Archie Karas caught cheating at blackjack, gets 3 years probation

The name Anargyros Karabourniotis might not ring a bell, but most poker players and casino enthusiasts will recognize him by his abridged appellation, Archie Karas. He first gained fame in the 1990’s for gambling $50 into $40 million over a three year stint. Today, however, he’s become better known as a cheat at the blackjack tables after being caught marking cards at a California casino. Karas was found guilty and sentenced on Wednesday.

Karas pled guilty in a San Diego court to felony charges of theft, cheating and winning by fraudulent means. A San Diego County judge passed judgment on the duplicitous gambler, sentencing him to three years of probation and ordering him to pay $6,860 in restitution. If the Las Vegas native fulfills the first year of his sentence without err, including full payment of restitution, the judge said Karas would be permitted to request his charges be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The incident occurred at the Barona Casino Resort in Lakeside, CA, located 25 miles northeast of San Diego. In July of 2013, prosecutors say Archie Karas entered the casino with premeditated intent to commit burglary by cheating at blackjack. The video surveillance taken by the casino’s security cameras was entered as evidence, clearly showing the blackjack player marking the cards throughout the early stages of the game, which led to his eventual winning of $8,000.

According to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Aguilar, 64 year old Karabourniotis was applying a substance to his finger, then daubing it onto certain cards in one of three ways. One marking would denote an Ace, another marking signified a card with a value of 10, while a third marking told Karas the value was 7, 8 or 9. After obtaining a search warrant, officers found the same substance in Archie’s house.

“It gave him a slight edge,” Aguilar told the court, “but in blackjack, that’s enough.” Advancing his efforts to cheat the casino, Aguilar said, “He was the last to get cards before the dealer, so he could either help his own hand or make the dealer go bust if he knew the value of the card that was going to be dealt next.”

Archie Karas is best known for gambling antics that took place in Las Vegas two decades ago. He went on the fieriest hot streak in the history of casino gambling from 1992 to 1995, turning $50 into $40 million. As the story goes, Karas drove to Las Vegas with $50 in his pocket, playing poker and pool with skilled efficiency. Wanting to wager higher stakes, he convinced a friend to loan him $10,000, which he quickly turned into $30,000 playing Razz. He returned $20k to his friend and proceeded to play against an unnamed affluent gambler known only as ‘Mr. X’. After winning several hundred thousand off Mr. X playing pool, they switched to poker where Karas took him for another $3 million.

Archie Karas then won over $1 million from Stu Ungar and $2 million from Chip Reese. He also defeated poker legends like Doyle Brunson and Puggy Pearson, but lost $900k to Johnny Moss. With $17 million in hand and a nasty reputation at the poker tables, Karas was forced to turn to craps, where his millions rose even faster. By the time he was done, Karas had over $40 million in winnings, but in 1995, it took the Las Vegas gambler only a few months to lose it all.