Archie Karas / Anargyros Karabourniotis
Archie Karas famous for the largest and longest documented winning streak in casino gambling history simply known as The Run.
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 Mirage, 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 relocated to Binion’s Horseshoe and played Mr. X in poker where Karas 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 per roll and was allowed to make pass line and come bets of up to $300,000 with no odds. At one point, Karas was allowed to bet a maximum of $200,000 on the 4 and 10 for 1 to 4.6 odds. With two rolls Karas won $920,000, then Jack Binion immediately lowered the limit back to $100,000. 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 over $40 million
Archie was an action junkie. He has said many times that it may take him 24 hours to win a million dollars at the poker table, while he can do the same with one roll of the dice at the craps table. At the poker table he had beaten the very best, and the rest didn’t have enough money to hold his interest.
Karas currently resides in Las Vegas. His family resides in Greece. Pete, his older brother, owns a restaurant. His older sister, Helen, is a homemaker, and his youngest sister, Dionysia, is a school teacher. Karas stays in touch with his family by phone, and tries to travel back to Greece at least once per year. He brought his mother, Mariana, to Las Vegas for six-month visits when he was on his winning streak.
Karas’s story was documented in Cigar Aficionado by American author Michael Konik and also was featured in an E! documentary special along with Stu Ungar called THS Investigates: Vegas Winners & Losers. Konik also wrote an article about Karas which was featured in a book about Las Vegas gamblers called The Man With the $100,000 Breasts.
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.