Dan Bilzerian — that name should ring a bell to you, and if it doesn’t, you need to get on the Internet quickly — especially on Instagram, where he has more than 20 million followers — and get with the program. Although originally a venture capitalist by trade according to IMDB, this international playboy is a professional poker player and is as famous for escapades such as drag racing, shooting machine guns in the desert and wild parties, as he is for his daring bets in high-stakes poker games.
How did he get so rich?
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Mr Bilzerian has more than a bit of money floating around. “The King of Instagram,” as he’s known to his followers, was raised in Tampa, Florida, in the comfort of an 11-bedroom mansion. He grew up within a family of immensely smart individuals, all of whom had high IQs, and his father owned a robotics company, which was just one of several investments; however, the patriarch was also a convicted fraudster. This is something that has caused a lot of controversy around Bilzerian, with questions being asked regarding how much of his own wealth came from his father’s illegal gains.
One thing of which we can all be sure is that Bilzerian is one smart cookie. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, he went on to study criminology and business at the University of Florida. By the second year of his studies he was broke, so he sat down at the poker table while at the university, which is where he learned to play poker.
It would seem Bilzerian reached desperation point and was down to just $750 from selling his belongings — he transformed those dollars into a more comfortable $10,000. From there, he headed out to Las Vegas — on a one-way ticket — and turned those 10,000 big ones into $187,000, which paid for a return to university. Outside of class, he continued practicing his poker skills in “cash games” – where there are no limits on the potential winnings. According to Bilzerian, he was making $90,000 some weeks — it was enough to make him quit university and never finish his studies.
Upping the stakes
Bilzerian developed a reputation as being a “loose aggressive” player. Much to the delight of his ultra-rich co-players, he would bet huge amounts of money and bet frequently. From here, he has moved from high stakes to “nosebleed” stakes. He hosts these games his Los Angeles abode, where billionaires and Hollywood stars such as Mark Wahlberg — who has more than just a little money to throw around — and Toby Maguire have all come along to play.
He’s not always won big when gambling, though. In his first major tournament, he walked away with “just” $36,000 and finished in 180th place — the winner, Joe Cada, pocketed a handsome $8.5 million for his own time at the table.
The one thing Bilzerian did have on his side, however, was charisma, and ESPN gave him lots of on-screen coverage, paving the way for him to sign up for a sponsorship deal with the now-defunct card room Victory Poker.
Away from the table
Look on Bilzerian’s social media accounts, and you’ll see that he’s attracted more than his fair share of women. He’s also been through his fair share of break-ups, having split up with Playboy playmate Jessica Hinton, who slapped him after reading a press story about the kind of company he was keeping at Hollywood card games. Around the time of the split, there were press accounts of him having found new love.
Perhaps the natural traits that come into play at the table make dating as a poker player just too difficult, since it can transfer over into your personal life. You can either go conservative and play a steady, strategic game, or you can go all out and play reckless, go all-in, with no real strategy at all. Bilzerian lives a wild life in which he lives for the moment and has his pick of the women, which seems to match his playing style of betting big and doing so often — and may make commitment hard.
A life that’s hard to ignore
When you make as much money as Dan Bilzerian, it’s hard for you not to live well or not live differently to other mere mortals. The poker star has homes in the Hollywood Hills and Las Vegas, and is believed to have one, too, in the beach town of La Jolla, near Mexico.
And it’s no Chevy for him either to get around — a 1965 AC Cobra and a Lamborghini Avantador sit in the garage of his Hollywood home, a home which also has a swimming pool, poker tables (of course), cash-counting machines and a view over the city. Even his pets live in the lap of luxury, with his cat and a pet goat sharing a $700 blanket which they sleep on outdoors.
He may have behaved notoriously badly with women; taken part in, and bet on, a drag race — and won; lost $2.3 million dollars on the flip of a coin: and more, but for all his riches, Dan Bilzerian may be trying to restore some respectability to his public image and move away slightly from the typical rich-and-couldn’t-care-less persona. In recent years, he has gone with a new publicist, removed a self-effacing description of himself from his Twitter and made more of his donations to charity.