When the Wall Street Journal broke the story that the FBI and the Security And Exchange Commission were investigating pro golfer Phil Mickelson, corporate raider Carl Icahn and risk-taker extraordinaire Billy Walters for insider trading, you should have heard the buzz in the bar at the renowned Las Vegas Country Club.
Walters’ exploits as a gambler on high-stakes golf games at the Vegas golf course are legendary.
As I listened to the banter as word of the story spread, the first thing I thought of was, “Here we go again.” Another round of headlines trying to figure out the right word to describe Walters. Usually, newspapers settle on the term “gambler.”
I always thought that too simple. Whatever Walters does for a living, the term “gambling” never quite captured it. When a tourist puts $20 in a slot machine, that’s gambling. But when Walters puts $200,000 on the Green Bay Packers to cover against the Chicago Bears, he’s making a calculated risk based on a lot of research. And for all anyone knows, he’s got $500,000 ready to bet on Chicago when his $200,000 moves the line.
Walters always has an edge. Calling him a gambler just doesn’t seem to capture it. Secondly, I don’t know a thing about the insider trading story. But I do know a little bit about golf. I have seen Walters putt and I have seen Mickelson putt. Under pressure, I take Walters all day.
But something tells me Mickelson already knows what kind of golfer Walters is. Bet you.