Gambling legend Archie Karas (real name Anargyros Karabourniotis) was arrested in Nevada on Tuesday and extradited to California on charges of cheating at the San Diego-area Barona Casino. Karas was alleged to have gained roughly $8,000 through illicit play at the Barona tables, making "subtle" marks on cards that were still significant enough to be identified on the casino's security cameras after the Barona staff became suspicious over Karas's wins.
The kicker to the tale emerged in follow-up reports, in which a Nevada gaming official confirmed that Karas / Karabourniotis has already been arrested four times for gaming offenses in Nevada, though probably none at Harrah's properties, since he was able to cash in a WSOP event as recently as this past summer.
Karas, of course, has one of the most famous histories in all of Nevada gambling lore, having run up his last $50 in cash to at least $17 million -- and perhaps as high as $40 million -- before blowing it all in less than a year. By the middle of 1995 Karas was broke, though forever a part of Vegas gambling history, courtesy of what is known as "The Run." Karas won most of his money at blackjack -- though the latest charges, if true, will add a small question mark to the legitimacy of the "run" itself.
Karas did more than play blackjack, however. In addition to those exploits, in which several Las Vegas casinos closed their tables to him, he also took on the top Vegas poker pros in high-stakes heads-up matches, and was a top-level pool shark as well. Karas had worked in a California pool hall for several years before his fateful trip to Las Vegas, and for a couple of years in the early '90s he was the toast of the town.
As I mentioned in another feature I wrote, I talked with Karas a few times during the 2008 WSOP, in which he was backed into several events by an unnamed benefactor. That marked a return of sorts for Karas, who'd bounced around for years after his halcyon days, and presumably returned to just that after '08 and a nice $54,000 score during the '09 WSOP, which wouldn't have lasted him long.
The Karas I met was a quiet, soft-spoken type, who could sit down in a buffet absolutely anonymously, surrounded by rollers unaware of his famous past. I remember him getting upset because his end-of-day chip count had been misreported by a PN staffer, and he was worried it would upset his unspecified backer. (Instead of the "300" that had been reported, which literally put him in last place entering Day 2 of the main event, he had something like 30,000. I fixed it.)
But Karas was seemingly up to something else in recent years, if he's been in trouble that often. Nevada Gaming Commission security honcho Karl Bennison, told a San Diego TV station that Karas had been investigated many times and arrested on four separate occasions, calling Karas a "threat to the gaming industry in many jurisdictions."