Have you ever heard of a player with such an amazing start entering the gambling world that he gains nearly instantaneous fame, only to lose so much that he becomes an outsider?
Is there really someone who had this kind of bad luck?
Of course there is, gambling has brought highs and lows to many people throughout the years, but one particular case tends to stand out more than the rest, and his name is Anargyros Karabourniotis, also known as Archie Karas.
From a young age Archie knew his life’s ambition would be to gamble. He never wanted to do anything else. Archie, a Greek immigrant, came from a poor family that never had anything. He knew early on that he didn’t want to live that life so he took steps to change his future. He wasn’t close to his father and they often found themselves at odds, which led to the start of Archie’s gambling career.
Archie, unlike most of the other gambling greats, has found himself in a rather precarious situation over the years and is now out of the gambling world he loved so much for good.
Archie Karas was born on November 1, 1950 in Antypata on the Greek island Kefalonia. He wasn’t born into a wealthy lifestyle, and had a rather rough upbringing. His mother didn’t work, and spent her time as a stay at home mom. She took care of Archie and his siblings while their father worked in construction
From the beginning, Archie and his father never saw eye to eye. This gave Archie an excuse to find things to do that would keep him outside the house and away from his father.
The family would often find themselves in dire straits where they would have to miss meals. This drove Archie to try to help the family and find ways to bring money in so that everyone could eat. His first attempt was to shoot marbles with the neighborhood kids and win their money. He was good at it and would usually come out on top. This is where he started honing his gambling skills.
In 1965, when Archie was 15 years old, the relationship between him and his father exploded. While working with his father on a construction job the two got into an argument that quickly escalated into violence when Archie’s father threw a shovel at his head.
This was enough for Archie; he wanted to get out of the house and out of Greece, so that’s what he did. He got a job on a ship as a waiter, where he worked for the next two years until he decided to jump ship on a trip to Portland, Oregon.
Once Archie was in the United States he decided he wanted to stay. He hitchhiked from Portland all the way down the coast to LA where he got a job as a waiter and started his gambling career in the bowling alley next door to his job.
His gambling really took hold once he had settled in the United States. Archie found himself at the bowling alley after work with his coworkers on a regular basis. The bowling alley had a back room that housed pool tables, and some poker tables.
Archie, having just arrived off the boat, spoke very little English and had never played either of these games before. It didn’t take long for him to catch on and develop amazing skill at both games. By the time he was 19 years old, Archie swore he would never have a real job again.
He would hone his skills in both pool and poker in the back room at the bowling alley before venturing out into the world of casino gambling.
One of his better known rises and falls took place in 1990 when Archie had accumulated around two million dollars. He ended up losing all but $50 of this money within the next two years. He decided to take his remaining $50 and head to Vegas to see if a change in scenery would help.
This is where “The Run” that Archie is so well known for starts. This decision to go to Vegas is what has made him a legend in the gambling world. Even with all of the troubles yet to come he’ll always be known for “The Run”.
Upon his arrival in Vegas Archie knew that the $50 dollars he had in his pocket wasn’t going to get him very far, and would need to find someone who was willing to help. Shortly after he arrived he met a friend who was willing to loan him $10,000 to get started.
Archie took the money and started hitting the tables. Within a couple of hours he’d already doubled his money at the Razz tables, and by the time Archie got up from the table he was able to pay back the friend who lent him the $10,000 plus give him a bonus $10,000 for taking a chance on him. After all of that he still had $10,000 for himself. Not many people can say that they borrowed $10,000 and tripled it in one night.
Now that he had his own money he went out looking for some pool games that would be lucrative. During his scouting he heard a local businessman was looking to start a game. Archie agreed to play a $5,000 dollar game of 9 ball. These two men would play each other on a regular basis for the next two and half months in a marathon pool game that was only ever stopped for sleep and unavoidable business meetings.
The two continued to raise the wager per game with the highest bet on a single game being $40,000. Archie estimated that he won a total of around $1.1 million dollars while playing this extended game of pool. The game stopped when Archie saw signs that his opponent was on a winning streak and he challenged him to a different game; poker.
Archie was never fazed by how much money he lost, which showed his continued lack of caring when he challenged the businessman to a game of poker. The businessman had been a very skilled pool player but poker was his game. In fact he was already known as a world champion in the poker world. These facts didn’t sway Archie at all; he just continued to raise the stakes.
The stakes at the poker game got to the high of $3 million dollars before the businessman walked away. Once the businessman left, another world class poker player named Stu Ungar decided to get in on the action.
This was not a good decision for Ungar as he ended up on the wrong end of the game and lost $1.2 million to Archie. Others had been watching and wanted to try their hand against this relatively unknown player. The next in line was Chip Reese, who didn’t fare any better as he went on to lose over $2 million dollars to Archie during his time playing.
The next two that would make an attempt to bring down Archie were Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss. They both were legends and thought to be among the greatest to ever play the game. However, not even these two greats could put an end to Archie’s hot streak as they both lost as well. The last to go up against him was Puggy Pearson, who also lost. All three lost undisclosed amounts of money in their attempts.
When his poker run finally came to an end Archie had won an amazing $17 million dollars all together. Like many poker players Archie just couldn’t stop. He had to keep trying his luck. He went to the craps table which was the start of the downward spiral of “The Run”.
He had always said that craps was where he could win a million dollars with one roll of the dice. Since he had already beat the best at the poker table he wanted to change lanes so he headed over to the Horseshoe casino where they would allow him to make the larger bets. In the past he had made millions playing at the Horseshoe. He’s even said to have had all of the Horseshoe’s $5,000 chips in his possession at one time.
This trip to the casino would not work out the same way though. He started his downfall with an $11 million dollar loss at the craps table. He then lost a million in another poker game against Chip Reese. But his biggest loss came when he lost $17 million playing baccarat. After this epic loss, Archie ran. He said he needed a breather and took a short trip back to his home land of Greece.
When he came back from his trip his first stop was the Horseshoe to try to get his hot streak going again, however this just wasn’t in the cards for him. He had $12 million left and lost all but one million at the craps table. Instead of walking away he decided to challenge Johnny Chan to a one million dollar freeze out match, which to his credit he won.
Thinking he was back on top he again made the wrong decision and went back to the craps and baccarat tables where he lost it all. So from the start of his run when he came to Vegas with just $50 dollars in his pocket to the last bit of money he lost to the tables, Archie had won and lost close to $40 million dollars. It’s said that the only thing he bought out of the $40 million was a car and the rest was given back to the casino.
This significant loss didn’t cause Archie to shy away from the world of gambling. On the contrary, he’s gone on to win six gold bracelets in the WSOP.
His life over recent years has changed considerably though.
Archie Karas Missteps
Upon the end of his massive winning streak now known as “The Run” in the gambling world, many were shocked to find out some of Archie’s secrets. A newspaper from Las Vegas revealed that Archie had been arrested several times before and after his legendary winning streak.
The first arrest came in 1988 when he was arrested for marking cards at a Reno casino while playing blackjack. In 1992 he was arrested in Laughlin for a different cheating offense and four years later was arrested again. In 1996 and again in 2007 he was arrested in Las Vegas for cheating at card games.
All of these arrests were lowered to misdemeanor offenses after Archie plead guilty. After his arrest in 2007 Archie had found himself in a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of credit card debt which led him to file for bankruptcy.
Up until this point Archie still had the ability to go into a casino and play if he wanted to but in 2013 he made another bad choice that would affect the rest of his life.
In September of 2013 Archie was arrested again for cheating and defrauding a casino in California. The casino had him on camera marking cards as he sat and played blackjack. He was convicted and ordered to serve 3 years on probation. This, however, wasn’t the worst of the punishment. Because of this arrest, Archie was placed on the Nevada Gaming Control Boards blacklist. He’s no longer allowed to be in or around a gambling establishment at all.
The once great Archie Karas is now just a gambler who has to search high and low to find a game where he can play while not breaking any more laws.
Legacy of Archie Karas
Although Archie Karas is currently living in Las Vegas, with his gambling ban he’s no longer able to walk into a casino and play the games he loved so much. He’s known for his amazing run that netted him close to $40 million dollars, but lost it all in such a short period of time.
He’s still close to his remaining family members, even bringing his mother over for an extended amount of time during his hot streak. He was a great poker player and a great person. His story has even made it to the entertainment industry where he was featured in documentaries for the E! Network and in books and magazines such as Cigar Aficionado.
Archie is the perfect example of the rags to riches story that we all love to hear. His story comes with a drastic twist, however. Regardless of how much he won, he was never satisfied. It’s sad but true for so many who find themselves in his position. You can ask most professional gamblers; it isn’t all about the money, it’s about the game and the action too.
That’s how Archie was. He couldn’t care less about the money; he was more interested in the action going on around him and in the game he was playing.