Archie Karas, the legendary gambler and poker player, who in the 1990s went on the most famous winning and losing streak in gambling history, has avoided jail after being found guilty of cheating at a San Diego casino, a charge that carries a potential three-year sentence.
Karas was arrested at his home in July 2013 after the Nevada Gaming Control Board examined surveillance footage taken from the Barona Casino in San Diego, that appeared to show him marking cards at one of the casino’s blackjack tables.
He was well-known to the Control Board, having been arrested by them four times since 1988 for cheating at blackjack.
During a search of his house, investigators found hollowed out chips which the prosecution alleged had been used to store ink for the purposes of card-marking.
Karas, who had already spent 73 days in jail before being released on bail, was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $6,800 in restitution to the casino, the amount he was believed to have won while cheating.
Karas’ legendary winning streak began sometime in 1993, when the former cruise ship waiter, whose real name Â is Anargyros Karabourniotis, arrived in Las Vegas with nothing but $50 to his name. He began playing poker and started winning, and was soon able to convince a friend to lend him $10,000 so that he could up the stakes. Karas quickly turned his friend’s investment into $30,000 and paid him back $20,000.
Next, Karas bumped into a well-known pool and poker player, whom he has always refused to name, although it’s widely believed to have been Bobby Baldwin, a former WSOP Champion and world-class pool player. The two men began playing for $10,000, with the stakes increasing over a period of two months, until Karas was up $1.2 million. They then turned to poker, and Karas won $3 million more.
Now flushed with confidence, Karas was willing to take on any player for any stakes and the word spread. His next opponents read like a Who’s Who of the best players of the nineties, and he ploughed through them all: Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, and Doyle Brunson, to name but a few. Reese once said, in fact, that he never lost more money to anyone than he did to Karas.
By the time the poker action dried up, Karas was up $17 million and he hit the craps tables at Binions, betting $100,000 per hand. By the time he was done, he had cleared a staggering $40 million. His winning streak, which was fully documented and later came to be known in gambling folklore simply as “The Run,” had lasted 2 1/2 years.
All good things must come to an end, of course, especially gambling streaks. Karas lost most of the money within three weeks and wound up broke soon after. His appearance in court last week is a testament to how far the mighty can fall.
Although avoiding any additional time was perhaps his luckiest break yet.