on the person who took himself to the top, feeling “If he can do it,
then so can I,” or something to that effect.
So it was with a particular Greek immigrant who came to Las Vegas in
1992 with only $50 in his pocket and the desire to get lucky and
strike it rich. So far in the story, he might not be any different
from a thousand or ten thousand other people who might’ve come here
with that or even less in their pockets, and the same dream.
It starts to get a whole lot different though when we consider that he
was able to get a $10,000 loan from a poker buddy at Binion’s
Horseshoe casino, and tripled that amount in just one game. The luck
he was hoping for had quickly found him.
But then, his “luck” wouldn’t stop. “I was the best!” he bragged.
People he used to play pool or poker with wouldn’t play against him
any more because he would always win. He had to do something different
to keep the flow going. He was on a roll and didn’t want to quit.
And so he took to rolling the dice. Apparently people would show up
just to watch him bet $1 million on a single roll — and win! He won so
much with such little effort that it was easy to see why he called
himself “the best.”
If you start out with only $50, win a million or two and then lose it
all at the same game, you can more or less say you just lost $50. But
if you managed to go from $50 to $40 million over the course of three
years, you would have plenty of time to get used to the idea that you
were both lucky and rich. You would have fulfilled your dream and then
some. But as with all dreams that are nothing but a puff of smoke
surrounded by the illusion of lasting good luck — as opposed to dreams
that are more or less based on a firm foundation to withstand the
slings and arrows of life’s ordinary onslaught of everyday events —
his soon went “poof.” His dream bubble burst, and he lost it all. That
was in 2008.
I didn’t know him then, so I cannot say what thoughts went through his
mind; however, I can imagine that he believed he still had the
gambler’s lucky touch and that he could bring himself up once again,
if he just had the chance. Yet apparently, that “chance” wasn’t
forthcoming. Perhaps in order to give himself what he felt was his due
— just a decent “chance” to get back to his winning ways — he needed a
stake; he needed some cash. Apparently no poker buddy was around to
lend him another $10,000 this time, so he did what he felt he needed
He “won” $8,000 playing blackjack in San Diego’s Barona Casino, but
got caught at marking the cards to make himself a winner. And because
of that decision to cheat, he no doubt lost his $40-million reputation
on top of just losing all his money. He tarnished his rags-to-riches
legendary tale that in itself was worth a fortune. And he left people
wondering if he had always been a cheater.
It is never a crime to be poor; to be unlucky; to lose one’s fortune.
Yet It is always a crime (if not legally, then at least morally) to
cheat — and that doesn’t just apply to card games or gambling of any
kind. Consider how many famous people (read that well-known, revered,
looked-up-to and the like) have gotten to their station in life by
cheating: by using padded resumes; by creating heroic deeds for
themselves that they had never done; by taking drugs to enhance their
speed or strength or mental capacity for a competition when such
advantages were not known by anyone else involved in the competition
and was therefore an UNFAIR edge; by lying about others to make
themselves look better; by having others lie for them for the same
reason; by doing WHATEVER it would take to stand out and look good to
the world… Whatever excuse one uses for indulging in that untruthful
self-promotion, it is still cheating.
I’m kind of thinking that we (maybe our school system, but certainly
those in the chain of command of teaching children) need to teach
something about the effects of cheating — or on a grander scale, the
ramifications for all the choices we make. Many, many years ago, I was
involved with a program that taught decision-making to prisoners. The
basic premise was to start with the goal, the desire — such as “to
have a car” — and then think of every conceivable way that such a goal
could be accomplished. Next to each “way” one would then write down
the possible or likely consequences from following that way. One of
the ways to have a car is, of course, to steal one. That was included
in this kind of exercise because one must get to mentally experience
ALL the possibilities and ALL the ramifications in order to eliminate
the ones that would not serve you well.
If Archie Karas (Anargyros Karabourniotis), who still has a home in
Las Vegas, was taught decision-making and all its ramifications way
back in 1992, he would perhaps still be a rich man today — if not in
legal tender, than in all the ways that count.
Sad to say, today, instead of being “king of the gamblers” and perhaps
one who might have used his wealth to help others or make the world a
better place in some small way, he will be remembered for being that
legendary gambler who got caught marking cards.
The deck was not stacked against him; he was simply playing by his own
rules. If only he had taken “Ramifications of Our Actions 101,” he
would never have been in the position of playing that last hand
without a clue.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.