Kenny Rogers would never lie to you. You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
If you’re Archie Karas, you also gotta know when to mark ’em.
How this story escaped me, I have no idea. The famed gambler accused of cheating a San Diego blackjack table out of $8,000 was arraigned in court on Wednesday on charges of burglary, winning by fraudulent means and cheating. If convicted, Karas faces up to three years in prison.
Karas, who lives in Las Vegas, was playing blackjack at the Barona Casino here in San Diego last July and took about $8,000 off the house. During a review of surveillance footage, Karas appeared to be marking the cards with small smudges of dye on the aces, kings and queens. Karas was extradited back here to San Diego in September.
Karas gained notoriety for riding out one of the hottest streaks the gambling world has ever seen. In the early 1990s, Karas turned 50 bucks into over $40 million in a little over two years. Total rags-to-riches story for this guy. A kid born into poverty in Greece before migrating to America to work as a waiter. His full name is Anargyros Karabourniotis and he discovered pool and poker while working in a restaurant in Los Angeles and he went from broke to millionaire and back several times playing high stakes games of poker and blackjack.
Down on his luck in December of 1992 after having lost all his money, Karas drove to Las Vegas with $50 in his pocket. Playing poker and pool, Karas slowly began to build his bankroll and the more he won the higher he kept raising the stakes. Eventually he was playing pool for as much as $40,000 per game. (I freak out when I drop $100 on a hand.) In poker, he took more than a million dollars in one session from Stu Ungar, known as one of the best Texas Hold ’em players in the world.Ungar’s also quite the quotable player, laying down this gem as noted by PartyPoker on Twitter. Karas then took Chip Reese, another top poker pro, for over two million dollars in 25 games.
Due to his high stakes and high success, Karas’ poker scene dried up for a lack of willing opponents. Not shocking. I wouldn’t sit down with this dude. So he turned to craps and was playing at the Horseshoe Casino for $100,000 per roll. Yes, you read that right. $100K/roll.
Over the course of two and half years, Karas piled up winnings of over $40 million and in a span of just three weeks it was gone. His dice went cold and he blew $11 million on a craps bender. He switched to baccarat and quickly lost $17 million. After taking a brief break he returned to the Horseshoe and continued to lose and eventually lost every penny.
So, essentially a $28 million bender. I lost $500 on a bender once. I was sad.
One of the greatest gamblers in history may end up going down as one of the biggest cheats. I just love that San Diego played a small part in this wild story.