Famous Gambling Addicts

by Willie Barrett
on March 9, 2018

Playing games of chance for money, otherwise known as gambling, can be a fun way to pass the time and test out how your luck is running that day. Unfortunately for some people, it can be a little too much fun and those who lack self-control will find themselves in a downward spiral of increasing stakes and a decreased concern for anything outside of gambling.

Whether you are a minimum-wage worker or a multi-billionaire oil tycoon, there is a limit to the amount of money that you should be risking on any given day. No one has unlimited money, and the thrill of hitting a big score can sometimes drive people to gamble far beyond their bankroll.

I will now take a closer look with you at some of the most famous gambling addicts that have ever walked the face of the Earth. Even though some of these stories may sound like these people led an exciting life on the edge, I do not recommend trying to pull these stunts at home.

Archie Karas

Archie Karas in Las Vegas
It only makes sense that the first famous gambling addict I talk about today is the king of them all. Archie Karas’ story is almost like it was written for a movie, but I assure you that this all happened in real life and that he was actually crazy enough to let all of these things happen.

Born way back in 1950, Archie was a gambler from the very beginning of his life. His first gamble was running away from home after his father threw a shovel at his head, and he proceeded to shoot marbles with other people on the street in order to feed himself.

He soon got tired of living in Greece and decided to get a job as a waiter on a ship for around $60 per month. Once his ship arrived in the USA, Archie decided to test his luck by staying there, and he ended up in Los Angeles with another boring waiter job.

In addition to this new job, he became such a monster at billiards that he began to play people for money. It turns out that he was so skilled at the game of pool that no one would gamble with him anymore, as he was pulling in more money every week than his waiter job was paying.

After his pool hustle came to a halt in Los Angeles, Archie turned to playing poker for a living. He valued money so little that he was a very tough opponent for most people, as he was constantly raising and re-raising, which really put people to the test. He amassed nearly $2 million from his poker hustles and got such a big ego that he thought he would start to take on poker legends like Doyle Brunson.

As you can imagine, this did not end well for him, since high stakes poker professionals are not rattled by intimidating antics such as Archie’s. He blew through his entire $2 million bankroll in these poker games, even though he was just working for $60 a month not too long before that.

At this point, Archie did the exact opposite of what most people would do and decided to move to Las Vegas with his last $50. In true gambling addict fashion, he convinced someone he knew from Los Angeles to loan him $10,000 based on his fierce reputation in the poker world.

This “small” loan was the turning point for Archie Karas, since he took it straight to the poker tables and turned it into $30,000. He then started pool hustling again with this money against a bunch of local sharks and proved himself to be superior by running his bankroll up to $1.2 million. There were reports that he was playing for as much as $40,000 per pool game.

One of the players that Archie took the most money from in pool then decided to challenge Archie in poker, which filled Archie’s pockets even further. Before long, Archie had dominated this poor fellow and found himself with a $7,000,000 bankroll.

Most people might call it a day once they had $7,000,000 locked up, but Archie would proceed to sit at a poker table by himself every day with $5,000,000 on the table waiting for any challenger who had the mental fortitude to gamble that high. This was almost his entire bankroll, which meant that one bad beat could erase all of his fortunes.

Somehow or another, Archie managed to dodge any cruel twist of fate for the following six months as he proceeded to stomp all of the best poker players in Vegas with his fearless approach. He amassed $40 million, at which point no one would play him in poker anymore.

Just like most gambling addicts, Archie did not walk away when he should have.

Instead of resting on his laurels at the top of the poker world with $40 million and living a life of luxury, Archie decided to start playing casino games with the same aggression and carelessness that he used in the poker and billiards worlds. Anyone who understands what “house edge” means can probably see how this is going to end.

After three years of nonstop winning in a town that is extremely tough to win in at all, Archie proceeded to punt off his entire bankroll in a matter of just three weeks. He lost over $10 million playing craps for $100,000 a roll, lost over $17 million playing baccarat at $300,000 per hand, and then decided to take a break with his last $12 million or so.

Archie then moved back to Greece to clear his mind and reconsider his questionable life choices up to this point, but the gambling addict that he had inside called him to Vegas again. When he returned, he proceeded to dust off the rest of his fortune in craps, baccarat, and poker against Johnny Chan, who is a two-time WSOP champion.

This ended one of the sickest gambling runs to have ever occurred in the history of gambling itself, which begs the question of whether he was cheating or not. He was arrested recently in 2013 after being caught marking cards at a blackjack table, so the idea that he fraudulently earned that $40 million is not so far-fetched.

Michael Jordan

This man needs no introduction, since he is known worldwide as the best basketball player to ever live. However, this confidence that he could be the best spilled over into gambling and the results were not what he had hoped.

There is not much information about Michael Jordan and his gambling addiction before he became an NBA star. I assume that he picked up this habit later in life once he came across hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are many stories about Michael Jordan’s gambling legacy spread all over the internet.

He was a heavy sports bettor as well as a heavy blackjack player. There are also reports that he owed as much as $1.25 million to one person just for losing to him in golf.

One of the biggest gambling controversies surrounding Michael Jordan was in 1993 when he was caught gambling in Atlantic City casinos the night before a big playoff game. He should have been resting up and focusing on the task at hand, but gambling was more important to him.

The funny thing is that Atlantic City was a full 2-hour ride away from where his team was staying in New York. He had only lost $5,000 that day, but this whole incident just goes to show that sometimes even rich celebrities do not have their head on straight when it comes to gambling.

As soon as the NBA launched an investigation into Michael Jordan’s gambling habits to make sure he did not break any league rules, he abruptly retired from the NBA for the first time. This begs the question of whether he felt like he needed to hide something or if he simply needed to get away from the game to get a grip on himself and his addiction.

Leonard Tose

Leonard Tose Smoking a Cigarette
Leonard Tose is not as famous as the first two gambling addicts that I have mentioned thus far, but he certainly was just as big of a risk-taker. He was the owner of a trucking company early in life, and once he amassed a fortune of around $20 million from this company, he became the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1969 to 1985.

He bought the team for a total of $16.1 million, which set a record at the time for the most expensive team purchase. Some might say that this was a gamble in and of itself, but Tose was accustomed to taking such heavy risks.

In 1985, Tose was forced to sell the Philadelphia Eagles for a total of $65 million so that he could pay off his $25 million in gambling debts around the country.

He reportedly tried to sue the casinos for getting him too drunk to know the difference between $50,000 and $500,000, but he predictably lost that court battle.

He was known for his reckless nature when gambling, and blackjack was his game of choice. It had been reported that he played up to seven hands of blackjack at a time and bet $10,000-$20,000 on each hand.

Throwing caution to the wind in this manner contributed to his eventual downfall, as he continued this rapid gambling pace even after he sold the Eagles. When all was said and done, he was completely broke and had lost his entire $65 million fortune and was evicted from his home.

Harry Kakavas

Harry Kakavas was an Australian real estate salesman who made a giant fortune from his houses located on the Gold Coast. It was a classic case of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, but Harry insisted on testing his luck even further in casinos.

It turns out that Harry was clinically diagnosed as a pathological gambler who was unable to control himself or think rationally when in a gambling environment. This problem became quite clear after he punted off an astounding $1.5 BILLION in just 14 months to casinos all over the world.

His game of choice was baccarat, and he was known for betting up to $300,000 per hand. Once he got tired of losing millions to casinos in Australia, he would travel to Macau and Las Vegas to try his luck, but to no avail.

His worst day was reportedly when he lost $164 million in a single session in May of 2006.

For the next seven years, he proceeded to stop selling real estate and focused his attention on suing the casinos for taking advantage of him. They had provided him with private jets to and from the casinos, millions of dollars in gambling credit, and even drove him to the bank to take out an extra $345,000 one day when he had already punted off $1 million.

As is the case with most of these high-stakes gamblers suing the casinos, Harry came away empty-handed. After losing all of his court battles, he returned to selling real estate on the Gold Coast in 2013. He is reportedly cured of his gambling addiction now and is back to living a normal life at this point, but very few people on the planet can claim that they have felt the exquisite pain of losing as much money as he did.

The Takeaway

Ever hear the saying, “don’t try this at home?”

This blog was written solely to keep you entertained and to open your eyes to some of the most reckless gamblers who have ever lived. I wasn’t trying to give you any ideas for next time you are at the casino or playing on the best sites. Call them degenerates, call them superstitious, call them whatever you want—these guys loved to gamble and had a tough time saying no.

Archie Kara’s story is hard to fathom, but it happened. From 0 to $40 million, and back to 0, it’s quite unbelievable. You and I both know all about Michael Jordan’s premier talents on the hardwood floor, but not everyone knows that this guy can’t play a hole of golf or a game of poker without massive amounts of money on the line.

Leonard Tose was a case of letting the lavish lifestyle get the best of him. Everything was going great for the distinguished businessman until he let his gambling addiction ruin everything.

Last but not least, Harry Kakavas lost sums of money that you won’t ever have to worry about losing. To say the ups and downs of Harry’s gambling ordeals were like a rollercoaster would be an understatement. I am talking about the most extreme levels of highs and lows on a Baccarat table that one could ever imagine.

I hoped you enjoyed the cases of these individuals who just couldn’t get enough of the thrills of gambling. Like them or hate them. Respect them or think they are completely unethical and irresponsible. These are facts. These are the stories of four of the most notorious “gambleholics” known to mankind.

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