Hall of Fame players high-light tourney

Jul 11, 2005 12:49 AM

Carol, I was honored to be able to talk to a few of our friends who came to play in "The Seniors" event at the World Series of Poker.

The winner is my friend of so many years and — believe it or not — he is older than I am: Paul McKinney, over 80 years young, and a winner of $202,725.

Bob Hume took second and was rewarded with $106,230, while the "Catfish" Paul Fischman was third and received $60,060.

There were 72 places paid out of the 825 senior poker playing friends, as well several hundred others folks enjoying the action.

It was the largest crowd of folks that I had talked to at one time in almost 60 years.

When I was 17, I was awarded the honor of being the valedictorian of my high school graduation class, and it was the custom to give a speech at the graduation ceremony at Crowder High School in Crowder, Oklahoma.

The English teacher told me that I should write a speech to deliver at the graduation ceremony. I said sure, no problem.

Then a couple of days before the graduation, she asked me, "Do you have your speech ready?"

My answer was, "No mam," but I didn’t worry about it. I would just walk out there on the stage and make that speech.

The day of the graduation the teacher again asked me the same question, and when I gave her the same answer, she said, "Here, I have written a speech for you."

I said thank you and put the speech in my pocket.

Later that night, everyone in town and it seemed the whole state of Oklahoma was in the audience.

I had on my cap and gown and was seated on state with a group of dignitaries and my classmates were down in front of me.

Then I was introduced to that large crowd — my parents, my brothers and sisters, all the kinfolks — just about everyone in my world was out there in the audience and I heard my name called.

I got up out of my chair ”¦ now, there was a problem.

Something was wrong. My legs would not hold me; I stumbled to the podium and grabbed on with both hands. My head went dizzy, my legs shook, I reached in my pocket and, oh boy, I was

Saved — the speech was there, no problem.

But there WAS a problem. The teacher had written me a speech, but I had not yet taken the time to even read it, and it had some very big words it. Not the kind of small words that I was used to using.

I begin to read the speech, but my hand shook so bad that I had a great difficulty. My eyes blurred and the room swam around me!

But I finally got through it, but not before vowing that the next time I would act like a Boy Scout and be prepared to whatever was required of me ”¦ even giving a speech.

--I got it done---although --there was a problem---I got it done--

When I spoke to our friends on Saturday, there was no problem. I had written and practiced my speech. Carol, here is what I had written down to say to the folks.

Hello, I am "Oklahoma Johnny" Hale. I know most all of you and if we have not yet met, I look forward to playing a few hands of poker with you soon.


I want to thank Howard Greenbaum of Harrah’s for inviting me to stop by and say a few words to you today.

I request that my wife Carol, and our daughter, "Oklahoma Sarah" stand here with me.

I invite also all the members. of "The Seniors" World Championship of Poker Players Hall of Fame members to please stand---

I know that you poker players did not all come here to hear me talk and that you want to play some poker!

When I created "The Seniors" WCOP many years ago I did not dream that there would someday be hundreds of you that would come and play in "The Seniors" World Championship events all around the world.

I would like to take just a minute to honor and say thank you to those boys and girls of ours who are out there in harms way all around the world, trying to protect our privilege to be here today and help us be safe as we enjoy playing a few hands of poker together.

Carol, Sarah and I would like to join with you and say thanks, and would like to remember a few folks who have gone on to play in the big game. I know that I will forget to name some of them, but they will all be remembered in my heart.

Here are just a few that come to mind: Cowboy Wolford, Benny Binion, Jack Keller, Jack Strass, Kenny Flaton, Kirby, Moxie, Johnny Moss, Bill Boyd, Jesse Alto, Oklahoma Bob, Ron Weaver, Hugo Meith, Ted Horning, and to the unknown poker player.

Save us a seat; we will all be there to play with you a little later.

I first met Benny Binion in Denver, Colorado, long before he created the World Series of Poker and he invited me down to his little club in beautiful downtown Las Vegas.

The Horseshoe did not have a poker room at that time, but Benny said his wife would let him invite a few of his friends to drop by and play some poker sometimes on the weekend.

I took Benny up on his invitation and played with him and the boys in his club before there was a World Series, but I was out of town when six of the fellows sat down in that first, final and only table of the inaugural championship of the world.

Sorry I missed that little poker game, but for over the past quarter of a century I have played in a lot of the events of the World Series that Benny invited me to come and play in.

No, I have never won it but I think I hold a few records in the Series.

I believe I am the only player to have finished third six times and I am the only player to be awarded a gold bracelet for being the best all around player of the series.

And I am the only player to ever have an event named for him.

You are playing in it today, "The Seniors" World Series of Poker.

I want to thank you all for the money and the memories

I hope that you will all stay lucky and may God bless America.