After arriving in America he took a job in a Los Angeles restaurant, which happened to sit right next to a bowling alley and pool hall. He honed his skills at pool, and was soon winning more money at the pool tables than at the restaurant tables.
When the clientele became sick of losing to him he turned his attention to poker and soon became a master of the game, building up his bankroll to over $2,000,000.
Astonishingly he lost it all except $50 during a run of high stakes poker. He was not put off at all. Many players would have disappeared with their tails between their legs at this point, but Archie Karas was no ordinary player. He headed straight for Las Vegas to find bigger games, and his winning streak returned.
One great quote attributed to Karas gives an insight into how he thinks about money. He said:
"You've got to understand something. Money means nothing to me. I don't value it. I've had all the material things I could ever want. Everything. The things I want, money can't buy: health, freedom, love, happiness. I don't care about money, so I have no fear. I don't care if I lose it."
It is perhaps this devil-may-care attitude that led to him being able to really hit the big time in 1992. Arriving in Las Vegas with just the remaining $50, he headed straight for his former haunts – a pool hall and a poker hall. Within six months he had accumulated $17 million playing poker and pool. From here he went to the gambling tables, notably Binion's Horseshoe, where he kept winning.
Left with $10,000 Karas went back to pool, his real skill. He found a wealthy opponent and bet the whole lot on a game of pool. Having won several in row Karas raised the stakes to $40,000 per game. He kept winning.
Before long he had won $1,200,000! He played the same opponent (whose name he has never revealed) at poker and won another $3,000,000. He seemed absolutely unstoppable, and few dared take him on.
He was willing to risk everything, and it paid off. With a bankroll of $4 million, Archie gambled his bankroll up to $7 million after arriving in Vegas just three months before. Word had spread about his phenomenal wins and as he sat at Binion's waiting for someone to take his $7 million on, few would consider it. However, Stu Ungar risked it, and Karas won $500,000 from him, playing heads-up Razz. Ungar lost another $700,000 to Karas at 7-card stud. Retiring from the battle, he was replaced by Chip Reese, who lost more money to Karas than to any other player. After 25 games, Reese was down $2,022,000, playing a $8,000/$16,000 limit.
Soon there were few players left who would take on Karas, as the stakes were just too high. He played famous names such as Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss, beating them all. After six months Karas had amassed $17 million. He had switched from poker to dice, risking millions on the roll. He liked it because it was quicker than poker and he could 'easily' make $3 million on dice whereas to make the same amount at poker could take days. He had to transport millions of dollars around in his car, which was a headache security-wise. He had to carry a gun at all times. By the end of "The Run" he had amassed a fortune of over $40 million!
End of The Run
Karas lost all the money he had made in "The Run" in just three weeks. He lost a staggering $20 million playing dice, then another $2 million to Chip Reese. He changed his game to baccarat and promptly lost $17 million. He decided to quit the tables and return to his homeland, Greece. But he couldn't stay away. He returned with his remaining $12 million and headed straight for the Horseshoe again.
In under thirty days he had lost $11 million playing dice and baccarat. With just a million dollars left he took on Johnny Chan at the Bicycle Club, who played in tandem with Lyle Berman. Initially Karas doubled his money but then lost it all at dice and baccarat again within just a few days. Forty million dollars...Gone!
Archie Karas still lives in Vegas. Gambling isn't the sort of career where you get engraved gifts as a retirement send-off. He will probably always live in Vegas but there is no sign of another big run from him at this moment.
Archie Karas, Gambling Legend!