Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reporting from the 1975 WSOP

Here’s something interesting, worth a look here on the eve of another World Series of Poker -- a short video of a televised news item from 1975 filed during that year’s WSOP Main Event.

The clip got passed around a little on Twitter not too long ago, which is how I first saw it. It’s from the Associated Press and was first posted on their YouTube channel last summer. The report is interesting in part because there isn’t really any other footage from that year’s WSOP floating around.

For a deeper look into the WSOP circa that early era at Binion’s, you can see a lot more from the 1973 WSOP in the televised special created that year for its CBS Sports Spectacular weekend show. That entire program is up on YouTube, if you’re curious.

There’s a reference at the start of the clip from 1975 to “only 20 men” being able to come up with the $10,000 entry, although in truth there were 21 entered that year. Brian “Sailor” Roberts would be that year’s champion, and I believe he can be spotted briefly early on in the video, as can a couple of other early WSOP Main Event winners, Amarillo “Slim” Preston and “Puggy” Pearson.

The reporter notes the winner-take-all format, the stamina required to play for long periods, and the fact that many of the better players are from Texas.

Johnny Moss appears briefly, introduced as “the Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, or Jack Nicklaus of World Series Poker.” Moss talks about having won the year before (his third WSOP title), then answers a few questions about the tournament.

“They should let us buy all the checks we want and play three days,” opines Moss, suggesting he’d rather not stick with the freezeout tournament format. In fact, it sounds as though he and some of the other players were having a discussion that year about changing things going forward.

“They gonna do it next year,” he continues. “They gonna make this tournament three eight-hour shifts, and buy all the checks you want. Then you’ll see millions of dollars.”

Of course, what Moss is describing isn’t really so much a tournament at all, but what would be a high-stakes cash game (kind of like they played back at the first WSOP in 1970). As we know, that plan did not come to fruition, as they kept with the freezeout tournament format the following year and every year since.

It would take a few more years -- not until 1982 -- before the prize pool would exceed $1 million in the WSOP Main Event. The first time the winner took away $1 million would be 1991. Then it wouldn’t be too long after that before they could say there really were “millions of dollars” at stake in the event.

Check it out:

Photo: “A group of players outside of Binion's Horseshoe in 1974.” CC BY 3.0.

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