Famous Players: Archie Karas. The Longest Winning Streak in Gambling?

Posted on June 1st, 2012

One of the things that we find fascinating about the world of casinos and gambling, are the characters that crop up from time to time. Some of the more famous players have made history following their passion.

And one such famous player is Archie Karas (born Anargyros Karabourniotis).

Archie KarasThis Greek-American high roller, poker whale, and pool shark is known for the largest and longest (recorded) winning streak in gambling history- it even has its own name: The Run.

Karas turned $50 in December 1992 to over $40 million by 1995, only to blow it all later that year. The greatest gambler of all time? Possibly. He certainly has the credentials and is often pidgeon-holed with Nick the Greek, another gambling whale.

Karas claims to have bet more money than anyone else in history.

He started off making money on pool in his spare time before he ended up in L.A. where he would bet a bankroll of up to $2,000,000 in high stakes poker. By December 1992, he was down to his last $50 and headed to Las Vegas in search of bigger fish. What happened next has gone down into gambling folklore.

His initial “session” went on for six months where he converted $50 into $17 million playing poker and pool. At the Binion’s Horseshoe, he upped his game by persuading a fellow player to lend him $10,000, which Archie turned into $30,000- he paid back his loan plus $10,000, and set about building his bankroll from a 10k base.

He tracked down a wealthy poker and pool player, and they began playing pool at $10,000 a game, then raised the stakes to $40,000 a game. Karas ended up with $1,2 million.

He then played his anonymous wealthy competitor at poker (he kept his identity secret to protect his reputation) and won a further $3 million from him. Karas was willing to go all in and bet his shirt and upped the stakes wherever he could.
With his cash pile now at $4 million, Karas continued until he had hit $7 million after 3 months in Vegas. Karas sat at the Binion’s Horseshoe’s poker table with 5 million dollars in front of him waiting for high stakes players.
The first to arrive was Stu Ungar, widely thought of as the best Texas Hold’em and gin rummy player of all time. Karas first cleaned Stu out of $500,000 playing heads-up Razz and $700,000 playing 7 card stud.

The next player up to the block was Chip Reese, one of the greatest cash players of all time. Karas cleaned him out to the tune of over $2 million playing $8,000/$16,000 limit.

Karas went on to beat many top players, such as Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss. Many players would not play him simply because his stakes were too high. After a 6 month long winning streak, Karas had built his cash pile up to a cool $17 million. By the end of his record breaking winning streak he had ammased a fortune of over $40 million.

You Win Some, You Lose Some
He should have pulled out at this point (easy to say in hindsight- gamblers never do, do they?), because Karas lost all of his cash in a period of three weeks. He lost $20 million playing craps. He then switched to baccarat (a high roller favourite) and lost another $17 million. After a brief trip back to Greece, he returned and blew the rest of his money back in Las Vegas, again on baccarat. Should have stuck to poker!

Karas lives in Las Vegas, and still enjoys the odd winning streak, but at more modest levels. Or so he says, anyway.

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