Dan Bilzerian: The Playboy And Self-Proclaimed Poker Millionaire
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 story, though.
“Blitz” 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 Instagram.”
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 player alike.
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.
It’s generally 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.
What happened 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 would begin.
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.
According to 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 Community
In 2007 Dan Bilzerian caught the eye of the poker community for the first time and this was the first of many controversial stories.
According to 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 impression.
Supposedly, 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.
However, this 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.
One such performance got Bilzerian in a bit of trouble after a porn star, Janice Griffith, sued him for damages.
The whole 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 going.
Of course, 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 about.
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 see.
His only 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.
Yet, several years ago, he made a very bold statement, claiming he won $50 million playing poker!
Obviously, you 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.
But, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Putting aside 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.
Perhaps 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.
Perhaps $50 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 yes!
As to why he’d brag about it, that answer is pretty clear.
Because he is Dan Bilzerian.
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 base.
Bilzerian’s response 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 measure.
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 aspects.
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?
We’ll probably 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.