Australia’s Zeljko Ranogajec began his career as a novice card counter before becoming a multibillionaire through his wagering activities. Although baccarat was initially what piqued his interest, being banned from nearly every casino in Australia forced him to seek alternative sources of income.
He would eventually discover horseracing and become one of the most successful bettors on thoroughbred horse racing in the world. All of his accomplishments, however, were not without complications.
Please continue reading this extensive biography to learn more about the highs and lows of Zeljko Ranogajec’s life.
Zeljko was born in Hobart, Australia in 1961 to impoverished Croatian immigrants. Growing up with limited resources allowed him to devote much of his leisure time to education. He understood that in order to succeed in this world, he would have to devote countless hours to labor. He was awarded a scholarship to the University of Tasmania as a result of the countless hours he devoted to his studies.
He majored in Financial Banking and aspired to become an attorney. Later, he transferred to the University of New South Wales in Sydney, which was conveniently located near a number of upscale casinos. He obtained a part-time position at the Wrest Point Casino to earn a little additional spending money.
Developing a Passion for Blackjack
He spent a great deal of time at the casino due to its inviting ambiance. It wasn’t long before he began to play some of the available games during his work breaks. He was particularly interested in blackjack because he had heard there were techniques he could use to almost assure a success.
Zeljko spent countless hours researching card counting strategies and testing each one at the tables. Given his aptitude for mathematics, card counting came effortlessly to him. It wasn’t long before he began to earn more money by playing baccarat than he did by actually working. The greater his success at the tables, the less time he spent studying and the less motivated he became to work. Eventually, he pulled out of education entirely and left his casino employment.
He adored playing at the Wrest Point Casino because he knew many of the workers, the playing conditions made counting cards very simple, and he grew enamored of one of the casino’s full time employees: Shelley Wilson. He made the error of playing there too frequently, and after winning a significant quantity of money, it was inevitable that he would be banned.
He was compelled to play at the Jupiter Casino in Queensland and other casinos in the vicinity, and was eventually banned from all of them. Despite this significant setback, Zeljko was still content. He had eventually mustered the fortitude to ask Shelley out on a date, and they were now in a committed relationship.
Although he desired to spend as much time as possible with Shelley, Zeljko made frequent visits to Las Vegas to test his card counting skills. At the conclusion of his blackjack career, Zeljko formed a card counting team with three of his undergraduate mates. David Walsh, about whom we will learn more later, was one of the members; we do not know the identities of the others. One of the team’s members was regrettably slain in an automobile accident just as they were beginning to make money. Due to profound sorrow, the group resolved to disband and go their separate ways.