World Series of Poker has come long way since Binion’s

Dec 22, 2009 5:03 PM
Back in the Saddle by Johnny Hale |

Nothing but ‘strangers’ at the final table

The World Series of Poker announced its 2010 schedule last week (see page one story), and there were some interesting changes and additions made to the six-week tournament.

It’s incredible how the tournament has grown over the years, especially since its been under the Harrah’s stewardship, which began in 2004.

I played in most of the early World Series events, which were held at Binion’s Horseshoe, beginning in 1970.

Actually, I played with Benny Binion and the boys at the old Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas before there was a World Series of Poker. I was out of town when the first tournament was held in Las Vegas. As I recall, there was almost a full game – first, six players, then eight and 12.

The first time I played in the WSOP was in 1980 – nearly 30 years ago. Since Stu Ungar won the championship that year, there’s been a lot of poker played in the World Series.

I couldn’t beat Stu (who could?) but I won the gold bracelet that year for being Best All Around Player of the World Series.

This year there will be more than 6,000 players who will put up $10,000 to play for the Harrah’s version of the old World Series championship.

Trying to imagine a room with 6,000 or more players reminds me of a game I played with "Buffalo" Joe Baldwin of Palo Alto, California.

In one hand I sent my troops (chips) into his herd and that was the end of me. Buffalo Joe warned me, "Johnny, you should never go roller-skating in a buffalo herd."

Well, if you do play in next year’s championship event you will be skating in a really big buffalo herd!

Over the years, I’ve learned to avoid playing against someone named "Doc" or "Lucky." Now, I know better than to go roller-skating in a buffalo herd.

What makes it even worse these days is that the players, many of whom come in from the Internet, aren’t recognizable. It’s rare in the World Series to see a known pro at the final table. The competition is so deep, that anyone, even a first-time player, is usually accomplished enough to cause some damage.

Poker tip of the week

If you play in next year’s WSOP with so many players, you cannot expect to win all the pots that you play in. And if you try to win too many pots, you will have trouble going home with the money.

So, as it is in war, pick the hill (or pots) that you want to win.

A good general knows that if he fights for each little hill that he will lose a lot of troops trying to take or hold hills that are not very important to winning the overall battle and the war.

You should play poker like a good general – your chips are your army and they are not expendable.

A good general will pick a high hill to defend. You should pick a good hand with which to defend your chips (troops).

If you do this you will have chips (troops) to play with in tomorrow’s poker battle.

Until next time remember to stay lucky.

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Johnny Hale