Todd Witteles First Knew Dan Bilzerian as Lake Tahoe's "Suitcase Guy"
Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled Dan Bilzerian’s Life of Partying and Poker. In it, author Brad Reagan talks about Bilzerian’s playboy lifestyle, celebrity on Instagram, and purported $50 million in poker winnings.
The 33-year-old Bilzerian, who is the son of ex-corporate raider Paul Bilzerian*, has developed a massive following of more than 4.6 million on Instagram thanks to his constant pics of sports cars, guns, beautiful women, high-stakes poker, and other symbols of living the high life.
*For more on Paul Bilzerian check out the Wall Street Journal’s article The SEC Won a $62 Million Judgment Against Raider Paul Bilzerian. Collected by the Government: $3.7 Million.
Back in April, Bilzerian made headlines when he tossed porn star Janice Griffith off a roof into a pool. However, Griffith ended up breaking her foot after holding onto Bilzerian’s shirt a bit too long and hitting the side of the pool. Griffith later threatened to sue, which inspired Bilzerian’s lawyer to respond with a sarcastic and entertaining letter.
The WSJ piece also revealed the following about Bilzerian:
- He once flipped a coin for roughly $2.3 million and lost.
- He attended Navy SEAL training but did not finish.
- He had a heart attack in his 20s "after a five-day binge of sex, drugs, and gambling."
- He had a cameo in Nick Cassavetes’ film The Other Woman.
In the WSJ piece, Todd “DanDruff” Witteles, who runs the website PokerFraudAlert, claimed that Bilzerian first appeared on the poker scene back in 2007 when he showed up in a Lake Tahoe, Nevada casino carrying a suitcase filled with money. As such, he became known as the "suitcase guy." Bilzerian said that origin "sounds right."
After the WSJ article appeared, PokerNews reached out to Witteles, who was kind enough to elaborate on the story:
In January 2007, I was at Harvey's Lake Tahoe on a skiing vacation.
People talked about a "suitcase guy" who had played the night before. They said he had $100,000 in a suitcase, and played very wild. I was hoping I could find him and talk him into playing limit hold’em with me for somewhat high limits (but not nosebleed). Finally, he showed up. Turned out it was Dan Bilzerian, but nobody knew him at the time, including me. I tried to ask if he wanted to go play $100/$200 limit with me, and he declined. He said, "Maybe if it's $100/$200 no-limit,” which I declined both because I'm not a heads-up no-limit player, as well as the fact that I only had $10,000 on me for that trip. Instead, the $2/$5 no-limit game was kicked up to $5/$10 and I joined.
Unfortunately, he was not playing wild at all. The game was very tight/nitty, and he played that way as well. He bitched about the nittiness of the game, but didn't do anything to change the atmosphere. That is, it's not like he was playing every hand while everyone else waited for aces. He was also folding almost every hand, and basically wanted everyone else to start playing loose first before he did. I think he was just mad that people saw him as the rich fish from which they could extract money. Not surprisingly, the game stayed tight, and he finally got up and left.
I saw him several months later in the Bellagio, and shortly after that learned more about him, and he progressively became better and better known in poker. I thought it was funny that the unknown "suitcase guy" from early 2007 turned out to be so well known throughout poker and social media.
*Lead photo courtesy of Bilzerian's Instagram account.