The Run: How Archie Karas Turned $50 Into $40 Million
Archie Karas arrived in Las Vegas with $50 and proceeded to go on the longest documented winning streak in history. It’s known simply as The Run.
Karas drives to Las Vegas with $50 in his pocket
At this point, Karas had already established himself as an expert pool shark and a superb poker player. Having built his bankroll to more than $2 million playing poker in the Los Angeles card rooms, Karas lost all but $50 of his fortune in December 1992.
He decided to go to Las Vegas in search of bigger games, having already claimed to have gone from broke to millionaire several times before finally arriving at the Mecca of gambling in the Nevada desert.
From $10,000 to $1.2 million
While The Run is typically described as a $50 to $40 million endeavour, most people omit the fact that Karas borrowed $10,000 to begin his run. He was already on a hot streak with his original $50 at The Mirage, but he spotted a fellow Los Angles poker player and borrowed $10,000.
Karas quickly turned this into $30,000 playing $200/$400 Razz, returning $20,000 to a delighted backer before looking for action at the pool tables. Karas met a fellow poker and pool player, whose name he will not divulge, and they began playing for $10,000 and then $40,000 a game.
Karas won $1.2 million playing pool as the crowd watched in awe before he relocated to Binion’s Horseshoe to play poker.
Beating the world’s best poker players
Karas began by continuing to bludgeon his pool nemesis at the poker tables, winning an additional $3 million and continuing to raise the stakes beyond the scope of most gamblers.
Over the next few months, he turned his $4 million into $7 million before the world’s greatest poker players heard that Karas was taking on all comers at high stakes.
Stu Ungar is widely regarded as one of the greatest Hold’em players and indisputably the greatest gin rummy player of all time. Despite this, Karas took him for $500,000 playing Razz before winning another $700,000 in Stud.
David “Chip” Reese was at the time known as probably the world’s greatest cash game poker player. He claims that Karas beat him for more money than anyone else in his long career, as he lost over $2 million playing the ludicrously high stakes of $8,000/$16,000.
Karas took on all the poker elite, including Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson and more. Johnny Chan managed to beat him initially, but Karas has said that Doyle Brunson was the only player able to beat him at Razz during The Run.
Craps: busting Binion’s
With several of the world’s best players licking their wounds and the stakes becoming too high, the poker action around Karas had died.
He therefore made his way over to the Horseshoe’s dice tables, betting $100,000 per roll. He would have bet more, he claims, but Jack Binion had to cap Karas’ bets.
Nevertheless, he continued to win. He said that transporting his money became a problem, as each day he would have several million dollars in his car.
At one stage, he had won every single $5,000 denomination chip that Binion’s had; his bankroll soon topped $40 million.
What goes up…
Even more rapidly than he had accrued his fortune (over the span of just a few years) Karas lost it all in just weeks.
He lost $11 million at the craps tables, then Chip Reese won his $2 million back at poker. He then had a torrid run at baccarat and lost another $17 million, though amazingly this still left him with around $12 million to his name.
Unfortunately, after a short break, Karas returned to the dice and baccarat tables. Betting $300,000 on each hand or roll, he quickly lost all but his last million.