The gambler

If you had a winning streak at a casino, would you know when to stop? One man is videotaped winning millions— and then losing it all


A high-roller is living out a gambler’s ultimate fantasy at black jack: The player is betting $30,000 dollars a hand, two hands at a time. He seems incapable of losing. And he’s already won millions.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: How did that feel standing beside that table with all that money there?Adam Resnick: Just like I could gamble forever. 

Adam Resnick, at that moment, was laser-focused on those chips—each worth at least $5,000.

Resnick: When I was in action I didn’t know anything else was going on.

And yet, of course, there is a great deal going on.  And, as you will see, far more is at stake on this table than merely money.

Gambling in America is an apparently unquenchable thirst—some would say lust. The belief among many people that anybody can beat the odds.  The man you have just met may have done exactly that.  Certainly, he is at the brink: somewhere between Nirvana and criminal self destruction.

Resnick: I knew what I was doing was wrong.  I knew it was unorthodox.

Adam Resnick grew up well-off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and says his parents took him to his first casino when he was six.  At 14, he says he got his first real gambler’s rush while on a family cruise. Playing blackjack at the ship’s casino, he turned a $500 holiday gift into nearly $8,000.

Resnick: That became a legendary story on the ship.

In high school, he would bet anytime, anywhere, on anything. He became a regular at the local dog track.

Resnick: I became oblivious to the rest of the world. 

Morrison: So this incredible focus when you were gambling but if you weren’t gambling, if you were, I don’t know, doing your homework, reading a book?Resnick: Oh, I never did homework.

Still, he managed to finish high school and went off to college in Tucson, Arizona.

Morrison: Why did you decide to go to the University of Arizona?Resnick: Close to Vegas.

He made that trip to Vegas several times a month.

Resnick: (sigh) 37 times I believe my three semesters I was there.Morrison: Gambling a lot of money?Resnick: Everything I could get my hands on.

“Everything” included his tuition money and student loans. He says he lost it all—tens of thousands of dollars.

Adam says he vowed to quit gambling. He started school fresh at his home state school, the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Morrison: After you moved back to Madison, how long was it before you went to the casino?Resnick: About 24 hours.

Between casino visits, he says he found another passion: the love of his life, Meredith. 

Meredith Resnick, Adam's wife: Well, you know we were college students.  I was going to class and Adam was going to Ho Chunk Casino.

It didn’t take long for her to see how serious his problem was.

Adam Resnick: My second date, she took me to Gamblers Anonymous.

Morrison: Come on.

Resnick: Yeah. And I turned to her after literally 90 seconds and I said, “I’m not hanging out here with all these losers.”                       

Meredith graduated from Wisconsin, and even though Adam dropped out, he certainly seemed to get his act together.  He says he made his first million at age 22 — not from gambling, but from selling medical equipment in Chicago. In 1998, when they got married, Meredith didn’t catch on that Adam was still gambling all the time. Only now, he lied all the time, too.

Resnick: I would actually buy tickets to California and leave them on the counter in the kitchen so—saying, “Look, I’m going to California.”  And take it a step further, I’d actually pay for a room at a hotel in California.

Of course he wasn’t really at that hotel, but at a casino in Vegas.

Adam continued to earn serious six-figure money in business, as his gambling losses piled up.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes in a single weekend.  And again the bookies, Adam likens them to drug pushers, closed in.

The day his son was born, Adam says, a bookie tracked him down inside the delivery room.

Resnick: I look up.  And he goes makes a gesture [like he was going to kill me]. And do I think he was gonna kill me?  No, because he wouldn’t have gotten his money. 

Banks came after him too, for bouncing big checks. It got to the point, he says, where he had trouble opening a checking account.

But that’s where our story takes a sharp turn.  So far, Adam has been like hundreds of thousands of other Americans whose gambling is, quite frankly out of control. But now, in Adam’s case, a friend stepped in, an accountant whose family just happened to run a small bank in Chicago.

Resnick: And he said to me, “Well, my mother is the CEO and my sister’s the COO.”

No one realized it— not even Adam— but this out of control gambler was about to gain access to a huge cache of money that wasn’t his.

Resnick: I was in gambling fantasy land.

Adam Resnick, compulsive gambler, had been having trouble opening a bank account.  Now, his accountant friend Terry Navarro said Adam could use a company account Terry had at a small Chicago bank which happened to be run by Terry’s mom and sister.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Basically, he let you become an insider at his family bank.Adam Resnick: Yup.        

Adam says he deposited several hundred thousand dollars at the bank, which of course he gambled, and soon enough found himself overdrawing the account.  Incredibly, his friend’s sister - the bank’s chief operating officer cleared Adam’s bad checks.

Morrison: “You can bounce a check basically—Resnick: Yeah.Morrison: --any time you want.  Just let us know.”  Is that—Resnick: I don’t think that her intention  was for me to bounce it any time I want.  But that’s what ultimately happened for both of us.  (laughs)

Adam took care of the banker with a BMW, front-row Cubs tickets, trips to Las Vegas and so-called consulting fees.

Adam says he did try to cover the bad checks by depositing winnings back into the account.  But the losses were overwhelming.  To hide them he wrote one bad check after another -- 138 in all.

Morrison: You wrote checks for how much?  More than $200 million?Adam Resnick: That I believeMorrison: It’s a lot of money. 

If his banking friends were treating him like a prince, the casinos were treating him like a king as long as he kept gambling.

One casino even flew Adam and his friends on a private jet to a Mike Tyson - Lennox Lewis boxing match. He says he bet on Tyson and lost 300,000 dollars.

He did have some big wins along the way, like the $2 million dollars sports payout he says he flew to Las Vegas to collect.

Morrison: How much space does that take up?Resnick: A big leather bag, and it’s really heavy.  I still think I have shoulder problems from that.

But even when he won, Adam usually lost.  That $2 million payout? He says he gambled it away in a matter of hours.                

He was out of control, desperate to cover up the millions he’d lost.  And then, in June 2002, he says there was an ominous phone call from a bank lawyer. 

Resnick: He called me, and said, “We know there’s a problem with the account. If you get $3 million into the bank, we will make this is a civil matter.  If you don’t, it’s out of our hands.”  Morrison: So, what’d you do?Resnick: I went to the casino.

Adam drove to Binion’s Horseshoe casino in Hammond, Indiana. He arrived around 10 a.m. with a million dollars. And betting 60,000 at a time, he says he reached his $3 million dollar goal by noon and kept on winning as never before.

By mid-afternoon he says he hit the seven million mark, eventually hit a peak of 8.6 million.

Morrison: You’re on top of the world.Resnick: On top of my addiction.

Then, of course, he stopped, right?  Went home, paid off the bank and spent the rest of his fortune on his family?

Actually, no. Adam Resnick kept playing.

His stack of chips began to dwindle. He played through the night and into the next morning. By 4:30 a.m., he says he was down to $2 million.

And after a short nap resumed gambling and losing.

At 10 a.m., he finally laid his last chip on the table.

Resnick: My life as I always knew it was coming to an end.  And, I said to the dealer, “Do you know that you’re dealing black jack to me for the last time that I’ll ever play in my life?”

He drove home through the ruin that his life had become to break the news to Meredith, his still unsuspecting wife.

Morrison: How did you tell her?Resnick: I just rambled the truth.  And, I had nothing left in me. 

Nor was much left of that small bank he had used. It collapsed with $10 million in losses.

Last month Adam Resnick pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud. He also agreed to pay $10 million restitution.  His accountant friend pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting falsification of bank records and was given probation.  The accountant’s sister, the banker, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and is awaiting sentencing — as is Adam.

His plea agreement calls for 3 and a half years behind bars.

Resnick: My first priority is to do right by people that were hurt, although, what happened with the bank and everything else in my life appears to be very selfish from the outside, if you actually think about it, it was equally if not more self-destructive.Morrison: Sure, but you brought down a bank.  Your habit.Resnick: My habit, yeah.Morrison: How does it feel facing the prospect of prison?  Not the prospect.  The certainty.Resnick: I have one concern.  It’s my family.  Morrison: Do you trust him now?Resnick: Yeah, I trust him now.Morrison: Completely?Resnick: No.  Morrison: What will you do if he falls off the wagon?Resnick: You know, I’ve been through a lot. I don’t know if I could go through this again because there’s only so much a person can take.

Gambling addiction has become a big problem in America.  Most compulsive gamblers relapse.

But these days Adam is playing sports, not betting on them.

Resnick: On one end, I was a tragic addiction story.  On the other end, I hope to, in the long run, be a role model to kids and people that are in trouble.  Don’t go to where I am.  But, God forbid, you’re in my position, do the right thing.

Adam Resnick is currently in therapy and says he hasn't gambled in four years. To get help for a gambling addiction, log on to the National Council on Problem Gambling.