With four weeks left to go in the Survivor NFL contest at Circa, there were 13 contestants left out of a starting field of 9,267. Each contestant had to pick one football team each week. If that team won, they moved on. If that team lost, they were out. They could only pick each team once in a season, and the last person standing wins the whole pot, which reached over $9 million this season.
Some of the remaining players started to float a deal: split $400,000 each and play on for the rest. A few players weren’t interested, figuring they had better teams left and had an advantage. One of the remaining players took to Twitter to let his opponents know his feelings:
The tweet caused a stir among sports bettors in discord servers and telegram groups across America. Who is this guy? More importantly, who does he think he is? The greatest “better” ever? Surely he was only busting chops, having a laugh. Right?
Maybe. But to hear those who knew Sean Perry, maybe not.
In 2002 Sean Perry’s father, Ralph Perry, made the final table of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. “I was there,” Sean told me over lunch last week at the Aria. “I picked out his outfit.” Ralph had been a professional gambler for a number of years. He met Sean’s mother in the Mirage poker room. Her mother was also a pro, and a regular in Ralph’s game. The two got married, started a family, and Sean was born in Las Vegas. Gambling was inscribed into his very DNA. He never had much of a chance to be anything else.
“My bar mitzvah was poker themed,” Perry said. “As a kid I dreamed of gambling. That was what I loved. At the age of 10 years old, I remember my dad gave me a thousand dollars in $10 bills and I gambled against him.”
Sean’s parents sent him to pricey private schools, where he excelled in math and gravitated towards sports. By the end of high school he showed enough ability at basketball for his parents to send him off to live with his uncle in San Diego so he could attend a school with an elite basketball program.
“The thing is, when you’re 18 you can check yourself out every day,” Sean said. So he and his friends would ditch school nearly every day and drive 45 minutes to Barona Casino to play Blackjack and poker. “I was going to the casino, a senior in high school, just making $500 or a thousand bucks a day with my friends. I loved it. I woke up, ate, slept, and dreamed poker.”
Sean went to college at Cal Poly and had his eyes on becoming a tech entrepreneur. But the summer after his freshman year, he came home to Vegas. Perry said he spent his days and nights at the Aria putting his fake ID to work, and that by the end of that summer he was up $30,000. “I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m not going back to school. I’m just gonna pursue gambling’. She said, ‘No, you better get a degree. No one in my family has a degree.’”
His mother was dead set on him staying away from gambling. It had contributed to the deterioration of her relationship with his father. “Gambling kind of ruined my dad. It’s very tough mentally to handle the swings. Even though my dad was very successful, if you look around, a lot of the high-end gamblers are not in love.”
Instead of seeing his family as a cautionary tale, Sean decided that learning from his father’s mistakes could give him a leg up. He’d stay away from drugs and alcohol, he wouldn’t tilt, and he’d prepare for downswings. “Growing up around this stuff is a big reason why I became so successful at a young age.”
Sean gave up on college and staked out poker rooms in Montreal and Florida where the legal gambling age was 18. He found private Games , played tournaments, and got off to a winning start. By the time he was 21, he had developed a brash, cocky exterior. “I’m telling everyone ‘I’m the best thing there is.’”
On his 21st birthday, he entered the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio and finished 4th, good for $500,000.
“I go straight to the Commerce and play the best pros in the world heads up. Just playing day and night, seven straight days. I was basically busting everyone. I won $500,000 in six days there.” All the while bragging and boasting to anyone who would listen that he was the best. Until he thought better of it.
“I started to realize, ‘Hey, there’s more money in actually pretending to be bad than there is to pretend to be good.’ So even though I was crushing the tournaments, making a lot of money, crushing the cash Games , I started telling everyone I suck and I’m just a rich trust fund kid, my dad’s real rich. So then I got invited to these private Games .” Sean says he got invites to sit in Jean Robert Bellande’s game and David ‘Doc’ Sands’ game, playing high stakes cash with some of the biggest whales in the country. “I won over a million dollars playing in these private games,” he said.
It was here, Sean said, that he first discovered sports betting. “Someone came to me and said, ‘Hey you are around all the big time billionaires through poker. Let’s work together in sports.’” Because Sean had direct access to deep-pocketed gamblers, sports handicappers wanted him to get bets down with or through the guys he played poker with for them. For sharp sports bettors, being able to bet large amounts of money is increasingly difficult as they win, because sportsbooks will refuse to take their bets.
“So what I could do is, because I’m in this special network, and I was able to get down, I could just pay these guys millions a year for them just to fully work for me exclusively. And then I gamble whatever I want.” Sean started to bet the plays that sharp handicappers were giving him through these gamblers and their accounts.
As word got around that Sean could help sharps get down, more handicappers approached him. “They all work under me. I have a whole team of the best in each sport ’cause I’m able to get down a lot of money.”
Before long, Sean found that he didn’t have the time, or the appetite, for poker at all anymore. “My whole thing was selling myself as an idiot so I could continue gambling against these billionaires. I actually kind of completely stopped playing poker because I was making so much money in sports because I could bet so much bigger … I got so successful that even these private games were just too small. Like now when I play poker, I go on trips where I’m on people’s superyachts where they spend $5 million a week renting a boat, and I’m gambling against these guys massively in sports.”
In order to stay in action with sports betting, Sean needed to find more and more accounts to take his bets. He knew that casino sportsbooks weren’t keen on taking sharp action, but they did like people who gambled on table games. “My niche was I would go to the casinos and gamble massively in the pits so they think I’m a big whale. I’d bet like about $20,000 a hand and lose a couple hundred thousand in expected value. Then I go to the sports books and I tell ’em, ‘Hey I’m a huge client. Look at my action in the pit.’ So they give me special accounts bigger than anyone else.”
“If I’m fifty years old and betting $5,000 a game put a bullet through my head.”
To illustrate his point, Sean recalls the story of a gambler in one of his group chats who asked him to bet $5,000 with him on a game. “I was betting mid-six figures a game,” Sean said. “If you want to bet against me, minimum $50,000 or don’t text me.” But Sean misread the text and agreed to the $5,000 bet, thinking it’s for ten times as much. Sean lost the bet, and the other guy asked to be paid before the end of the game, infuriating Sean. He tells the man he will be the last one to be paid.
The gambler, who was much older than Sean, said “You’re young. You think you’re the best. I’ve seen so many kids like you come and go in this world. We’ll see where you are in a few years.” Sean replied, “If I’m fifty years old and betting $5,000 a game put a bullet through my head.”
Fast forward a few years, and the guy runs into Sean at Aria. “And he comes to me and goes, ‘Listen, I know you know I don’t like you but I was talking to MGM and they’ve never seen someone have a sharper account here than you because your account, you can’t even tell it’s sharp because of how you manipulate the market.’” Sean says the gambler asked him if Sean would make bets through his account at MGM and split the action with him. “And I literally told him, ‘Go eat a dick bro. Stay broke dude.’ That’s what you get for talking about me years ago. You put me down saying I wouldn’t make it and guess where I’m at now? You’re coming to me.”
I ask Sean how it’s possible that MGM would both say they had never seen an account as sharp as Sean’s and that they can’t tell it’s sharp. He explained: “A lot of people, when they bet in sports, they just beat the lines. And it’s very easy to beat the lines. Me, I could control the whole market to where I could, if I have a big account, not even beat the lines. It’s like next level that other people cannot do.”
What Sean meant was that while most professional bettors try to make bets at numbers that are better than the rest of the market, say getting a team at -3 before the line moved to -4, he was able to make bets that were contrary to the market, like betting at -4 before the line moved to -3, and still win. I pointed out to Sean that he’s claiming to have a massive edge to be able to bet with “negative closing line value” and still win long term. He shrugged it off. “I have the best models in the world. Like I said, I pay millions a year to have the best sports bettors adjust my models all the time in each sport.”
An edge like the one Sean claims to have is something extremely valuable, and Sean says he’s taking full advantage of it. But he says that his success comes at a cost. “I’m up against everyone. I’m the best. I tell everyone, stop gambling against me. You’re gonna keep losing. I’m bashing. I beat all the pros. I beat the billionaires. I beat whoever. So, obviously, I’m not gonna have fans. There’s a saying: if you don’t have any haters, you’re doing it the wrong way. And no one has more haters than me.”
Sean’s right. Well before he made waves in the Circa Survivor contest, and well before he was deep into the world of sports betting, Sean had developed a reputation in the poker world. “There’s a lot of history with him in the few years he’s been in poker,” said Shaun Deeb. “He’s been a very divisive character. He’s used his antics to try to increase his profitability. I’m not playing at Aria daily, but I talk to the people who play there and they’re happy when Sean shows up. You know, he had a good couple months, but people figured him out and he stopped playing there for a reason – because he wasn’t winning anymore.”
Sean has found himself at the center of a number of controversies in the poker world. He was accused by one poker pro of cheating him out of seven figures in a DFS contest, and another player accused Sean during a live streamed event of not paying his debts when he lost at sports. “He’s not trustworthy for money,” Deeb said. “There are some people who have told me stories of Sean stiffing them for over seven figures.”
“Haralabos [Voulgaris] made a really good tweet about Sean Perry where he goes, ‘I wish you were more trustworthy because you would be an amazing beard, which is someone to hide a sharp player’s picks because he had high limits at a lot of places.’”
I asked Sean about the accusations that have been made about him in the poker world. He chalked it up to more haterade. “I have so many people that are hating on what I’m doing. They’re seeing me succeed and they try to bring me down. They say, ‘Oh, this guy sucks’. People are doing trolls to me on the internet. And so I got on there, I said, ‘Listen, you guys are saying I’m cheating for millions in poker, you guys are saying I’m cheating for millions in DFS, I’m cheating for millions in sports.’ I go, ‘Yes, I’m up millions. What else do you guys fucking want? I win in everything I do.’”
“I love having haters… No one’s gonna hate the broke loser that’s not doing anything.”
I suggested to Sean that perhaps his constant chest thumping and persistent reminders of his greatness might be contributing to his hater problems. After all, pride goeth before a fall. When people see someone so self-assured, it’s only natural to root for them to fail and return to earth with the rest of us mere mortals. Perhaps, I suggested, if Sean was a bit more humble, when he was accused of things as serious as cheating or stealing he’d find more sympathetic ears. But he wouldn’t hear of it. To him, haters came with the territory, a cost of doing business.
“I love it. It’s what gets me going. I love having haters… No one’s gonna hate the broke loser that’s not doing anything. I’ve been head-bashing absolutely everyone and everything I’ve ever done for years. Obviously, I’m gonna have haters. No one likes people that are just gonna sit there and win and win and win.”
But if Sean thought he had haters in the poker world, he could never have imagined the army of haters he would amass in the world of sports betting – and all thanks to a series of events set into motion one day last fall in the Circa sportsbook in Las Vegas.
When Circa opened in 2020, the casino aimed to have the biggest and best sportsbook in Las Vegas, and welcomed sharp action with high limits. Sean took his time before darkening Circa’s door, trying to throw them off his scent as a winner. “Sharps go right away when a book opens, so they’re on high alert. I waited until two years after the sportsbook opened to go in and crack them for a lot of money.”
Sean showed the sportsbook manager his players cards from other casinos. “I said ‘Hey I’m a big gambler. I heard you guys accept big bets here. I want a big account.’ They set me up in a private telegram group with the guy who runs the sports book. And I would personally text him and he’d give me big limits. So I tell them I’m going to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars and I deposit a million dollars.”
“This was the last day to register for the contest,” said Jeff Benson, Director of Operations at Circa Sports. “And so, given he was a poker player, I figured he was into that sort of thing, and I was doing my job as a company man to push signing up for the contest.”
“And so he told me about some competition,” said Sean. “What’s funny is the competition, the truth is it’s a $1K buy-in. It’s small for me. I don’t care. I just wanted to act like a degenerate to him. So he thinks I was like, ‘Oh I could win $9 million. That sounds so exciting.’ Like dude, I don’t care about that competition at all. That’s just the truth. It’s a waste of my time to go put it in each week.”
“He was able to get into the contest and then about an hour after leaving the sportsbook he sent me a message on Telegram and said the contests weren’t big enough for him and asked if we could remove his entries and return the money to his wagering account,” said Benson.
Benson told Sean he couldn’t refund his entries, so Sean was stuck playing the Circa Survivor and the Circa Millions (another contest where players pick five games each week against the spread). As the season went on, Sean made his picks for the contests, as well as several large bets with his million-dollar bankroll at Circa. In a couple of months Sean says he was up $500,000, and Circa revoked his higher limits. Sean shows me the Telegram chats where he goes from making six figure bets on games to being given the posted house limits, which are still some of the biggest in Las Vegas. But it was too small for Sean. “And so I was just like, that’s it. ‘Hey bro, I’m coming to withdraw my $1 million.”
“We were able to extend him bigger limits than what our standard profile limits were to start with,” Benson explained. But that arrangement wasn’t permanent, and they reconsidered. “Does that mean he is limited? Absolutely not. He gets the same standard limits that Billy Walters gets, that my dad gets, that Rufus Peabody gets. He’s no different or no more special than anybody else. Are there certain markets where he can walk up to the counter and ask for more and we can accommodate it? Absolutely. Are our standard profile limits maybe smaller than he is looking for in certain cases? Yes.”
Sean stopped betting at Circa, but he continued to make his contest plays, and before long he found himself deep in both events. Then, with four weeks to go, he posts the tweet heard ‘round the world, and suddenly Sean Perry is the talk of the town. As sports bettors flock to social media to see what they can learn about him, they find two things. First, that he’s a poker player and the scion of a family of professional gamblers. Second, that his social media posts are filled with more of the same outrageous boasts and brags as his “greatest better ever” tweet.
“I never heard of this guy until this whole Circa contest thing came about,” said Gadoon Kyrollos, better known as “Spanky” in the gambling world. Spanky is one of the top sports bettors in America, and the founder of the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame. “I had no idea who he was. And when it comes to sports betting and guys that are moving numbers or guys that have an influence on the markets, I have my hand on the pulse. I pretty much know all the movers and shakers. And this guy is not on anybody’s radar.”
Captain Jack Andrews, the co-founder of Unabated Sports and a well-known professional gambler, was consulting with a number of the final 13 entrants in Circa Survivor at the time Sean publicly rejected the chop. Not only had he never heard of Sean, he didn’t think Sean was correct that he had an edge on the other contestants.
“When it came to Survivor, nobody could really figure out what the exact equity is because they all have different teams and different schedules. So I built a simulation to kind of just play out the rest of the tournament tens of thousands of times each week based on what I thought their best play was, using the Unabated Survivor Optimizer, and [Sean] was never in the top realm of highest EV to the point where he should block any kind of chop,” Andrews explained. “When it comes to these chop-type things, it comes down to what is the effect of this money on your life. And when we’re talking $9 million, there’s clearly an effect on anybody’s life. So, you know, it was one of these things where, yes, some of these guys were getting an incredible deal if there would’ve been a chop and some of these guys were giving up some if there was gonna be a chop. But in the long run, you need to kind of take some money off the table just to live with yourself if it doesn’t hit.”
“My analytics team worked out that my team was worth $1.2 million,” Sean said. “So what I told ’em is, if you guys want to chop, my team’s worth $1.2 million. … Like, you guys suck. That’s what I’m thinking. I didn’t go out and say that ’cause I’m being nice, but I know you guys are gonna make mistakes. I’m gonna play good. I’m gonna be here to win it.”
Sean did not win it. He was eliminated in Week 17, on Christmas Eve, when the Patriots upset the Broncos with a last-second field goal. As one might expect, Sean’s comments around the chop fiasco gained him scores of new haters, who gleefully celebrated his elimination from Survivor. (He still finished an impressive tenth place in Circa Millions out of 4,691 entries for $75,000)
Not to be deterred, Sean immediately took advantage of all of his new social media followers and his notoriety. He changed his Twitter handle from @itsvegassean to @seanperrywins and started offering his sports picks to the public for a fee. In the parlance of gamblers, Sean became a tout. And among pro sports bettors, touts are highly controversial figures.
“I’m not doing this for the money. I’ve made unlimited money. I’m not worried at all at this point in my life about anything at all to do with money.”
From racetrack tipsters to 1-900 number handicappers, anyone who has ever bet on sports has encountered people looking to sell their tips for cash. To most professional bettors, touts are seen as predatory. Why, the question is often asked, would someone who could handicap sports at a high enough clip to fade the vig need to sell their picks? Why not simply bet their own picks to earn money?
“I’m not doing this for the money. I’ve made unlimited money,” Sean said. “I’m not worried at all at this point in my life about anything at all to do with money.”
So would Sean be willing to give away the picks for free, given the money wasn’t a factor?
“Why would I ever give it for free if it takes away from my value as a person?” Sean replied. “I’ve done a lot of hard work. You don’t do anything for free. Take LeBron James. LeBron’s not playing basketball for the money. But he wants to be paid top dollar. Because the truth is that what you’re paid is what you’re worth.”
In Sean’s case, what he’s worth comes out to $199 for a “Lock of the Day” pick, or $9,999 for a year’s subscription.
Of all the justifications I’ve heard touts give over the years, this one was certainly original. I even found myself sympathizing with it a bit. After interviewing professional gamblers for the better part of the last decade, one common thread is a longing for recognition for their accomplishments. Gambling, still to this day, is tinged with taboo, or requires secrecy and discretion, and professionals are rarely celebrated for their acumen and skill in their own time. Perhaps, I suggest to Sean, he was searching for some kind of recognition that mere money no longer provided for him.
“I’ve always kind of loved the spotlight and everyone who knows me personally knows I was always the center of attention,” Sean said. “I live everyone’s dream in real life. I’ve gone to clubs, I’ve been with billionaires, spent a hundred thousand dollars in a single night at the club. I’m on superyachts. I’ve traveled the world three times, flying first class everywhere, and I’ve posted none of this.” Now, he tells me, because he has an audience on social media for the first time in his life, he intends to put his life on display. “People are gonna see, I’ve made this all from gambling. I’m now becoming best friends with all these celebrities and they’re like, ‘Holy shit, I want to be like you.’ And I’m telling people, ‘Bro, I wanna be like you! You have 30 million followers on Instagram!’”
“That’s clout, right? Everyone wants clout. That seems to be the currency that’s stronger than crypto, that’s stronger than the U.S. dollar,” said Captain Jack Andrews. “And people do whatever they can to increase their clout holding because they know they can use that as currency to open other doors and other futures.” In Sean’s case, that meant introductions to celebrities, like the rapper Offset, or other social media mavens, like the TikTok gambling influencer Mikki Mase, who has made dubious claims of having secret “algorithms” to defeat casino games like baccarat and is now one of Sean’s most vocal supporters. And Sean’s Instagram feed is a stream of photos of sportscars, private planes, and bottle service in exclusive nightclubs.
“It seems to be one of those things that’ll give you the world,” Andrews said, “but it’ll bankrupt your soul.”
But even more than the social capital Sean earns from growing his Instagram and Twitter followings, he also feels a sense of purpose about touting. He believes he is helping people, changing their lives. “It’s so fulfilling. I have some guy message me. He turned $1,000 into over $70,000 in three weeks. Another guy, his wife was leaving him. He had no money for this. No money for the bills. Like literally dead broke. And it’s like I’m helping these people out. The truth is, it’s more fulfilling than anything I’ve ever done in my life.”
“Bettors are just looking for answers and they’re just preying on these vulnerable people,” said Spanky. “Put a blanket over the eyes of the consumer, selling them a dream that can never come true. There’s a lot of losing players, and they just want answers. They wanna know, how can I win? And they looked at these touts thinking, you know, this is it. I could pay for this. But nobody ever asks if somebody really won, why would they be selling this? If they’re betting millions of dollars, why do they care so much about my tiny subscription fee? The reason being is their whole livelihood is based on that subscription money. That’s the whole point.”
“This is nothing new to gambling. There’s always gonna be a new grifter doing this,” said Shaun Deeb. “But I just always want people to know, A, you can’t trust Sean Perry. B, he’s only doing what’s in his best interest to make himself the most money. That is his sole goal in anything he’s ever done. And I just think he has no morals, has no ethics, and he cares about a dollar more than his reputation.”
As Sean and I walk to the Aria sportsbook so he can cash the $100,000 he won on his “Lock of the Day” from the previous weekend (49ers moneyline at -350), I ask him who he likes in the Super Bowl. He refuses to tell me, perhaps to avoid taking away from his value a la LeBron James. He tells me the Super Bowl, for professionals, is one of the best bets of the year, thanks to an onslaught of public money.
“Go talk to any pro. They bet massive on the Super Bowl because one side is always wrong. Every pro is always on the same side usually during the Super Bowl. The sportsbook knows it’s gonna happen. They fucking move it like three or four points. It’s free money.”
I share with Sean that I had always been told the exact opposite. I said that when I interviewed Rufus Peabody, one of the most respected sports gamblers in the world, he told me he didn’t plan to bet a side in the Super Bowl at all, because the market was so liquid the line was incredibly efficient, and there was no value.
“He’s an idiot. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Sean said. “Whoever that is is an impostor.”
As we near the sportsbook entrance, he takes his 49ers ticket out of his wallet to show to me, but he stops short of going into the sportsbook to cash it. He says he’d rather wait and capture it for Instagram. “I’d rather do publicity with a film crew when I cash it, and be in a better outfit.” He puts the ticket back into his wallet.
As Sean and I leave the sportsbook, he tells me I should sign up for his picks. “You should get in and follow the plays. You’ll make more money than you are now. Guaranteed.” I’m not sure what to say, so I just smile. We turn to leave, and he takes out his phone and scrolls Instagram as we walk to the exit. “Eventually, bro, when I get big enough, every fucking bookie is just gonna be fucked. Once the world finds out about me.”