There are very few people in the high-stakes poker community who are as controversial as Dan Bilzerian.
Loud, brazen and flamboyant, Bilzerian has been involved in more scandals than we can count.
Although not a
professional poker player, he’s touted his poker success for years, claiming to
have won millions in private games. His official results tell a different
certainly didn’t become famous for his poker-playing abilities. It was his
crazy and reckless lifestyle that he openly shares on social media that made
Bilzerian a celebrity and brought him the unofficial title of the “King of
With a lot of
money burning a hole in his pocket, he created this persona that people either
love or hate. This is true for his personal life and his endeavors as a poker
So, who is Dan
Bilzerian really, how good is he at poker, and why does controversy seems to
follow wherever he goes? It’s not easy to answer these questions, but I’ll
certainly try to in this article.
The Rise Of Dan “Blitz” Bilzerian
One of the
biggest mysteries about Bilzerian is how he made his money.
believed that his father, who was convicted of fraud, found a way to funnel money
to his son. While this is hard to prove, the fact is that Paul Bilzerian only
returned a few million of the $62 million verdict against him.
with the rest is anybody’s guess, but it’s not wild to think he would transfer
at least some of it to his son.
“Blitz” has never
really denied this, but he claimed he made most of the money himself, and poker
profits have supposedly played a huge role in the process.
But how did
Bilzerian get to be the King of Instagram and everything else he stands for today?
He grew up in a rich family, not wanting anything more, at least in the material sense.
In one of his interviews, he said he didn’t have many friends growing up, which may have played a role in him becoming a “flashy lunatic” as he describes it.
When his father
got arrested, things took a turn for the worse. He started getting in trouble
and was expelled from several schools.
Later on, Bilzerian
tried joining Navy Seals, but that went about as well as expected. He wasn’t
the type to follow orders, and after a short stint there, he dropped out.
After that, he
enrolled with the University of Florida, and this is where his poker journey
At this point in
time, he still didn’t have access to trust funds in his name, so by the second
year, he was completely broke.
Bilzerian, this is when he turned to poker seriously, playing in home games –
apparently making as much as $90,000 on some weeks.
But, the story
of the flamboyant playboy was just beginning.
Bilzerian Introduces Himself To High-Stakes Poker
In 2007 Dan
Bilzerian caught the eye of the poker community for the first time and this was
the first of many controversial stories.
those who were at Lake Tahoe at the time, Bilzerian got there with a suitcase
full of cash – hardly a surprise for a man who always wants to leave an
there was $100,000 in that suitcase, and Bilzerian jumped straight into the
high stakes action. But he wasn’t playing a loose or reckless style. Instead,
he was waiting for others to do so, allowing him to profit off of that.
When that didn’t
happen, he got up and left.
Apart from the
bag full of cash, there was nothing particularly controversial about Bilzerian
at that time.
was just the beginning for the 27-year-old and the first of many chapters in
the Dan Bilzerian saga.
Instagram Shenanigans And Lawsuits
Putting poker aside for a moment, Bilzerian became famous primarily for his completely uncensored Instagram account.
On there, he regularly shares photos and videos of himself surrounded by naked models, expensive cars, and – guns.
Blitz is apparently a fan of guns and has a huge private collection (below), which doesn’t sit well with many people.
But it seems
like the King of Instagram doesn’t care about that too much. While some may
hate him for it, there are also quite a few who admire this approach, as
evident from his 32.8 million followers.
performance got Bilzerian in a bit of trouble after a porn star, Janice
Griffith, sued him for damages.
situation was caused by the photoshoot organized by Bilzerian and the Hustler,
during which Blitz tried to toss Janice into the pool from a rooftop. The porn
star didn’t quite land right, though, and she hurt her foot in the process.
Like so many
scandals before and after, Bilzerian pretty much brushed the whole thing off,
not worrying too much about it. He made fun of the entire incident and kept
Bilzerian’s lifestyle doesn’t come without its consequences, even if he can afford
good lawyers and make legal troubles go away.
He suffered two
heart attacks by the time he was 25, and more recently, he had a pulmonary
embolism likely caused by too much booze, gambling, and everything else he
likes to do in his spare time.
And that seems
to be the only kind of time he has.
Although he has
ties in the business world, the King of Instagram has never been much of an
entrepreneur – unless he also has some secret companies that no one knows
His most recent
marijuana business endeavor lost over $50 million in one year. According to his
accountants, Bilzerian traveled the world and threw lavish parties, expecting
the company to pay for all of it.
And if you live
the lifestyle he lives, spending a few million isn’t really all that hard.
But where does
poker come into all this?
How did Dan
Bilzerian become a part of the high-stakes poker circles, and how much of his
self-proclaimed success is real?
A Controversial And Obscure Poker Career
Apart from his
suit-full-of-cash shenanigans back in 2007, Blitz didn’t leave much of an
imprint on the poker community – at least not in the form that anyone could
recorded live tournament result dates from 2009, when he made a fairly deep run
in the WSOP Main Event, finishing in 180th and banking something
over $36,000 for his efforts.
years ago, he made a very bold statement, claiming he won $50 million playing
can’t put a number like that out there and expect the poker community not to
react. Bilzerian’s results were questioned, and everyone who saw him play
thought this was impossible.
doesn’t have to be the case.
his larger-than-life character, it seems he’s a very intelligent guy. At least
all IQ tests he did over the years say so.
This and the
fact that he is a celebrity gives him access to some of the best, most
profitable private games around. Add to the mix the fact he is perceived as a
losing player with a lot of money, and all doors are open to him.
Now, let there
be no mistake. Despite what he might say or think, Bilzerian is a losing player
when playing against the best in the world.
He can’t stand
up against the poker wizards who spent years studying the game and learning
everything there is to know.
Bilzerian even knows this, and his provocative tweets and statements are just a
part of his ruse, helping him build this character of a fish.
But in a game
with A-list Hollywood celebs and models, it’s not that hard to imagine he’d be
one of the best players in the lineup.
He plays the
game more than most, he’s a smart guy, and he certainly has the bankroll and
the courage to mix things up in big pots.
He’s also been
friends with some of the best in poker, so it’s not hard to imagine he’s picked
up a thing or two along the way.
million is an exaggeration and another attempt to create some fuss and
controversy. But is it possible he’d won a pretty penny playing poker in very
private, hush-hush games?
I have to say
As to why he’d
brag about it, that answer is pretty clear.
Because he is
Recent Partnership With GGPoker
Whether he’s a professional poker player or not, Dan Bilzerian has recently been signed up by GGPoker, one of the largest online poker sites in the world.
The news created
a lot of buzz in the community, with many players and poker fans voicing their
discontent. Bilzerian isn’t the poster-boy profile, and him representing a
major poker site could hurt the game’s image.
But from a
business perspective, the deal was pretty huge for GGPoker.
The man can
reach over 30 million people on his Instagram page, and when he posts about
playing online, you can bet at least some of those people will hurry to log in
and join the fun.
Some of the
biggest pushback came from women in poker, many of whom believe that it’s bad
form to have someone like him representing a poker site.
After all, over
the years, he hasn’t actually been very kind to women in general, so how can he
act as an ambassador for the game and appeal to that segment of the player
to these statements was exactly what everyone expected. He pretty much shut
down everyone who didn’t like the idea, throwing in a few insults for good
All of this
didn’t cause GGPoker to break the partnership, so they clearly knew what they
were getting into.
They’ll have weighed
up the pros and cons, concluding that his wide reach outweighs any bad press
that comes with having Dan Bilzerian as a brand ambassador.
Conclusion: Poker God Or Imposter?
When we sum up
everything we know about Bilzerian, he still remains a mystery in so many
He clearly has
some money to spare, but where exactly that money came from is largely unknown.
Even if his father did leave some millions behind, the way he burns through
them, he’d have run out by now.
Are his stories
of multi-million poker winnings true, then? Has he really been a regular in
some super-soft, super-rich games where people are happy to donate some cash to
the Bilzerian fund?
never know for sure.
But one way or another,
there is no denying he adds some color to the whole poker ecosystem.
It’s not always
the right kind of color, but every story needs some villains, and Dan Bilzerian
is doing a fine job at it.