Kerry Packer | AKA "The Big Fella"

Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer Business Man And Big Punter

Bookmakers enjoy an inherent advantage over punters in that they can use the money they take in from punters who placed a losing wager with them to pay the punters who had a winning wager with them.

That, plus generally a little left over for the bookmaker’s services.

Kerry Packer Business Man & Big Punter

On rare occasions, however, a punter comes along with such vast resources at this command that they are unable singly to accommodate that punter’s wagers.

Kerry Packer AKA "The Big Fella"

Kerry Packer, aka. “The Big Fella,” because he was a large man who made huge plunges, was a prominent figure in the betting game during the latter years of the 20 th century.

He was not the type of punter who frequented the tracks for the ordinary weekend meetings. He may have been betting heavily on those meetings, but for the most part he stayed away except for the major days of a carnival that featured major races. He was not seen to engage in much socializing with the society swells that the big races attracted during the carnivals, but preferred to instead focus on his punting.

It was said that he held tight rein over his emotions at the track, never displayed much excitement over a big win or anger over a big loss.

Progressive Betting Fond Of

Kerry Packer was an adherent to the tactic of progressive staking, quite willing to follow a loss or losses with bigger bets in the effort to get even.

What set him apart in this, however, is that he was doing this with millions of dollars at a go. It no doubt helped that he was fabulously wealthy from his media endeavors and was very influential amongst Australian businessmen. He had a fortune at the time of his death in 2005 well north of $6 billion dollars.

Kerry Packer learned a valuable lesson at a young age when his propensity for gambling found him in serious difficulty with the crushers.

Sir Frank Packer Father

His father, Sir Frank Packer, imparted some keen wisdom to young Kerry when it was necessary for Sir Frank to bail Kerry out of a serious debt. From that point forward, it would seem that Kerry would enjoy success in gambling as well as business.

He not only played the horses, he was also fond of the action at casinos as well. He may have been prone to thinking that it was the race tracks which brought him luck, however, since he often would place bets for amounts of several million dollars.

As mentioned before, it was the late 80s when the size of his wagers was at their maximum.

There were times when no one bookmaker could cover the size of the bets Kerry Packer was willing to place. It would require the forces of several Sydney bookmakers in order to pool the $5-$10 million Packer often required.

Golden Slipper Day

That coalition was the beneficiary in 1987 on Golden Slipper Day. Packer reportedly was on the short end of a $7 million debt. He lost $2 million on his horse Christmas Tree alone, yet he continued to bet during the rest of the day.

A few weeks later, it was the occasion of the 1987 Sydney Cup where some of Packer’s idiosyncratic betting methods attracted attention from race stewards. A friend and business partner, Lloyd Williams, was the owner of Major Driver, one of the favourites to win the Cup. Even though Greg Hall was in the saddle, the horse’s odds went from $4.50 to $8.

Packer had placed his wager on another favourite, Myocard, in the staggering amount of $7 million.

By the time the carnival came to an end, Kerry Packer was down almost $30 million with Sydney bookmaker Bruce McHugh. Packer requested, and was granted, an increase in his limit from $5 to $10 million, and he promptly proceeded to cover his losses with three successive wins.

Kerry Packer And Casinos

Casino gambling at the time in Australia was not sufficient to supply Packer’s appetite, so it was the racetracks that picked up the slack, mixed in with visits to overseas casino tables. This, despite the belief by many that racing had cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.

Sometimes, he would make bets so large that bookmakers were at a loss as to how to balance their accounts.

This would sometimes render a horse unable of being backed. Packer often attracted a large following when he did make an appearance at the track, but he remained aloof and unemotional regardless of how much he won or lost.

Kerry Packer continued these exploits into the 90s. He set records for winnings in the process, some of which were courtesy of his horse Mahogany in the 1993 VRC Derby. In the 1998 Melbourne Cup, Packer put so sizeable a wager on Jezabeel that the horse went from 14-1 to 6-1 in the span of a few minutes. When Jezabeel crossed the line first, Packer had a right proper payday.

Kerry Packer Dies In 2005

Unfortunately, all of Kerry Packer’s billions could not prevent his dying of kidney failure in 2005.

He left over $6.5 of those billions behind when he went to the Great Carnival in the Sky.