Casino Legends: The Rise and Fall of Archie Karas

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Archie Karas is widely credited with the longest and most profitable winning streak of all time. His his 3-year onslaught of Las Vegas in the early 90’s is the stuff of legends.

The Run

The whole thing seems like something out of some gambler’s fairy tale book. In 1993, Archie Karas arrived in Vegas with $50 in his pocket. Playing poker and shooting pool for 3 months, always for the highest stakes he could afford, Karas turned his original $50 into $7,000,000. The hot streak was, however, just beginning.

With his 7 million, Karas camped-out at a poker table at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, and welcomed all comers who would or could play him at the astronomical stakes he insisted on. Some of the best poker players in the world, Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese, among others, took Karas up on his challenge—and all lost. Karas’s bankroll swelled to 17 million. When it became apparent that no one was willing to give him any more poker action, Karas hit the craps tables.

Karas loved the fast-paced action inherent in shooting craps. Always pressing the house limit with bets of 100,000 per roll, millions exchanged hands in a single session. To say Karas was hot is an understatement. When the smoke cleared in mid-1995, Karas was sitting on more than 40 million dollars.

You Got to Know When to Fold Em

40 million in a little over 2 years; the gambling gods just don’t allow that to happen. So, Karras started to lose, and lose big. He lost 11 million at the dice table. He went back to poker, and promptly lost another 2 million. Binion’s, in a typically savvy move, allowed Karras to set his own limit, and Karas lost another 11 million shooting craps and playing baccarat. By the end of 1995, Karas had lost it all.

The Bigger They Are…

Although he claimed that the money meant nothing to him; that he gambled only for the action and excitement, Karas, allegedly, will stop at nothing to win. In September 2013, Karas was arrested in his Las Vegas home on charges that he cheated while playing blackjack in California. The casino claims that it has video of Karas using a hollowed-out gambling chip to mark the high cards with little smudges of ink. He was charged with burglary, winning by fraudulent means and cheating. He faces up to 3 years in prison.

It’s hard for the average player to conceive of winning, and then losing, 40 million dollars in less than 3 years. Archie Karas experienced that. His legendary streak, and subsequent fall, only go to show the truth of the adage, “the worm will turn.”