Legendary gambler Archie Karas accused of marking cards in San Diego casino

Legendary gambler Archie Karas accused of marking cards in San Diego casino
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Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 4:17pm

His was a rags-to-riches tale. A Greek immigrant who came to the United States and made it big. A waiter who gambled in his spare time. A poker prodigy who turned $50 into $40 million in just three years.

Archie Karas has described himself the "king of the gamblers," but authorities in San Diego are now calling him a cheater.

On Friday, police arrested the 62-year-old Karas, whose legal name is Anargyros Karabourniotis, at his home in Las Vegas, on allegations he marked cards during a blackjack game in San Diego in July. The alleged cheating was also caught on camera, according to authorities.

The alleged incident occurred at San Diego's Barona Casino. Karas won $8,000 playing blackjack, but San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says video shows the gambler cheated with a technique known as marking cards.

Marking cards allows a player to identify the value of cards. If done correctly, neither the dealer nor other players notice the marks -- only the player who is in on the scheme.

"This defendant's luck ran out thanks to extraordinary cooperation between several different law enforcement agencies who worked together to investigate and prosecute this case," Dumanis said.

Karas is being held in Las Vegas without bail. He faces charges of burglary, winning by fraudulent means and cheating. He is expected to appear in court Monday for an extradition hearing.

It was not immediately clear if Karas has legal representation.

He won some, he lost some

Karas' exploits are legendary in the poker world.

In 1992, he went to Las Vegas with just $50. He got a $10,000 loan from a poker buddy at Binion's Horseshoe, according to Poker.org. Karas tripled the loan in one game.

From there he went on to bet and win at pool, then poker.

"I was the best," Karas told ESPN in an interview broadcast in 2008. "Anybody who'd come to town I'd play them, I didn't care who they were and I'd win, too."

But he had a problem, he recounted to ESPN. No one would play him anymore; he had simply won too much.

He didn't quit. Instead, he changed the game.

"I had to play dice," he told ESPN. He said lines of people used to show up to watch him bet $1 million on each roll. "I ran it up to $40 million," he recalled. "It was a lot of money."

But as quickly as it came, the money left Karas. He said he lost $20 million in 10 days. Soon, it was all gone.

It took him three years to win the $40 million and only three weeks to lose it.

If the loss hurt Karas, he didn't show it in his 2008 interview.

"I consider myself the king of gamblers," he said, chuckling. "I made it, I lost it and like Frank Sinatra says, I stood tall and I took the punches and I did it my way."

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