"If your dreams don't scare you,
then they aren't big enough"
For nearly four decades, William Walters, which this year celebrates 69 years, earned on sports betting more money than anyone else in the history of bookmaking. He earned hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of bettors and bookmakers were trying to imitate his techniques, to figure out his methods, but everyone failed. Walters succeeded everywhere - on the stock market, on the real estate market, in criminal proceedings and in his true calling, i.e. betting. He was able to rise from a life in poverty in rural Kentucky to the peak of success.
Billy Walters was born on July 15, 1946 in a small town called Munfordville, which was an hour's drive from Fort Knox that was a military base where the gold reserves of the United States were stored.
He grew up in a family where gambling was a way of life. His father and uncle were avid poker players. His father died early, when Billy was 1.5 years, and his mother then ran away from home, so he was raised by his grandmother and uncle. His uncle had a private billiard room, and at the age of 4 years, Billy managed to play billiards. And at the age of 9 he made his first wager, staking all his money (75 dollars) on his favorite team New York Yankees against Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1955 World Series. The boy lost, but was hooked.
When Billy was 13 years old, his grandmother died and he moved to Louisville to his mother. At the age of 16 he had a daughter, and he was forced to marry. This marriage lasted one year. In the morning, Billy used to work at the bakery, at night he was worked at a gas station and in the afternoon he studied. In addition, he delivered newspapers, worked in the tobacco fields, was a painter, sold cars, worked as a real estate broker. However according to him, this was just avocations. His major occupation was gambling. He played anything: pool, rummy, poker, blackjack, roulette, golf, horse racing. And he drank, he drank really a lot.
After high school, Walters engaged in the sale of cars and married again. He had two sons in this marriage. His elder son died at the age of 5 years, and his younger son was ill with brain cancer. Billy had to make a terrible choice: to allow his son to die or to have surgery and remove the part of the brain, but then his son would be idiot forever.
"They told him that he had 30 days left to live - says Billy Walters. - He had a tumor behind his left eye. After radiation therapy, they told us that he could die any day. I was drunk all that time. I was 26 years old. It was the only thing in my life, which I was not able to cope. I gave up my business and family and was always drunk. Just nine months later, I returned to business management".
Three years later, Billy divorced and married a third time.
In the late 1970s Walters became a bookmaker and began to accept bets illegally. He had mixed success. Besides, Billy enjoined drinking. He also had gambling addiction. As he says, "I could put all my money on the coin toss". Walters made periodical raided in Las Vegas, where he played blackjack, baccarat, poker and golf at the famous Horseshoe. He was used to do all that till 1982, when he was arrested for illegal bookmaking. Paying a $1,000 fine, Billy decided to radically change his way of life and finally moved to Las Vegas.
Billy was definitely an outstanding gambler, but he had not even the slightest idea of how to play professionally. After arriving in Las Vegas Walters contacted the people who helped him to turn his passion for gambling in his professional occupation.
In 1980, Ivan Mindlin and Michael Kent created the legendary Computer Group, which was a pioneer in the use of computer algorithms for sports betting. In the early 1980s the Computer Group became the first national network of sports betting, making bets on hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. The team of players, handicappers and investors started earning millions. Billy Walters became the member of exactly this group in 1983. He married a second time to stop drinking and became a member of the influential elite of Las Vegas.
In 1985, the Computer Group came in sight of the FBI, and Billy had problems. The FBI believed that the Computer Group did not make bets, but accepted them, e.i. it was engaged in illegal bookmaking. The whole story lasted several years, eventually Walters was accused in "participation in the conspiracy to make bets." A trial took place, where the jury just laughed at the absurd accusation and Billy Walters was acquitted and the case against him was closed.
Walters earned his first millions in 1986: he won $3.8 million playing roulette, using a strategy of gambling on the old equipment, $3.5 million he won staking in the Super Bowl, and about $400 000 he got from golf. Then casino started resisting Billy to gamble, and he switched to sports betting. Since that time he has not had a single unsuccessful season: every year he earned 15 to 60 million dollars betting. Even now, when Walters has more than $300 million, he continues to work hard at the age of 69 years. Jack Sheehan, who wrote his biography, speaks of him in the following way:
"I can tell you that no one has ever had such approach to sports betting with stubborn analysis and without use of technical possibilities for this. And he has work ethics, it's just ridiculous. If you and I would have $300 million, we could play golf five days a week. Or relax on the beach with three girls in bikinis. And Billy is working as hard as he did when he was a seller of used cars in Kentucky".
Such large bets as Walters made are undesirable in many bookmakers in Las Vegas, so he organized his network of runners, whose task was to bet without any hint that they were working for someone else. Bookmakers of Las Vegas are afraid of big players, so many of them set limits of $10,000 - 20,000. In addition, the accounts of gamblers, who are too successful, are in danger of being closed for some far-fetched reasons. Therefore, each runner bets less than the limit permits, but the total amount from Walters often exceeds the bet of the runner in dozens of times.
Of course, runners have a temptation to use Walters' information and stake not only his money but also their own, separately. However Billy is not a fool, and such attempts are blocked. Some of his bets are intentionally losing, and this is done not only for protection from unfair runners who can spoil the whole system of gambling because of their greed.
Sometimes these deliberately losing bets are made in order to manipulate the betting line. Let us assume that team 1 and team 2 are playing against each other.
Walters can stake $50,000 on the first team with 3-1 odds. Such a large bet influences the line and odds will drop to 2.5-1. Next, he wagers on the same team $75,000, the bookmaker again responds to the bet by decreasing the odds to 2-1. Accordingly, the odds for the team 2 after these manipulations grow, and then a runner receives an instruction to immediately make a bet that exceeds the limit, perhaps $250,000, on the second team. Thus, Walters remains in the black in any case, if the first team loses, 125,000 dollar bet on it will be lost, but $250,000 on the other side would be enough to make a profit. (Numbers are taken randomly to illustrate the scheme).
Walters uses this method in several games, managing millions of dollars every weekend. The essence of it is to organize the delta, i.e. a situation when the player will win despite the outcome of the match. This method is well-known among gamblers on the Betfair, and it takes its beginning from the time of the Computer Group. The greater is the delta, the more money the gambler wins. And this type of manipulation has nothing illegal, in unpopular matches the line can be moved even by the small bet of $1,000. The Walters' strategy is just more complex and uses more people, more information, and, of course, Billy's bets are much higher, and they are immediately placed in many bookmakers.
History with Rubalcada
And to finish with runners, we will tell the story of one of them with an unpronounceable name Ezekiel Rubalcada. When Walters offered him a job, Rubalcada saw a chance to earn a lot of money. Eventually he began to duplicate the Walters' bets from his own resources without knowing all the underpinnings. As a result, he lost so much that he started stealing Walters' funds and finally his debt reached half a million dollars. To make up a deficiency, Ezekiel Rubalcada organized the theft of his car, where ostensibly was the money. He reported to the police. It was his misfortune that the theft was recorded on video camera, so a trial did not last long.
Rubalcada eventually pleaded guilty to two counts and was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered him to pay $360,000. It was obliged to return the money because after the arrest of Rubalcada one of the Walters; lawyers came to the prosecutor and provided him with the documents that proved that the financial transactions were conducted lawfully through a limited liability corporation. This again shows that all Walters' operations are legal.
Work on the bet begins long before the match. Handicappers of NFL, NBA, who are working on him, provide Walters with quantitative estimates of the teams by color codes and letter grades. The Walters' network also includes scouts who carefully study local newspapers, websites, blogs and twitter to reveal information about the moods and scandals in teams, injuries of players, etc. This information is saved into the computer along with other statistical data - the state of the field where the match will occur to changes in match officials. Only after that Billy appears, his goal is to find underestimated team. After making a final decision, he forms a scheme on how, where and when it is necessary to stake and informs authorized persons and they in turn inform runners about his decision.
Even the greatest player of all time does not always win, but he should not do it. In the world of sports betting it is sufficient to win 52.38 percent of all bets to be in black. Any additional victory is a net profit and when bets on millions of dollars are made, you can imagine what is one percent of profit in such gambling. On average, Walters receives extra 2 percentage points above the break-even point, sometimes even more. His top profit was in 1985, when he still was a member of the Computer Group. At that time this syndicate won a stunning 60.3 percent on the American football. After leaving the Computer Group the best Walters' result was in 2002, when he finished the season by winning 58 percent of bets.
There is a myth that all Walters' bets are made in Las Vegas, but it is not true. The thing is, the placement of bets outside of Nevada is considered as a gray area, and therefore Walters refuses to talk about it. However some credible sources believe that only a small portion of Walters' bets are actually placed in Las Vegas. According to them, other bets are made either on the offshore gambling sites, or, to a lesser extent, through a network of betting offices, many of which have been operating with Walters for decades.
It has been reported that the recent Walters' operations become more active in the offshore bookmakers in Europe and on the developing Asian market. So, more than 40 phone numbers in his office were found during a raid of the FBI in 1996. More than 12,000 long-distance calls to Canada, Central America and the Caribbean have been made on them for the last month. In addition, documents on wire transfers totaling $970,000 were found. This money was transferred to Walters' account through banks in Montreal, London and New York. Walters was three times accused of money laundering and illegal gambling winnings, but he was exculpated before trial. According to sources, nowadays the head office of the Walters' international consortium is located outside the United States. The last known location was in Panama, before he had had offices in London, the Bahamas and in Tijuana, Mexico.
One such source is John Mastronardo, who worked as his trustee from 2000 to 2005. He called his former boss a genius, but also claimed to have witnessed his dark side, i.e. Walters could be tricky and frankly cruel. According to him, Walters is good and evil, charming and cunning. They met each other in 1980, and for a long time, Walters tested him from time to time giving him large sums of money ($1,000,000 $2,000,000) without a signed contract relying on his honesty. And only when John proved his honesty, Walters made him his assistant.
"He is a genius for me, - says Mastronardo. - First of all, no one knows where he places bets. Some of them he makes in casinos. Other bets he makes on different sites. Thus, he uses the entire market. But his art is that he can wager on a game a lot of money and no one will know about it".
Mastronardo states that Walters could also be ruthless and tells a story of his own life. One day, he flew to Las Vegas with a bag full of more than 2,000,000 dollars in cash. It was Walters' money intended for runners. At the airport, he was stopped by federal agents. They ransacked his luggage and found money. He was accused of having illegal money and arrested. Mastronardo succeeded in sending message to Walters, in the hope that he would pull him out of the prison, but in return he received just three words: "John, good luck." After several hours of interrogation, the agents found out that he was a professional gambler and he was allowed to get away with the money. The next morning, when Walters' runners got the money and told him about it, he called Mastronardo and warned him: "Johnny, you know the rules. It's my money. If I do not get it, it means that you are hooked."
Here's a story of success. The poor boy from Kentucky is currently a very rich man, with an estimated capital of over $300 million. His assets include three golf courses in Las Vegas, a few dealerships to sell cars, four-bedroom house in Henderson, Nevada, home for $10 million in Carlsbad and estate worth $8.5 million in Santa Fe. He is a recognized philanthropist and founder of the charitable organization in Las Vegas, which helps people with disabilities. And all this is thanks to sports betting and hard work.