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· Published 14.12.2020 · last updated 14.12.2020

A look back at the life of the King of Instagram

From guns to poker to girls, Dan Bilzerian has spent the first forty years of his life on one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Today, Yourpokerdream takes a look back at the path that brought this one-time US Navy Seal hopeful to a world-famous party icon and GGPoker’s newest sponsored pro.

Bilzerian has never attempted to hide his wealthy family connections. Born December 7, 1980, in Tampa, Florida, to Terri Steffen and Paul Bilzerian, his father was a successful corporate raider who amassed a large fortune through hostile takeovers of large American companies. After the government began cracking down on Wall Street traders, Bilzerian’s father ended up with a conviction, a 13-month jail sentence, and a $62 million debt to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. While the elder Bilzerian went through multiple bankruptcies to avoid paying that debt, both Dan and his brother, Adam, were set for the future with large trust funds which many suspected held those ill-gotten gains.

Trust fund for Dan fuels party lifestyle

The early years of Bilzerian’s adulthood are shrouded in mystery. Much of what is known comes from Bilzerian himself – a shameless self-promoter who is as much about the image and flash than actual substance. His recap of his 2019 year shows just how far he has developed that image.

Before he was the partying playboy though, Bilzerian enlisted to become a US Navy Seal – spending just over 500 days in training including the infamous Hell Week boot camp that he completed twice, once with a broken foot. He never did finish the training to join the elite combat unit known for taking out Osama Bin Laden and instead returned to the University of Florida studying business and criminology.

While his trust fund would lead him to a near-limitless source of cash once he turned 30, Bilzerian’s partying ways caught up with him before that date. Having already suffered two heart attacks due to his cocaine use, Bilzerian was down and out. Forced to sell his most prized possession – his extensive gun collection – he was left with just $750. It would be up to the poker gods to decide if the life of indulgence would continue.

Poker provides a lifeline for Bilzerian

Prudent bankroll management is a key to success for most professional poker players. For Bilzerian though, the idea of following rules on how much to gamble each poker session was not in his playbook. According to him, having learned to play poker while at university, he turned that $750 into $10,000. The next step was a one-way ticket to Las Vegas and a miraculous run up to $187,000. The party bus was back in business.

Dan Bilzerian

Not only was Bilzerian’s own poker skills making him money but he truly hit the jackpot staking 2013 WSOP Main Event runner up Jay Farber. For Bilzerian, he would net over a $1 million payday for his share but more importantly, he gained national notoriety on the accompanying ESPN broadcast. Viewers were drawn away from the main table to the man in the back, steel-eyed watching the action unfold while a model slowly and repetitively stroked his beard.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to exploit the limelight, Bilzerian used his newfound celebrity to come up with a variety of different stunts to further his popularity. One of these stunts involved pornographic actress Janice Griffith and a feature photo shoot for Hustler magazine in April 2014. In the video, Bilzerian grabs the naked model by her intimate parts and tosses her from the roof of his Las Vegas pad into the pool below.

Griffith ended up breaking her foot during the stunt and filed a lawsuit against Bilzerian and Hustler magazine. Being a lawyer for Bilzerian requires a great deal of patience and humour. Tom Goldstein is that lawyer and his response to Griffith’s lawyer fits perfectly with the Bilzerian brand:

“I always thought that this kind of thing was Photoshopped instead. Perhaps Hustler’s editorial standards would not permit it. Perhaps she insists on doing all her own stunts. I really do not know.

In all events, she agreed. Very few people I know would make that choice. But there it is. And chronologically, she’s an adult competent to make it. Hustler and your client asked Mr. Bilzerian to be the thrower, and we can all agree that was the better end of the deal.

Like your client, the facts of the claim won’t, quite, fly.”

From porn stars to guns to prop bets – Bilzerian loves excitement

While there were no legal implications for his projectile launching of the centrefold, Bilzerian has over the years had a number of run-ins with the law. Two days after his birthday on December 9, 2014, Bilzerian was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on charges of “possessing an explosive or incendiary device with intent to manufacture it.” He ended up pleading down to failing to extinguish a fire and paying a $17,000 fine. It hasn’t curtailed his love of firearms and explosives though as a trip through his Instagram shows his weapon collections sharing nearly as much space as the many bikini models that pepper his posts.

Not content to firing away on his AK-47 while sipping cocktails poolside, Bilzerian has taken on some of the craziest prop bets during his time. From starting off with a $385,000 bet on a drag race in an AC Cobra versus a Ferrari (Dan won by the way) to his most outrageous bet of all – earning $1.2 million from high stake poker player and gambler Bill Perkins by biking from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in under 48 hours.

Ignite becomes the corporate face of Bilzerian

Taking a page from his father’s corporate raider playbook, Bilzerian capitalized on his fame and 60 million plus Instagram followers by creating Ignite International Brands – a company that bills itself as a “global lifestyle brand unlike any others” and currently sells a range of alcohols and CBD pens amongst other novelties.

For Bilzerian, being the majority shareholder of a publicly traded company allowed him to splurge on the company coffers and continue his playboy lifestyle. Before the pandemic hit, Ignite was throwing plenty of luxury parties to build that image. Unfortunately, the company lost $50 million last year leading to the resignation of its Canadian based CEO amid accusations of Bilzerian blowing through the company’s finance. The response was typical Dan:

King of Instagram’s cat has plenty of swag

It’s not just Bilzerian making waves on social media though. In behind the tough guy image and persona though, hides an animal lover as he reportedly shares his home with two goats and a cat. Smushball, a three-year old Persian mix has an Instagram following of a half million fans of her own but still manages to regularly appear in Bilzerian’s Instagram – even if her hunting skills aren’t fully up to par.

How good a poker player is Bilzerian anyways?

One issue that has always dogged Bilzerian is how good he actually is at poker. Aside from one cash for $36,000 in the 2009 WSOP Main Event, he notoriously avoids public poker tournaments and games, instead insisting his winnings come from exclusive high roller tournaments. While he claims to have won over $50 million playing in these high stakes games, many in the poker community are skeptical.

Doug Polk, currently battling another GGPoker Pro, Daniel Negreanu, in a high stakes feud, did sit down though and analyze Bilzerian’s play one of the few times he actually played in an observable game. Playing on the Twitch stream of his gambling buddy, Bill Perkins, Bilzerian played a heads-up session on America’s Cardroom that left Polk shaking his head in disbelief that Bilzerian could be a winning player. Never one to hide his opinion, Polk spent 15 minutes dissecting how bad a player Bilzerian is in his opinion.

With Bilzerian joining the team of sponsored pros on GGPoker though, there will be likely plenty of future occasions for Polk – and any other poker pro or recreational player – to take a shot at the king. If you’re looking to try you luck, take a moment to read our review on GGPoker and sign-up through YourPokerDream to receive the best rakeback deal in the industry.

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