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Tables of Dreams

With a Stake of Borrowed Money, Archie Karas Won a Fortune
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 3)

Indeed, after vanquishing Reese, few players had either the gumption or the bankroll to tangle with the man who was calling himself the uncrowned world champion. One who did was Stu Ungar, another two-time world champ known for his hyperaggressive, raise-it-to-the-roof style. Yards away from where his picture hangs in Binion's Gallery of Champions, playing $5,000-$10,000 limit Stud and Razz with a backer's money, Ungar lost $900,000 to Karas in just six hours.

Next, the legendary Brunson took his shot at breaking Karas. The best he could do was break even. "We stopped after awhile," Karas reports. "He didn't want to play high enough."

In quick succession, Hall of Famers and world champions came and went, including Mr. X, Puggy Pearson and Johnny Chan. Of the poker community's elite, only Chan beat Karas--after losing to him three straight times.

At the end of the The Run, Karas had busted 15 of the world's greatest and won $7 million at the poker table.

"Playing poker at this level is like boxing," Karas says. "You have to keep defending your title. But a boxer gets six months to recover between fights. I take them on one after another.And I only play champions." He shrugs. "Nobody wants to play me anymore."

Jim Albrecht, the poker manager at the Horseshoe, witnessed some of Karas' epic run. He thinks that part of the reason none of the top poker players will compete against Karas is because of the stakes. "Even if you think you have an edge, playing cards at $5,000 or $10,000 limits is like Russian roulette," Albrecht observes. "If I use a gun with two bullets, and I give you one with one bullet, you're a big favorite to live longer than me. But are you going to play? It's suicidal."

Karas, according to Albrecht, reminds him of another famous gambler with the same heritage, Nick "The Greek" Dandalos. "Nick's credo was always: 'Find me the biggest and best, and we'll play until someone is broke.' "

Karas has a standing offer: he'll play anyone for any amount, preferably for $500,000 or more. I asked him whether he'd be willing to compete for every penny he has, if, for instance, the Sultan of Brunei wanted to play a friendly freeze-out for, say, $15 million.

"In a second," Karas says.

"You've got to understand something. Money means nothing to me. I don't value it," Karas explains. "I've had all the material things I could ever want. Everything. The things I want money can't buy: health, freedom, love, happiness. I don't care about money, so I have no fear. I don't care if I lose it."

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