What happens in Vegas began in Oklahoma?

May 23, 2005 5:07 AM

Carol, I know that you and our daughter, "Oklahoma Sarah," love to play poker and that you love to watch poker television and we have become a poker playing family — the family that plays together stay together.

I know that it is said that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But here is a different line: What happened in Vegas started in Oklahoma then came to Las Vegas.

And then the bottom line is: What happened in Vegas started in Oklahoma, came to Vegas and now is returning back home to Oklahoma.

Yes, I was born in Oklahoma. Yes, it started in Oklahoma.

I was born there worked my way through the University of Oklahoma and attained a degree in math and civil engineering. I got lucky, created a lot of things, made a little money and got tired of being the CEO, CFO, chairman of the board, janitor, cook and bottle washer. I did all the jobs, whatever was required, 20-plus hours a day.

When I created my first company all of my employees were older than me. Then they caught up in age and my employees were the same age as me. Then I noticed that they were younger than me.

So, I said "this game has been played."

I retired in 1975 on top of everything and left them laughing.

Then for the next five years, Carol, after marrying you we looked the world over and went everywhere and did everything.

Then here is what happened in Las Vegas. In May 1980 — 25 years ago — I came to Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker, and I almost won everything except the WSOP championship, which I lost to Stu Ungar. But I won the best all around player award for being the best all around poker player in the different poker tournaments.

I am the only player who will ever wear a WSOP gold bracelet for being the best all around, and I won a new name —"Oklahoma Johnny" Hale — and I was dubbed OK-J by a very famous poker writer by the name of Tex Shehan.

My first poker nickname was Crazy Johnny because when I won a pot I would "toke" the whole pot to the dealer.

But Tex said, "He’s not crazy, he’s crazy like a fox, he is the man from Oklahoma. He is Oklahoma Johnny Hale."

I liked the name, and a lot of you folks know me now as OK-J. A few of you know my real birth name — it is not Oklahoma nor is it Johnny.

If you want to know my real birth name, the first one of you that email me at [email protected] and correctly says the name my mother gave me will receive an autographed copy of my book, "The Gentleman Gambler."

In Las Vegas I have created a few more things: "The Seniors" World Championship of Poker; "The Seniors" Charities; "The Seniors" WCOP/Poker Players Hall of Fame; I merged my "The Seniors" WCOP Logo with the WSOP logo and created the only tournament event of the WSOP to be named for a poker player — OK-J’s"The Seniors" @ the WSOP. Of course, I became the poker columnist for the oldest gaming newspaper in the world, GamingToday.

Yes, Carol, you wanted a baby so we had a baby girl, Sarah, who is now Oklahoma Sarah, with the beauty and intelligence of her mother and the gamble of her father.

Yes, I know it has been said that you can never go home again, but I am going home again. Now, the final chapter of the book — Back to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Nations Enterprises has invited me back to their home in Tulsa for a birthday poker party that they want to give me on Sept. 30. This will mark No. 78 for me.

Yes, you can crash the party. We will have poker cake and green money.

They want their home to be my home and have my signature poker event in their poker room in Oklahoma.

Well, I have just signed a contract with the Cherokee Nations Enterprises (CNE) in Tulsa, to create a poker television show, with a first place prize of $1,000,000.

Forgive me Max, I know that you do not wish me to self promote, but it will be called

The Oklahoma Johnny Hale Open Poker Tournament. There will also be a golf tournament/gin rummy and poker tournament.

Sorry, too much for one column. You folks come back next week for more of the story of Oklahoma to Vegas and back to Oklahoma.

Until next time remember to stay lucky.