Dan Bilzerian Interview

Dan Bilzerian Interview

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Meet the Baron of Badass.

By Philip Conneller

Dan Bilzerian. Men want to be him, women want to endlessly lounge by the pool with him, and porn stars, apparently, want to be thrown off roofs by him. But more about his porn star-hurling exploits later.

When we hook up with Bilzerian today he's uncharacteristically tight-lipped. Maybe it's because he's too much of a big deal these days to spend much time talking to a humble poker magazine, with his Hollywood film roles and magazine photo shoots. Or maybe he was partying hard last night. The photo on his Twitter that shows him crowd-surfing bare-chested in a rubber dinghy might well have something to do with it.

Perhaps, too, he's simply getting bored of talking to journalists in general. Bilzerian's outrageous Instagram account has made him an accidental mainstream celebrity – a social media god – and suddenly he's tabloid fodder. "I'm getting mobbed for pics a lot," he says. "It's kinda weird. I just woke up one day and I was famous." He's not exaggerating; each of Bilzerian's posts on his now world-famous Instagram account regularly gets around 250,000 "likes" from the online "bro" contingent. He's a true 21st century celebrity.

Who is this man whose lifestyle is a blur of girls, guns and yachts, the tabloids are demanding to know. And where did he get all his money? It's a good question.

The King of Instagram

Bilzerian is unquestionably mind-bendingly wealthy, and he knows how to flaunt it. His Instagram account is a sprawling visual depository of fast cars, private jets, surgically enhanced women in bikinis and his outrageous automatic weapons collection. His is a life dedicated to extravagance – he has an Italian supercar with the license plate "SUCK IT", and he once lost enough money to buy 11 Bentleys in a poker game to Jean Robert Bellande.

His sometimes hilarious Twitter account (although he claims to hate Twitter) is more of the same. Choice example: "My HS guidance councilor told me Id nvr amount to anything&he may be right, but i doubt he had 3girls blow him at once".

It's his ultra-masculine posturing and brash ostentation that makes him a hero to some and an insufferable show-off to others. He's a hugely divisive personality, and of course he couldn't care less – he's just doing what makes him happy.

“I feel that if you don’t have people hating on your lifestyle then you’re not doing it that well," he told us recently. "There’s always going to be people envious – it’s just the way it is. An ugly girl is going to hate on a pretty girl and a poor guy is going to hate on a rich guy. That’s just the way of the world.”

Bilzerian 3

Life at Full Speed

Whatever you think of him, Bilzerian clearly has a boundless – and possibly dangerous – energy for life. Now 33, Bilzerian suffered two heart attacks before the age of 30, both the result of a four-day bender involving an endless stream of hard drugs and Viagra. Yep, that would probably do it. In 2011 he experienced what he thought was his third but it turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, the result of flying across the US twice to play a three-day poker session while forgetting to sleep.

These days his only "drugs" are girls, guns and gambling, and he is in perfect health, he says. Gambling is his passion, although he admits that winning at poker barely feels satisfying anymore because he has enough money to do whatever he wants. For Bilzerian, the more interesting and outrageous the bet the better, which is perhaps why at least three of his friends now have tattoos of his face on their bodies. It's also why in 2011 he challenged Supreme Court lawyer Tom Goldstein to a race around Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a $385,000 wager. Bilzerian, driving a 1965 AC Cobra, won the race, naturally.

This hunger for danger saw him take a job as a stuntman in the movie Olympus has Fallen, which has in turn lead to more conventional, albeit brief acting roles in Hollywood movies, such as Lone Survivor and more recently The Equalizer, currently in post-production. It was also why he joined the US Navy as a young man. This was at the end of a troubled adolescence during which he was kicked out of several schools, spent some time at military boarding school and was eventually imprisoned in his Senior year for having a machine gun in the boot of his car. Bilzerian almost made it as a Navy SEAL, but his natural antipathy towards authority was his undoing.

"I got kicked out one day before graduation," he says. "I didn't like people telling me what to do. Not a lot has changed."

Bilzerian 4

All About The Benjamins, Baby

His wealth he claims is entirely self-accumulated, but it will always be a source of wild speculation to poker community and tabloids alike. He says he has made $50 million playing poker, mainly in private games with businessmen and celebrities (tournaments bore him, he says). “I’m not the best poker player in the world," he explained the last time we spoke to him. "But it’s like a minor league baseball player going against a bunch of high school guys.”

The biggest game he's played in is $10k/$25k NL, although these games are difficult to arrange because the millionaires involved "all expect the world to revolve around them, because it usually does."

In 2011 Bilzerian was named as a member of a high-stakes Hollywood poker game along with Matt Damon, Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire and a hedge fund manager named Bradley Ruderman. Ruderman had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of his clients’ money at the game, several of whom attempted to sue the members of the game to get their money back. Maguire (who, incidentally, has been described by Bilzerian as "annoying" and "cheap") eventually settled with the plaintiffs.

Those games are rarer today. In 2013, the NYPD carried out a string of raids to break up a gambling and sportsbetting syndicate that had ties to the Russian Mob. The syndicate had organized many of the high stakes celebrity games, and several of the players were arrested, including Vladimir Trincher, Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith, Peter Feldman, Abe Mosseri, Edwin Ting and WSOP bracelet winner Bill Edler. Of course, while he may have played in some of the games, Bilzerian had no connection to the syndicate.

He lists his other occupation as "venture capitalist". He was a part owner of Victory Poker, a project that is currently "on hold" while regulation develops in the US, and he invested in the film Lone Survivor, in which he played a role, but not much else is known about the source of his unimaginable wealth. The accusation that rankles most highly, however, is that he is a "trustafarian", and with good reason.

Bilzerian's father is Paul Bilzerian, a corporate takeover specialist, who was convicted of fraud in the Eighties and served time in prison. Bilzerian Senior was ordered to disgorge multiple millions of dollars in profits from corporate takeover attempts, but declared himself bankrupt and was accused of concealing ownership of assets during bankruptcy proceedings by transferring them to trusts and shell corporations.
Speculation that his money came from daddy's alleged illicit cache funds do not sit well with Dan Blizerian, who describes his relationship with his father as "not tight". He admits he has a trust fund but says it only kicked in when he was 30, and then again when he hits 35. Beyond that, he claims to be a self-made man.

Bilzerian 2

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?

"I think the video and letter spoke for itself. I'm sure her lawyer didn't want to get publicly embarrassed by the best lawyer in the United States," says Dan Bilzerian, of the time he threw a porn star off the roof, which in turn lead to the greatest legal slapdown in history.

As if it wasn't irritating enough accidentally getting famous by posting pictures of naked girls posing with walruses on his Instagram account, Bilzerian had to go and throw a porn star off a roof, and then all hell really broke loose. The incident occurred during a photo shoot for Hustler with porn star Janice Griffith, who was apparently amenable to being launched from a roof into a swimming pool at the suggestion of the Hustler shoot director. Bilzerian obliged, of course, except that Griffith grabbed hold of his shirt at the critical moment and fell slightly short of her intended destination, breaking her ankle on the side of the pool as she went in.

Griffith's lawyer sent a letter notifying Bilzerian of their intention to sue, prompting a hilarious and bombastic letter from Bilzarian's lawyer. Remember Tom Goldstein, the guy Bilzarian beat in the race around Las Vegas Speedway? He also happens to be one of the most important lawyers in America.

Goldstein began by explaining that Griffith could not sue as she herself, under contract from Hustler, had agreed to be thrown off the roof, adding that "very few people I know would make that choice."

He continued: "Maybe your client's theory is that Mr. Bilzerian negligently violated the established standard of reasonable care for one who throws a porn actor off a roof into a pool during a photo shoot for an adult magazine. I'll let that one sink in for a minute."

"If she sues, the complaint will be sanctionably frivolous. Your client should just box up almost every last bit of her property (please exclude all videos and photographs, as well as the seemingly inevitable small yappy dog) and drop it off with you in safe keeping for Mr. Bilzerian. After he receives the judgment in his favor, he will have it all delivered to him. Then he will probably blow it up with a mortar in the desert.”
"I enjoyed our brief correspondence."

Which just goes to show everything Bilzerian touches these days is going viral. Even letters from Bilzerian's lawyers are going viral!

As a parting shot, and since we are, after all, a poker magazine, we ask Bilzerian about his WSOP. What are his plans? Bear in mind that we're used to earnest responses such as "try to eat healthy" or "rent a house because there are too many distractions staying in hotels" from our regular interviewees, but not from Dan Bilzerian.

"Fuck some hot girls," he shrugs with a look resigned inevitability.
You probably will, Dan, you probably will.

Social media god, poker player, party animal, "The Ernest Hemingway of Instagram", tabloid fodder, gun nut, adrenaline junkie, venture capitalist, film star, porn star-hurling shagnasty – Dan Bilzerian is all these things and many more. Just don't call him a trustafarian.

Philip Conneller is a freelance journalist. Contact him at philip.bluff@gmail.com.

Tags: Dan Bilzerian, interviews, Jean-Robert Bellande