Halil was an Albanian from Macedonia. He became a Janissary and after joining a Janissary rebellion in Niš and leading one in 1720 in Vidin, he moved to the capital. He was known to have engaged in petty trade and crafts like working as a hammam attendant. He spent much of his time at meyhanes (Bar) of Galata. Halil was known as Horpeşteli Arnavut Halil after his place of birth and nationality but his Albanian compatriots called him Patrona (Vice Admiral).
For weeks after the revolt, the empire was in the hands of the insurgents. Patrona Halil rode with the new sultan to the Mosque of Eyub where the ceremony of girding Mahmud I with the Sword of Osman was performed; many of the chief officers were deposed and successors to them appointed at the dictation of the bold rebel who had served in the ranks of the Janissaries and who appeared before the sultan bare-legged and in his old uniform of a common soldier. A Greek butcher, named Yanaki, had formerly given credit to Patrona and had lent him money during the three days of the insurrection. Patrona showed his gratitude by compelling the Divan to make Yanaki Hospodar of Moldavia. Yanaki however never took charge of this office.