Very few legends live up to their namesake, but Archie Karas is one of the few Las Vegas legends that live up to all the hype. Most of us know Archie Karas through the poker world, where he excelled as a player. But it was his exploits away from the poker tables that made him legendary and instilled fear into casinos because of his willingness to gamble big and his penchant for winning. during the most-insane winning streak ever documented in Las Vegas history that reach upwards to $40 million.
A whale is a whale. Whales are what make/break casinos. Sure, grandma's donation to the penny slots might keep the lights on in most casinos, but accountants will tell you that a whale will impact a casinos quarterly profits. Casinos love whales, so long as they lose in the long term. They don't mind a whale winning once in a while because it keeps them coming back for more. But a whale that wins? That's the most fearsome beast in the gambling realm.
During a three-year period, Archie Karas instilled fear into casino owners, floor managers, and pit bosses because he could clean them out at any given time. But after his short reign of terror was over, the casinos and Sin City eventually won the ultimate war. They busted Archie Karas. Then again, if a gambler has the "sickness", they'll just destroy themselves because they'll never know when it's time to walk away.
Soft White Underbelly is a popular channel on YouTube in which they interview people from the "underbelly" of society like gamblers, drug addicts, criminals, and others who fell through the traditional cracks of society and were left behind. Soft White Underbelly gives these people a voice to share their story. It's raw and honest and both touching and frightening.
In the latest episode of SWU, they interview Archie Karas. You probably know the story... he was a poor kid from Greece growing up in the shadows of World War II and wanted to get the heck out of his situation. He emigrated to America and found work in Greek-owned restaurants. He gambled with Greek-Americans and they delved into pool and poker. They plated like ten different version back then, but Las Vegas was calling out his name
"In poker, you meet all kinds of people form A to Z.... high class and low class... some good people and terrible people," said Karas. "Poker is a game of skill, but dice is my game,". With dice, casino has the best of it all the way. They don't want you to make a living off them."
As the story goes, Archie went to Las Vegas with $50 to his name, but he ran it up to over $40 million. Karas clarified the myth and said at some point, he got a $10,000 loan and that was what he used to run up a bankroll in the millions.
"Gamblers borrow from each other, I borrowed 10K and ran up to 30K, played some poker... got it up to millions."
When pressed about the details of the epic winning streak, Karas could not pin down a specific number.
It was fun, yet stressful three-year run in Sin City for Karas in which he won over $0 million. With inflation, that value is nearly twice as much.
"The casinos didn't like it. They were trying to beat me, I was trying to beat them. It was a war, I was trying to beat them. It's very dangerous. They accused me of all kinds of things. The casino claimed he was cheating. It was all lies. They like the downside, when you lose. They don't like it when you win and go up. That's when they accused me of cheating. They made me look like a criminal."
Karas got involved in a long legal battle and the lawyer fees cut into his bankroll.
"They wanted to destroy my name, my reputation. The casinos are not used to it, I was betting fast. Betting it all. That's what makes you a good gambler. You have to know how to risk. I was good at it. I had no fear. I was not afraid of losing because it was a part of it."
Was Karas addicted or a degen? He provided an aloof answer.
"I made a living with it. Everything is a compulsion. It's something you have to do to make a living. It's in your blood. "
He admitted that gamblers actually get a buzz off losing. But that's a part of being a gambler by understanding and embracing all the ups and downs, highs and lows.
"Gamblers enjoy both winning and losing. You get a fix, even from losing. When you win, it's like cocaine. When you lose, you down and it's like heroin. It's like a natural speedball. Whatever you do, you pay the price. Nothing is for free. If you win, you pay the price. If you lose, you pay the price."
Karas bestowed a couple of pearls of wisdom, especially after he recently recovered from an aneurysm.
"Money is overrated, but you cannot live without it. The good things, you cannot buy with money. Like friends. Health is the most important thing in life. You cannot buy health with money."
Check out the Archie Karas interview here...