Legendary Gamblers - Kerry Packer
Written by Tim
Published date · Sept. 15, 2023 | Last Updated · Sept. 15, 2023 | Read Time: 5 mins
Affectionately known as ‘Australia’s Greatest Gambler’, Kerry Packer is the original larger-than-life media mogul who will surely never be forgotten.
While the primary focus of those looking back on Packer’s legendary life and career will likely revolve around his media empire and the impact he had on the game of cricket, the stories of his gambling exploits are without doubt, legendary. With that in mind, he needed to be included in our Legendary Gambler series!
Who Was Kerry Packer?
Born in Sydney on December 17 1937, Kerry Packer was a media mogul who went on to become one of the richest and most influential men in Australia. His family owned a controlling interest in both the Australian Consolidated Press and the Nine TV Network - with his net worth in 2004 said to be approximately $5 billion.
Packer will also be forever remembered for the enormous impact he had on the world of cricket, with his World Series of Cricket causing a rebellion within the sport.
Launched in 1977, the innovative league attracted some of the biggest names in the sport - including Tony Greig, Clive Lloyd, Imran Khan and Greg Chappell - to turn their back on international cricket in order to be better remunerated by Packer and his breakaway league.
Numerous court cases followed before the league folded in 1979, but it left an indelible mark on the game of cricket, and Packer’s name will forever be linked to the sport.
What Makes Packer’s Gambling so Legendary?
Kerry Packer’s gambling is so legendary simply because of how open and honest he was about his love for it, paired with the many, many legendary stories that are still told to this day.
The Texas Oil Baron
One legendary Packer gambling story occurred when he had a run-in with a multi-millionaire Texas oil baron in Las Vegas. As he grew tired of the man’s over-the-top behavior at the blackjack tables, he confronted the man and asked him how much he was worth. The businessman confidently insisted: “I’m worth $100 million” - without missing a beat, Packer pulled a coin from his pocket and told the man: “I’ll toss you for it”. The Texan, firmly put in his place, declined Packer’s risky gamble.
Quitting While He Was Ahead
While known to gamble huge amounts of money regularly, Packer also gained a strong reputation for being to quit while he was ahead.
His reputation as a ‘hit-and-run player’ had casinos quaking at the very sight of him - not wanting to turn away a big fish, but also not wanting to be ‘hit’ by a player who could flip their profit and loss sheets!
Whether he was winning or losing, Packer gained a reputation as a very good tipper whenever he was playing at the tables. From buying a new car for a casino valet, to writing a $130,000 cheque to pay off a cocktail waitress’ mortgage, Packer was known to be a very generous man.
Following one of his legendary eight-figure wins at the Las Vegas Hilton, he was said to have left a $1.3 million tip to be split between all the dealers who served him, while also leaving a $100,000 tip to the lounge singer.
Packers’s Biggest Wins
As you would expect with such a prolific gambler, there are dozens of stories of Packer’s huge wins - let’s take a closer look at a few of them below.
Winning $20 Million in 40 Minutes
Packer’s most famous gambling win came at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in May 1995 when it is claimed he won $20 million in just 40 minutes playing blackjack. Placing $250,000 bets across up to eight tables at the same time, Packer’s winning feat is still one of the most legendary in Vegas history.
Huge Horse Racing Wins
Packer’s gambling was never limited to the baize of a casino table, with horse racing being another keen passion of his. His bets and subsequent wins were so legendary that bookmakers feared a phone call that might start with the words: “Packer here…”.
Packer placed a wager of nearly $1.5 million on Might and Power to win the 1997 Melbourne Cup - which he duly did at odds of $4.50.
He topped this the following year with a quinella bet on Jezabeel to win and Champagne to finish second - again, this landed at odds of $7.00. Betting across numerous betting rings in both Melbourne and Sydney, he left many bookmakers out of business with these incredible legendary gambling wins.
Packer’s Biggest Gambling Losses
With Packer being such a legendary gambler throughout his life, it should come as little surprise that he experienced his fair share of losses as well.
Losing $16.5 Million at Crockfords
One of Packer’s favored haunts was London club Crockfords, with him being known to always visit the club whenever he was in the UK. In 1999, Packer paid them a visit in the hopes of landing another legendary win.
Unfortunately, his visit did not go to plan and he broke the record for the biggest ever gambling loss to occur in the UK. Over the course of a three-day losing streak, Packer was said to have lost an eye-watering $16.5 million.
Stuck in Vegas on 9/11
September 11 2001 will obviously be forever remembered for the tragic events that occurred in New York - however, there is also a famous Kerry Packer gambling story connected to the date.
After another weekend of high-roller gambling in Las Vegas, he was due to leave Sin City several million dollars up, however, due to the catastrophic events that were unfolding in New York, his flight was grounded. Packer decided to hit the tables, but his luck deserted him and his sizable profit turned into a loss of more than $6 million.
Where is Packer Now?
Sadly, Kerry Packer died of kidney failure on Boxing Day 2005 in Sydney, Australia, just a matter of days after celebrating his 68th birthday. Towards the end of his life, he was said to have told his cardiologist he was “running out of petrol” as he refused dialysis treatment that might have extended his life.
A state memorial service was held on February 17 2006 at Sydney Opera House, with those attending including the likes of Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and Richie Benaud.
While no longer with us, Packer certainly left his mark as a businessman, cricket innovator and legendary gambler.