Poker Players Who Lost Everything

Poker, Bankrupt, Gambling, Poker Face, Players, Contenders

We’ve seen plenty of pro poker players rake in millions of dollars over the years. However, plenty of famous names have also lost a huge chunk of their wealth. Whether it’s bad luck or bad decisions, even the most prolific players experience failure.

In this article, I cover some of the top poker players who went broke. I’m focusing on a few poker pros who were on top of the world but lost everything after a successful run. Keep in mind that these are players who could’ve recovered by now from their misfortunes.

Stu Ungar

  • Age: 45 (deceased)
  • Country: United States
  • Notable Achievements: Three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event winner

Anyone who follows the poker world knows about the tragic story of Stu Ungar. Referred to as “The Kid” during his heyday, Ungar was one of the greatest players of all time. He amassed millions and then lost it all, making him one of the most notable broke poker players.

Ungar rose to prominence as a successful gin rummy player before he graduated to poker. He had a photographic memory and was a well-rounded player at card games. The bulk of his success came during the 1980s when he won two consecutive WSOP Main Events.

It’s estimated that Ungar won over $30 million during his lifetime. However, a severe cocaine addiction and compulsive gambling issues would derail his career. Although he was a true poker champion, he would squander all of his earnings.

Ungar would mount a comeback during the 1990s. He won the 1997 WSOP Main Event, proving that he was still a talented and remarkable player. Unfortunately, Ungar’s demons would eventually get the best of him. In 1998, he died of heart failure without any assets to his name.

Scotty Nguyen

  • Age: 60
  • Country: Vietnam
  • Notable Achievements: 1998 WSOP Main Event Winner, 2008 WSOP H.O.R.S.E champion

Here’s another unfortunate story involving a former poker great. Known for his outgoing personality, Scotty Nguyen is a WSOP Main Event champion who won other major poker tournaments in his career.

Unfortunately, Nguyen’s career is blemished by stretches of bad luck. He also revealed in an interview back in 2014 that he spent most of his earnings on gambling, women, and drugs. He claimed that fame exposed him to a luxurious lifestyle, which affected his fortunes.

It’s known that Nguyen went broke on multiple occasions in his career. At one point, he had to borrow money to provide $5 tips to valet workers. Nguyen does appear to be back on his feet, although he admits that the pressure to succeed can mess with him mentally.

Archie Karas

  • Age: 72
  • Country: Greece
  • Notable Achievements: Seven WSOP money finishes

He’s a living legend in the gambling world. Archie Karas has made and lost so much money that it’s mind-boggling. What’s even more astounding about his story is that he traveled to Las Vegas in 1992 with only $50 in his pocket. He would lose it, take out a $10,000 loan, and win $30,000.

Karas is one of the most prominent poker players who lost everything because his highs and lows were very extreme. By 1995, it was reported that Karas had amassed a fortune worth $40 million from gambling after an initial stake of $10,000.

It wouldn’t take long, however, for the Greek player to hit rock bottom. He eventually became addicted to gambling – Karas would play table games such as baccarat and craps for extremely high stakes. He suffered multimillion-dollar losses in a matter of days.

After going broke, Karas remains a cautionary tale for gamblers. He’s one of the biggest winners that Vegas has ever seen, but he’s also one of the biggest losers. Can Karas reclaim his former glory? Unfortunately, not much has been known about his whereabouts over the past decade.

Erick Lindgren

  • Age: 46
  • Country: United States
  • Notable Achievements: Two-time WSOP bracelet winner

Erick Lindgren is well-known because he’s won over $10.5 million in tournament earnings. He’s also really good at cash games, carving out a name for himself in the poker community. He’s a former member of “Team Full Tilt” and has hosted large buy-in tournaments.

Things took a turn for the worst in 2012 when Lindgren got mixed up in other gambling ventures. He participated in sports betting and fantasy football leagues, placing six-figure bets on several occasions. Lindgren would eventually file for bankruptcy, owing more than $12 million in debt.

Lindgren lost his sponsorship with Full Tilt Poker, and he owed the company millions of dollars in loans. He even entered a rehab program at one point because of his gambling problem. It was an unfortunate downfall for a player with five final-table appearances at the WSOP.

Brad Booth

  • Age: 46
  • Country: Canada
  • Notable Achievements: Six WSOP money finishes

Brad Booth isn’t as famous as Stu Ungar or Scotty Nguyen, but he’s well-known in the poker world. You probably remember seeing him playing against Phil Ivey in season three of High Stakes Poker.

There’s no question that Booth was one of the best cash game players of his generation. He’s also won a lot of money playing poker – his career earnings are estimated at somewhere in the $5-10 million range.

Unfortunately, Booth was a victim of the UltimateBet cheating scandal. It’s reported that he lost a good bulk of his fortune from the scandal itself. The rest of his money was squandered on high-stakes cash games that he couldn’t afford. He lost $4.2 million by 2008.

Gavin Griffin

  • Age: 41
  • Country: United States
  • Notable Achievements: 10 WSOP money finishes, 2004 WSOP Pot Limit Texas Hold’em bracelet winner

Here’s another one of the lesser-known poker players who lost everything. Gavin Griffin was an excellent tournament player during the early 2010s. However, he burst onto the scene back in 2004 when he won a bracelet at the WSOP. He was the youngest bracelet holder at the time.

Griffin’s career was certainly trending in the right direction. He had signed multiple sponsorship deals and was already earning plenty of money playing poker. Unfortunately, he would also develop a severe gambling addiction, wasting millions of dollars in earnings that he’d won.

Nowadays, Griffin is an advocate for other players suffering from gambling problems. He’s very open about how detrimental it can be for anyone who doesn’t have control over their addiction. He’s not the superstar player he used to be, but he’s doing well and has support from his family.

David “Chino” Rheem

  • Age: 42
  • Country: United States
  • Notable Achievements: Four WSOP final tables

Having won multiple World Poker Tour titles, David “Chino” Rheem is a familiar name in the poker community. Many consider him to be one of the most proficient players ever. However, despite $11 million in lifetime earnings, Chino also makes our list of poker players gone broke.

Chino still plays poker to this day, but he’s had debt issues and has lost everything multiple times. No one knows when the problems began, but Chino became addicted to gambling and was known to do drugs.

The problems began to surface when a $1 million tournament prize wasn’t enough to get Chino back on track. Right now it’s uncertain how much debt Chino still owes. He did admit that addiction made him disregard the value of money.

Tom Dwan

  • Age: 36
  • Country: United States
  • Notable Achievements: Three WSOP final tables

Tom Dwan is the second-youngest player on our list, but he’s already a poker legend. When he was just a teenager, Dwan amassed millions of dollars on Full Tilt Poker. He also appeared in season five of NBC’s Poker After Dark when he was only 22 years old.

After going on an impressive run as a youngster, reports surfaced that Dwan was going broke. However, it’s never been fully confirmed that Dwan actually lost everything at one point. It’s known, however, that he lost significant amounts of money from online cash games.

I would argue that Dwan is now far from broke. He continues to play high-stakes poker games regularly, and he excels at them. He occasionally appears on television shows playing poker and competing in tournaments.

Gus Hansen

  • Age: 48
  • Country: Denmark
  • Notable Achievements: 2010 No Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up WSOP bracelet winner

Everyone knows that Gus “The Great Dane” Hansen is one of the most notorious losers. Even though he’s a live tournament poker champion, Hansen has also wasted away his fortunes by losing frequently.

During his entire poker career, Hansen has lost roughly $20 million in earnings playing online poker. This makes him one of the most prolific losers of all time. He’s still reportedly doing well, even though he has reputation for squandering his money.

In all seriousness, Hansen is an absolute legend when it comes to high-stakes poker. He’s captured more tournament titles than anyone else from his generation. He’s also a fearless player, which earns him a lot of respect from the poker community.

Viktor Blom

  • Age: 32
  • Country: Sweden
  • Notable Achievements: Three WSOP money finishes

Swedish player Viktor Blom made his claim to fame when he began playing online poker. He came out of nowhere, going up against the best players in the world for massively high stakes. What’s more impressive is that he built his fortune from scratch.

By 2009, Blom was up $2 million even though he was still relatively unknown. However, Blom would lose $4.2 million within the blink of an eye to poker pro Brian Hastings. Hastings, who was well-prepared for the match, claimed that Blom had serious weaknesses in his game.

Blom went broke after the game with Hastings, but he would continue his career and earn some of his money back. He continues to play live and online poker games. Did he get a little ahead of himself? There’s no doubt that Blom played beyond his bankroll against Hastings.

Want to Try Yourself?

You don’t have to be a millionaire to play in online poker tournaments. Furthermore, the best players who went broke shouldn’t discourage you from giving it a try. The best poker sites online accept low stakes and offer welcome bonuses for newer players.

Petko Stoyanov
Get in touch with Petko
About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.