Archie Karas is a Greek-American gambler, high roller, poker player, and pool shark famous for the largest and longest documented winning streak in gambling history simply known as The Run when he turned $50 in December 1992 into more than $40 million by the beginning of 1995, only to lose it all later that year. He is considered by many to be the greatest gambler of all time and has often been compared to Nick the Greek, another high stakes gambler. Karas himself claims to have gambled with more money than anyone else in history. Karas was arrested on September 24, 2013 after being caught marking cards at a San Diego casino’s blackjack table by the Barona Gaming Commission. He was arrested at his Las Vegas home and will be extradited to San Diego to face charges of burglary, winning by fraudulent means and cheating.
Karas drove to Vegas with $50 in his wallet. His initial run lasted for six months where he turned $50 into $17 million playing poker and pool. After arriving at the Binion’s Horseshoe, he started gambling and went on a hot streak. Karas recognized a fellow poker player from the Los Angeles scene and convinced him to loan him $10,000, which Archie quickly turned into $30,000 playing $200/$400 limit Razz. Karas returned $20,000 to his backer, who was more than content.
With a little over $10,000 in his pocket, Karas began looking for pool action. He found a wealthy and respected poker and pool player, Karas refused to reveal the name of his opponent for the sake of his opponent’s reputation; he simply referred to him as “Mr. X”. They started playing pool at $10,000 a game. After Karas won several hundred thousand dollars, they raised the stakes to $40,000 a game. Many gamblers and professional poker players watched Archie play with stakes never seen before. Karas ended up winning $1,200,000. He then played Mr. X in poker and won an additional $3,000,000 from him. Karas was willing to gamble everything he made and continued to raise the stakes to a level few dared to play at.
With a bankroll of $4 million, Karas gambled his bankroll up to $7 million after spending only three months in Vegas. By now many poker players had heard of Mr. X’s loss to Archie. Only the best players dared to challenge him. Karas sat at the Binion’s Horseshoe’s poker table with 5 of his 7 million dollars in front of him waiting for any players willing to play for such stakes.
The first challenger was Stu Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker champion widely regarded as the greatest Texas Hold’em and gin rummy player of all time. Stu was backed by Lyle Berman, another professional poker player and business executive who co-founded Grand Casinos. Karas first beat Stu for $500,000 playing heads-up Razz. Ungar then attempted to play him in 7-card stud, which cost him another $700,000. The next player was Chip Reese, widely regarded as the greatest cash game player. Reese claims that Karas beat him for more money than anyone else he ever played. After 25 games, Reese was down $2,022,000 playing $8,000/$16,000 limit.
Karas continued to beat many top players, from Doyle Brunson to Puggy Pearson to Johnny Moss. Many top players would not play him simply because his stakes were too high. The only player to beat Karas during his run was Johnny Chan, who beat him for $900,000 after losing to Karas the first two games. By the end of his six-month-long winning streak, Karas had amassed more than $17 million.
The poker action for Karas had mostly dried up due to his reputation and stakes. He turned to dice rolling for $100,000 on one roll. He said that he could quickly win $3 million on dice, while it would take days to weeks with poker. He said that “With each play I was making million-dollar decisions, I would have played even higher if they’d let me.”
Transporting money became a hassle for Karas as he was moving several millions of dollars in his car every day. He carried a gun with him at all times and would often have his brother and casino security guards escort him. At one point, Karas had won all of the Binion’s casino’s $5000 chips, which were the highest denomination of chips at the time. By the end of his winning streak he had won a fortune of just over $40 million.