Did Dan Bilzerian Win His Money in Poker?

What do you do with more money than you could ever need? Just ask "King of Instagram" and "poker pro" Dan Bilzerian.

Born in Tampa, Florida, this 37-year-old playboy, multi-millionaire, and Internet personality is renowned for his lavish lifestyle. Many in the poker world also know Bilzerian for his highly contested claims that he amassed his fortune by playing in private ultra-high-stakes games.

A self-proclaimed asshole, Bilzerian wants people to envy him because “that’s just the way of the world.” And this quasi-professional poker player does have an interesting life, with many followers on social media who are interested in his seemingly endless procession of cars, women, guns, yachts, and other excesses.

Many have estimated Dan Bilzerian's net worth to be around $100 million. He acknowledges benefitting from his trust fund, which kicked in when he was in his 30’s (for how much he won’t say, of course), but he asserts that most of his fortune was won at poker. There is little corroboration to his claim, however.

Just don’t tell Dan Bilzerian he’s not a self-made man, or that he’s not good at poker. He doesn’t like that.

Dan Bilzerian: In the beginning

Bilzerian wasn’t well known in 2007 when he arrived in a Lake Tahoe casino with a cash-stuffed suitcase looking for a game. He was thus dubbed “suitcase guy.” Since then, his high-life, globe-trotting ways include playing in ultra-high-stakes private games with billionaires, where his poker playing skills are on display. Or so he claims.

Bilzerian competed in the 2009 WSOP Main Event and finished in 180th place, winning $36,626—his only recorded live tournament win. From then on, it was cash games. As a side note, Bilzerian’s brother, Adam, also plays poker.

As to his poker skills, Bilzerian alleged—on Twitter—that in November 2013 he won $10.8 million in a single night of poker, and had won $50 million throughout 2014. However, Bilzerian also claims that he no longer plays against professionals. Again, all of these claims are uncontested but not corroborated. So draw your own conclusions.

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The infamous Doug Polk video

Polk’s video on Dan Bilzerian’s poker prowess, or lack thereof, recently surpassed 1.26 million views.

In the video, Polk questions Bilzerian’s claims that his incredible wealth is the result of his poker playing, like many in the poker community have. The consensus seems to be that Bilzerian inherited nearly all of his wealth from his father, Wall Street corporate raider specialist Paul Bilzerian.

For those unfamiliar, Bilzerian’s father was convicted of violating tax laws and other securities violations stemming from unsuccessful takeover attempts during the 1980s. In addition to serving time in prison, Bilzerian senior was ordered to pay a hefty fine—somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million—of which he only paid a few million. Dan then ends up with money he allegedly won from playing poker, and so it’s quite understandable why many, including Polk, don’t believe it came from poker.

In the video, Polk examined Bilzerian’s play in a $10/$20 heads-up cash game on the America’s Card Room (ACR) site. While playing under hedge fund manager millionaire Bill Perkins’ account, Bilzerian streamed the match on Twitch. Since Polk had never played directly with Bilzerian, he used his hand analysis and heads-up expertise while watching the stream to draw his own conclusions.

Polk’s take on Dan Bilzerian's poker playing

What stands out from Polk's analysis is that, despite being normally pro-aggression, he criticized many of Bilzerian’s uber-aggressive hands, ultimately concluding that most of Bilzerian’s aggression amounted to bad playing and that the millionaire is simply “a fish in the water.”

At one point, Polk mentions that Bilzerian made a number of basic mistakes, including some missteps with regard to “real simple, preflop decisions.” 

Polk then concludes that Bilzerian’s story of running up a small bankroll back in the day is “like, total bullshit,” as he saw neither good fundamentals nor discipline on display from Bilzerian. This supports assertions that Bilzerian’s fortune was likely not the result of playing good poker as he has repeatedly claimed.

Granted, Dan Bilzerian has, in fact, played some of the highest stakes poker in the past, and has likely won from the weakest players in those games. However, if Bilzerian's online session is any indication of how he normally plays, then Bilzerian's claim of great success on the felt is dubious. Additionally, Polk notes that the size of Bilzerian’s fortune and how quickly it was apparently amassed is “just insane,” and that “the idea that his bankroll didn’t, in some part, come from his family is just nuts.”

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, Doug Polk stands by his “fair assessment of the facts" about Dan Bilzerian’s poker play, and ultimately leaves it to the viewer to decide what is most likely true.

Earlier this year, Joey Ingram had Polk as a guest on his Poker Life Podcast. The two discussed Polk’s video and shared some thoughts about Dan Bilzerian's poker "situation."

Now, if you wish, you can follow Dan Bilzerian’s expensive escapades on Twitter, Facebook, or his truly epic Instagram account. Even if his shameless, in-your-face style is off-putting, Bilzerian's antics are good for some laughs. In 2010, Bluff Magazine voted Bilzerian the funniest poker player on Twitter. Here's a sample:

What are your thoughts on Dan Bilzerian's fortune?

Share your opinion in the comments below!

If you want more poker drama, read When Rick Salomon Called the Cops on a Famous Pro.

Until next time!

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