Archie Karas shown at a craps table at Binion’s Horseshoe, circa 1995, during the greatest run in gambling history. (Photo courtesy of Sexton’s Corner)
If the legendary man who nearly “broke the bank at Monte Carlo” has a modern-day reincarnate, he is most certainly Archie Karas.
The Greek-born immigrant who arrived in the United States penniless as a teenager made headlines between 1993 and 1995, going on what’s been described as the greatest run ever in gambling history. A short time before Christmas Day, he arrived in Las Vegas with $50 in cash and ran it up to a figure reported as high as $45 million. The story goes, at one time during his hot streak, he possessed every single $5,000-denomination chip at Binion’s Horseshoe and very nearly ended up holding the note to the place.
But the odds inevitably caught up with Karas and just as effortlessly as he won it all, he lost it all back. Within a few years of the run of a lifetime, Karas was allegedly seen sleeping in a borrowed car during most nights out in a casino parking lot.
Every summer for the past 17 years, I have attended a special gathering of poker players. It’s called “BARGE.”
BARGE stands for BIG AUGUST RECREATIONAL GAMBLING EXCURSION. It’s held at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas.
Let me tell you two reasons why I never miss this special gathering. I’ll also inform you on how you may want to sign up this year and attend.
The primary reason why I never miss BARGE is because it embodies what poker should be….which is fun.
Remember that word? “Fun.”
Let’s try to remember, we are playing a card game. And each of us in our own way is extraordinarily lucky to be living in this day and age when we can pretty much do what we want to enjoy the finest things in life. BARGE is one of those things to enjoy.
Imagine your Thursday night home poker game with your friends where just about anything is allowed. Crazy games are played. There are straddles and double straddles. Everyone is drinking and having a good time. For nearly a week, a few hundred BARGE attendees completely take over the Binion’s poker room. Sure, it can be serious — especially during the BARGE tournaments which attract some of poker’s best players, including a few world champions. But the idea behind BARGE is seeing old friends and making new ones. It’s like a poker fraternity.
Every year, we have new people come to BARGE. Most who come start coming every year after that. Everyone who likes to have fun is welcome. You will meet some extraordinary people in this group, including some of the top minds in their field.
The tournaments cost less than $100 each to enter. And the cash games range from $4-8 up to some high-limit Pot-Limit Omaha games, played with dice (I’m not kidding).
To learn more about BARGE 2013, please visit the official site where you can see a list of events. This year’s festivities take place over five days. You can come for a day or stay the entire time.
Hope to see you the first week in August for BARGE 2013.
Writer’s Note: This is the latest chapter on Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and (some of) what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after.
A frequent question I get asked is — at what instant did I realize everything had changed?
I’d be lying were I to answer it was the moment when Chris Moneymaker won.
Instead, it was the morning after.
The 2003 World Series of Poker didn’t just conclude on a high note. It ended with a blast that would go so far as to transform popular culture, especially among young people. I later condensed this phenomenon into a simple catchphrase which became known as “poker’s sonic boom.”
Writer’s Note: I’ll try and write up the final chapter of the Chris Moneymaker “behind the scenes” story in the next day or so. In the meantime, here’s something from the Binion’s Horseshoe era that happened in August 2003.
Remembering back ten years ago to the days working at Binion’s Horseshoe, I’m reminded of my all too brief career as a reality television “star.”
Fresh off our public relations coup from the 2003 World Series of Poker and the ESPN broadcast which was attracting huge ratings, my cell phone never stopped ringing. From that instant forward — Las Vegas, gambling, and poker were hot topics. My philosophy was — anyone with a television camera was allowed to film inside the casino. We didn’t care who they were.
That policy made us really different. While the corporate stiffs on the other end of The Strip made things practically impossible (they wanted forms filled out, lawyers’ signatures, proof of insurance, total bullshit), we opened up our doors to the entire world. We rolled out the red carpet, and let everyone inside.
Writer’s Note: This is the sixth in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at the legendary Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after, where I worked as Director of Public Relations.
I’d also like to note that another great read was released this week at Grantland.com. Writer Eric Raskin penned an outstanding oral history of the final table, with interviews of many who witnessed poker’s most memorable moment. I urge readers to check out Raskin’s excellent article here: “When We Held Kings.”
“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
— Oscar Wilde
Part 9: Championship Day (May 20, 2003)
The 2003 World Series of Poker finale included a bit of everything.
It had intrigue, suspense, surprise, triumph, tragedy, and even a bit of mystery.
Of all the championship final tables over the past quarter century, that year’s cast of characters was right off the pages of a Hollywood script. Everybody watching the show could pick one of the finalists to root for (or against) among those nine who took seats on Friday at noon inside Benny’s Bullpen.
That final table included an astounding seven players who had won (or would later win) WSOP gold bracelets — a collection of talent unheard of since the very earliest days of the championship during the 1970’s. Chris Moneymaker, Sammy Farha, Dan Harrington, Jason Lester, Amir Vahedi, David Grey, and David Singer all now have WSOP wins. But some captivating underdogs also captured our interest — potential stars that millions of viewers would come to know through a bombardment of broadcasts later shown on ESPN. “The nine” became as famous as any characters on a hit reality TV series.