Beat the Casino - Is Archie Karas the Greatest Gambler in Las Vegas?

Archie Karas was born Anargyros Karabourniotis on a poor rocky island of Greece. Life was hard on the island, and as a kid, he shoot marbles so he could eat for the day. When he was 15, he figured an altercation with his father that had him nearly hit by a shovel. That was all the reason he waited to escape the island's deplorable conditions. He found work in a freighter that gave him 60 dollar monthly salary, and for two years Archie sailed the seas. When the freighter docked at Portland, Oregon, Archie jumped out of the ship. Not yet a full adult and knowing nothing of the American language, Archie helped himself in the land of opportunities.

Archie eventually made it to Los Angeles and ended up as a waiter in a restaurant. Next to the restaurant was a pool hall, and Archie would play pool in between breaks. Archie quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and in no time he decided there was more money in hustling than in waiting in the restaurant. What Archie saw in t he pool hall were a dozen or so milking cows that would insure his survival forever. He didn't need the job anymore.

Archie's first target was the rich restaurant owner, and in their ensuing pool matches Archie had cleared a whooping 2 million dollars from him. Not bad for a young stowaway. At the very start of the games, Archie showed a different kind of style his opponents were not ready to handle, his fearlessness in a high limit gamble. Archie the gambler extraordinaire was born.

Archie prowled in the pool hall for a time or so, taking down the richest and the best the pool hall could offer, and in no time the pool hall dried up on him. No one could match up Archie's iron instinct to win. Archie decided to switch hunting ground, this time in the more lucrative card room at the back of the pool hall. Archie quickly secured his reputation as the best poker player in town. Archie played with the top poker players there was, and on his own style; at the highest limit possible. There begun Archie's roller coaster ride to poverty and fortune. He either wins big or loses big, nothing in between. One day he was a millionaire, the next day he was a pauper. Recalls Archie: "I've been a millionaire over 50 times and dead broke more than I can count, probably 1,000 times in my life. But I sleep the same whether I have ten or ten million dollars in my pocket".

In December 1992, Archie Karas had lost nearly 2 million dollars at high stakes card games at the legal casinos in the Los Angeles area. For the nth times he was broke again. But there was no loss big enough to slow him down. While most gambler might have cringed down to such loses, it only fueled Archie's thirst for a bigger win. For a thousand times Archie might have lost everything but one thing, his nasty habit of winning it all again.

Archie reevaluated his situation and decided it was time to bring the ride to the next level, where the stakes are higher, in Las Vegas. With only 50 dollars in his pocket and a ton of willpower, Archie rolled to Sin City. There he found a poker tournament on progress; and on the sides were poker games at 200 /400 dollar betting spread. A friend back in L.A. loaned Archie 10,000 dollars, and that was all he needed.

A few hours later Archie walked away with a winning that tripled his bankroll. He paid his loan plus the profit, and he is now on his own. For the nth times Archie had tasted Las Vegas free money again. Little did he know that he was to become a part of Las Vegas colorful history. He had just started a winning streak of an epic proportion that was unprecedented in Las Vegas history. The incredible streak would later be known as "The Run".

Now with a bankroll of his own, Archie started taking on the top poker players Las Vegas could offer. For a high stake one on one poker match, Archie faced them all: world champions, hall of famers, top earners, bracelet winners - anyone who got the cash and the balls. He was fearless. For the first time Las Vegas had witnessed how poker is played with a class of the highest level.

When the dust cleared Archie had floored 40 of the world's greatest poker players of the time. Among his casualties were David "Chip" Reese, Stu "The Kid" Ungar, Puggy Pearson, and Johnny Chan. Only Doyle Brunson had escaped unscathed refusing to play in high stakes. All in all Archie cleared a total of 17 million dollars in the poker tables. Since then no one dared to stand on his way. His claim as the world's uncrowned greatest poker player went uncontested.

The poker tables finally dried up on Archie. With an expanding bankroll catching up on his willpower, it became harder to find a player of his caliber. Nobody in the line up anymore had both the cash and the balls as he had. That was when Archie's attention turned to craps. Archie knew he was taking the worst of it with the dice, but it was the only way he could feed his insatiable quest to win it all.

Archie brought to the crap tables the same formidable style he was known for in the poker rooms; betting the limit the casinos would allow. At 100,000 dollars a roll, money was won or lost at a dizzying rate. Until Archie came, no one yet in Las Vegas history had laid such a huge bet on its tables. Archie was the biggest ever.

Archie Karas beat the casinos one by one as if it were giving away free money. He was unstoppable. And one by one the casinos closed their tables on him. They just couldn't bear the millions Archie was taking from them. Their mathematical edge is no match against Archie's incredible luck. Only Binion's casino was courageous enough to refuse to surrender against Archie's fantastic winning streak. When the clouds cleared, Archie had added 23 million dollars more to his bankroll. Says Archie: "I would have won more if they only let me raise the limits."

Such a huge winning would have been enough for most gamblers to retreat to his comfort zone. With 40 million in the pocket it was supposed to be time to look for an island and be surrounded by goodies money could buy. But not Archie. He does not know how to stop. There is no big win that is big enough for him. An adrenaline filled kind of life is his comfort zone.

Archie returned to the tables and played with the same passion he was known for. But this time it was different. The big money that used to come rolling before him when he starts shooting receded. The burning dice he was used to shooting had frozen. The crap table was reasserting its edge; it was staging a comeback. "The Run" was over.

Loses after loses ensued. Archie had faced many losses before, but this time was different; it was bottomless. And it was in bulk. Archie hung on hoping that somehow the event would turn his way. It did not. At one session Archie lose 11 million dollars, also unprecedented in Las Vegas history. Archie holds the title as the biggest loser in Las Vegas in a single session. Did he stop? No. Archie is made up of different kind of stuff. He doesn't care about money so he has no fear if he loses it all. It's all or nothing.

When the smoke cleared, it was nothing for Archie Karas. He lost all his millions in the same style that he won it. His defiance to retract against the casino's gathering strength made him paid a dear price. He hit the bottom, and was unable to resurface again. Archie lives again the kind of life as he started; nothing. Rumor has it that he is sleeping in the parking lots, probably thinking of the next "run". When you visit Las Vegas, you might bump with Archie on the ways. Thumbs up for Archie.