Many stories have been written about the biggest gambling losers of all time. However, these stories always seem to focus on land-based gamblers, such as Terrance Watanabe, who lost over $200 million in Vegas casinos.
The biggest online gambling losers, on the other hand, don’t get as much coverage. With that said, I’ll discuss seven online gamblers who’ve lost massive amounts of money at online sportsbooks and poker sites.
1 – Guy Laliberté
Guy Laliberté spent his early years as a street performer in Montreal. He got to know the performance business so well that he, along with Gilles Ste-Croix, founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984.
Cirque du Soleil is now a world-famous performance troupe that stages shows all over the world. It has also made Laliberté a very rich man, including when he sold 90% of his stake for over $1 billion in 2015.
Laliberté hasn’t needed to worry about money for a long time. Therefore, he was able to immediately jump into the biggest online poker games in the late 2000s.
On the surface, Laliberté appeared to be an excellent poker player. He finished fourth at the WPT World Championship Season V (2007) and collected $696,220.
He also rubbed elbows with top players like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey on GSN’s High Stakes Poker and NBC’s Poker After Dark. As good of an amateur poker player as Laliberté was, though, he certainly wasn’t ready for the top online grinders.
Guy was the fish who jumped into the water and drew all of the sharks. Ivy, Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, and brothers Di and Hac Dang were the main pros who victimized Laliberté on the cyber felt.
The total amount that Guy lost is not 100% certain. However, it’s estimated that he dropped somewhere between $26 million and $30 million to the online pros. Of course, he could more than afford these losses, which only amount to around 2.5% of his net worth today.
2 – Jaromir Jágr
Jaromír Jágr has enjoyed a storied and very, very long hockey career. He has played 28 NHL seasons, spanning from 1990 to 2018. Since then, the Czech has continued his career with his hometown team, HC Kladno. The 49-year-old also ranks second all time in NHL scoring with 1,888 points.
As good as Jágr is on the ice, he’s been equally as bad as a sports bettor. He started wagering at real money online sportsbooks in 1998 and quickly racked up almost $1 million in debt.
Jágr especially lost big at CaribSports and owed them $500,000. He started paying his debt on a monthly basis, but abruptly quit making the payments.
This inspired CaribSports management to leak the story to the press. Afterward, Jágr was forced to answer lots of questions surrounding his betting problem and a $3.3 million debt to the IRS.
Luckily, the right winger was able to kick his gambling habit and also work out a payment plan with the IRS. His millions of dollars in hockey earnings helped him quickly solve these mounting debts.
3 – Gus Hansen
Throughout much of the 2000s, Gus Hansen was known as the well-dressed gent who appeared in many Full Tilt Poker ads. He also had a reputation for taking down big tournaments, including when he won three WPT titles in a year’s time.
The “Great Dane” was quite good in live poker games. Besides the tournament titles, he made a fortune in the Vegas high-stakes cash-game scene.
Hansen appeared to be a pro’s pro thanks to his impressive resume. Like Laliberté, though, Hansen’s Achilles’ heel would prove to be the online nosebleeds.
Rather than sticking to the games that he beat with such consistency, Hansen continually tested his skills against the top internet grinders. He fell short again and again in the early and mid-2010s.
As a guy who has used his edge to make millions in poker, Hansen suddenly turned into degenerate gambler. Every isolated winning session convinced him that he could eventually conquer high-stakes online poker.
After losing over $20 million to superior internet pros, though, Hansen finally said enough is enough. Fortunately, he quit before losing everything and still lives a pretty luxurious lifestyle.
4 – Army Major Justyn Larcombe
Not everybody who loses a fortune through online gambling has to be a famous poker player or athlete. Justyn Larcombe, a former British Army major, lost £750,000 over the span of three years.
Money wasn’t the only thing that Larcombe lost by gambling at online sportsbooks. His wife, Emma, also left him and took their two sons with her.
His troubles all began when he placed a harmless bet on a rugby match in 2009. From here, he became obsessed with sports betting and started increasing his wagers.
After beginning with insignificant amounts, he wagered up to £5,000 on football matches. Larcombe’s biggest loss included dropping £17,000 on a tennis match.
Despite holding a six-figure job, the Brit was losing far more money than he was pulling in. Larcombe blew his savings, house equity, and money that his wife entrusted in him.
With few other options, he opened a company credit card in his name and began using it at online sportsbooks. His company fired him immediately after finding out.
Emma also discovered all of the money that Justyn had blown and left him in the fall of 2012. He went on to live with his 70-year-old mother for a while afterward.
The good news is that Justyn battled his addiction by seeking help. He also went public with his battle and has inspired other people to get help for their gambling addictions. Larcombe has since reunited with Emma and their two sons, and all four are a family again.
5 – Brad Booth
Brad Booth is another poker pro who seemingly had it all. Booth quickly became a poker hero thanks to appearances on High Stakes Poker and his interesting back story.
Regarding the latter, “Yukon Brad” started his career out in the remote Yukon Territory. Here, he grinded in what few juicy games existed around Whitehorse.
Eventually, Booth built his bankroll up enough to give Vegas a shot. His big gamble paid off as he quickly became one of the best cash players in the city.
At the top of his game, Booth began appearing on High Stakes Poker and competing against Ivey, Dwan, Brunson, and other elite pros.
Unfortunately, Booth’s career would be upended through an online poker cheating scandal. Playing at UltimateBet (UB) in the early 2000s, Booth ran into a scheme devised by Russ Hamilton, one of the UB owners.
Hamilton used a “god mode” program that enabled him to see players’ hole cards. He proceeded to rip high-stakes UB customers off for a combined $22.1 million.
Booth accounted for an estimated $2 million of this amount. He continued playing at real money online poker sites after this and adjusted his style. Booth lost another $2.2 million and blamed it on the adjustments that he thought were necessary.
After losing most of his money, Yukon Brad was forced to return to the low-stakes cash scene. He’s never recovered financially after being victimized in the UB cheating scandal.
6 – Greyhound Trainer Loses £2 Million Betting Online
Before the age of 30, Graham Calvert had already established himself as one of the Britain’s best greyhound trainers. He made £30,000 at the height of his career in the mid-2000s and saved up £700,000.
Beneath his success, though, was an underlying online sports betting addiction. Calvert started small but found that he didn’t get excited by wagers worth less than thousands of pounds.
He gradually increased both his bet sizes and volume. At one point, Calvert was placing as many as 20 online wagers per day and risking up to £30,000 total.
His problem really exploded in 2006, when he placed a £347,000 bet on America winning golf’s Ryder Cup. He stood to win back £753,000 if successful. Calvert wasn’t successful, though, and lost the bet.
Before things got this bad, the trainer had been self-excluding—or at least limiting—himself from many online bookmakers.
The self-exclusion status meant that he couldn’t get any action from some betting sites. The ones where he was limited would only allow him to bet up to a few hundred pounds.
Still addicted, the Brit eventually found that William Hill would take his action. His problem resurfaced in a huge way and he was risking up to £300,000 at times.
Calvert chatted with William Hill about closing his account for good and exercising the self-exclusion option. According to chat logs, support claimed that he wouldn’t be able to gamble there again.
True to support’s word, Calvert couldn’t bet from the closed account. He was, however, able to open another account and start betting.
Not long after opening the second account, he placed the ill-fated Ryder Cup bet and lost everything he had left. Calvert later sued William Hill (Calvert v William Hill Credit Ltd.) for failing to protect him.
The judge noted that the bookmaker didn’t do a very good job of permanently barring Calvert from their site. However, he ultimately ruled that Calvert would’ve eventually found another online sportsbook to lose his money at. As a result, the greyhound trainer lost the case.
7 – Ilari Sahamies
Unlike the three poker players covered earlier, Ilari Sahamies conquered online poker. He not only conquered it but excelled at the online game, earning almost $7 million in cash-game profits by 2008.
However, the following year would prove disastrous for him as he lost around $6 million in winnings. The key problem for Sahamies: He enjoyed drunken online poker sessions.
Normally able to dominate high-stakes opponents back in these days, “ziigmund” would lose around $3 million during his drunken sessions. The other $3 million in losses were on account of downswings.
Nevertheless, Sahamies is still a long-term poker success. He’s made around $1.5 million in career online profits along with undisclosed live cash-game winnings.
These days, the Helsinki native doesn’t play as much live or online poker. Instead, he’s focused on his family life.
Most of the poker players were originally successful. However, they got tripped up by bad game selection, being cheated (Booth), or playing drunk (Sahamies).
The online bettors let their habits get out of control. Jágr, Larcombe, and Calvert all bet more and more until their problems became exposed.
Of course, this post isn’t to suggest that online gambling can’t still be entertaining. You can have a good time gambling on the internet in moderation. However, you definitely don’t want to let things get out of control like the people discussed here did.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.