnights sessions at Caesar’s in Vegas, he admits that he always lost much more than he won, using most of his golf winnings to cover gambling debts. While his alcoholism has created more of a public spectacle, gambling has been more destructive to his finances.
The Spanish tennis star is one of the world’s best in his sport, winning an astounding 13 Grand Slam titles. And in contrast to others on this list, he is a pretty skilled gambler as well. While Jordan, Rooney and Daly show an inclination for casino games, Nadal focuses on one particular game of skill: poker.
In 2012 Nadal became a spokesman for PokerStars, and last year won a EUR 100,000 charity tournament sponsored by the online poker site. Poker pro Daniel Negreanu had this to say about Nadal’s game: “He came in really solid and he didn’t make any mistakes. And then he knew when to make the adjustment, to play more aggressively, and he did.” All of that is pretty impressive for someone who plays the game only as a hobby.
Nadal truly has it all: athletic prowess, looks, stacks of cash and now a world-class poker game. Why not share a little talent with the rest of us?