Golden State Warriors’ majority owner Joe Lacob is also an investor for Kleiner Perkins, one of the most successful VC firms in Silicon Valley.
As a VC, he’s placed early bets on dozens of startups that went on to become massive businesses, including AutoTrader.com and Sportsline.
But Lacob says he’s even more accomplished in another area that requires a good deal of of risk-taking: blackjack.
In fact, he’s so good, Lacob claims he’s one of the 10 best blackjack players in the world, according to a profile in this week’s New York Times Magazine.
“I shouldn’t say this…but I’ve won over $1 million at one sitting nine times,” Lacob told the Times.
Lacob’s blackjack skills trace back to his college days at UC Irvine. There, he was part of a blackjack team put together by Edward Thorp, a calculus professor who’s best-known for his blackjack strategy book, “Beat the Dealer.” Thorp’s got banned by casinos, but his book proved that certain tactics, like card-counting, could help play the odds and increase your chances of winning.
The report says Lacob has turned the Warriors into the best basketball team by sticking to the same type of risk-taking but play-the-odds mindset.
He’s surrounded himself with a bunch of smart people, including Jerry West, the NBA legend who’s now a senior advisor for the Warriors. His minority shareholders are mostly comprised of VCs who understand his gameplan. Some of his moves, like signing an oft-injured Stephen Curry to a long-term contract, and hiring a rookie coach Steve Kerr, were considered head-scratchers initially, but turned out to be critical in turning the Warriors into the league’s best team.
And now the Warriors are worth around $2 billion, more than 4 times the $450 million Lacob had to pay to buy the franchise back in 2010.
“The great, great venture capitalists who built company after company, that’s not an accident…And none of this is an accident, either,” Lacob said in the report.