By Max Shapiro
“Hey Maxey,” Big Denny bellowed on my latest visit to his dumpy card shack, “did ya hear about da Minnysoda Poker Hall of Fame?”
“That’s ‘Minnesota,’” I corrected him.
“Oh, yeah, dat’s da name of da city.”
“Minnesota is a state,” I said wearily.
“Yeah, whatever. But did ya hear about dere Poker Hall a’ Fame?”
“Yes, I read about it. It was started by the Canterbury Park Racetrack and Card Casino to honor poker players from that state and those who helped the development of poker in Minnesota. So what about it?”
“Well,” the big guy explained, since Minnysoda is startin’ one, I figgered I could do da same an’ have a Barstow Poker Hall a’ Fame.”
by Max Shapiro
The World Series of Poker has seen countless changes since its launch in 1970. The very first WSOP was not even a freeze-out event, but a contest with starting and stopping set times, and the “best player” was voted by secret ballot. Poker legend holds that all the players voted for themselves, Benny Binion then took a vote for the second-best player, and Johnny “The Grand Old Man of Poker” Moss was the winner.
Perhaps the best rule of thumb for the WSOP is that the prize pools have kept going up while the average ages of the main event winners have steadily declined. When Moss took down the first event (with only seven players) he was 63, and no one even knows how much he won (or what his final hole cards were). The second year the field slipped to six players, Moss won again at age 64 with pocket 6s and collected $30,000. In 2009 Joe Cada became the youngest champion ever at age 21, and pocketed $8,574,649.
Here is the data for the champions that followed: In 1972 the winner was Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston. There were eight entrants, his winning cards were K J, and he took home $80,000.
Walter “Puggy” Pearson followed in 1973. There were 13 entrants, he won with A♠ 7♠ and won $130,000.
Moss, now 67, won for the third time in 1974 holding 3♥ 3♠. The field kept inching up. There were now 16 players and he got the entire $160,000 prize pool. There were 21 players and a $210,000 pay-out when Brian “Sailor” Roberts won in 1975 holding J♠ J♥.
Gabriel Cook, a 32-year-old special education high school teacher from Terre Haute, Indiana plays only two or three tournaments a year and occasionally flies to Vegas for a shot at the World Series. This year he played one satellite, won a seat into the $5,000 main event, and won it after a very wild ride.
The first of 11 scheduled events for the 2009 WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City attracted 812 entries and generated nearly a quarter-million dollars in prize money for the winner, Brian Fitzpatrick, a 24-yearold poker pro from Fallston, MD who earns his living playing on the Internet. Fitzpatrick won $63,336 for first place, his biggest cash ever.
The $340 buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament was played over two days, and the top 81 players collected prize money.
Jesse Hale, a 35-year-old professional skydiving instructor from Houston, Texas, and as upbeat a guy as you would ever hope to find, sang, joked, and talked his way into a win in the $5,150 championship event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. A deal was made when the three finalists were pretty even, but his win was worth an official $113,020 along with the gold and diamond trophy ring and a buy-in to the WSOP $10,000 main event.
Kai Landry, who has no job, claims to have developed "no marketable skills" in his 37 years and spends much of his time playing poker, doesn't feel he deserves the title of pro.
Maybe not, but he played professionally enough during the six-hour final table to win the WSOP's circuit tour $5,150 championship event at Harrah's Casino Tunica. The victory was worth $183,974, a gold-and diamond trophy ring, and a $10,000 seat into this year WSOP championship event, plus $1,000 expense money.
The opening event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Casino Tunica took on the aspects of a race in its final stages. It pitted Ronnie "Slugger" Sewell, owner of a steel fabrication business, who has 151 stock car wins to his credit, and Mark "Pegasus" Smith, who breeds race horses.
Poker gave Brent Roberts a chance to satisfy his love of traveling the world. He's played tournaments in places like Macau, Barcelona, the Bahamas, and Aruba. But it was right here that the 23-year-old from nearby Staten Island, New York made his biggest score when he won the $5,150 championship event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Atlantic City. Victory brought him $280,040, a $10,000 buy-in to the 2009 WSOP main event, and the coveted gold-and-diamond trophy ring. He won by beating a strong table that contained several other pros.
The largest turnout in the five-year history of the World Series of Poker Circuit at Harvey's Lake Tahoe generated $1,418,132 in prize money spread over 13 tournaments. The annual attraction on the south shore of Lake Tahoe attracted 2,163 entries, surpassing last year's record of 2,128 entries.
Justin Wallace, 29, from Paducah, Kentucky won $45,934 plus a $5,150 seat into this tournament's main event by winning the opener of the WSOP Circuit at Harrahs Southern Indiana, a $300 no-limit hold 'em.
In this event, the first in the 2008-2009 Circuit tour, he took down first place by rapidly moving up with aggressive play in the final stages and had built a nearly 4-to-1 chip advantage when he got heads-up with Pat Peercy. Wallace said, "I do what the table lets me, and try to mix up my game."