Billy Walters is a businessman and sports bettor. Regarding the latter, Walters is arguably the greatest sports gambler to walk the planet.
He’s been gambling professionally on sports for over 40 years and has only suffered one losing year. At one point, he pulled off an impressive streak that included 30 straight profitable years.
But as successful as Walters is as sports betting today, he was once really terrible at it. In fact, he racked up over $50,000 in losses at one point.
How did Walters go from being such an awful bettor to the GOAT? I’ll cover more on his life, losing years, and how he ultimately turned his betting career around.
Walters Grew Up Working Hard
Billy Walters has a net worth ranging from $100 million to $500 million, depending upon the source. Therefore, he has no worries about money today.
However, Walters originally grew up quite poor in Munfordville, Kentucky. He also had a rough home life after his father, an auto mechanic, died when he was just 18 months old.
His mother was an alcoholic and left Billy and his siblings. Walters’ grandmother raised him as a result.
With the help of grandma, Billy secured a $90 bank loan to start a paper route. He worked this paper route for several years until his grandmother died when he was 13.
Afterward, he had to move in with his mother in Louisville. Here, Walters worked at a bakery in the morning and a gas station at night.
He had to pay rent to live in his mom’s basement. Walters quickly got married and had a child before graduating high school.
By 1965, when he was 21 years old, Walters started working as a car salesman. He quickly became the top salesman after using various means to hook clients, including cold calls and mailers.
Billy was quite successful and made around $55,000 per year (approx. $400,000 today). He eventually became a sales manager and later launched his own car dealership.
Unfortunately, Billy Was a Terrible Sports Gambler
Walters quickly learned how to make money at a young age. However, he would often blow this same money through sports betting.
He placed his first wager at age nine. Billy used his paper route earnings to bet on a World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955.
His legendary gambling career began with a loss as the Dodgers prevailed. However, he wasn’t deterred from sports betting.
Walters’ betting habit increased along with his salary. Soon, he was using much of his profits from car sales to gamble on sports.
Billy lost over $50,000 by the time he was 22. In one case, he lost his home through a game involving nickels.
The winner didn’t actually take over the house, though. Instead, Walters paid off the home’s value over the next 18 months.
His love of gambling cost him love in other areas. He divorced twice early in life amid arguments over his betting habit and other problems.
Even still, Walters never wavered from gambling. By the early 1980s, he was even running an illegal bookmaking operation out of his car dealership.
The authorities found out and charged Walters with a misdemeanor for offering illegal gambling. He paid a $1,000 fine and decided to leave Kentucky for Las Vegas.
Roulette Wins Lead to Sports Betting Success
It took Billy Walters around a quarter century to figure out the winning formula for sports betting. Finally, by his mid-30s, he was regularly winning sports bets in Vegas.
Surprisingly, though, his first big score came through roulette—not betting. He partnered up with another gambler and began observing roulette wheels in both Vegas and Atlantic City.
Billy and his partner would record winning numbers and look for patterns. Their goal was to find a biased wheel that favored certain pockets (rather than being random).
They finally discovered such a wheel at the Atlantic Club Casino. Walters found that the wheel favored 7-10-20-27-36.
They proceeded to play roulette for 38 straight hours. The duo won $3.8 million (approx. $8.9 million today) before being kicked off the tables.
The two-man team also won big at a Las Vegas casino ($600,000) and Claridge Casino in Atlantic City ($400,000). These huge wins helped Walters accumulate more than enough money for a huge betting bankroll.
Walters Became a Marked Man in Las Vegas
Billy was already successful in sports betting by the time he crushed casinos through roulette. However, his large bankroll allowed him to capitalize on his skills even more.
Of course, sportsbooks don’t exactly appreciate being beaten on a regular basis. Vegas bookmakers eventually banned Walters from their establishments.
He could no longer place an in-person bet anywhere. Walters had to resort to other tactics to get action, such as hiring “runners” to gamble for him.
He’d send these employees to Las Vegas sportsbooks to wait around. When a favorable opportunity presented itself, Walters would call an associate and tell them how to bet.
Thanks to these runners, Billy was able to continue his highly successful gambling career. He became one of the most-feared bettors in Vegas.
He was/is especially adept at NFL betting—one of the toughest games to beat. Bookmakers are very good at setting tight NFL lines that offer little advantage one way or the other.
Walters, however, is quite good at spotting thin value. He also uses tricks, such as betting the odds on one side to move the line.
He’ll then wager even more money on the other side after getting the odds he wants (a.k.a. reverse steam move). Walters has done well with this technique in both NFL and college football betting.
Some of the Biggest Wins in Betting History
Walters’ gambling bankroll has grown considerably over the years. As a result, he’s able to place some of the biggest bets known to man.
For example, he once won a $3.5 million bet on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. He also won a $2.2 million wager on USC football beating the University of Michigan.
Thanks to wins like these, Billy says that he’s able to make between $50 million and $60 million in profits on a good year.
He likely doesn’t win at this annual rate often. But considering that the vast majority of bettors lose money, Walters is doing quite outstanding.
What Is Walters Doing Today?
Life hasn’t been all roses for Billy as of late. He was convicted of insider trading in April 2017 in a case related to Dean Foods.
Walters was receiving insider information from Dean Foods Chairman Thomas C. Davis. He used a prepaid phone and relied on code words, like “Dallas Cowboys,” to discuss the company.
This gambit helped Walters realize an incredible profit of $32 million between 2008 and 2014. He also avoided $11 million in losses through timely sells.
With the evidence stacked against him, Walters received a five-year prison sentence. He tried unsuccessfully to appeal in December 2018.
Billy tried taking his case to the US Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal on grounds that they felt he was guilty.
The judge determined that Walters should serve out his sentence at Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, Florida.
He’s now serving out the remainder of his sentence in home confinement in Carlsbad, California. Walters’ sentence will be complete in January 2022.
Many sports betters can identify with Billy Walters’ losing ways early on. However, nobody has experienced the dramatic turnaround that he did.
Billy went from somebody who’d lost $50,000 to the GOAT of sports betting. Walters has quite possibly won over $100 million from sports betting alone.
Today, he supplements his gambling winnings with business profits. Walters owns a golf course on the Las Vegas Strip, several car dealerships, and commercial real estate.
He’s currently serving a prison sentence in home confinement. However, he’s scheduled to be a free man within less than two years.