21 Mar

David Walsh: Savant, Eccentric, Australian Gambler Extraordinaire

There are billions of people on earth. We all have different personalities, temperaments, and dispositions. It’s what identifies us an individuals. One man who’s easy to identify, due to his flamboyant and eccentric nature – and multi-millionaire status – is famous Australian gambler David Walsh.

Famous Australian Gambler David Walsh

David Walsh and wife Kirsha Kaechele

David Walsh with his wife Kirsha Kaechele

Walsh isn’t your typical blackjack pro or horse race punter. In fact, there’s nothing typical about him at all. He’s genius-grade smart, wears an eclectic variety of custom-made suits – some of which mimic material that could just as easily fabricate drapes in a royal palace – and owns one of the most impressive art collections on the planet.

Among the most famous Australia gamblers ever to place a wager, David Walsh doesn’t spend much time at the blackjack tables or horse tracks anymore. Today, he’s best known for founding his own art gallery, the Museum of Old and New Art, (aka MONA) in his hometown of Hobart, Tasmania.

David Walsh, the Early Years

The youngest of three siblings, David was a timid child; a common trait among those with superior intelligence. In 1979, after attending Dominic College in the impoverished Glenorchy district of Hobart, where he grew up, Walsh studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Tasmania. It was here that he developed the skills that would help him become one of the most famous Australian gamblers of all time.

He and his fellow math students frequented the casino. While the others were testing calculations, making a bit of money and having a good time, Walsh took these ventures a bit more seriously. He became an expert card counter, and was able to consistently outwit the casino’s blackjack tables.

David Walsh, the Famous Australian Gambler

Another famous Australian gambler, Zeljko Ranogajec, caught wind of David’s reputation, and approached him one day at the casino. That meeting would change both of their lives. Walsh and Ranogajec teamed up to develop what many consider to be the most successful gambling syndicate the world has ever known.

Before long, Walsh’s impeccable talent for card counting got him banned from every casino in Australia, and many more abroad. That didn’t both him or his partner, though. By that time, Walsh was working on a computer program capable of deciphering probable horse racing results. In 1987, they implemented the new program, much to their lucrative success.

Over the next 8 years, David Walsh continued to perfect his computer program. Their gambling syndicate, known as The Bank Roll, won millions upon millions of dollars. To this day, the syndicate is said to invest upwards of $3 billion per year in gambling.

David Walsh, the Art Collector

Walsh’s interest eventually shifted to art. It was a passion that began by mere happenstance when, in 1992, he sent Bank Roll member Patrick Caplice to beat a casino in South Africa. Caplice performed well, winning $20k, only to find he couldn’t leave the country with so much cash.

Ever the problem solver, Walsh told Caplice to purchase an antique Yuruba door he’d taken a liking to during a trip to an art gallery in Johannesburg. Caplice did so, returning the door to Walsh in Australia. Little did he know, art collecting would soon consume his everyday life.

By 1995, he was pouring his winnings into the acquisition of exquisite artwork. In 2001, he founded the Moorilla Museum of Antiques, filling the gallery with pieces from his own collection.

Six years later, the famous Australian gambler was running out of space. He borrowed $80 million from his friend, Ranogajec, to renovate the property. It took several years to complete the project, but finally reopened in 2011 as the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Museum of Old and New Art MONA

Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania

In an interview in 2014 – following the publication of his memoir, “A Bone of Fact” – David Walsh said that he was still an avid gambler, earning $8 million a year from his wagering exploits. However, he also admitted that MONA was a money pit, and that all $8 million was being poured back into it.

Oddly enough, despite being among the most successful Australian gamblers of all time, he’s been outspoken in his aversion to poker machines. He doesn’t believe in betting on pokies, as there is no skill or mathematical advantage to be gained. David Walsh says they are nothing more than “social evils” that target the disadvantaged.