Ten people who made a ton of money betting on horse races (and who won the most money ever on a horse race bet)

Pick Pony |March 31, 2024, 11:18 p.m.

While it's possible to win money in the short term, gambling is not a reliable or sustainable way to get rich. The odds are always stacked in favor of the house, so the chances of losing money are generally higher than the chances of winning over the long term. However, there are people who found ways to "beat the house."

James "Jimmy the Greek" Snyder

The legend

James "Jimmy the Greek" Snyder was a well-known American sports commentator and professional gambler. He is perhaps best known for his work on CBS' NFL pregame show, "The NFL Today."

Snyder moved to Vegas and spent some time there as an oddsmaker and, of course, a professional gambler. In 1962, he was charged with giving a betting tip over the phone and convicted of violating the Federal Communications Act. He was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
Since sports betting was illegal in most of the US, Jimmy could not mention betting or gambling. Instead, he would predict the score of each game. Betters who knew the line could deduce his selection when betting the point spread.

Snyder won significant amounts of money through his keen ability to handicap, or determine odds for, horse races. His knack for predicting the outcome of races and a daring betting strategy led to his considerable wealth.

Dave "Vegas Dave" Oancea

Oh what a dangerous web we weave

Dave "Vegas Dave" Oancea is a famous sports bettor and handicapper known for his large-scale bets on sports, including horse racing. His notable wins include a $2.5 million payout on the Kansas City Royals to win the 2015 World Series. His ability to predict outcomes and strategize his bets has earned him a great deal of wealth and the nickname "Vegas Dave".

Born in Michigan, Dave moved to Hawaii after graduating high school. It was there that he made his first bet - and won. The bug bit, and Dave moved to Las Vegas, where he took out a $10,000 school loan and used it for - yep.

When his luck ran out, Vegas Dave filed for bankruptcy. He then went on to win his $2.5 million payout on the Kansas City Royals and another $2.3 million the next year by betting on the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 50.

Soon after, the feds charged him with betting with other people’s social security numbers. He settled for $500,000. However, he was banned from Vegas for three years. While waiting for the ban to end, he spent an astonishing $400,000 on a baseball trading card— then sold it for $3.9 million in an online auction.

Bill Benter

A mathematical genius uses his head to win big

Bill Benter is one of the most successful gamblers in history, having developed an algorithm that enabled him to win huge sums of money on horse racing bets. He started using his mathematical skills to analyze the odds at the racetrack. Over time, he refined his approach and developed an algorithm that could predict the outcome of horse races with remarkable accuracy. His method involved analyzing various factors such as the horse's form, the jockey's skills, and the track conditions. This algorithm led to him winning hundreds of millions of dollars and becoming a legend in the world of horse racing gambling.

After graduating college with a physics degree in 1977, Bill headed to Vegas, where he counted cards and won plenty. After seven years, he was banned from all the Vegas strip casinos. This led him to Hong Kong, where he worked with Alan Woods (see below) to develop a horse racing formula.

Alan Woods

More mathematical models make more money

Alan Woods was a mathematician and professional gambler who made his fortune in horse race betting. Woods and his partner, Bill Benter (see above), developed a mathematical model to predict the outcome of horse races based on various factors such as track condition, horse form, weather, and other factors. They used this model to place bets, primarily in Asian horse racing markets. 

Next, Woods traveled to Manila, where he worked with Zeljko Ranogajec (see below) to “pioneer quantitative gambling.” Their method proved extremely profitable, and Woods is said to have made hundreds of millions of dollars from horse race betting before his death in 2008.

Zeljko Ranogajec

The businessman

Zeljko Ranogajec is renowned as one of the world's most prolific gamblers and has reportedly bet more money on gambling than anyone else in history. He initially started his gambling career at the blackjack tables in Tasmania, but quickly turned his focus to horse racing after being banned from all Australian and US casinos. The casinos named him “The Joker”.

Ranogajec and an extensive network of informants and analysts developed a system that relied on complex mathematical modeling and a large volume of bets to secure a favorable outcome. They looked for high liquidity betting opportunities, large bets against small margins, and working with bookmakers for significant rebates on their bets. His method proved to be immensely successful, earning him billions of dollars and a spot among the most successful horse racing gamblers in the world.

Billy Walters

Looking for the bias

Billy Walters is a well-known professional gambler based in Las Vegas. He made his money through successful sports betting, including horse racing. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful sports bettors in Las Vegas, having a winning streak that extended for over 30 years. 

Up until his mid-to-late 30s, Walters mostly lost money until he and a friend noticed a wheel bias on a roulette table at Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. He bet on 7-10-20-27-36 for 38 hours, winning $3.8 million. Three years later, he won $400,000 at a casino in Las Vegas and $610,00 from Claridge Casino in Atlantic City.
Walters then used computer analysis to gain a significant edge in sports and horse race betting. His operation was so successful that many Las Vegas bookmakers would refuse to take his bets. His ability to analyze and predict race outcomes made him a millionaire.

Tony Bloom

And football too

Tony Bloom is a British entrepreneur, sports bettor, and football club owner, known for his sharp betting skills, particularly in horse racing and football. He is the owner of the online gambling company Starlizard, which operates similarly to a hedge fund. 
Bloom's company uses complex statistical models to generate football odds that are reportedly more accurate than those offered by bookmakers. His savvy investments in gambling, real estate, and football clubs, notably Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., have also significantly contributed to his wealth.

Harry Findlay

“I’m a bloody gambler. That ain't changing."

Harry Findlay is a renowned professional gambler from the UK who has made millions through horse racing and sports betting. Known for his larger-than-life personality and willingness to place massive bets, Findlay has experienced both significant wins and losses. He is most famous for owning Denman, a racehorse who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious races in the UK. His knack for picking winners and fearless betting strategy contributed greatly to his wealth.

JP McManus

It takes money to make money

JP McManus is a prominent Irish businessman and racehorse owner. He is considered one of the most successful professional gamblers in the world. McManus made his fortune through currency trading and horse race betting. Known as "the Sundance Kid" in the world of horse racing, he has had a number of major wins at prestigious horse racing events such as the Cheltenham Festival. His strategic bets and investment acumen have significantly contributed to his wealth.

Patrick Veitch

Another mathematical genius makes millions gambling

Patrick Veitch is a well-respected professional gambler from the UK. He is known for his exceptional mathematical skills, which he has used to develop a sophisticated betting system. 

Veitch has won millions of pounds from bookmakers over the years. His success in betting started when he was a student at Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics. His mathematical prowess and a deep understanding of horse racing allowed him to devise a successful betting strategy.

The most money ever won on a horse racing bet

A $2.2 million dollar payout!

The record for the highest amount ever won on a horse racing bet is held by a man named Steve Whiteley. In 2011, he won an outstanding $2.2 million on a Tote Jackpot bet in 2011. The remarkable event took place at the Exeter Racecourse in England, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious racing venues in the country.

Whiteley, a heating engineer from North Tawton, Devon, managed to predict the winners of six consecutive races, which is a feat that even professional gamblers rarely achieve. His bet was a mere $2, making his win even more incredible. 

According to Whitely, who admits he knows very little about horse racing (doh!), he traveled by bus to get to Exeter, then used a free promotional ticket to get in. He originally wrote out a ticket for the Jackpot with two selections in each race. When told it would cost $32, he balked.

“I couldn’t afford that. So I picked one in each race.”

Whitely decided on that remarkable day that the following selections were his best chance of hitting the big time: Semi Colon (2/1), Black Phantom (12/1), Ammunition (16/1), Mr Bennett (16/1), Lundy Sky (5/1) and Lupita (12/1).

In the fourth race, two contenders fell down, and a third lost his jockey. His excitement grew almost too much to contain when the final race came.

“My mate said to me, there’s only seven people in the whole world who are still in, and you’re one of them.”

However, his final pick was Lupita, a 12/1 nobody. Then in the final stretch, she hurled past Only Hope to take home the win, awarding Whitely 1,445,671.20 pounds, equivalent to $2.2 million dollars.