If you’re an avid NBA and poker fan, you may have heard the name Haralabos Voulgaris crop up at some point. While he’s never actually played for a league or spent any time on the court, he has been under the spotlight many times for being one of the sports world’s most prolific NBA bettors, raking in a fortune of over $3.090 million in combined poker and sports wagers over the last 14 years.
Haralabos, who goes by the nickname “Bob,” is so well-known in the sports betting world that ESPN even published a story feature about him entitled “Get acquainted with the greatest NBA gambler in the world” in 2013. The article revealed details on how Voulgaris got into gambling and how he managed to accumulate a significant fortune through sports betting before reaching the age of 30.
Outside of sports, Voulgaris has also participated in the prestigious World Series of Poker, worked for the Dallas Mavericks, and currently serves as the owner and president of Castellón, a Spanish soccer club competing in the third division. All the fortunes made from these hobbies and ventures combined have given Voulgaris an estimated net worth of around $5 million.
We thought we’d delve a little deeper into the intriguing life of Haralabos Voulgaris and examine his experiences in the gambling realm, involvement in sports, and other pursuits that have gotten him to where he is today.
Where It All Began
Haralabos Voulgaris was born in Canada to Greek parents who had immigrated to the country in their twenties. His father was an entrepreneur based in Winnipeg, running both a real estate business and a Greek restaurant to support the family and make ends meet. The restaurant was named after the Greek god Hermes, who, in ancient Greek mythology, is appropriately associated with games, sports, and wealth.
Thanks to his multiple businesses, wealth is something that Voulgaris’s father achieved a considerable amount of. After completing high school, Bob’s father even took him on a trip to Vegas, where he spent days playing games of poker at the felt tables of Caesars Palace.
It was this trip that solidified Bob’s love for sports betting and propelled him into a lifelong career in gambling. Although he was underage to play alongside his father or take part in any other games at the time, he was able to sit in the sportsbook area, where he observed numerous NBA games on the big screens and jotted down notes on the game results as well as the bookmaker’s odds, betting markets, and adjustments.
The trip to Vegas was an educational experience that made a mark on Voulgaris, who said in an interview a few years back that he “learned at a young age that it’s tough to beat the house – unless you know what you’re doing.”
After Bob returned to Canada and enrolled at the University of Manitoba, he continued to gamble and applied the knowledge he had acquired in Vegas to his betting strategies. Alongside his part-time job and university studies, he also placed bets on NBA and CFL games, which soon began to generate a steady stream of profits.
After completing his education, Bob decided to take a more daring approach. Prior to the start of the 1999/2000 NBA season, he risked his entire life savings of $70,000 by placing a bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the championship. This wager was highly risky since the Lakers had not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs in the previous season. However, Bob’s gamble proved successful.
When Lakers’ captain Shaquille O’Neal triumphantly held the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy aloft, Voulgaris cashed in a winning ticket, collecting an impressive sum of nearly half a million dollars.
This notable event, coupled with the massive cash win, provided Bob with the financial boost and confidence needed to take his gambling even further. During the 2000/01 NBA season, he placed approximately 350 wagers on these games, with extremely successful results.
Sportsbooks weren’t as advanced back then as they are today, but this actually worked in Voulgaris’s favor because he was able to go off the sportsbook’s predictions and also place wagers on the points scored for each half.
Remarkably, the sportsbooks simply divided their projected total score in half without considering the fact that many closely contested NBA games witnessed a high number of fouls in the fourth quarter. Fouls often result in free throws, contributing to additional points being scored by teams in the second half.
After he became attuned to this pattern, Voulgaris seized every opportunity to capitalize on the games. However, as the sportsbooks eventually cottoned on to their flawed approach, Bob knew he would have to switch up his strategy for something more sustainable.
As a result, he literally “upped the ante” and managed to come up with a predictive betting model that provided not only a systematic approach to gambling but one that could eliminate any reliance on intuition or “luck,” as it were.
While he was already a whizz with numbers, Bob knew that he would need the help of a more advanced arithmetic mind if he would ever nail his prediction model and outsmart the bookies. So in 2007, he enlisted the services of a math prodigy whose identity he has never publicly disclosed. Together, they set to work on constructing and refining a predictive model capable of analyzing and predicting outcomes for any NBA game.
It’s worth noting that this prodigy was not just academically exceptional; he achieved a perfect score of 800 on the math SAT in seventh grade and won several national competitions before reaching his teenage years.
After two years of hard work, Voulgaris and his partner were finally satisfied with what they had produced. The next step was to put the model into practice, and the 2009 NBA season gave Bob the perfect opportunity. That season alone, he placed up to 1,000 wagers and made cumulative bets exceeding $1 million on a daily basis, leveraging the predictive power of their model to his advantage.
The Shift to Poker
After creating his ground-breaking betting model and making a ton of money (though he never confirmed the exact amount), Voulgaris decided to venture into televised poker events. In 2012, he took part in the WSOP’s Big One for One Drop, where players had to buy in for a whopping $1 million. Although he played relatively well, he didn’t secure any winnings.
Knowing that wins and losses are all part of the game for professional bettors, Bob wasn’t discouraged by this event. He remained tenacious in his efforts and continued to participate in different poker tournaments like the World Poker and European Poker Tour over the course of the next few years.
Come 2017, Bob returned to the WSOP’s One Drop event—this time finishing in fourth place. He walked away with a staggering $1,158,883 cash prize that day, which is his biggest poker triumph to date. Since then, Voulgaris’s earnings from live poker tournaments have topped $3 million.
The Transition to Pro Sports
Following a two-decade career in professional sports betting, Haralabos Voulgaris made the transition into the realm of professional basketball in 2018, officially joining the Dallas Mavericks in the role of Director of Quantitative Research and Development.
This high-paying role was based on his natural ability to analyze any game of basketball, analyze statistics, then make accurate predictions of the outcomes.
It was a dream come true for Voulgaris, as he had long aspired to become an NBA general manager. He even expressed his confidence by stating, “I’d be able to put together a better team than almost any general manager in the league. If not all.”
Falling into this role with the Mavericks gave Voulgaris the power and freedom to exercise his expertise and contribute his unique knowledge and skills to the decision-making processes within the team.
While he only lasted three years, it was this pivotal leap into professional sports that would see him eventually acquire a third-division Spanish Soccer club called CD Castellon in July 2022. The club, which was founded in 1992, already had a decent following and a stadium that could accommodate up to 15,000 people.
When Voulgaris became owner and president, he devised a six-year plan in an effort to get the club to the top Spanish soccer division, La Liga. Only time will tell if he manages to achieve his goals and transform his team into a success both on and off the pitch. One of the teams inspiring him to go the whole nine yards is Villarreal CF.
Villarreal CF had a humble history in the lower divisions of Spanish soccer. However, everything changed when the team made it to La Liga in 1998. Since then, they’ve been steadily rising and becoming a force to be reckoned with in both domestic and European competitions.
In 2021, Villarreal achieved something extraordinary. They won their very first major trophy, the UEFA Europa League, by defeating Manchester United in the final. It was an absolute dream come true for the team and has undoubtedly fuelled Bob Voulgaris’s hopes for Castellon.
What Does the Future Hold For Bob Voulgaris?
Bob Voulgaris is one of the most intriguing personalities within the realm of sports betting. Given his deep understanding of basketball, it seems inevitable that he will eventually apply his knowledge to soccer and potentially make a comeback in the United States within the field of professional sports management.
Regardless of his next steps, one thing is certain: the future won’t be dull in any way, shape, or form.