So you’re rollicking through the Nevada desert in a $150k Jimco buggy, and each bump is enough to cause whiplash because you’re nudging 85kph, and you swerve off the track, nearly tip over, and you assure yourself you’ll be OK because your driver is poker millionaire and notorious hedonist Dan Bilzerian, and surely someone who takes so much out of life isn’t about to give it all up... But then you remember this is the man who prematurely checked himself out of hospital following a pulmonary embolism (“I’ll bet a million dollars I don’t die. Any takers?” he tweeted); who attempted to complete US Navy SEALS boot camp with a broken leg; and who once lost more than $2m on a coin toss – and you realise self-preservation is not one of his dominant traits.

Then you notice your harness is unstrapped.

The many, many exploits of Dan Bilzerian, aged 36, are public domain, so we will mention them only fleetingly.

How he survived two heart attacks aged 25 following a not-quite-lethal combination of cocaine, strippers and Viagra. How he incurred a lawsuit after throwing a porn star off the roof of his house into a swimming pool for a Hustler photoshoot. (She acquiesced; he missed.) How he recently won a reported $1.2m for cycling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in less than 48 hours. (Bilzerian posted 31 hours; $250,000 of the pot came from a friend who bet against his survival.)

Either you know this already or you’ve just fired up Google. Either way, let’s move along.

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To his followers (22.6m on Instagram alone – more than Donald Trump and Barack Obama combined) Bilzerian is an inspiration, even a hero; the rootin’, tootin’, red-blooded antidote to a world of straitjackets and snowflakes. To his detractors – harder to quantify but unquestionably numerous – Bilzerian is an affront, a shameless flaunter of wealth and women; even, some claim, a fraud.

I flew to Vegas to explore the myth, and meet the man behind it. The opportunity to interview a 21st-century phenomenon was simply too good to pass up. Although a handful of Bilzerian interviews are out there (with Larry King and Joe Rogan, to name the two substantial ones), the man very rarely sits down with print publications. Indeed, he’s only ever conceded to two cover shoots – both passion projects: one on fitness, the other poker. So why did he agree to this one? “Fuck knows, man,” he chuckles when I can’t resist asking the question. “Like, why not?”

The answer rather encapsulates Bilzerian’s appeal: the man is all id. The transition between desire and intent is squashed within milliseconds; ‘if only’ does not apply. Dan wants, Dan gets. Dan doesn’t bother to reason why. But let it be noted he is a perfect host: offering the photographer and me dinner (beef stir fry, if you’re curious); posing for countless shots; expounding on the world while loading a large machine gun; and suggesting we drive into the desert in one of his many off-road race cars. Maybe he was feeling generous. Maybe we caught him on a good day. Maybe, beneath the bravado, he’s actually a decent person.

That last theory will prove unpopular to much of the internet. At the time of writing, the top hits on Google for Bilzerian include ‘The Truth About Dan Bilzerian’ (GQ); ‘I Tried Living Like Dan Bilzerian and Realized What His Problem Is’ (VICE); and ‘Instagram Star Dan Bilzerian ‘Exposed’ for His Poker Playing Skills’ (Complex). Which begs the question: has Bilzerian ever Googled himself?

“Yeah, I have.” He laughs. “It’s usually just to see what kind of nonsense they’re publishing now.” (Bilzerian contacted GQ after the magazine listed his height as 5ft 7 inches. “I’m 5ft 9-and-a-half! For everyone else they add two inches, and for me the motherfuckers take off two. Come on!”)

His relationship with the media can be fraught. “One thing I’ve learnt is the press is completely full of shit. Don’t believe what you read 90% of the time. I think the one good thing Trump is doing right now is that he’s calling out the media for being full of shit.”

In December 2015, Bilzerian posted a photo with Trump, captioned “In an age of pussified political correctness, you have to respect people who remain unfiltered.” He also claimed to be running for President in 2016 – but we’ll come to that later.

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House Rules

We turn up at Chez Bilzerian without the slightest idea of what to expect. Located in a prosperous suburb a half-hour drive from the Vegas Strip, his house is immediately identifiable by the row of colourful buggies parked in the drive: Scalextric made large. Dan is at the gym when we arrive, but his assistant Jimmy (large, amiable, counts Snoop Dogg among his former employers) gives us the tour.

It’s a big pad with surprisingly minimalist decor, and yes, a lot of the surfaces have guns on them. A cook is preparing dinner in the kitchen. Downstairs in the games room, Dan’s girlfriend, a model named Sofia Bevarly, taps away on a laptop. She celebrated her 21st birthday the week before. There’s still a balloon and teddy bear in the hall.

We first encounter the man himself stalking upstairs, drenched in sweat. The sheer size of him is striking: chest broader than a Three Stooges sketch, shoulders that would make Atlas feel a tad emasculated. You sense a collision between Bilzerian and a double-decker bus would be a close-run thing. The beard is the other eye-catcher: black as the desert night, a facial boast of masculinity. He probably cuts it with garden shears.

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After his shower, we discuss the photoshoot. Ideally we want him in a suit – only Dan doesn’t wear suits. Dan never wears suits. So to minimise the divide between aesthetic and authenticity we take some shots in a jacket, the rest in his normal black T-shirt. He keeps his combat shorts on throughout.

To choose the right jacket, we head upstairs to the bedroom where, along with a king-sized bed, a bath the size of a motel swimming pool, and a miniature barber’s salon, Dan stores a number of multi-thousand dollar suits, almost all unworn. The cover shoot takes place in the basement cinema, its walls of purple velvet embedded with shotgun pellets (by design, not the result of indoor discharge). Despite his famously low boredom threshold, he poses patiently for the photographer and jokes about his limitations as a model. After the shoot the jacket is quickly shed, never to be worn again. “That,” says Bilzerian flatly, “is a fact.”

Our interview takes place in the games room, a sort of Boy’s Own Shangri-La. Xbox, flatscreen TV taking up half the wall, a bar stocked with Monkey Shoulder whisky and Grey Goose vodka, even an arcade machine – think of an amenity and it’s probably there. Two Bilzerians are present: one made of cardboard, cigar chomped in his grinning mouth, clasping a blonde in one hand and Uzi in the other; while the flesh-and-blood version reclines on the sofa and fits bullets into various ammunition clips. He seems to find something therapeutic in the activity, the same calming pleasure one might take from the Sunday crossword.

Bilzerian is experiencing something of a lull. There’s this misconception – not entirely dissuaded by his Instagram – that he’s wasted every other day. In truth, he barely even drinks anymore. He hasn’t played poker for six months: “When I won I didn’t give a fuck, and when I lost I’d be really irritated. It was just a recipe for unhappiness.” Perhaps the most surprising development is Sofia – the man who once slept with 17 girls in a week is currently in a monogamous relationship.

Even Bilzerian sounds a little confounded. “Yeah. Got a girlfriend. First time. Well, I had a girlfriend before, but I was still fucking other girls.” He met Sofia at a marquee pool party. “Wasn’t exactly your storybook love at first sight. I think I fucked like three girls before her that day. We just started hanging out… She’s a little different, you know? She’s smart, she’s cool, and she liked a lot of the shit I like. So here we are.”

Dan Bilzerian photographed by Dustin Snipes for Square Mile magazine

Sealing the deal

Promiscuity, it transpires, can be too much of a good thing. “A girl has to be super-hot now for me to be even semi-interested.” He started rejecting women a teenage Dan would have ardently pursued. “You just get pickier. I think that’s true of everything. Money, toys, girls – all the hedonistic stuff. You just raise the bar.

“Climbing the mountain is always more fun than sitting at the top. It’s just that you have to find different mountains to climb.”

How far up the mountain was Bilzerian happiest? “I was probably happiest in the military, crazy as that sounds. I was making peanuts, living in a $700-a-month apartment,” that an ex-girlfriend described as a “shit hole”. “At the time I thought it was great. To have a stove, and a bed – I’d just got out of boot camp. It was a goddamn paradise to me.

“I had a clear objective, and I was a little bit less cynical. I don’t know, it was a fun time. I was going through SEAL training, and I’d finally left home, didn’t have to do any homework anymore. It was a cool adventure.”

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He never completed SEAL training, although not through lack of trying: Bilzerian completed ‘Hell Week’ twice (once with a broken leg) but was denied the promotion by a superior officer who failed to appreciate his charms. He was discharged from the SEALs and into another life, a life which has recently started to drag. The years of excess, the aggressive pursuit of wish fulfillment, eventually take a toll. “I’ve fucked thousand of girls,” says Bilzerian matter-of-factly. “I’ve bought every toy I ever wanted. I’m just in a little bit of a shift where a lot of the stuff I placed a lot of emphasis on I pounded into the ground so hard that it’s just like, ‘OK, time to do something else’.”

He doesn’t know whether this new outlook is permanent or just a phase. One of the effects of living in the moment is you rarely bother to look beyond it. Maybe he’ll go back to the partying; maybe he won’t. At least he isn’t missing the nightclubs, which he describes as one of the biggest scams going on right now.

“You have these hosts convincing all these uncool, nerdy rich guys that this is a good place to spend their money and get laid. It’s a fucking scam. A nightclub is the worst fucking place to get laid!”

Then again, it’s easy to say that when you have 22.6m followers on Instagram.

Although Bilzerian joined Instagram five years ago, his account only took off in 2014. “When I hit a million I was like, wow, that’s a lot. But it didn’t really set in until I was in Cannes.”

In Cannes, Bilzerian was chatting with the actor Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Drive), only for their conversation to be interrupted continually by another fan asking for a photo – with Bilzerian. Eventually a Perlman fan appeared, “and [Perlman] was like, you sure you want a picture? Who the fuck am I?” The actor spoke in jest, but it was clear Bilzerian had become seriously, and internationally, famous – primarily through social media.

The celebrity stratosphere is a strange place; where women have sex with you before speaking to you (as happened in Cannes – on a yacht); where presidential candidate Donald Trump pays you house calls; where your existence, and its meaning, is debated across internet forums and glossy magazines.

Dan Bilzerian photographed by Dustin Snipes for Square Mile magazine

A life in pictures

The Bilzerian Instagram is quite the experience. Practically every photo boasts one of the following: beautiful women barely clothed; garishly expensive vehicles; firearms. Often he manages to combine these: barely clothed women on a yacht, or barely clothed women shooting guns in the desert. As Bilzerian says, “Girls, cars, guns. All the shit that you want when you’re younger, I guess.”

Detractors claim the photos must be staged; Bilzerian insists this isn’t so. “That’s me: what I post is what I’m doing… People think I’m going out of my way to do all this stuff for Instagram, but the truth of the matter is I’ve done so much that I’ve never put on there.

“I’ve been doing that shit for ages, I just somewhat recently started documenting it. It was kinda a ‘bucket list’ thing; it was the stuff I wanted to do as a kid, I just knocked out.”

What was on the bucket list?

“Look at my Instagram!”

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Despite the provocative content, the account is more self-aware than many might think. “Hey look at me, I’m with girls” reads one caption, showing Bilzerian lounged on a couch with five women, all barely – oh, you know.

He claims, “I didn’t set out to be America’s role model for the youth”, but concedes his lifestyle has touched a chord with many. When I ask if his followers can take a positive lesson from his Instagram, he frowns.

“The one message that kinda rings true is freedom to do what you want. I feel like society is so politically correct, and everybody is so handcuffed with everything they do – interviews and this and that. You say one wrong thing and you’re totally ostracised. So I think having personal freedom and not being politically correct and not playing the game is a good message in our fucking pussified situation that we’re in now.”

He cites this freedom as the main reason his Instagram became so big. “I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a boss. I wasn’t worried about what my parents would think, I didn’t have a wife. ’Cos a lot of people are doing this shit. They might not be doing it as strong and frequently, but tons of guys are doing similar shit to what I’m doing. It’s just they can’t necessarily be out in the open about it. I think maybe part of that is kinda refreshing. I feel that people want to own who they are, but like I said before, society is so fucking handcuffed, that people just can’t.”

Is this a modern condition?

“Yeah, for sure. Everything is so out there. Everything is recorded; everybody’s got a cellphone. So you make one fuck-up and somebody has it on Snapchat. If you’re a famous person everybody’s just recording you all the time, and so these people have to be super careful about what they say and do, because one wrong move and they lose all the endorsements. And one of the other things about me is I didn’t give a fuck about endorsements, I wasn’t trying to work with any of these pussy-assed companies or whatever. I just did my thing.”

Dan Bilzerian photographed by Dustin Snipes for Square Mile magazine

It seems unlikely that somebody so infused with confidence could harbour many regrets, but I ask the question anyway. He duly sighs.

“Honestly, the things I regret in my life are the things that I didn’t try. Not the things I tried and failed, or the things I fucked up. Just the shit that I wanted to do that I didn’t do. Like a hot girl I saw that I didn’t talk to, or I wanted to race a car and I didn’t do it, or I wanted to skydive. You know? If there was something I wanted to do and I didn’t pull the trigger on it. Those are the regrets I got. Not too many of them, but….”

Despite his divisive behaviour, Bilzerian says nobody gives him trouble in public. “It is irritating having a bunch of people come up to you, but at least if it’s all positive it’s not as painful as it would be otherwise. I can’t imagine if every time you went out somebody was talking shit. It would be the worst thing ever.

“I’m sure there’s tons of people who don’t like me, but nobody says anything to me.”

Surely training as a Navy SEAL, owning a houseful of guns, and being no larger than the average grizzly bear must help?

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“I don’t know....” He notes the appetite for people (OK, men) to prove themselves against supposedly tough celebrities. “’Cos then they’re the guy who beat up that guy.”

And yet nobody has tried?

“Never!” He grins, as though he can’t quite believe the lack of wannabe Bilzerian-punchers in the world. “It’s so crazy, right?”

Instead some come after him online. The VICE article posited his existence must be spiritually empty – nobody can live so indulgently and not be dead inside. Fair assessment?

“It depends on what you want, right? If you’re a guy who wants a white picket fence and kids and marriage, then it’s probably not the answer. If you’re a guy who didn’t really have a whole bunch of cool toys and didn’t get a lot of girls when he was younger, it would probably be the best life ever.”

He’s incredibly sharp, but he’s also a guy that has no qualms about what he likes, and what he doesn’t like

What about the girls? If Dan Bilzerian were female, would she hang out with Dan Bilzerian?

“If I were a girl….” He ponders the question. “Depends what you want to do. If I were a girl and I was into partying then yeah, I’d have a great time. If I was trying to be a doctor and I was in med school then it would probably be counter-productive, right?”

Regardless of your opinion of the man, the portrayal of Dan Bilzerian as a lunkheaded uber-bro is off the mark. A few weeks after this interview, I mention Bilzerian to DJ Steve Aoki – vocal liberal and close friend of Dan – and get the following response.

“He’s really not what you imagine – he’s actually a very smart guy. He’s incredibly sharp, but he’s also a guy that has no qualms about what he likes, and what he doesn’t like. And he doesn’t care if people disagree or agree with him. He’s gonna say or do whatever it is that he wants to do.”

Although Bilzerian is a more nuanced individual than Instagram might suggest, his life is exactly as Instagram portrays it – at least, it was until the recent cooling off.

Whether or not his intelligence makes this life more palatable (‘he has depth!’) or less (‘he should know better!’), is up for debate. The one thing that’s for certain is that he really won’t care either way.

Money, money, money

Maybe the greatest controversy around Bilzerian is the source of his wealth. Many speculate the money comes from his father, Paul Bilzerian, a former corporate raider who has been fighting a $62m civil judgment for securities fraud since 1993. Paul maintains his innocence, and has only repaid a fraction of the fine.

From a 2014 Wall Street Journal profile: “Mr Bilzerian, 64 years old and his bushy moustache turned white, says he fought to avoid paying because he was wrongly punished. He declines to detail how he worked to protect his money. ‘That wasn’t easy, let me just say that,’ he says.”

How much of Bilzerian’s money was once his father’s? And how much rightfully belongs to the US government?

None, insists Bilzerian Junior. His story has remained consistent: there was a trust fund, but Dan shunned it, and won his fortune at the poker table. The trust fund still came in handy, as the rumours of its existence gave him access to high-stakes games. “All the people want to play with a guy who just inherited a bunch of money; but who’s going to want to play with a guy that’s just won a bunch of money?”

He left the trust fund story unchallenged, even encouraged it; partly for profit, partly out of indifference. “For a long time, I didn’t argue it, didn’t debate it, didn’t care. And I still don’t give a fuck! I don’t care if people think my dad gave me my money; I couldn’t care less.”

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He’s chuckling now, at the trust fund rumours, or his own indifference to them, or the idea people may believe he isn’t indifferent. “I have nothing to prove, I don’t give a shit. I’d be in the same spot if he did give me [the money]. What the fuck does it matter? I don’t care if I made it or he gave it to me. It would have been a lot easier if he gave it to me. But I won’t argue if somebody doesn’t believe it.”

He ascribes the scepticism over his fortune to a mixture of envy and lack of imagination. “It’s the same with paying for girls – everyone thinks there’s no way I can get this much pussy without paying for it. They just don’t want to believe it because they know they couldn’t. It’s a fucking strike to their ego.

“One thing I learnt about poker, there are life parallels to it. If a person bluffs a lot in poker, he just thinks everyone else is bluffing more often. People equate things to how they live.”

Paul Bilzerian now resides on the Caribbean island of St Kitts. He blames the decades-long battle with the court for devastating his family. Another GQ article relates how Paul drove a ten-year-old Dan to school, only to inform him that Dad was going to prison for fraud.

“I talk to him a little bit, not a tonne,” says Dan when I ask about his relationship with his father. “Maybe once in awhile.”

Although he frequents the Caribbean, Dan hasn’t visited St Kitts in “seven, eight years I think – maybe even longer.”

Not even to see his father? “You know, me and Pops don’t have a lot in common. Got a little different lifestyles.”

What does Paul think about the Instagram? “He hasn’t really interfered. Not that he could have. From the time I went off to the military I’ve been on my own, so I never really had to ask permission or care what they thought. I guess if I had a trust fund I’d have to care a little bit more!” And he starts laughing again.

Does the opprobrium his antics attract surprise him? Compared to the likes of bankers and politicians, his behaviour is relatively harmless; while Dan squanders money like a champion, at least he only ever appears to squander his own.

“That’s what hedge funds are set up to do, right? Basically just take big risks with other guys’ money, and if they win then great, they take a piece of it, and if they don’t they shut the hedge fund down and start a new one. That to me would be detrimental. But you know, people are going to love you, people are going to hate you. When you’re in the public eye, it’s just something that comes with the territory.”

Dan Bilzerian photographed by Dustin Snipes for Square Mile magazine

Cartoon networks

Although he may be indifferent to what stories people believe about him, Bilzerian has recently taken steps to share his own. Blitz TV documents the life and times of Dan Bilzerian as a series of short cartoons. One cartoon depicts the heart attacks, another a teenage Dan losing his virginity to a prostitute, a third the evening his mad friend bought a pair of Tiger sharks, which he kept in a swimming pool filled with salt. In four minutes you get more sex, swearing and drug consumption than the average Scorsese film.

Technically the cartoons are very accomplished: Bilzerian hired Dreamworks animators, and estimates he spent “a couple of million bucks” on the project. “I thought it would be kind of a cool way to document some of the stories. Because at the end of the day, that’s some of the coolest stuff that I’ve got: so many experiences and stories that I have from this crazy fucking ride.”

The ride will also be recounted in a planned book, written with bestselling author Neil Strauss – best known for his study of pickup artists, The Game. It’s Bilzerian’s second attempt to commit his life to paper.

“I had a whole book written but I didn’t like it.” The tone of the first ghostwriter was too boastful, too short on self-deprecation. As Bilzerian notes: “Everybody knows I have money, everybody knows I fuck a tonne of girls, so I don’t need to tell this stuff in a braggy tone. The facts are braggy enough as it is.”

Dan Bilzerian, scrapping his book for being overly bombastic. Not many would imagine that.

“A lot of people who don’t know me would have a lot of misconceptions, I’m sure.”

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As well as the forays into autobiography, Bilzerian nurtures a few business ideas. He wants to open a marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas when the drug’s recreational legalisation is complete (Nevada voted to legalise recreational marijuana in November 2016). “I just think it would be kinda fun to build a business, have a focus.” In marijuana? “It seems like the new fucking gold rush.”

There is also the very Bilzerian-esque move into private consultation: “I want to teach rich guys how to spend their money correctly, and teach them how to get laid. I see them squandering so much money.”

What about non-rich guys?

“Ah, fuck, they’ve got to fend for themselves. It’s like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean – I’ve got to be paid something, right?”

Oh yes, the Atlantic – Bilzerian told Larry King one of his remaining ambitions is to row across the ocean. It’s still on his mind, but he’s come to the conclusion that in order for him to do it, somebody needs to bet that he can’t. Three months at sea without the prospect of winning money, and the risk of losing it, simply isn’t enough motivation. “My ego’s not that big anymore. I don’t need to prove anything.”

We have so many fucking laws it’s just crazy. And part of that is from being overpopulated,

A recent attempt to keep busy was his 2016 presidential campaign – which saw a tour of nightclubs, $30 commemorative T-shirts and a poster depicting Candidate Bilzerian brandishing a minigun atop a giant tortoise. Of course it was a stunt, but then the world thought the same of another social media doyen, who launched his own campaign two weeks prior.

Bilzerian grins. “I always said, if Trump got elected and he didn’t fuck up, I actually have a chance of becoming president. I don’t think it’s good, but the fact it’s a chance is crazy.”

Would he want to be president?

“I actually would. I actually think that would be cool. I feel like I’d be one of the few people who couldn’t be bought or sold.”

What would his presidency look like?

“Just less laws across the board. I mean honestly, we have so many fucking laws it’s just crazy. And part of that is from being overpopulated, having too many people, too many fucking idiots running around, people feel like they need laws to protect them. But at the end of the day, I don’t feel like the laws make it that much safer.”

Dan Bilzerian photographed by Dustin Snipes for Square Mile magazine

So far, so GOP. But Bilzerian – who has described himself as “more of a constitutionalist libertarian” – has some policies that might actually find less support with the average Republican.

“I think you should legalise prostitution and drugs. There’s so much fucking money being wasted, and so many people being thrown in fucking cages. The reason why drugs are such a problem is because they’re illegal, and so you’ve got people killing each other – how many legal businesses going on do you have people mowing each other down in the street, and chopping off heads and shit? If you made it legal you can regulate it, you can tax it; you’re not throwing everybody in jail.

“Look, if people get hooked on drugs and want to kill themselves, I don’t give a shit. What the fuck do I care? If you want to kill yourself, kill yourself. There shouldn’t be laws against suicide. We’re overpopulated. This whole reverse Darwinism shit that we’re doing, saving people that don’t want to be saved seems crazy to me. We’ve got better stuff to do with our money and time.”

Whether this speech has you shaking your head or saluting is a decent measure of where you stand on the scale of Bilzerian fandom.

Trigger happy

Come sunset we drive into the desert to take some more photos. The noise of the engines is so extreme we have to wear headphones, through which Bilzerian plays a number of country tracks: ‘Red Dirt Road’ by Brooks & Dunn, and so on. He goes fast, then even faster, and on some of the sharper bumps the buggy catches air. Attempts to film the journey on my mobile push the boundaries of shaky cam. It’s both thrilling and a little terrifying, although I distract myself by imagining the obituaries were the buggy to flip – I mean, good luck topping that cause of death.

Bilzerian has nearly died more than most, with the heart attacks being the most famous brush with the Reaper. His recent pursuit of outdoor activities has also led to some near misses. Such as when he went skydiving solo, pulled the cord too late, and didn’t glide into the ground so much as plough. I’m glad he shares this anecdote after the drive.

He heads into the desert about once a fortnight, sometimes to visit the historic Pioneer Saloon, built in 1913 and still standing; occasionally to let off his guns.

Along with girls and gambling, guns are Bilzerian’s great love. Indeed while his enthusiasm for the former may have waned, his devotion to the latter remains unwavering. He enjoys showing us the gun room, locked behind a safe door, dozens of different firearms displayed on each wall: machine guns, pistols, assault rifles. Probably as many guns in one room as in most British cities. He laughs at the observation, only mildly exaggerated. “You guys aren’t allowed any fun shit.”

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When pressed for his favourite gun, he gazes around and eventually nominates the M60, beloved of John Rambo. It’s not the only piece of Hollywood memorabilia: when I note a long-barrelled pistol, Bilzerian reveals it’s the model used by Tom Cruise in Collateral.

Did he buy it at auction?

“Well, it’s not the exact same gun,” he says dryly. “I don’t think that they actually used live rounds in the movie.”

The gun worship endears him to millions of Americans, alienates millions of others, and will probably be incomprehensible to the majority of British readers. But then Bilzerian has never hidden who he is, or ever refrained from speaking his mind.

I’m big on honesty, I’m big on freedom – I feel like those are the two things most people are lacking

One of the few subjects upon which Bilzerian is reticent is his charity work. He’s hosted numerous poker games and parties for various causes, as well as donating large sums of money, but he prefers to publicise the yacht orgies and the private jets.

“I give a lot of money to charity but I don’t really like to talk about it or publish it – I just feel like it takes away from it. There are so many douchebags that do charity to be seen to be doing charity – part of this whole fucking PR thing that I’m so against.”

He holds virtue signalling in similar contempt to people on social media sharing “their fucking pictures with their girl: look at how happy we are! It’s just like, come on, bro, no-one wants to see that shit.”

Says the man who has amassed more than 35m followers across his social media accounts.

“I’m not posting a fucking love story, right? Nobody wants to see one dude posting how in love he is all the time. You’ve got those friends who are couples who post non-stop pictures of how happy they are – it’s like, OK, motherfucker, we get it.”

Does he have any particular quote or mantra by which he lives his life?

“I just have ideals. I’m big on honesty, I’m big on freedom – I feel like those are the two things most people are lacking. ’Cos there’s so much bullshit going on, and so many people are scared to tell the truth, or own who they are, or whatever. And so many times I find it’s pay now or pay later. If you’re just honest and upfront it might be slightly more uncomfortable but in the long run, most of the time it’s easier to be honest in the beginning.

“So many guys sell the dream, right? And I don’t know, that was just never my style.”

What does he value most in people?

“Probably honesty. It’s so rare.”

No limits

The outdoor photoshoot doesn’t take long. The light is dying, the wind approaching a gale. Bilzerian fires two guns off a hilltop. Poses in front of the buggy. Cracks a few jokes – he laughs a lot. And then we’re done.

We drive back through the desert and darkness, country singer Ronnie Dunn lamenting how he “crashed his first car/tore it all to pieces”, Las Vegas twinkling in the distance. There is something unavoidably ‘only in America’ about the experience, a sensation encapsulated by our driver, the ex-military man who made a fortune at the poker table and has never stopped trying to spend it. Bilzerian couldn’t happen in Britain. He’s too big, in every sense of the word. Big enough for people to look at him, and see what they want to see – be that monster or hero, fool or savant.

It would be amusing if a journey that could have met so many abrupt ends were to wind down into domesticity. Might children ever be part of Bilzerian’s future?

He doesn’t sound convinced. “I just feel I need to be done with all my craziness. I never say that anything’s impossible anymore, because if you had asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing today I would have told you this would be impossible.

“I never put anything at a zero percent. So many times there have been things in my life where people are like, there’s no chance he can do this. And one of the things that I’ve learnt is that there is always a chance. So yeah, anything’s possible.”

Looking at him, it’s hard to argue with that.

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