If you're a seasoned sports betting veteran you know the name Billy Walters. If you're new to betting, you might not. But you should.
Simply put, Walters is the Babe Ruth of sports betting. He is considered the sharpest and most successful sports bettor in modern history, possibly of all time. He is the ultimate shark, whale or wiseguy. In his heyday, sportsbooks feared him so much that they refused to take his action. The ones that did take his action would move lines immediately based on his bets. He was so dangerous that he had to hire people to anonymously place his bets at different sportsbooks so the house didn't know the bets were coming from him. The people he hired to place bets were known as "runners" for short. It's estimated that Walters has made roughly $500 million betting on sports throughout his career.
Walters, 73, is back in the news this week because he is set to be released from prison Friday or Saturday. In 2017, Walters was sentenced to five years at a minimum security prison in Pensacola, Fla., for insider trading. He was also fined $10 million. Per the terms of his release, he will be allowed to serve the remaining time at his home in Carlsbad, Calif.
Walters' imprisonment was a result of a $40 million windfall he received through illegal stock trading in a company called Dean Foods. His close friend, Thomas Davis, was the former chairman of the company and tipped Walters off to non-public information.
The case gained national headlines back in 2017 because it included Phil Mickelson. The golfer earned $1 million in Dean Foods stock, based on Walters' tip, and used the earnings to help pay back Walters $2 million in gambling debts. Mickelson avoided punishment by agreeing to repay his winnings to the SEC. Walters was livid at Mickelson for not coming forward and testifying on Walters' behalf in the trial.
Walters was born in Munfordville, Ky., in 1946 and grew up poor. He was raised by his grandmother. Before he was a successful sports bettor, he started off as a used car salesman in Louisville in the 1960s. He was incredibly successful through a tireless work ethic and went on to start his own dealership in the early 1970s. In 1982, he quit the car selling business and moved to Las Vegas to bet on sports full-time.
Gambling was always in Walters' blood. He placed his first bet on the Yankees to beat the Dodgers in the 1955 World Series (he lost). Legend has it that he made thousands playing pool by age 15. He found great success betting roulette, craps and blackjack. He won the Super Bowl of Poker in 1986. But Walters has also gone broke several times along the way.
Walters really made his mark in sports betting in the 1980s when he joined "The Computer Group." It was one of the first betting syndicates to take in data, simulate games and correctly predict final score outcomes. It revolutionized sports betting. He focused mostly on football and basketball. Walters was known to rake in roughly $50 million per year.
In 2011, Walters sat down with 60 Minutes to discuss his career in sports betting. When Walters entered prison in 2017, Nevada was the only state with legalized sports betting. Since that time, the federal ban on sports betting has been overturned and we now have 21 states with legal betting across the country. The landscape has completely changed.
Imagine the damage Walters could do in today's market.