Gambling for profit

From two-up to the Melbourne cup, Australians are clearly not shy of a bet. But could you make it your profession? Surprisingly it's not an untrodden path.
Image: © Sergey -

Do you fancy a bet on the Melbourne cup? Or maybe you occasionally bet on the weekend races during the season? Or perhaps you put down a few quid on your footy team when you’re confident of a win. Maybe you just enjoy taking money off your mates over a game of poker.

Some people gamble for fun and the thrill of winning; or otherwise. For some, it becomes a tragic and addictive behaviour.

For others, it becomes a profession.

In fact, Australia has a long record with professional gamblers of all kinds.

Joseph Hachem won the World Series of Poker in 2005, bagging a cool $7.5 million in prize money. Billy Argyros is another professional Australian poker player who has netted around a reported $1 million in earnings.

Still, this is peanuts compared to earnings of professional gamblers David Walsh and Zeljko Ranogajec. This dynamic duo from Tasmania has made millions, and possibly a number with even more zeros than that, from professional gambling.

Both are maths and IT geniuses, who have determined ways to play the odds, and often times, come out the winner.

David Walsh, who has since built the $175 million Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, dropped out of University and made many millions from applying his mathematical theories at the casinos and racetracks around the world. His partner in gambling, Zeljko Ranogajec, has achieved the same.

We’re not talking small, incremental bets here either.

Ranogajec alone is estimated to account for up to 8% of Tabcorp’s $10 billion Australian betting turnover; that’s putting up to about $1 billion a year into wagers. He is considered to be the world’s biggest punter.

It is claimed, that from this $1 billion turnover, Ranogajec grosses $10 million from every one per cent of profit made. No matter which way you look at it, these are huge numbers.

One of his early wins was a $7.5 million Keno jackpot. He then began to accumulate a sizeable fortune playing blackjack at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino. He joined forces with Walsh and another to build an empire based on professional gambling.

Neither Walsh nor Ranogajec are the type to be spotted at the races, dressed in flashy suits and ties that embrace the social side of horse racing as well as the punting.

Interestingly, both have been known to ‘play the stockmarket’, looking at the odds and behavioural patterns, and applying them the same way that their computer models have been applied to horse racing and other forms of gambling.

It is speculated that Ranogajec has tried to find a way to beat the odds of the games of lotto that so many people regularly partake in. In doing so, he has spent millions, but it seems unlikely that the ‘code’ has worked.

So, next time you wonder whether you should spend the $7.85 to buy a quick pick in current lotto draw, consider that there are others who have taken gambling to a professional level that is hard to comprehend.
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