Great Poker Players I’ve Known

Johnny Oklahoma Hale

Carol, I want to write a series of columns about the great players of the past that I have had the opportunity to play poker with during my lifetime.

Most of the poker players will be well known to you folks, but a few will just be my poker buddies. Some are now in jail-or just got out, like Bobby Brazil, and Bill Bennett. There’s also Mike Spillotro; you’ll remember him from the movie Casino. And there’s Bugsy Siegel’s wife- no, not Virginia Hill-but his first wife, and a lot of Bugsy’s nephews.

There are a few movie stars and TV people too, like Mike Sexton, Steve Lipscomb, Lyle Berman, Welcome Back Kotter’s Gabe Kaplan, James Garner, and Wilford Brimley.

Here’s today’s baker’s dozen or so of the world’s greatest players that I have played with:

My father-G. N. Hale, Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, Bill Boyd, Benny Binion, Amarillo Slim Preston, Johnny Moss, Puggy Pearson, Tom McEvoy, Jack Keller, Cowboy Wolford, Jesse Alto, Hans “Tuna” Lund.

I must tell you that I have been playing poker for more than seventy years and that I have invited a lot of these world famous poker players to my eightieth birthday poker party. The party will be hosted by Kathy Raymond, Director of Poker Operations at the Venetian poker room in Las Vegas. It’s set for September 28-30 (see ad on this page and also the ad on page 3).

Yes, I have even invited Max, and a few of them have told me that they plan to come, and you are invited too. Please come and play a few hands with me and these great players at my eightieth birthday poker party.

I have kissed the Blarney Stone and have a license to tell tall tales and embellish a story, but I promise you that at least 97 percent of every thing I tell you about playing with these players will be true. I may have to protect the guilty on occasion, because my father taught me never to speak ill about a poker player who’s playing in the big game in the sky.

During World War II I played with the old sea salts and beach bums of San Diego. I was too young to drink in the bars-I was old enough to die for my country though I could not legally take a drink-but I could play poker on the beach with my uniform on.

My father Granville Newton Hale created the first-ever poker tournament. It was called Depression Poker. I don’t have time to retell this story now, but if you go to Poker Player Newspaper’s archives of you’ll find the story there. I do not remember any of the exact hands that I played with my father but I remember the methods of play that he used when he played. I’ll always remember some of the secrets he taught me about the values of poker and life.

Think about these life lessons from my father… Always love and take care of your mother. Don’t lie. Money is not too heavy to carry. Don’t make people mad at you. Be Clean. Raise the pot at every opportunity. Don’t borrow money in a poker game. Buy low and sell high. Help push the wagon; don’t just ride in it. If you cannot sell it for $10, take $9. Don’t step on the little people. Do the right thing every time. Like yourself. If you make a mistake, fix it. Be a peacemaker. Carry your end of the load. If you give something away, forget about it. Don’t put your dirt in someone else’s hole. Be good to the cook.

Until Next Time, Remember to STAY LUCKY!!