If you know anything about wild man golfer John Daly, you know that his appetite for gambling is as prodigious as his love of fast food and hard liquor (he even has a vodka-based cocktail named for him).
He famously won $750,000 at the 2005 World Golf Championship in San Francisco, then hit Las Vegas, where he went on to celebrate by dumping $1.65 million into high-stakes slot machines.
Despite his seeming passion for one-armed bandits, nobody can accuse Daly of gambling like an old lady.
But as revealed on ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary about him, Hit It Hard which premiered this week, the financial whipping was worse than many thought.
"We figured I lost about $98 million and won about $45 million gambling," Daly told his interviewer. "So, yeah, I lost around $50 million."
While Daly's casino lifestyle is not exactly a prescription for early retirement, he is far from alone among world-class athletes drawn by the siren call of nosebleed stakes.
NBA great Charles Barkley has reportedly lost some $20 million to gambling dens but insists that he's reigned things in to a reasonable degree: "When I go to Vegas now, I try to win a couple hundred thousand dollars. If I lose a couple hundred thousand dollars, I quit and still have a good trip. If you do it in moderation, it's all right."
Nevertheless, in 2008, Wynn Las Vegas sued Barkley to recoup $400,000 it alleged to have fronted him for gambling purposes.
Fellow hoops star Michael Jordan has had his own tussles with lady luck. According to author and businessman Richard Esquinas, Jordan dropped $1.25 million to him during a 10-day stretch of golf gambling. (Supposedly, between Jordan coming back on the course and Jones taking pity, the debt got cut back to $300,000.)
Additionally, while in New York for a 1993 playoff game against the Knicks, Jordan reportedly slipped down to Atlantic City, NJ, where he gambled it up until 2.30am while his teammates and opponents slept.
This was not lost on at least one Knicks fan, who, midgame, jeered, "How's the wrist after the slots, Michael?" Pretty good, apparently, as the Bulls beat the Knicks four games to two and went on to win the 1993 NBA championship.
Gambling was less kind to baseball superstar Pete Rose. Because of his consistent sports betting - often, but not always, wagering on his team, the Cincinnati Reds - Rose was refused admittance to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being one of the game's greatest players. According to ESPN, Rose placed wagers with mob-connected bookies and wagered on all sorts of sports. There was a $5,500 bet on the Boston Celtics, multiple bets on Reds games he played in and a four-month losing streak that cost him $25,500.
Contrary to notebooks with evidence of his gambling habits, Rose has insisted, "Never as a player: That's a fact" when asked about his baseball gambling. While Rose has done sports analysis on Fox this baseball season - weirdly, he bailed from the World Series due to prior commitments - he still makes ends meet by doing signings at memorabilia shops in Las Vegas.
In light of all this, at least one thing is not surprising. According to a poll by ESPN, the majority of professional athletes surveyed believe that sports betting should be legal.