Australia has a vibrant gambling culture, with around 73% of its adult population gambling at least once in the past 12 months. Despite this higher participation rate, statistics show that only a few Aussies win more than they lose.

This article explores the success stories of select Australian players who won big. But before we dive into that, let’s look at the overview of the country’s gambling landscape.

The Australian Gambling Landscape

The Australian gambling landscape is characterised by diverse activities, including casino gaming, sports betting, and lotteries. However, one of the country’s most popular forms of gambling is “pokies,” or slot machines, which attract players with the allure of landing huge wins. The rise of online casinos has made these games even more prevalent, drawing more players with offers like 120 free spins for real money to increase their chances of hitting the jackpot.

Despite its massive gambling revenue, Australia records the highest losses per capita worldwide, with Aussies losing over $25 billion yearly. However, while most of its players only daydream about hitting a windfall one day, certain Australian gamblers have defied the odds and made a fortune.

The table below shows all the most successful Aussie gamblers on our list and each’s most significant gambling wins.

Name Major Gambling Win
Kerry Packer Once won 20 consecutive baccarat hands to clinch $20 million in under 20 minutes
Zeljko Ranogajec An annual gambling turnover estimated at $1 billion. Wins at blackjack so much he was banned by multiple casinos
Lloyd Williams Once won a shared payout of $10 million alongside Kerry Packer from a Quinella wager
Alan Woods Acquired a fortune of $670 million from 25 years of gambling
David Walsh Once won $63m on a horse race in Japan

Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer is regarded as one of the greatest gamblers in casino history. As a young man, he inherited around a $100 million asset from his dad, comprising casino investments. And while he is a billionaire mogul in the TV, cricket, and magazine businesses, he is renowned primarily for his gambling exploits.

Packer did not only record huge wins but also massive losses. In 1999, he suffered a three-week-long losing streak, costing him around $28 million. However, one of his biggest wins came after gambling at MGM Grand Casino for a whole week, accumulating over $33 million from various table games and slots. He also landed another record win of $20 million from baccarat in under 20 minutes, winning 20 consecutive hands of $115,000 stake.

Zeljko Ranogajec (The Joker)

Beyond Australia, Zeljko Ranogajec is regarded as one of the wealthiest gamblers worldwide. Born to Croatian immigrant parents, Zeljko studied Law and Commerce at the University of Tasmania while working part-time at the Wrest Point Casino, where he counted cards at blackjack. However, he later dropped out to become an advantage gambler.

Zeljko is regarded as one of the biggest gamblers in the horse racing betting sphere, with an annual turnover estimated at a whopping $1 billion. He is also a renowned blackjack player, where he would bet with small amounts and win millions. In fact, his massive blackjack wins led to him being banned from casinos like Wrest Point, Jupiters and Gold Coast. He was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2011.

Lloyd Williams

Lloyd Williams, founder of the renowned Crown Casino in Melbourne, is another prominent Australian gambler who was also friends with Kerry Packer. He was a renowned figure in the horse racing betting scene, racking up massive winnings from several calculated Melbourne Cup betting raids. He once recorded a shared payout of $10 million with Packer in 1998 after the duo won a quinella.

The casino mogul is also one of Australia’s largest thoroughbred racehorse owners. He currently holds the record for most wins by an owner in the coveted Melbourne Cup, having won the title seven times. Below is a list of his triumphant years and victorious horses:

  • 1981 (Just a Throw)
  • 1985 (Troublesome)
  • 2007 (Efficient)
  • 2012 (Green Moon)
  • 2016 (Almandin)
  • 2017 (Rekindling)
  • 2020 (Twilight Payment)

Alan Woods

Alan Woods is one of the most innovative Australian gamblers. He started gambling as a college student, betting primarily on blackjack at local casinos. Thanks to his mathematical prowess, he recorded a reasonable level of success playing casino games.

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In the 1980s, Alan Woods partnered with fellow maths whiz and avid gambler Bill Benter. The duo formed a betting syndicate that unexpectedly took the horse racing betting sphere by storm in a few years. The shock factor is that they never attended the racetrack despite all their winnings. Their success came from using their maths expertise to create a computer algorithm that picks the winning horse based on essential factors like weather, form, physique, and track. Alan Woods passed away in 2008, but his gambling legacy lives on.

David Walsh

While he is perhaps best renowned as the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) owner, David Walsh remains one of Australia’s biggest gamblers. Before becoming an art collector, he studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Tasmania, a choice significant to his success.

David became intimate friends with Zeljko Ranogajec, and the duo built a horse racing betting algorithm. They first tested the system in 1987. Then, they spent the following years developing it and winning massive amounts. Both friends also co-headed one of the world’s biggest betting syndicates.

David’s interest turned to art in 1995. He borrowed $80 million from Zeljko in 2008 to build MONA, which opened in 2011.


The success stories of these Australian gamblers highlight the diverse paths to fortune within the gambling world. Whether through skill, luck, or a combination of both, these individuals have demonstrated that big wins are possible for those willing to take the risk. While not every gambler will achieve the same level of success, these stories inspire players who dream of hitting it big.

Published by HOLR Magazine.