Billy Walters may be the most well-known gambler in Las Vegas. His book, Gambler: Secrets From a Life at Risk is a must read for gamblers, for Las Vegans who embrace the city and its history and for Las Vegas visitors who want to read about one fabulous–and yes risky–life.
A poor boy who found financial success betting on football, golf, real estate, and the stock market, Walters has plenty to say. He’s bet and lost millions of dollars. He was investigated by law enforcement and ultimately went to jail. He met lots of Las Vegas and gambling icons and mentions all the names, a plus for those who love celebrity gossip.
Walters has also been flat-broke many times. He married young and had children. He married twice more, the last marriage to Susan, is the one that lasted. One of his children has a learning disability so he writes movingly about his involvement with a local Las Vegas charity, Opportunity Village. Walters later was convicted of insider stock trading and was sentenced to five years in prison prison, but during Covid was eligible to spend the remaining sentence confined to his home in Southern California. Walters then wrote his book devoting several chapters to the way he and a team of folks he employed researched many factors about players, coaches, stadiums and weather before placing successful football bets. I’m not a sports bettor, but serious bettors will particularly enjoy these chapters.
Walters is in his 70’s now, so his story is also a story readers of a certain age will enjoy in terms of shared history. Not necessarily shared wins and losses while betting, but in terms of tragedies and eras Walters lived through.
The story of Gambler is extraordinary in terms of the large amounts of money involved. I am a gambler and I sometimes know I have lost more money than I should, but look at these sums from just one game mentioned in the book:
“Halftime score: Steelers 17, Cardinals 7. Now I was down $1.85 million. Fortunately I had bet $1.5 million on the final outcome so I had a chance to recover. And as expected the Steelers pulled out the victory, but only by four points,27-23. I won the $1.5 million on the game, leaving me up $315.000 for the day.”
And about a life among the big spenders, Walters writes:
“I ran into a lot of bad guys, a lot. of thieves. I mean they’d steal the Lord’s Supper. But I can tell ya, percentage wise, I ran into many more with suits and ties on than I have with gamblers.”
As the news has reported, Walters has a lot to say about golfer Phil Mickelsen.
Gambler is an easy read in terms of a fast-moving exciting narrative. His book also makes your own world seem somewhat boring, but very sane.