Golden Nugget poker room in the 1950's

May 17, 2011 6:00 AM

Once upon a time in Las Vegas, there was a poker room located in the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino on Fremont Street in old downtown. This was long before the Fremont Street Experience was ever dreamed about.

I played in this poker room almost 50 odd years ago (from the late 1950’s). The poker room was moved from location to location about the casino floor. When located up front, it was near the Fremont Street east door.

It was said if you played in the game long enough, everyone you ever knew or played poker with would come through that door.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Steve Wynn gained control of the Golden Nugget and one of the first things he did was bring the world champion poker player Bobby Baldwin on board.

Peace arrangements were made with all the other downtown casinos for good business reasons. Fact was the Golden Nugget had no hotel and the only place to build a new modern five star hotel was to close Carson Street.

Wynn always does things first class so with Bobby’s help they designed and staged one of the biggest poker promotions ever dreamed of – The Grand Prix of Poker.

This tournament had everything a poker player could ever want. The grand prize for winning the best all around player award was a very large motor boat complete with hauling trailer. The price tag for this prize was many thousands of dollars.

I competed to win that boat – but lost out to one of my friends, Action Jackson. However, I did manage a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not while playing in the Grand Prix. I did this by playing in two major poker tournament events simultaneously!

Eric Drake, the tournament director, placed the two final tables end to end. I played in the two-seat at one table and the seven-seat at the other. I finished third and fifth.

To commemorate this event, the Golden Nugget poker room awarded me a special trophy, now in "The Seniors" poker museum in the lobby of the Crystal Park Hotel in Los Angeles.

I played one of the last hands of poker that night with Bill Boyd, the legendary poker room manager of the Golden Nugget before the room was closed and the games were moved across the street to Binion’s Horseshoe.

I am now in Tulsa, Okla., but next week will return to the story and tell you more about the closing of the poker room at the Golden Nugget.

OKJ Tip of the Week

When you are playing no limit Texas hold’em poker, I recommend never playing in a no limit hold’em pot that has not been raised. Always raise a little.

If someone else has not already done so you must clean up the blinds and get them out of the pot. Don’t let the little and big blinds have a free flop! If you do not kill those blinds in the spring they will kill you in the fall!

Until next time remember to stay lucky!