Billy Walters spent years in the company of Phil Mickelson, two gamblers bound by a love of action and high risk. But when Walters found himself in severe legal trouble and Mickelson had the opportunity to lend a hand, according to Walters’ new book, “Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk,” Mickelson remained silent.
Yahoo Sports obtained a prepublication copy of the book, and The Fire Pit Collective has run excerpts documenting Walters’ highly charged business relationship with Mickelson. Walters and Mickelson spent much of the 2010s wagering together, often in astronomical terms. Mickelson, Walters says, has wagered more than $1 billion and lost $100 million. In the book, Walters recounts an incident in which Mickelson wanted to wager on the 2012 Ryder Cup — while he was on the team — and Walters refused to help him make the bet.
However, Walters was involved in other enterprises besides sports wagering. In April 2017, he was found guilty of insider trading and sentenced to five years in prison. Mickelson made nearly $1 million trading the same stock Walters was accused of accessing via inside information, but he returned the profits from those trades and, as a “relief defendant,” was not charged.
Walters further indicated that Mickelson managed to avoid charges not just in the insider trading case but also in a separate money-laundering case in which he wired several million dollars to a gambling associate, who in turn wired that money to an offshore sports book to pay off Mickelson’s gambling losses. That associate later was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for money laundering.
In the weeks before sentencing, Walters, through an intermediary, wanted Mickelson “to publicly declare what he told the FBI — that [Walters] never gave him inside information.” Mickelson agreed to make a statement on Walters’ behalf … but never made any public statement. Walters was sentenced to five years in prison but was released after serving 31 months because of COVID concerns.
“To this day, after countless hours of reflection, I still wonder whether I would have walked out of court a free man had Phil testified or spoken out on my behalf. We knew the prosecution would not call Phil to testify because he’d already told FBI agents in two separate interviews that I had never provided him with insider information on Dean Foods or any other stock,” Walters wrote. “But Phil did not do it … He refused to simply tell the truth when it could have meant the difference between prison and exoneration.”
Mickelson is legendary for his ability to wriggle out of trouble on the golf course. Walters contends in the book that his elusiveness extends off the course as well, as evidenced by the fact that he managed to avoid prison from two separate investigations in which others ended up behind bars. “Phil, the man in the middle of all the alleged wrongdoing,” he wrote, “walked away scot-free.”
Throughout “Gambler,” which goes on sale Aug. 22, Walters recounts a Scorsese-level array of gambling-industry tales — wins, losses, busts and jackpots. He also spends two chapters discussing his own complex gambling strategies and techniques. Mickelson makes up a relatively small portion of the book, but Walters is unsparing in his assessment of his former friend.
“When push comes to shove, Phil doesn’t care about anyone except himself,” Walters wrote. “Time and time and time again, he never stood up for a friend.”