Archie Karas: The Amazing Greek Gambler

Anargyros Karabourniotis better known as Archie Karas is one of the best poker playing gamblers that you’ll ever encounter. He’s best known for “The Run,” which was the longest and most profitable winning streak ever to be documented in casino gambling history.

He won over $40 million dollars over the course of two and a half years which is an incredible accomplishment.

Archie is a high-roller at heart and he’s always had a fearless approach to gambling and a pure confidence that just can never seem to be shaken. Archie once said,

“I’ve gambled more money than anyone in the history of the planet.
What most gamblers make in their whole life, I gamble in one roll of the dice. Unless the casinos decide to raise their limits after I’m gone, I don’t think anyone will ever gamble more than I have. I’m the biggest ever.”

Where It All Started

Archie was born in 1951 on the small island of Cefalonia, Greece which is located in the Ionion Sea between Italy and Greece. Archie’s father was a carpenter who could build houses from the ground up but despite being very talented, he still didn’t make a lot of money.

The family was incredibly poor to the point where eating dinner every night wasn’t always a guarantee. Archie would play marbles with his friends, taking every ounce of money he earned to buy food for his family.

Archie loved his family but never had a good relationship with his father. Archie’s father consistently took his frustration and anger out on him but in hopes to strengthen their relationship, Archie volunteered to help him build houses during the summers.

When he was only fifteen years old, they had an argument while working together which lead to his father angrily throwing a shovel at him, nearly crushing his skull.

That was the last straw for Archie; he packed up his belongings and ran away, never to see his father again. To make money, he worked as a waiter on a ship that was heading to America: Portland, Oregon to be exact.

Moving on to a Life of Gambling

Archie finally made it to America nearly a month after the ship set sail; he was determined to find a job and make a better life for himself in the States. Portland, Oregon wasn’t as developed as it is today and there weren’t many job opportunities, so Archie headed west until he reached the booming city of Los Angeles.

He quickly found a job bussing tables at a small restaurant that was connected to a bowling alley and a pool hall. He slowly taught himself the English language through talking to customers and now he can fluently speak Greek, English, and even Spanish.

When Archie wasn’t working, he headed over to the pool hall to use his skills to hustle people out of their money.

All things gambling seem to come natural to Archie, as he was quickly able to switch over to playing poker with ease.

Archie was so naturally talented at the game that he actually was able to earn over $2 million in just a matter of months. At the end of that same year, he lost all but $50 of that money playing high stakes poker.

Most people would have been discouraged at this point, but Archie took it as a sign to move to Las Vegas and take on new challenges.

The Start of a Lucky Streak

While Archie was visiting The Mirage Hotel and Casino, he ran into an old friend of his who happened to be very wealthy. Since his friend had seen how successful and talented Archie was back in Los Angeles, he agreed to loan him $10,000 to gamble with.

It didn’t take long for Archie to turn the initial $10,000 into $30,000 by playing $200/$400 limit Razz. Karas gave $20,000 back to his friend, leaving himself with $10,000 to spare. Archie has had many financial backers over the course of his career, as he had a raw talent that many gamblers longed for.

The gentleman in this next story is named Mr. X because Archie refused to reveal his name for fear of what it might do to his reputation. All we know is that Mr. X is extremely wealthy and was willing to play pool against Archie for very high stakes.

They started playing pool at $10,000 a game and quickly started raising the stakes to $40,000 a game.

By the end of their session, Archie walked away with $1.2 million.

Mr. X pleaded for a second chance with him and so they moved their competition to Binion’s Horseshoe, where Archie won an addition $3 million dollars from him.

Archie had earned quite a reputation for himself in the world of gambling and soon many famous gamblers from all over the world were travelling to compete against him. Archie welcomed all competitors, as he truly believed he was unbeatable.

Stu Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker champion, was one of the first big name legends to compete against Archie at a friendly game of Heads-up Razz. By the end of the tournament, Archie walked away with over half a million dollars. Desperate for another try, Stu challenged Archie to a 7-card stud game, where Archie won an additional $700,000.

Archie continued to beat out a plethora of other famous players including Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Johnny Chan, and Puggy Pearson. Despite having all the odds against him, in just a matter of six months, Archie was able to turn his initial $50 investment into $17 million through playing a plethora of poker and pool games.

Due to his unbeatable reputation, Archie found it difficult to find anyone who was willing to compete against him at the stakes that he wanted, so he decided to switch his talents over to the crap tables. Archie’s most memorable moment when it comes to dice is when he bet the maximum of $200,000 on the 4 and 10 for 1 to 4.6 odds at the Binion Casino.

In just two rolls, Archie was up $920,000, forcing the casino to immediately lower the limit. By the end of his seemingly unstoppable winning streak of two and a half years, Archie had accumulated over $40 million.

How It All Came Crashing Down

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and the same is true when it comes to Archie’s lucky streak. In just a little over three weeks, Archie lost everything. It all started when he lost $11 million playing craps.

He tried to switch over to baccarat but had no idea what he was doing and lost another $17 million. Players such as Chip Reese and Johnny Chan challenged him to various poker competitions where they seemingly were able to win back a good chunk of the money he had previously won from them.

Before Archie knew it, his entire bankroll of $40 million dollars was gone.

In an attempt to move on from his losses Archie says this:

“I feel lucky to have such a supportive family, as I realize for many others, who might have gone through the ups and downs in life as I have, the family ties might evaporate.
Even though I went to the mountaintop and back, losing a fortune, my family is still there for me.”

Archie constantly tells his fans that it’s his family’s moral support that has helped him overcome all of the times he was left broke and badly beaten.

Today, Archie Karas lives in Las Vegas, Nevada but makes it a point to visit Greece every year to see his mother, two sisters, and his older brother: all of whom he loves dearly. When Archie isn’t visiting his family in Greece, he continues to play high stakes poker games and compete in the World Series of Poker where he finds some success.

In total, Archie has cashed in at the World Series of Poker seven times with his biggest accomplishment being when he took fifth in the 2009 WSOP $10,000 World Championship No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw for $53,783.

Looking Up to Chip Reese

Chip Reese was an amazing poker player who Archie had the privilege of competing against hundreds of times during his career. Although no one would have considered the pair friends, they did have a mutual respect for each other that was quite admirable.

When Chip passed away in December of 2007, Archie made a special point to attend the funeral and show his respects to Chip and his family. Unlike other famous gamblers there, Archie actually knew several of Chip’s family members and they were very happy to see him once more.

Archie’s Arrest

In September of 2013, police rushed to Archie Karas’ lovely Las Vegas home, arresting him on suspicion of cheating at blackjack at Barona Casino in eastern San Diego where he had recently won $6,000.

Surveillance cameras showed Archie marking his cards with dye inserted into a hollowed-out gambling chip that he would discreetly swipe over the cards he wanted marked. He would use the marks on the cards to determine what move to make next, giving him a clear, unfair advantage.

When the police raided Archie’s home, they found the hollowed-out casino chips, confirming their previous allegations.

Archie pleaded guilty to his charges and less than a year later, he was sentenced to three years of probation and was forced to pay $6,800 in fines. Karl Bennison, Enforcement Chief, said this in a statement following the arrests,

“The Nevada Gaming Control Board has investigated Karas on multiple occasions resulting in four arrests. Karas has been a threat to the gaming industry in many jurisdictions.”