Collectively, gamblers aren’t viewed as the most responsible people. Some are willing to bet money they don’t have in hopes of a miracle.
These miracles rarely come in the way that gamblers hope for. That said, I highly recommend you stick with solid bankroll management and avoid risking money that’s meant for bills.
Nevertheless, some struggling people do get lucky from time to time and save their bacon during Las Vegas trips. These five people used Vegas casino games to climb out of trouble and, in some cases, even find riches and happiness, even if it was only temporary.
1 – Archie Karas: From $50 to $40,000,000
Archie Karas has always been a gambler at heart. Growing up as a teenager in Greece, he’d shoot marbles with friends to earn money for food.
Eventually, Karas left Greece and found himself in LA. There, he built a $2 million bankroll by playing poker and hustling pool halls in the early 1990s.
As would happen many times in his life, though, Karas eventually lost all of this money. Actually, he did have $50 remaining that he used to travel to Las Vegas. Of course, $50 has never gotten you far in Sin City.
Archie begged a poker friend there to loan him $10,000, which he used to start an improbable run. Karas quickly became the hottest gambler in town and dominated both pool and poker games. His $10,000 stake turned into $17 million by 1994.
The problem with winning this much, though, is that nobody wants to play you eventually. The Greek-born gambler had to turn to house-based games just to continue getting action.
His incredible streak continued as he won another $23 million playing craps in downtown Las Vegas at Binion’s Gambling Hall. A reasonable person would’ve banked some of the $40 million that Karas earned.
But he didn’t. He unfortunately continued playing house-banked games and lost all of his money. He even tried going back to poker only to lose on the felt, too.
2 – Shoeless Joe: Goes on Amazing Blackjack Run With Just $400
Shoeless Joe was one of the nastiest gamblers to walk into the Treasure Island casino, both from a looks and attitude perspective.
The 80-year-old had bad teeth, a crooked chin, and walked with a cane. He also cursed dealers out anytime he lost in blackjack.
Luckily for the dealers, Shoeless Joe didn’t lose often.
He even signed a $10,000 deal with Steve Wynn, Treasure Island’s owner, for the movie rights to his story.
There would be no movie, though. Fueled by the lavish casino comps that Treasure Island offered, Joe continued gambling until he had nothing left.
Rumors suggest that he went back on social security due to losing everything. Some locals even claimed that he spent his remaining years as a vagrant.
3 – Fred Smith: Wins Just Enough to Keep FedEx Planes Fueled
Today, Fred Smith is a multibillionaire in charge of the shipping giant FedEx. But several decades ago, he was a frantic business owner willing to do anything possible to stay afloat.
Case in point, he took the company’s last $5,000 to Las Vegas in hopes of saving FedEx in 1973. The company couldn’t even afford to fuel its planes at the time.
Smith knew that desperate times called for desperate measures, even if those measures involved playing a house-banked game where the odds are against you.
He defied the house edge, though, and won $27,000. Smith used this money to fuel the planes just long enough for the company to obtain more investments.
FedEx has since become a highly successful company that serves multiple countries worldwide. It currently holds a value of $42 billion.
4 – Suitcase Man: Mysterious Gambler Bets Life on Craps Roll
In September 1980, visitors at Binion’s Gambling Hall witnessed a strange spectacle. A man walked in with two suitcases and sat them near the craps tables.
One suitcase contained $777,000. The other was completely empty and meant to take home winnings. The man, William Bergstrom, became known as the “Suitcase Man” from then on.
Bergstrom left Binion’s immediately afterward and didn’t return until March 1984. The Suitcase Man proceeded to wager $538,000 on a single roll and won yet again. This time, he stuck around and placed a few more bets that brought another $117,000 in winnings.
He came back once more in November 1984 to place what would be his final craps bet. Bergstrom wagered and lost $1 million.
The Suitcase Man talked to the casino owner, Benny Binion, afterward. Bergstrom explained how he’d planned to commit suicide if he lost the first night on Sept. 1980. In a way, craps kept him going a few more years and allowed him to travel the world with his winnings.
Unfortunately, William Bergstrom took his life in early 1985. But his name still lives on in the gambling world.
5 – Ashley Revell: Sells All Possessions for One Shot at Roulette Glory
Ashley Revell didn’t really need saving. He lived a comfortable life in Maidstone, Kent, and had a car, home, and fancy Rolex watch.
However, he abruptly sold these possessions and embarked on a plan to bet everything on one roulette spin. The idea surfaced during a drunken night out with his friends.
Rather than let drunken thoughts be, Revell took his plan seriously and sold everything he owned. The fire sale accumulated $135,300.
Ashley took this small fortune to the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He put the entire amount on red (red/black bet). Revell watched in anticipation as a Sky One film crew captured the moment. He erupted into celebration after the ball landed on red seven and delivered him $270,600.
In the aftermath, Revell started a real money online poker site and iGaming job board. The Brit was also able to buy back many of the possessions that he sold off to build his roulette bankroll.
Revell’s internet poker room didn’t last very long. The iGaming job recruiting site also appears to have gone offline.
The world doesn’t really know what he’s up to these days. What is known, though, is that Ashley Revell is still one of the biggest legends to ever play roulette.
I certainly don’t recommend taking any of the drastic actions that these gamblers did to save themselves. But you can see that gaming can provide the occasional miracle.
Assuming you’re ever lucky enough to experience one of these miracles, then you should take heed of Karas and Shoeless Joe. They provide the biggest cautionary tales on what not to do when you’re up big.
Fred Smith is no doubt the biggest success from this post. As it turns out, he only needed one big stroke of luck to reach long-term fame and fortune.
Revell was a moderate success after his crazy roulette spin. However, it doesn’t appear that he’s still involved in the online gaming business 20 years later.