I always read the feature in Card Player entitled "Getting to Know." I think
it is an excellent way to introduce players to the poker world at large. I
sometimes think about how I would answer the questions in the feature
- the ones asking "who do you respect most?" and "who do you think
has done the most for poker?"
I'm not sure about poker in general, but if the question was "who do you
think has done the most for tournament poker?" without a doubt, I
would have to give the nod to Benny Binion. His idea to stage the World
Series of Poker was masterful, and after he saw all the possibilities, he
continued on with the event. The WSOP is now the biggest event every
year in tournament poker.
The next name on my list would be the "Silver Fox," Bob Thompson. Bob
has run or helped run almost every poker tournament that's come along,
and he's currently running all the tournaments on the poker cruises.
In 1987 when I first traveled to Las Vegas to play in a tournament, it was
at the urging of my wife. She noticed that the Las Vegas Hilton was
having $200 buy-in tournaments with special room rates, so I thought I'd
check it out. At that particular time I had played in a few California
tournaments and had read the Poker Player newspaper. I had some idea
of the Vegas tournament scene and had read some about the better
known players. The first tournament I played in, I was lucky to stay in for
several hours. What happened after the tournament first began, until its
very end, was something I had not planned on.
The first thing that came to my attention was this rather nice looking guy
wearing a cowboy hat, up on the dais. He had a great microphone voice.
He made all the usual announcements and then started introducing the
I remember one of the first mentioned was "seat 7, table 8, Johnny Moss.
Winner of the WSOP 1970, 1971, 1974, 1979, 1980, and 1981." And then
"seat 5, table 2, the big fish from Reno, Tuna Lund. Tuna won the Super
Bowl of Poker in 1983."
His introductions continued, not in an annoying or disturbing way, but
just enough to keep you interested. Then, as players were eliminated, he
would make comments like, "I guess Tom McEvoy didn't read his chapter
on Razz. Good night, Tom." Or a good one I will never forget is, "Tahoe,
don't slither out of here when you get knocked out. Walk out like a man.
Good night, Howard."
I must admit I was impressed. How could this man remember who had
won what and when? The manner in which Bob did it was like a show. I
remember thinking - "Gee, I'd like for him to mention me some day. I
wanted to be a part of this show."
From that day forward, whenever Bob ran a tournament, I was there.
Eventually I became a friend of this man and he eventually did call my
table and seat number. What I also learned about Bob, other than his
great talent for entertaining while running a poker tournament, was that
he was a devoted family man with six children and a great wife named
Diane. He is also the only man I know who has never, at least in front of
me, said anything bad about anyone. A few times I have said "so and so
is kind of a jerk." Bob has never bought into it.
I just want to say something I've never said to Bob. Maybe I thought it
unmanly or something, but I'm going to say it here: Bob, you're my hero.
The third and last person whom I'd name as having done the most for
poker tournaments is well known to us all: his name is Jack McClelland.
Jack is the master of persuasion. I have seen him diffuse more volatile
situations than you can imagine.
Jack usually will lead the angry person away from the table and sort of
guide him to a corner. Then with that soft reassuring voice say, "Uh huh,
yes, I understand," and the next thing you know the person is sitting
back in his seat - no problem. Jack has been so successful in the
tournaments he runs that the numbers always seems to increase. He is
always in control and his tournaments are run smoothly and efficiently.
I must also say that Jack has become quite funny over the years. I can't
remember when it happened, but somewhere along the line, this guy got
funny. They say comedy is about timing, and Jack's got great timing. Just
when things are getting dull, here comes a one-liner from Jack and most
will crack you up.
All in all Jack's ability to run the tournaments with skill and panache,
inserting just the right amount of wit and humor, has made him a legend.
Rumor has it that Jack will be retiring from the tournament scene shortly.
I hope not. But if he does, I have only one thing to say to Jack: "Uh, huh,
yes, I understand."
For what it's worth ...
By Vince Burgio