11:02 p.m.: That’s One Way of Looking at It
As preparations are being made for heads-up play between Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim Preston just now found himself engaged in conversation with an English journalist on the rail.
“Listen, you play a lot of poker over there in England,” said Preston. “What do you think’ll happen?”
The journalist responded that he didn’t know, but that he saw Pearson and Moss representing “a classic confrontation between the old sentimental hero” and “a man emanating killer death-rays.”
“I see Johnny as the gentle giant about to do battle with Pug, who is one step removed from Cro-Magnon man,” he added. Preston shook his head.
“Neighbor, you sure have a funny way of saying things,” he said.
11:05 p.m.: Heads-Up Play Begins
Johnny Moss -- 70,400
Puggy Pearson -- 59,600
11:35 p.m.: Puggy Pushing
12:01 a.m.: Big Chip Poker
12:30 a.m.: Pearson in Front
Puggy Pearson has taken a series of pots to move out in front of Johnny Moss. He now has around 80,000, while Moss has slipped back to 50,000.
12:38 a.m.: Moss Escapes
That caused Pearson to think a while longer, then with what almost seemed a disappointed look he called, bringing the total pot to around 70,000 -- more than half the chips in play. Both players decided to table their hands:
“I gotta have a six,” said Moss with a chagrined look. Moss flopped top pair, but Pearson had two pair and was on the verge of winning the title and $130,000.
The turn brought the , changing nothing. Then came the river... the ! Moss made a better two pair, and as the crowd went wild Pearson stood with his hands in his pockets and head down, looking at that river card.
The match is just about even again!*
12:45 a.m.: Moss Extends Lead
12:48 a.m.: Break Time
The players are taking a short break with Johnny Moss still in front.
1:05 a.m.: Play Resumes
Cards are back in the air. No one who has been on the rail seems to have left despite the late hour -- in fact, if anything the crowd has gotten larger as word filtered through Binion’s Horsehoe Casino that the tournament is now down to heads-up.
1:27 a.m.: Pearson Makes Big Call, Collects
The flop came . Moss checked, Puggy Pearson bet 2,000, then Johnny Moss raised to 5,000. Pearson called. The turn brought the , and this time Moss led for 5,500. Pearson called.
The river was the . Moss didn’t wait long, pushing out enough chips to cover the 30,000 or so Pearson had behind.
Pearson sat back in his chair, riffling his chips. “Well,” he said, “I don’t believe you got spades, John. I believe you got something else. Might have trips, but I don’t think you have spades.”
After considering carefully for more than a few minutes, Pearson finally pushed his remaining chips in the middle, turning over for a rivered two pair as he did. Meanwhile Moss turned over for just a pair of treys, and Pearson won the big pot.**
Puggy Pearson -- 84,000
Johnny Moss -- 46,000
2:00 a.m.: All Even Again
Puggy Pearson and Johnny Moss are now essentially even with about 65,000 chips apiece.
2:40 a.m.: Updated Chip Counts
Puggy Pearson has regained the advantage in a big way, and now sits with about a 4-to-1 lead over Johnny Moss.
Puggy Pearson -- 102,000
Johnny Moss -- 28,000
3:25 a.m.: Puggy Pearson Wins ($130,000)! Johnny Moss Just Misses Third Title
Moss had a couple of live cards and an open-ended straight draw, but his outs were reduced as any spade would give Pearson a winning flush. The turn was the , and Pearson was just one card away from victory. The crowd began to get louder, but was quieted down before the final card was dealt.
The dealer then delivered fifth street -- the !
“My gawd,” said Pearson as he smiled broadly. “I’ve done it.”
The crowd exploded with noise at the sight of the final card. Meanwhile, Moss immediately stood up to congratulate Pearson. “If it had to be anybody other than me, I’m glad it was you Pug,” said Moss, and Pearson thanked him.
Jack Binion then brought out a silver cup filled with bricks of cash totaling $130,000, awarding it to Pearson as photographers snapped away from all angles. It’s the biggest prize ever won in a poker tournament in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, a stud game has started at the neighboring table. “Hey Puggy,” shouted one of the players. “Bring some of that cash over here and sit down!”
“I’m goin’ home, boys,” answered Pearson, still grinning. “I’m all wore out.”
*Bradshaw’s numbers don’t really add up, as he has Moss up to 96,000 after this hand even though he only put less than 35,000 in the middle on this double-up.
**Spanier’s account of this hand is much more accurate than Bradshaw’s (as the documentary shows).
Earlier coverage:Fast Company (1975), David Spanier’s Total Poker (1977), and the CBS Sports Spectacular documentary of the 1973 WSOP Main Event. Editorial judgment has been used whenever apparent discrepencies between the sources occur, and some creative license employed to fill in occasional narrative gaps, time stamps, and other details.
Photos: “Binion’s Horseshoe Casino presents The World Series of Poker,” CBS Sports Spectacular (1973).