‘We made the final casino’ at the World Series of Poker in 1983

Jun 26, 2012 3:00 AM

Four-time bracelet winner Tom McEvoy, the 2009 Champion of Champions event winner at the WSOP, told this story in The Championship Table, which he co-authored with Dana Smith.

When I won the $10,000 championship event at the World Series of Poker in 1983, the Horseshoe didn’t have a poker room of its own. And since they didn’t have enough space for all the WSOP action, some of the tournament games were played at adjacent casinos – the Nugget, Queens and Fremont.

We even made jokes about “making the final casino.” For example, the limit hold’em tournament (which I also won) had 234 players, so some of us had to play at the Nugget. As people busted out and tables were broken, players would be transferred to the Shoe – by simply carrying their chips across the street with them.

The legendary Doyle Brunson, who already had won back-to-back championships in 1976-1977 and with the possible exception of Amarillo Slim was the most famous poker player in the world, finished in third place behind Rod Peate and myself. In three-handed action, Doyle played a hand against Rod, the chip leader, and got himself broke. Rod raised on the button with 9-9, Doyle called from the small blind with J diamonds, 9 diamonds, and I folded.

The flop came 9-high with two diamonds, giving Doyle top pair and a flush draw which looked pretty good, but he was up against Rod’s set of nines. Doyle checked and Rod pushed in a big bet.

Doyle moved all-in with over a quarter-million in chips, over-betting the pot, apparently trying to run over Rod. But Rod had made it around $9,000 before the flop and $15,000 to go on the flop, so he wasn’t about to fold. He called Doyle’s all-in bet and sent the legend to the rail when no diamond came to rescue him.

As the first satellite winners to appear at the championship table, Rod and I made WSOP history. We played heads-up for seven hours. The TV crew was so exhausted, they swore they’d never come back – and in fact, they didn’t return until three years later.

The 1982 final table between Jack Straus and Dewey Tomko had only lasted 10 minutes. They played a $1 million pot before the flop when the blinds were still small with A-10 offsuit against A diamonds 4 diamonds…I swore I wouldn’t let that happen.

When the final hand came up, the blinds were $8,000/$16,000 and Rod raised $40,000 on the button with K-J suited. I hadn’t gotten one big pocket pair all day long, and here I was looking down at two queens.

 “I’m all-in!” I announced. Everybody sensed that the end was finally near.

Rod didn’t take a lot of time to call, which surprised me. In hindsight, he regretted his hasty decision, but at the time he was exhausted. His rationale in calling my all-in bet probably was, “What if Tom has something like two nines? I still have two overcards.”

The flop came 6-6-3. Rod hit a jack on the turn, giving him jacks and 6’s. The river card was another 3. When my two queens held up, I jumped up from my seat with my arms raised in victory. It was the thrill of my life!