The 1973 World Series of Poker was the first one to be video taped. Legendary oddsmaker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder narrated the final table and, in the opinion of many WSOP aficionados, his clever commentary and the antics of the players made it the most entertaining championship event ever filmed.
It was a winner-take-all tournament with an entry fee of $10,000, so with 13 participants the champion would pocket $130,000. They played until 3 a.m. on the first day and when play resumed late the next afternoon, it eventually came down to two-time champion Johnny Moss and Puggy Pearson, who had placed second to Amarillo Slim Preston in 1972.
In the final hand, Moss pushed in his last $40,000 on the flop with K-J offsuit against Pearson’s A-7. When the dust settled, neither man made a pair, so Pearson won with his high-card ace.
“I learnt to play with gamblers!” Pearson exclaimed at the end of the event, which took 19 hours to play. Reporter Al Reinert (Texas Monthly) covered the ‘73 Series and described Pearson: “Pug looks like he’s between acts as a circus clown, but he’s one of the best three all-around card players alive.” He also wrote a colorful description of Moss: “Johnny’s face is transparently blank, the practiced result of 50 years of self-induced rigor mortis.” According to Reinert, Moss had lost “an easy quarter million” in the month prior to the WSOP in the big games at the Aladdin.
During the early WSOP, players were allowed to buy “insurance” on their hands. These side bets were based on the probability of one hand winning over another and were designed to cover a player’s possible losses.
In one hand against Jack “Treetop” Straus, the player that narrator Snyder had picked as the favorite to win the tournament at 9 to 2, Moss wanted 2 to 1 insurance. However, tournament director Jack Binion offered him only 3 to 2, so Moss passed on the wager, but won the hand and knocked Straus out in third place. Straus went on to win the championship in 1982, besting Dewey Tomko for $520,000 first-place money.
Over 7,000 articles about the WSOP were published in newspapers and magazines in 1973, largely due to Amarillo Slim’s many TV appearances to promote the event. Always a showstopper, Slim was highly visible hawking his new book, “Maverick Poker,” at the Series.
“It’s six ninety-five or fifty dollars fer an autograph’t one,” he croaked from the sidelines after busting out of the tournament in next-to-last place.
Unfortunately, five years passed before the next WSOP was taped in 1978, when Bobby Baldwin bested a field of 82.