When you think of Las Vegas, people often picture excessive wagers and lavish rewards. From limousines to glamorous nights out, being a big spender is an exciting prospect in the casino industry. The reward for attaining the position seems exciting, and includes complimentary hotel and resort stays. High rollers might feel as though they have figured out the gambling ‘system’.
The truth, however, is that it takes work to become a ‘high roller’ in the casino industry. This includes gambling large amounts of money while still, hopefully, making a profit. This is where the exclusive perks come in! Because high rollers wager so much money, casinos typically make a profit from their plays even after free show tickets and meals are considered.
What exactly is a ‘high roller’?
Colloquially, a ‘high roller’ is someone who is known for making huge wagers. Officially, high rollers are a group of players who meet a specific set of requirements. This is true of both internet-based casinos and brick-and-mortar operators, though the conditions in question sometimes differ dramatically.
Land-based casinos in Europe require high rollers to deposit at least $10,000 while making at least $100 bets per round of blackjack or poker. In Las Vegas, the requirements are a bit steeper. Gambling at the Bellagio, for example, will see high rollers wagering as much as $100,000 per hand of blackjack or poker.
Regardless of the country of choice, high rollers will generally receive a personalised experience tailored to their needs and whims. Even this requires plenty of money to burn, however, with private membership in respected five-star hotels costing as much as $1,000.
Online casinos have more variable requirements. Players with a preference for this type of operator must find an internet-based operators’ terms individually, and these often differ between providers. It should be noted that these terms are not necessarily less expensive than those of brick-and-mortar operators! Respected online casinos sometimes have their own high stakes.
With all of that said, why exactly should players care about being a high roller?
Perks for high-roller players
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best rewards available to high rollers. They include:
- Luxury transfers
- Room upgrades
- Free show tickets
- Free drink tickets
- Free dinner tickets
High rollers travel in style! More specifically, they travel in style on the casino’s dime. Many of the more recognisable operators send luxury vehicles to pick up players when they arrive. This allows them to catch attention from their first moment on site.
Loss rebates are valuable perks that do exactly what players might expect: casinos return a certain amount of money to high rollers depending upon how much they lose. This is not always a lucrative offer, with some operators offering users $5,000 back after at least $100,000 in losses. Still, the money back is definitely a perk to keep in mind.
Room upgrades are another common perk that VIPs receive. Some might have a specific penthouse they like to occupy, for example, while others might want a view of a specific area. Whatever their preference might be, high rollers will generally have little problem receiving the rooms they have in mind.
Free show tickets, drink tickets and dinner tickets
Large gambling areas such as Las Vegas offer their high rollers much more than hotel rooms. They ensure that their VIPs are happy with their time in the area. This is easier in some areas than others, with Vegas, in particular, offering its high rollers access to some of the most renowned shows in the world. This includes the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil, for example, or perhaps dinner at a five-star restaurant.
The exact shows, drinks and meals that VIPs receive depends upon the casino and locale in question, but almost without exception, large gambling hubs have these perks for their valuable players.
With all of the above in mind, is attaining ‘high roller’ status important for every player with the means? If they plan to spend a significant amount of time gambling, then the VIP perks might be useful. If they do not plan on spending too much time gambling, on the other hand, then it might not be worth it.
famous high rollers
Anyone of legal age can place bets at the casinos as the minimum wager limits are often pretty accommodating, but not everyone has what it takes to enter the high roller circle and get the very important player (VIP) title. Only a handful of players are able to put down $1,000 per bet at the high roller casino.
However, there are the “whales”. The VIPs among VIPs who wouldn’t bat an eyelid before dropping $100k or more on the gaming table. These players have garnered fame for their extravagant gambling habits. They also have some almost unbelievable stories to tell of the experience. Here are the most famous high-rollers on the planet:
Phil Ivey is a gambler at heart and has long been a popular face at poker tournaments. He has won 10 bracelets in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and is regarded as the best poker player in the world. However, Ivey’s craziest high roller escapades are at the roulette, baccarat and craps tables, where he often drops bets as large as $200k. He has gambled such a ridiculous amount at the casinos that it’s hard to estimate how much he’s won or lost. No doubt Ivey gets the highest VIP treatment at any casino he steps his foot into.
The Sultan of Brunei
The Sultan of Brunei is one of the wealthiest people in the world, having a net worth of over $30bn. Frequenting lobbies in Vegas and London, he became famous as the man who drops $1m a day at the casino. He’s garnered a reputation for his extreme gambling habits, only surpassed by his insane collection of sports cars.
This Saudi businessman had quite a notorious background before he became a topic of interest in the casino circle. Khashoggi made his billionaire fortune as an international arms dealer. It is said that while dealing weapons to heads of state, he would stop by at the casino and throw down some hefty bets. As luck would have it, he won quite a bit, going on consecutive hot streaks. Reportedly, one of his famous hot streaks dealt such a blow to the casino that it fell 20% in the stock market.
Mo Chan made headlines in the Australian gambling scene after taking one particular casino to the cleaners. He would usually wager about $500k per hand and ended up accumulating $10m in winnings at the baccarat table. The casino eventually limited his wagers, and that was the last anyone ever heard of Chan. He vanished off the gambling scene just as mysteriously as he had appeared out of the blue.
If there ever were anything like a whale among whales, it would be Kerry Packer. The Australian billionaire is a no-holds-barred kind of gambler. According to one infamous recount of his high roller activities between the 1980s and 1990s, Packer wagered over $25m on multiple roulette tables at the same time. He is also said to have bet $120m on a coin flip. While most of these wagers would become lost bets, he did win quite a bit as well. Once, Packer reportedly won $33m at the MGM in Vegas.
The best high roller stories are made in Vegas, and the story of Archie Karas may just be the most memorable yet. Karas went on a winning streak that turned a starting $50 bankroll into a whopping $40m. “The run” became the moniker for Karas’ escapades on the Las Vegas strip, and his hot streak is considered one of the greatest in gambling history. Unfortunately, his luck ran out not too far down the road. Within a year, Karas had lost all his wealth the same way he obtained it — gambling at the casino.
Former NBA all-star and basketball legend, Charles Barkley, was as passionate on the court as he was at the blackjack table. Barkley would consistently visit the casino in the hopes of winning $1m. He would sometimes play at regular tables, but the high roller rooms were where he would spend most of his time and bets. He gained more notoriety for his gambling habits, and being no stranger to fame, he thrived on the attention, often taking part in live casino games. Barkley lost an estimated $30m at Las Vegas casinos.
American businessman Terrence Watanabe makes the list of famous high rollers. Although, in his case, he has a less favorable story to tell. Back in 2009, Watanabe lost about $127m gambling at casinos in Las Vegas. Eventually, he landed in a legal battle with one of Vegas’ top casino corporations, Harrah’s. Watanabe allegedly refused to pay $15m in losses and claimed the casino had intentionally prolonged his session by providing him with drinks and pain pills.
Although they finally settled, Watanabe lost a great amount of his wealth and has largely withdrawn from the gambling limelight.