Zeljko Ranogajec

Elusive Australian gambler Zeljko Ranogajec is also know as “the world’s biggest punter” or, because of his rare public sightings and massive betting spend, the Loch Ness Monster. While his name will strike fear into the heart of any bookmaker, Ranogajec also enjoyed a lucrative career as a professional blackjack player and is, according to Blackjack Insider, known among the pros as “one of the most prolific and innovative [advantage players] of all time.”

Playing Blackjack

Zeljko (pronounced “Jelko”) Ranogajec was born in Hobart, Australia. It was during his time at the University of Tasmania, where he was studying Commence and Law, that he started playing blackjack at the Wrest Point Casino and counting cards. He later also spent some time as a part-time employee at the same casino. It is rumoured that Ranogajec began playing with a modest bankroll of a couple of hundred dollars, and diligently worked his way up to eventually winning millions. It wasn’t long before Ranogajec was banned from almost every casino in Australia. He then moved to America, where he was eventually also banned from most casinos.

World’s Biggest Punter

Being banned from casinos meant Ranogajec had to turn his intellect to other ventures and turned, among other things, to racing. He gradually set up a 24/7 operation and rumour has it (for Ranogajec is elusive and secretive) that this operation employs anywhere between 30 and 100 spotters, analysts, administrators, and bettors. It is estimated that Ranogajec’s total gambling turnover is around one billion dollars a year, although Ranogajec himself is claimed to have told a reporter that the extent of his wealth is greatly exaggerated. Ranogajec has never appear on any of Australia’s richest lists, because the secrecy surrounding his gambling operations makes his exact wealth impossible to estimate.

Hall of Fame

Ranogajec’s massive racing data crunching and betting operation very much overshadows his history as a blackjack pro, yet at the 2011 Blackjack Ball the pros casting the votes honoured Ranogajec with a Blackjack Hall of Fame nomination. This sparked some discontent on various blackjack forums, since the other nominees also included blackjack pioneer Jess Marcum. Zeljko Ranogajec was officially inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2011.