King of the Spinners

King of the Spinners

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Everyone loves a good spin-up story – a death-defying tightrope walk which, for a few hours or days – or years, in some cases – cheats variance and flies in the face of everything we try tell our readers about good bankroll management. Let’s face it; no one can resist a spot of impetuous, reckless heroism, whether it’s by impudently defying the house edge or just sheer common sense. So, from busto to robusto in as little time as possible, here are our favourite spin-up heroes…

Archie Karas

The most extraordinary gambling run of all time, bar none, befell one Archie Karas. Karas was an accomplished poker and pool player (still is, by all accounts), but apparently a complete nightmare when it came to bankroll management. One fine morning sometime in the early nineties, he drove to Las Vegas, so the story goes, with £50 in his wallet, and went on a hot streak at Binions Horseshoe. Here he bumped into a friend who he persuaded to lend him $10,000. Karas soon tripled up playing $200/$400 limit Razz and returned $20,000 to his delighted backer.

Right, he was off!

Soon Karas found a wealthy pool player, who he would only after refer to as Mr X in order to protect his reputation. Karas was always willing to risk his entire bankroll at any one time and so, naturally, they started playing for $10,000 per frame. After Karas had won a few hundred thousand dollars, they upped the stakes to $40,000 a game and he ended up winning $1.2 million. He then played a somewhat tilted Mr X at poker and won an additional $3m.

Our hero returned to the Horseshoe where he sat with his entire bankroll in front of him, prepared to play anyone at poker who would take him on. Hearing there was a madman in town who was prepared to play heads up for ludicrous stakes, the pros lined up: Stu Ungar, Lyle Berman, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss – Karas beat them all. The only player able to claw anything back was Johnny Chan, but it was just a drop in the ocean. By the end of his six-month-long winning streak, Karas had amassed more than $17 million.

But he wasn’t done yet. The poker had dried up so he turned to dice for $100,000 per roll. His fortune continued to climb until it reached over $40 million. Karas’ run lasted about three years, but by mid-1995 he was broke. He lost it all in three weeks. Of course he did, the mad bastard.

Neil Channing

The most heroic kind of spin-up is that which gets you out of a dirty great big hole. The best story we’ve heard in this vein concerns our dear columnist Neil Channing, who happened to be staring into the requisite yawning pit of despair at the time. While many of our spin-up stories are notable for the short period over which oodles of cash has been amassed, this was an arduous marathon of a spin-up, as prolonged as it was epic. And it nearly killed him.

In his early thirties, Neil had become a wealthy young man, thanks, in part, to his membership of a big horeseracing syndicate which was able to use computer ratings to efficiently predict horseracing results (a whole other story). Neil invested his small fortune into an on-course bookmaking business, ploughing about £600,000 into pitches at about 20 different racecourses, just as the bottom fell out of the market. Then the syndicate had its first losing year. To cut a long story short, Neil ended up deeply in debt.

“I was wanking money off left right and centre,” he says. “I’d gone from having close to a million to just owing lots of people – people at the races, close friends, the other people in the syndicate, the bank – I had a list of 35 people I owed money to and it came to £365,000. I was fucked. I didn't know what to do. I didn’t have a job. I mean, I could have got a job, but it would have taken me 20 years to pay back all the money. Maybe I should change my name and do a runner, I just didn't know.”

A friend took pity on him and offered him “a testimonial” – instead of for a footballer whose legs had gone, this was for a gambler who’d done his bollocks. Neil’s friend offered him £20,000. “You're going to go to the races,” he explained. “Everything you win you keep, and if you lose you can pay me anytime.”

Neil took £10k, retreated to his flat, switched on his computer and settled in for the long haul. After the first weekend, he’d lost seven grand. “Do you want to give me the other ten now or shall we just keep going?” he asked.

“Give the other three a bit of a gamble and see what happens,” came the reply.

At the end of the second week Neil had £17,000. Twenty months later, he had £380,000. “For 20 months I spent 12 hours a day sitting in front of a computer,” he says. “I'd start with the dogs in the morning, the racing in the afternoon, football in the evening, and lastly the basketball from the US. I kept 90% of the winnings. I thought [my friend] should have had more, but he was happy. I would take £4,500 every week, pay off £500 to eight different people and keep £500 to live on. Gradually, I began to cross people off the list.”

By the end of it all, Neil was suffering from depression and then almost died from acute pancreatitis. Yet his obsession with paying off his debts was truly heroic. A few years later he was Irish Open Champion and very much back in the pink. And he writes a column in this magazine which obviously makes him very wealthy too.

Sam Trickett


Recipe for a magnificent spin-up: take one nonchalant genius on a heater; the kind that’s used to shoving a few hundred grand into the pot as a pure bluff; give him a four-pack of lager and a relatively insignificant amount of money, and we’re away! We recently heard about Sam Trickett’s online adventures. In fact, last month he managed to turn a few hundred dollars into the price of a small two-bedroom flat in Ponders End.

Sam takes up the story and, if you fit the above description, here’s how it’s done: “JP Kelly owed me some money so he sent me $11k. I played two tables of $25/50 and lost all but $462, so I quit. About three or four days later I was bored out my brains and wanted to play online but I couldn’t deposit any money. I logged on and realised I still had $462 so I thought I’d try and run it up. Playing $5/10, I raised, two people called and a nit 3-bet pot. I had J-J-2-2, no suit, and was about to just stick it in and gamble, but my mate said fold and stop donking about.

“Anyway, I folded and then went on to run up my bowl of rice to about $3,000, so I decided to leave and go straight to $10/20, playing two stacks of $1,500 for about two hours and soon I had $15k spread across two tables. Then I left both tables and started two fresh $25/50 tables with an almighty three buy-ins in my account (not the best bankroll management!). I got off to a good start and was running pretty good and played for about a further two hours and finished the session $50k up. Not a bad day at all.

“I never really leave big amounts in my online accounts because I’m the worst person for dusting off money when I’m drunk. So, I had $50k and the next day I played $25/50 again and, after about four or five sessions that day, I had run my account up to over $100k. I played $25/50 nearly every day and, about eight or nine days later, I had run my account up to $280k. I decided to take a shot at $100/200 and see if I could run good at higher stakes. I played two tables for about two to three hours and banked a decent profit of about $90k. Boom! The account was at peak roll of approximately $365k.”

There you have it. That’s how easy it is. But did Sam cash out and buy that dream two-bedroom flat in Ponders End? Nope, he didn’t; and apparently, as the organisers of Poker in the Park, it’s all our fault. “I then had a break for a few days and went to Poker in the Park and picked up Best Cash Player at the British Poker Awards, so I was pretty happy. I had about ten Coronas and went home and thought it would be a good time to play online. I’m such a donk when I’m drunk. I feel like I can’t lose, even though I never win drunk. I played three tables of $100/200 and barrelled off like $90k in 20 minutes; most of my losses were from bluffing and playing like a clown. Spin up over.”

Oops. Sorry, Sam.

Blink and you’ll miss it

And talking of internet sensations, well – what was Chris Moneymaker’s fabled World Series victory, if not a glorious, unholy spin up? The guy turned $39 (PokerStars qualifier) into £2.5 million! More recently, Niall Smyth placed €10 each-way bet on a horse at Aintree (Ballybriggs) which came in, netting him just shy of €200. He then put that into his account and entered a satellite to the 2010 Irish Open main event, and won the whole thing for €550,000.

In cash games, Viktor Blom’s rise to the nosebleed stakes was extraordinary. A few months ago he told us: “I deposited $2k.This was really my only money. If I lost this I would have to go and do something else. After I got the money and deposited, I went out to a chill place and sat down for an hour and thought how it had to be done, what I had to do, which stakes and so on. I chose multi-tabling NLHU. I just played every regular that gave multi-tabling action.

“After two to three weeks,” he explained nonchalantly, “I smashed every level and now I had a bankroll of $2M.”

But the single greatest up online spin-up we know of, in terms of turning a pittance into a pile, occurred to an online player called XBLINK, who, in 1999, turned $11 to $300k in two weeks. After binking a tournament, he started splurging on PLO. Little is known about the identity of this player and the moniker is now defunct, although forums speculated that he was cheating, so extraordinary was his ascent, although nothing was ever proven. However, in 2011 a player called XWINK turned up on FullTilt and transformed $4,000 into a mega-bankroll of $2 million in just four days, before losing a chunk of it back.


Remember, however, that pride comes before the fall, and for every Sharkscope graph that reaches for the heavens, there are a hundred that descend into hell. Even Archie Karas found out that his luck could not last forever. So, if you’re riding a roll, you have to know when to stop. Whatever you do, for heavens sake, don’t end up like this chap who came second in the Sunday Million last month. As a losing tournament player overall, I7AXA must have been over the moon to ship the second prize of $148,342.50. It’s the kind of score we all dream of, after all. Of course, he cashed it all out and used the money sensibly, right? Oh God, no…


Tags: Viktor Blom, Archie Karas, Sam Trickett, Neil Channing, Chris Moneymaker, XWINK, XBLINK,