Do Better

Oct 12, 2010 7:05 AM

Please, let me begin by thanking all of you who have written to me with so many nice things to say about this column. I appreciate it very much.

Many of you have requested I write more about the old days, including old poker stories. So, I’ll begin this column by telling you a little about me and how it was in the old days.

I lived in a house without a bathroom (just two holes and a path), no electricity, no telephone, no cell phones, no computer.

During the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, the Hale family was forced to join the migration of Okies from Oklahoma to California. While working in the fruit fields of California I lived on a dirt floor and went to bed hungry.

The first time I came to Las Vegas was in 1938, with a mattress on top of the car. But before you start to feel sorry for me, I will tell you it didn’t hurt me. It made me want to work and do better.

In this great country, you can do better, and I did!

After World War II I made my greatest investment – I went to the great University of Oklahoma and graduated as a civil engineer. I went to work for a professional engineering company that had about 50 older engineers working for them. In less than six months I was put in charge of all of them – and in less than a year I created a new corporation and became the president of the company.

I made my first million dollars before I was 22, and lost it before I was 25. Then the next time I made it, I locked it up.

Well, you all know that I love to play tournament poker. I will be playing in and hosting next year’s "The Seniors" WCOP Championship game at the World Series of Poker.

Like Broadway Joe, I am going to make a prediction – at the age of 83, I will be the oldest player to win the "The Seniors" World Championship poker game, and record my name for the second time on the Oklahoma Johnny senior’s trophy, the Golden Eagle. Yes, I first won the Golden Eagle trophy when I won "The Seniors" WCOP Championship back in 1995.

What will I do with all of that money? Ask Carol Ann, she has the key to the lockbox. But if I were to guess, she’d probably just ask me, ‘Honey, what color chips do you want to play with today?"

In June of next year, after "The Seniors" at the Series I will host the Inaugural "Super Seniors." This new poker tournament will be created and hosted by yours truly and will be held in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. Watch this column for more details of this new event or go to for more details about how the inaugural will be played.

Now I’ll tell you about the first poker tournament, or Depression Poker.

My father, in my opinion, was the greatest poker player who ever lived. He invented Depression Poker, which was the first poker tournament ever played. Its rules and structure were very simple. The contestants gathered together and placed their poker money for the week, maybe $5 or $10, in front of them. The game was played, for the most part, the same as today in poker tournaments, except for two variations – the limits never changed, and it was impossible to go broke.

Now, you’re probably asking how that could be. Well, if you were unlucky enough to lose all of your chips, you simply played for the antes. You see, there was no one to take your place, and the game had to go on, right? So, the other players played for a side pot while you played for only the antes. If you were successful in winning the antes, you could win yourself back into the poker game!

People played Depression Poker for entertainment, the joy of getting together with their friends for a friendly game of cards and the social aspect of it, so they didn’t want anyone to go broke and get shut out of the fun for the rest of the evening.

You might be wondering who won in this type of setup. Well, they set a quitting time for the game, usually midnight. At that hour, one more hand was dealt, and when it was finished, you kept the money in front of you. This was the first-ever poker tournament, and my father, G.N. Hale, invented it.

This Depression Poker tournament was the forerunner of tournament poker games as we know and play them today.

OK-Johnny’s Poker Tip of the Week

The truest test of a first-rate, world class poker player is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time:

1. He must have the courage of a lion and know when to risk all by moving his chips into the center of the pot!

2. The wisdom of knowing when to fold ’em.

The player must also be able to handle the two hardest things in life – failure and success!

Until next time, remember to stay lucky!