New Book on Phil Mickelson’s Gambling Offers Explanation for LIV Loyalty

Billy Walters alleges Mickelson wagered $1 billion in the last three decades

Phil Mickelson lines up a putt at the LIV Golf Invitational.
Phil Mickelson may have had a good reason to take LIV Golf's money.
Eakin Howard/Getty

A new book containing alleged details about Phil Mickelson’s sports gambling over the past three decades may offer an explanation as to why the former PGA Tour superstar was willing to defect to LIV Golf and why he has remained so loyal to the Saudi-backed circuit.

According to an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Gambler: Secrets from a Life of Risk, which was first published Thursday by the Fire Pit Collective, professional gambler Billy Walters and Mickelson teamed up to make massive offshore bets using the latter’s name and the former’s knowledge. Thanks to that relationship, Walters got an inside look at the way Mickelson bet and how much was willing to wager — and lose.

Walters, who has the reputation of being one of the most experienced sports gamblers in America, claims Mickelson was nearly his equal in wagering appetite and alleges the 53-year-old golfer has bet a total of at least $1 billion with losses reaching as much as $100 million.

“Phil liked to gamble as much as anyone I’ve ever met,” Walters writes. “Frankly, given Phil’s annual income and net worth at the time, I had no problems with his betting. And still don’t. He’s a big-time gambler, and big-time gamblers make big bets. It’s his money to spend how he wants.”

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One wager Mickelson allegedly wanted to make that Walters did have a problem with dates back to September 2012. According to Walters, Mickelson called him from Medinah Country Club during the 39th Ryder Cup and asked Walters to place a $400,000 wager for him on the U.S. team (that he was playing on) to win. Walters claims cited Pete Rose and scolded Mickelson for considering such a bet. He also says he doesn’t know if it was placed elsewhere.

Per the excerpt, the Walters-Mickelson partnership fell apart in 2014. Afterward, Walters poked around and spoke with two “very reliable sources” who said “it was nothing for Phil to bet $20,000 a game on long-shot, five-team NBA parlays or wager $100,000 or $200,000 a game on football, basketball, and baseball.”

Walters also offers the following bullet points that sum up Mickelson’s wagering habits between 2010 and 2014:

  • He bet $110,000 to win $100,000 a total of 1,115 times.
  • On 858 occasions, he bet $220,000 to win $200,000. (The sum of those 1,973 gross wagers came to more than $311 million.)
  • In 2011 alone, he made 3,154 bets — an average of nearly nine per day.
  • On one day in 2011 (June 22), he made 43 bets on MLB games, resulting in $143,500 in losses.
  • He made a staggering 7,065 wagers on football, basketball, and baseball.

If the allegations are true, Mickelson lost far more than the $40 million figure that was reported last May. Losses of $100 million or more would certainly be a very good reason for Mickelson to take an estimated $200 million to join LIV Golf and defend the upstart series against all comers.

In his biography of Mickelson, Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, golf writer Alan Shipnuck suggested as much. “Mickelson’s love of gambling is fundamental to understanding his style of play as a golfer,” Shipnuck writes. “It might also explain the Saudi seduction. Based on his comments to me, he clearly enjoyed the idea of sticking it to the PGA Tour, but the real motivation was plainly the funny money being offered by the Saudis.”

Sounds about right.

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