‘Gray power’ rules at Series

Jul 24, 2006 3:20 AM

This week, Carol, Oklahoma Sarah and myself are relaxing aboard the cruise ship Elation, appropriately named, and will be back in Vegas in about a week.

We sailed this vessel many years ago, when June Fields ran the old Card Player magazine.

Of course, I was looking forward to resting, eating, reading and catching up on my sleep, but Carol and OK-Sarah talked the ship’s casino manager into setting up a limit hold’em game.

I guess they think that a day without poker (even at sea!) is like a day without sunshine.

I’ll try and get in a few hands from the comfort of my deck chair.

Before we set to sea, we had plenty of sunshine when we hosted the seniors event at the World Series of Poker.

The event drew the most participants ever — 1,184 players — which easily out-distanced last year’s field of about 800 players.

When the dust settled, a 61-year-old grandmother from New Mexico, Clare Miller, was the seniors champ, which entitled her to a gold bracelet and $247,814 for first place.

Clare’s husband, Shelby, didn’t do too badly himself. He outlasted all but 39 other players and pocketed about $4,300 for his efforts.

More important, the Millers demonstrated that the couple that plays poker together, stays together. Of course, this is something all of us grizzled veterans know — poker is a great social pastime for seniors.

Before the tournament began, I was given the opportunity to speak to the crowd (thanks to Harrah’s Howard Greenbaum).

I was introduced as the event’s Grand Marshall — an honor I’ll treasure forever — and was proud to announce that Mike "the mad genius" Caro and Paul McKinney were the latest inductees into the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.

If you’ve forgotten, the 82-year-old McKinney won last year’s seniors event. He entered again this year but was tripped up early on.

Other entrants included Jan Fisher, the popular writer and columnist for Card Player magazine, and her father, Dr. Peter Fisher. I think this was the first time a father and daughter played together in the seniors championship.

Before the "shuffle up and deal" pronouncement, I was permitted to offer a roll call of some of poker’s glorious pioneers who have moved on to play in the Big Game, including Benny Binion, Johnny Moss and Puggy Pearson, who just passed away just a few months ago.

I knew I wouldn’t remember all of them, but they will all be remembered in my heart.

Here are just a few others that came to mind: Cowboy Wolford, Jack Keller, Jack Strass, Kenny Flaton, Kirby, Moxie, 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.

Thinking back, 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.

But that’s enough about me. The World Series is about the players making their own memories.

I hope you all stay lucky and may Gold bless America.