If there is one story which sums up the
legend of Kerry Packer better than any other, it’s the tale of the big
man saying “toss you for it” to a Texan in Las Vegas who gloated about
how much he was worth in an attempt get some more attention.

But
the actual amount, the source of the Texan’s wealth and the
circumstances differ across publications around the world. Here are some of the conflicting
tales:

“He was, more remarkably, once reported to have won 20
hands of baccarat in a row at Las Vegas. There, a Texan oilman at
Packer’s table brashly announced he was worth $US60 million. ‘Toss you
for it,’ came the laconic reply.” Daily Telegraph, London

“He
once overheard a Texan oilman bragging that he was worth $US100
million. Packer said simply, “I’ll toss you for it” — and the American
walked away.” The Sun, London

“He
famously offered to toss a coin for the $US50 million a Texan oil
magnate, who was annoying him at a roulette table, had bragged to be
worth.” The Racing Post

All
of these are wrong in some respects. However, the story from the
mid-to-late 1990s is clearly true as the CEO of Mirage Resorts, Bobby
Baldwin, explained in this exchange with the LasVegas Review Journal’s Norm Clark two days after Packer’s death:

The story about the Texan? “True,” Baldwin said. Packer was
at one table and the Texan, playing one table over, wanted some bigger
action. Packer turned him down. “The other guy said, ‘I’m a big player
too. I’m worth a hundred million.’ “Kerry said, ‘If you really want to
gamble, I’ll flip you for it (the $US100 million).’ ” The Texan quietly
went back to his game.

And we now even appear to have the Packer side of the story as The Bulletin’s tribute issue included the following quote from Kim Beazley:

Beazley remains fond of another story Packer told him about
his days as one of the world’s biggest gamblers. “He was gambling in
Las Vegas and there was a Texas cattleman who grew quite resentful of
the favoured treatment that Kerry was getting. Eventually this
cattleman approached him and said, ‘Do you know I’m worth $US70
million?’ And Kerry looked at him and replied ‘I’ll toss you for it.”

If
Kerry himself and the the CEO of the casino can’t agree on the amount
involved, what hope is there? Surely some enterprising journalist will
be able to track down the said Texan to establish whether he made his
money in cattle or oil, how much he claimed to be worth and what
exactly happened at The Mirage that night.

Patrick Cook has extended the story somewhat in a satirical column in The Bulletin this week that went as follows:

Rich stories abound about Kerry feats of gambling. One such
popular legend concerns a loud-mouthed Texan in Vegas who skited that
he was worth $70m. With the shy smile for which he was notorious Kerry
murmured: “Toss you for it.” The Texan tossed and lost. With a twinkle
in his eyes, Kerry handed the oaf his hat and said: “Now get off my
f*cking land.”