How Can a Man Who Lost $17 Million Still Be Happy and Hopeful in Las Vegas?
By Howard Schwartz
Archie Karas visited Gambler's Book a week ago. Since I have a good memory for faces, it took me a short minute to make sure it was him. It was, and I greeted him, never having met him. But when you're a legend of sorts in Las Vegas, people tend to remember you for one reason or another.
Karas is a legend. A few years ago, Michael Konik, writing for Cigar Aficionado magazine, wrote a super feature on Karas. It was later reprinted in one of the all-time entertaining books about gamblers and Las Vegas, titled The Man With the $100,000 Breasts (234 pages, paperbound, $112).
The title of Konik's book itself could make a story but the segment about Archie is equally interesting.
People had been asking me about Archie Karas for years. When you're marketing director of a bookshop which specializes in books on gambling and it seems as if you've been around a while, people think you know everything. Not true. I learn something new each day and meet someone new every other day. However, I did know about Karas.
Karas is known in the book as The 17 Million Dollar Man. (That's almost three times as much as the $6 Million Man of television days, but then again, things are more expensive today.) In his mid-40s, Karas claims to have gambled as much as "anyone in the history of planet," outside the stock market most probably. "What most gamblers make in their whole life, I gamble in one roll of the dice," he says.
His background is simple. He came to the U.S. in his teens after leaving Greece, learned to play pool and hustle well while in Los Angeles, graduated to poker and won, then lost big in California card rooms. By 1992 he said he'd lost $2 million in high stakes games, then headed for Las Vegas with $50 in his pocket.
A lucky break got him a $10,000 loan at a big hotel from someone who recognized his talents and after he won twice that and repaid the loan, he got lucky again. He won big against big-name gamblers in Las Vegas in private pool games, then continued the roll for another $2 million against big-name poker players. At Binion's Horseshoe, Karas stayed hot at the dice tables, betting $100,000 and more at times and winning.
Invest in a CD or put some away in a savings account? No. Like Nick the Greek Dandolos, Archie liked the action. He enjoyed the ride on the roller coaster of life and gambling. He lives to play big, against the best and for the adrenaline high it triggers.
In the Konik book, Karas, says without hesitation: "You've got to understand something, Money means nothing to me. I don't value it. ... I have no fear. I don't care if I lose it."
Looking directly into Karas' eyes when he talks about playing big again, you know he means it. Archie's hoping someone will want to write a book about him and that it would lead to a movie where the real money is. But Archie Karas knows he has to come up with a "very big score" at the tables for it all to happen. I mean who's going to buy a book about a man who LOST $17 million? Now WINNING $17 million has some appeal. We all dream about it, fantasize about it. But how many of us can hold onto it? How many of us would quit cold once we hit it? It's in Archie's blood to play. He's lookng for a backer; then he's got to find the right game at the right time, get the right cards and roll like he's never rolled before.
Hope springs eternal for Las Vegas professional gamblers.
I don't know where Karas is living now. He looks sharp, talks positive and upbeat. I didn't notice if he had one of the $20,000 Rolex watches he was noted for when he was winning.
As Konik says it in his profile on Karas, "She'll always know that for several odds-defying months, he made the Las Vegas myth come true."
OFF THE SHELF
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," is the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he has held since 1979. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.
Wednesday, March 8, 2000
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BUT...the word in the poker community, in Vegas, is that Archie won over $30,000,000 during this run and the only thing he bought out of that money was a car. He lost it all in poker games and the pit.