Haralabos Voulgaris: Biggest Bets, Wins and Losses

Haralabos VoulgarisHaralabos Voulgaris may sound like a nasty skin infection, but actually, it is the name of a man who is widely believed to be the most successful NBA punter in history.

Thankfully for me, he is also known as ‘Bob’, which will making writing this article a whole lot easier.

Bob’s father was a gambler too, and when he was a younger man, took him on a trip to Las Vegas. Bob’s father would play blackjack, but Bob would spend his time at the sportsbooks watching NBA games and looking through the odds.

This was where his interest in basketball betting began, but it wasn’t until a few years later that his betting became serious, then in 1999, he made his biggest bet ever up until that point. Using his life savings, Voulgaris staked $80,000 on the Lakers to win the Championship.

The odds were 6.5, and he won, banking a little more than $500,000.

For around a 5 year period, Voulgaris made a fortune exploiting odds on the total points market on basketball games. This was easier to do back then as bookies weren’t as sophisticated as they are now.

He had noticed that the total points for both the first half and the second half were exactly half of the predicted total points for the whole game. However, statistically, more points are scored in the second half than in the first, so Voulgaris saw an opportunity.

Based on this, he would bet the over for the second half of the game, and often, he would win. In fact, his strategy was so successfully that he almost hit a 70% win rate.

He made his first million using this strategy not long after his big win on the Lakers.

The End of the Winning Streak

Basketball Betting Haralabos Voulgaris

Maybe the bookies got wise to it, or maybe his luck simply changed, but in 2004, the tides turned on Haralabos Voulgaris,

He had built up quite a bankroll by that point, but after a string of successive losses, over a third of it had disappeared. He had to change his betting approach if he wanted to survive, and quickly.

So, after a lengthy break, Voulgaris switched from his previous strategy and took a more long term approach. He made more bets, but used smaller stakes, and with a smaller edge. There would be more work involved, but the system was data driven and according to all of his predictions would grind out a positive return in the long run.

He wasn’t alone in this, he hired someone he has since called a ‘maths prodigy’ to help build a predictive model they called Ewing, and they watched endless hours of basketball to come up with betting ideas to test until they found what worked and what didn’t.

In 2009, they targeted the second half of the NBA season and put their new methods to the test.

They were soon successful again, and it got to the point where Bob would regularly be betting $1 million and more per day across several NBA games, equalling 1,000+ bets per season.

Over time though, as bookies built their own models and their odds became more accurate, Voulgaris was losing his edge. He either had to risk way more than he was comfortable with to make his betting worthwhile, or move on.

He chose the latter.

Poker and Move Into Professional Sports

Haralabos Voulgaris Poker

After he had accepted that his NBA betting days were numbered, Voulgaris began to focus on playing poker, and actually, this is probably what he has more of a name for.

That’s only because poker is televised and followed in a way that professional sports betting isn’t – in terms of his success, it’s sports betting where he has the most to brag about.

Nevertheless, Bob’s unemotional approach to gambling helped him to win over $3 million more playing poker.

In 2018, he was recruited by the Dallas Mavericks to work as their Director of Quantitative Research and Development. This was off the back of his success using quantitative research to bet on basketball, so in a funny way he swapped sides, albeit not working for a bookmaker.

His methods might not be able to make millions in the betting markets anymore, but they could still be useful when looking at player transfers and team strategies.

This relationship only lasted until 2021, when he and the franchise parted ways, but shortly afterwards, Voulgaris purchased the Spanish Primera Federación – Group 2 soccer team, CD Castellón.

This was a surprise move for someone who had no reputation in soccer, but like everything else in his life, Bob made it work, and the team were promoted to La Liga 2 in 2024.