IN SEXTON'S CORNER
|Questions and Answers on
Archie"The Greek" Karas
from around the world.
Questions by Steven Hill…………Answers from Tom Sexton
|THIS WEEKS POKER TRIVIA QUESTION # 21
(the answer will be given next week in our Poker Trivia Page)
For the upcoming 2009 WSOP, to be held at the Rio in Las Vegas, there will be 57 gold bracelets up for grabs. For the first time ever, 12 of
these events will cost $190,000 in buy-ins. Can you name these events and their respective buy-ins?
Question # 1 - In poker terms, what do you believe are Archie’s greatest achievements?
Tom Sexton: Archie started out on his memorable streak taking a $50 bankroll to Las Vegas in 1992, and immediately borrowed $10,000 from an
acquaintance from LA who knew of his power playing razz, which was his best card game. He quickly won about $30,000 in a few hours, repaid his friend,
and had a bankroll on the first day he arrived in Las Vegas in 1992. It wasn’t long before he won $1.2 million shooting pool playing nine ball for as much as
$40,000 a game! With this new bankroll he began to play the best poker players in the world heads up from Bobby Baldwin, Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, Johnny
Chan, Doyle Brunson to many other superstars in the poker world. Some refer to this as “The Run” as he won a fortune and ran his bankroll up to
$17,000,000. He seemed invincible playing heads up and shorthanded while playing Chip Reese the most. He probably won 23 out of 25 matches he
played, including winning $2,000,000 from Chip the first time they played heads up! That was incredible, but early in these matches Archie did what no other
poker player ever did in the world: He beat Stu Ungar and Chip Reese for a total of $1,200,000 on the same day! First he beat Chip for $700,000 playing
seven card stud, and after dinner he was approached by Stu Ungar with Lyle Berman backing him up and won $500.0000 in razz from Stuey! Beating these
two Hall of Fame legends on the same day was his greatest poker feat in my mind anyone ever accomplished!
Question # 2 – How is he thought of by the professional poker community?
Tom Sexton: It is important to remember that Archie’s legendary feat happened almost 17 years ago. The newer poker stars we see on TV today weren’t
old enough to play poker back then. Chip Reese and Stu Ungar have since passed away unfortunately, but great players still around like Doyle Brunson and
Johnny Chan certainly remember Archie. When either are interviewed about Archie you will hear and see what amazed them most was Archie’s disregard for
the value of money. Archie insisted on playing the highest limits ever seen in Las Vegas, but only in heads up or shorthanded games. Archie won in poker,
but lost most of his fortune shooting dice and playing baccarat. Once broke, it was Archie’s casual demeanor that amazed Doyle, Johnny, and of course Chip
before he passed away. They would see him walk around and couldn’t tell if Archie had $45,000,000 or enough money left to eat and pay for a buffet. Mind
blowing losses he might have suffered at the end of his streak seemed to roll off of Archie like beads of water. To have so much in a short period of time and
then lose it all back might make some consider suicide…………..not Archie though! In fact, on my web site www.sextonscorner.com I write for the first time
ever publicly revealed, of several mini-streaks Archie pulled off six months after his losing his $45,000,000! The professional poker community remembers
Archie as a dangerous player playing heads up versus playing in a ring game.
Question # 3 – It sounds like he could hold his own with the best of them, yet doesn’t have a bracelet to his name. Did he even enter the
WSOP back in the day? If not, why not?
Tom Sexton: When the greatest poker players are in the groove, it seems they can’t be beat. When Stu Ungar was on his game, it seemed like he was
simply unbeatable. As he said on the 1997 ESPN broadcast after setting poker history winning his 3rd WSOP Main Event title, “Noone can beat me in cards
except myself.” Stuey beat himself due to having about every bad habit a person can have. Chip Reese had been universally acknowledged as the most
successful and consistent big game cash player on earth in poker over the past 30 years, yet got clobbered by Archie Karas in those legendary heads-up
matches in the 1992/1993 era. Phil Hellmuth has won 11 WSOP gold bracelets, but after trying the big cash games in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio or earlier
when held at the Mirage, he found out he couldn’t win in them. To his credit he decided to stay away from them for the most part, and focus in the area he
excels the best, which is tournament poker. There are some rare exceptions like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Barry Greenstein who excel at the
highest level in both cash games and tournaments, among a few others…………..but most players tend to specialize in one or the other. Archie holds his
own with the best of them playing heads-up and short-handed, but has never won a WSOP gold bracelet. He has always felt he could win more money faster
playing the high limits heads-up and likes to take his opponents out of their comfort zone, by playing limits like $8,000 and $16,000 limit heads up! The poker
boom didn’t happen until about 2003, so in 1992 the value of the WSOP bracelets were considerably less in nature. Archie has come to realize if he is to
make a comeback he will have to enter the tournament world and learn how to conquer this new world. He entered a few events in the 2008 WSOP, including
the Main Event. He made the 2008 WSOP final table in razz, and has done so before at the WSOP. Remember, razz is his Archie’s best event. If you want
to try to play him razz heads-up……… forget about it! You might as well go shark fishing with your bare hands. Your success will be about the same!
Question # 4 – He talks of missing the poker boom. Where do you think Archie would fit in amidst a world of televised tournaments,
corporate sponsorships, and the internet players?
Tom Sexton: Archie does talk about missing the poker boom. He will tell you if he just knew there was going to be a poker boom, he would have parked
$10,000,000 of his $45,000,000 fortune, even if he had to wait 10 years for it. He says, “Poker is where I always won my money in the long run.” During my
60 hours of interviews with Archie I told him, “Archie, your story is incredible but any story or movie has to have an ending. Right now your story is pretty darn
sad! Most people think anyone who can win $45,000,000 and then lose it all back is a complete idiot! There are basically three endings to your story or in
any movie. Your ending as it stands now is an ending, but not a good one. You won, then turned around and lost your fortune. Your story is big and will
never die, but this ending is not a good one. The second ending is you die. This also is an ending, but not a good one. The third ending is the one you
need to make in my opinion: Make a comeback! People love to root for the underdog, who is trying to overcome big odds. You need to try and make a
comeback at this year’s WSOP. As big as your story is, the corporate sponsorship you would attract if you were to win a WSOP gold bracelet, would be
incredible! Archie agreed, as he had been in hibernation for many years in stealth mode. He studied with a tutor, and played in many small games and
tournaments in preparation for the 2008 WSOP. He entered several events, but didn’t win anything. ESPN did a story on him, and he filmed E True
Hollywood, among a few other shows. Whenever major media sees Archie, they are automatically attracted to his colorful story. As far as the internet, Archie
is from the old school. He doesn’t play online. He prefers to play live and likes to feel the action and cash. You asked where he might fit in and he is here
now. He knows poker is the right path for him to pursue in any major comeback, so keep your eyes open for him to make the right adjustments in tournament
poker as he tries to climb back on top of Mt. Everest! Endorsements will be there if Archie makes a comeback, and it would be fun to witness.
Question # 5 – Do you know if Archie has dabbled with online poker? If so, has he had any notable success?
Tom Sexton: Looks like I answered this above, but one must remember that Archie owned every 5,000 chip at the Horseshoe at one time during his streak.
There were $18,000,000 in 5,000 chips there and Archie had won them all! Jack Binion walked up to Mike Sexton sitting next to Doyle Brunson one day and
said, “Look what Archie did to us, as he showed them a newly minted 25,000 chip he had just had made. Archie won all of our 5,000 chips and we had to
mint some 25,000 chips to buy them back for our other customers to use!” Besides his money boxes filled up with chips and cash at the Horseshoe, Archie
said he had 6 different boxes at various banks in Las Vegas filled with millions of dollars from his winnings. Can you imagine Archie’s reaction to anyone
trying to hand him a laptop suggesting he try playing online? Archie won $1,000,000 over 30 times in LA, before losing it back, before his legendary streak
ever happened in 1992. Computers before or after 1992 would have been a foreign world to Archie. His whole point of reference is cash and always has
been. Many other poker players converted over to the internet, but not Archie Karas.
Question # 6 – It sounds like you yourself were partly responsible for him entering the WSOP where he made a final table. Do you take some
pride in his mini-resurgence?
Tom Sexton: Yes, I take some credit in helping Archie get entered into a few events at the 2008 WSOP. He has been in stealth mode for many years, not
too receptive to interviews or media. He has been barred from most of the Casinos except a few, as far as shooting dice or any other house games. He is
the type of gambler who can build a toothpick into a lumberyard. He isn’t the type of customer they want. Jack Binion has been very clear when he speaks
about Archie, because he knows firsthand that Archie gambled on the square. So why is he barred you might ask? Frankly it doesn’t seem fair. Archie can
play poker because he will be playing against the other players………not the Casino. When Archie told me he prefers staying under the radar as far as
publicity, so he can play in a few casinos, etc., I was quick to point out this strategy hasn’t worked well for him so far over the last 15 years. I advised him to
take the opposite path, and start with my 10 Part Chronicles on his life, where details would be revealed that had never been told before. I went with him to
help him get some new suits, helped book his story on E True Hollywood, and ESPN at the WSOP. His story is so unique that both a book and movie needs
to be made on his life. We spent a lot of time together and became friends. Archie looked to me for advice on a variety of topics. He only made one WSOP
final table and the deck went entirely south on him in the razz event. Archie knew from the start that a major comeback at the 2008 WSOP was a chance for a
big comeback, but a long shot at best. What he wished for more than anything was a big backer to put him in the highest heads-up action in the world, where
he shines. Archie has not lost his nerve. He doesn’t do drugs or drink, and I believe he is a winning horse ready to once again win a lot of money, especially
if it is in the right game with the right circumstances. I can only hope Archie doesn’t lose patience during the process. I do take some pride in his mini-
resurgence, but will truly be elated if he is able to make what some might think is almost an impossible comeback, after all he has been through.
Question # 7 – That said, the prize money was less than he used to gamble on a throw of the dice. Will he ever be content to grind for days
for such a relative small profit?
Tom Sexton: You have touched on a very key question here. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Archie about today’s world versus yesterday’s world. The
Horseshoe had the highest dice limits in the world in 1992, where a player could bet $20,000 per bet. As Archie kept winning millions he got Jack Binion to
make the betting limits higher and higher, until he was allowed to bet $300,000 per bet on the dice layout. Twice he said he had $1,800,000 bet on the
layout, but never hit a great roll or he would have won the entire Casino. The most money he won in one day was $7,000,0000, but he was stuck $4,000,000
first before he won that day. The most he lost in one day was $11,000,000, and he hadn’t planned to really gamble that day! In fact he had only brought the
keys to $2,000,000 in his money boxes that day, and after he lost it in a couple of hours, he didn’t want to go home and get the rest of his money box keys.
The hotel offered to help him out by offering to pay for a locksmith to drill his other money boxes so he could continue to gamble. Archie smiled at me as he
described it as “The Drill Job”! He said he didn’t blame the hotel. He takes blame for this on himself. He should have called it a day and just gone home.
After losing that $11,000,000 in one day on the dice table he said he got mad and switched games to baccarat. In 10 days he lost $17,000,000 there!
About the only match with Chip Reese Archie lost was in between these gigantic loses, where he lost $2,000,000 more in poker. Archie said he was on the
downslide, where he lost $30,000,000 in three weeks! These three weeks during his two year streak was simply too hard to fade. Archie respects Jack
Binion for giving him the gamble, where corporations would not. I’ve told Archie there are no more Jack Binions out there anymore, and he will never be given
the chance to repeat his winning streak like before. Today Archie is 57 and I’ve told him he doesn’t need to win the Casino to be successful. He recognizes
this today as his needs are different than before. With a couple of million he would certainly be able to live in comfort. No gambler will ever be able to repeat
what Archie did, starting out with only $50. This is precisely why Archie’s story in gambling lore in Las Vegas is so endearing to the public!
Question # 8 – If he had stuck to poker and avoided house games, where do you think he would be now?
Tom Sexton: First of all, the story that is a legend would not have happened at all. Remember he ran his bankroll up to $17,000,000 by running over the
poker greats playing heads-up. In frustration Archie was forced to play dice, because the players didn’t want to play so high. Playing $8,000/$16,000 limit or
$10,000/$20,000 limit was too scary to play in 1992. In my 10 Part Chronicles I wrote on www.sextonscorner.com I ask the question: If you piled up your
winnings of six to seven million on a large table from shooting pool and winnings against one poker player, and then peeked around the corner at who you
had to play poker against (Stu Ungar; Chip Reese; Doyle Brunson; and Johnny Chan)…..what would you do? In truth, most of us would take the money and
run! Why risk it against the poker immortals of earth? Archie is wired differently than the rest of us are……that is for sure! When Archie ran over almost
everyone heads-up, including destroying the best player of all in Chip Reese over and over….the town woke up to the fact playing Archie poker heads up
during his streak was too dangerous. If Chip couldn’t beat Archie……who could? If Archie would have pulled up and avoided the house games with his
$17,000,000 he would have been a force to reckon with in the poker world today in my opinion. Yes, he picked up an extra $28,000,000 playing dice mostly
and baccarat, but lost it all in the end, including all of his $17,000,000 in poker winnings. In the end, Archie lost the whole $45,000,000 proving the fact that
the house always wins if you play long enough.
Question # 9 – When you talk of him being broke, what does this mean in real terms? Is he really penniless?
Tom Sexton: I don’t think it is fair for me to comment on this in detail. Archie lost his fortune which is widely known to be fact. He is like most of us today
trying to survive. He pays his bills, and hopes to find his way to the top again in the gambling world. He recognizes the Casinos will block his way doing it in
dice or baccarat, and poker is his answer in today’s world. I will tell you that I have followed Archie out into the middle of the night in an effort to witness his
world as it exists today, hoping to write his book soon. He might take a few hundred to a pool room and hustle a few games bringing his bankroll for the
evening up to $700 to $800. I might add that every pool hustler in town knows Archie and his legend in every pool hall in Las Vegas. Watching Archie
negotiate with a former world pool champion on handicapping the match is entertainment worthy of a big cover charge. Archie’s goal is to make it an even
match and then he is willing to gamble. He next took his winnings to a Casino to play baccarat. As he looks over the tables he begins to bet and moves up
and down standing making his bets with his system. I notice many of the customers watching him will follow his bets. He seems to know what he is doing, as
he will frequently run a few hundred up to several thousand. In the end, he will bet it all in one or two bets and walk out with nothing. The first time I saw him
do this I was stunned, well aware that he needed to pay some key bills the next day. I looked at Archie on the way out of the Casino feeling bad for him that
he lost everything. Archie sensed my hurt for him and said, “Tom it is OK. I’ve done this over a thousand times in my life. Don’t worry about it….it’s OK.” I’ve
never seen anyone who needed the money so badly be so composed about it. As he is chasing that lost $45,000,000, it was just another day at the office for
Question # 10 – Did he even have the chance to enjoy his money when he had it? Are there any tales of excess?
Tom Sexton: Archie bought a nice home in Summerlin when he accumulated millions, and had a nice car during his run, but for the most part didn’t live or
do anything extravagant or buy multiple properties, shopping centers, stock or investments, etc. There were many people and friends who tried to get him to
make several investments, but he only related to seeing and feeling mountains of cash. The purchasing power of five to ten million meant nothing to him at
all. He loved high stakes action and money enabled him to play the highest limits around. Perhaps what he enjoyed the most was going to work to shoot dice
at Binion’s Horseshoe. Can you imagine going to work, but first stopping by the bank to pick up $3,000,000 to $5,000,000 in cash? Archie would put this
kind of cash in duffle bags, take it out to his car by himself, drive down to the Horseshoe to shoot dice, and try and dodge every heist man in town who was
waiting for him! The feel of all of this cash daily anticipating the high stakes gambling about to begin was what he enjoyed the most. This risky lifestyle was
like Archie’s oxygen, and akin to having a daily orgasm as the world’s highest gambler. Check out Part 5 of Archie’s Chronicles on www.sextonscorner.com
called Transporting Millions to read the ultimate tale of excess, that only Archie ever experienced and lived to tell about it!
Question # 11 - Why, oh why didn’t he put aside even a million for a rainy day?
Tom Sexton: During those 60 hours of various interviews with Archie I directly asked him this precise question: “Archie, when you lost $44,000,000 and only
had $1,000,000 left of your fortune, didn’t a light go off inside your head to pull up and STOP! Take the $1,000,000 and park it, so you could have a nice
life?” Archie laughed and said he was gambler, and went on to tell me he decided to put the $1,000,000 in a duffel bag and drive back to LA to play a million
dollar freeze out match against Johnny Chan. Can any of us imagine picking that spot to put our last million dollars left? Lyle Berman backed Johnny up in
the match and Archie showed up to play. He put his last million under the table and noticed Lyle would alternate with Johnny against him. Normally Archie
prefers playing one player only, but Lyle substituting for Johnny occasionally was good news. Archie won and doubled up his bankroll to $2,000,000…. then
took it into the pit and promptly lost it gambling sky high. This was the true ending to one of Las Vegas’ legendary bankrolls ever accumulated from a $50
Question # 12 – As you say, it sounds like prime material for a book or a film. Has this ever been realistically suggested?
Tom Sexton: I’ve interviewed many of the poker greats of all time, but only once wrote a Ten Part story on what I regard as the most colorful character of all
time. I get emails continuously about Archie “The Greek” Karas from around the world. There have been discussions about a book and movie many times. I
want to see this happen for Archie more than anybody, but I hope he makes a great comeback to give it the ending it deserves. Archie is here and is game
to make it happen. After all he has been through with his ups and downs, what an inspirational story it would be for him to climb back up Mt. Everest!
Question # 13 – And finally, is there another chapter to come in the remarkable story of Archie Karas?
Tom Sexton: Yes, and I hope I’m the one who writes it. I’ve written more on the mystique of Archie than anyone else, but even Archie tells me there is so
much more that has happened in his life he hasn’t revealed. He is an eccentric one man army and is tough and aggressive. He has probably been in close
to 100 fights alone, mostly in pool rooms, across the Country having to fight his way literally out with his winnings at times. He won a million over 30 times and
lost it in his early days before he gave us the greatest gambling streak of all time ifrom1992 thru 1994. A movie mogul will latch onto Archie’s story some day
and we will all have to fasten our seat belts for the ride of a lifetime! I certainly believe there is another chapter to come in the remarkable story of Archie
“The Greek” Karas!
The Cab Is Parked,
Almost a year ago I wrote a 10 Part story on Archie “The Greek”
Karas. If you go to the archives and look at Vol. 31 thru 40 you’ll
enjoy his remarkable and true story, that has captured the
imagination of gamblers, poker players, and the general public unlike
any story I’ve ever written about!
In fact, during the last year I have received more emails about his
story I wrote than the combination of Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, Johnny
Chan, and all the other great poker players together! I was fortunate
to interview Archie for over 60 hours and ended up revealing parts of
his story that had never been written about before.
Archie is one of Las Vegas’ mysterious and eccentric gamblers that
did something of legend no other person in the world has ever
accomplished: He started his famous gambling streak with $50 in
1992 and parlayed it to $45,000,000! Perhaps some rich billionaires
have won some incredible sums in the past, but nobody could argue
that what Archie accumulated from nothing is the most amazing true
story that ever happened in the history of Las Vegas!
What mesmerizes the public is not only how he accumulated a fortune from nothing that might rival Fort Knox, but how in the world he lost it all back in about
two years! This fact only makes all of us shake our heads in disbelief and amazement. I recently received an email from Stephen Hill from the UK, who writes
for Poker Player Magazine. He wrote 13 interesting questions and asked me to respond, since he noticed the work I had written about Archie. I thought
sharing this with our readers would make interesting reading for one and all, as his questions and my answers seemed to create an X-ray picture of Archie’s
world today, as well as yesterday:
Author’s Note: Recently I was asked to do a podcast at the Gambler’s Book Shop in Las Vegas, where I was interviewed by the owner, Howard Schwartz.
Howard is a living legend in Las Vegas, who has interviewed many of poker’s great players and movers and shakers in the industry for almost 30 years. It
was an honor to be a guest on his show, where he asked me questions about Mike Sexton, Archie “The Greek” Karas, Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, Doyle
Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Puggy Pearson.