About Billy Walters (businessinsider.com)
The man who went on a 30-year winning streak, amassing hundreds of millions and keeping it, first started out like this:
Billy Walters moved to Las Vegas… with his family and his immense ego and very little else. He was worth more dead than alive, as they say. For too many years he had been operating a used-car dealership in his home state of Kentucky, and then gambling away the profits. In 1982 he plea-bargained to a misdemeanor bookmaking charge – possession of gambling records, it was called – and was sentenced to six month probation and a $1,000 fine. He was in debt to several bookmakers, and he could not command credit. At 35, into his third marriage, with an ill son who was supposed to have died years before, Billy Walters believed he had no alternative but move to Las Vegas, to be a full-time professional gambler, to lay all that he had on this one final hand.
Walters can pinpoint his problems from those days, now that he is worth millions of dollars. As recently as 1982, when he was preparing to leave Kentucky, he had lacked focus. He was a gambler, that was definite, but he had no idea how to gamble professionally. He wanted to win every single day. When he lost at the race track or when he lost betting games or when he lost playing poker or when he lost playing golf, he always felt compelled to get down another bet, to retrieve what he had lost that very day. He recalls an evening in Kentucky when he was pitching nickels with a friend. The wagers grew until Billy Walters had lost his house – his house, from pitching nickels.
Then he had to come home and tell his wife. “I’m not one to beat around the bush,” he says. Standing now in his kitchen, head down, hands in pockets, he seems to be recreating the scene. “I just came home and said to her, Look, honey, I was pitching nickels with a guy today, and I lost the house. And we might have to move.’” They didn’t have to move but it took Billy Walters a year and a half to pay off the mortgage incurred by the revolution of the five-cent coin. He kept the house, but he lost his wife. She left him. That was his second wife. “She couldn’t take it. Fifteen times I’ve come home where I’ve lost every single penny we’ve got,” he says, as if revealing a scar.