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Johnny Moss

One hundred years ago, Johnny Moss, one of the legends of saloon poker was born in the small town of Marshall in Texas the lone star state. Little is known about the childhood of Johnny, but a lot of youth was spent gaining an education at playing poker in the rough and ready saloons of Dallas. Johnny would readily admit that his ability to cheat at poker was almost as well developed as his skills at playing the game. So advanced were his skills that one of the leading saloons actually employed Johnny as a form of overseer, to ensure that games were being played fair and square. In those days, arguments were settled quickly and not very amicably, in certain occasions the dispute was settled by a few rounds of gunfire. One thing that is not legend and is fact; Johnny Moss was always known to pack a pistol all through his adult life.

Eventually, some time in his late teens, Johnny found even Dallas too small for him and taking his Texas hold' em poker skills with him, he toured the saloons and casinos of the mid west of America, testing his nerve as he matched his undoubted skills against players from Tahoe to New Mexico. In the twenties and thirties during the depression era in the United States, there were some rough and ready characters out there and not very honest to boot. Johnny was always ready to use his ability to spot a cheat to good use, and was reputedly not slow in protecting his stake, his credibility and his life by displaying the fact that he was capable and ready to defend all three. All in all, Johnny made himself a very good living during these wandering years, and earned himself a lasting reputation as a quick thinking and inherently fair poker player who usually came out on top.

When word got out that his old friend from Dallas, had set up a casino in the rapidly developing gambling capitol of the USA, Las Vegas, Johnny along a few of the other leading professional poker players set up camp there. With him there during the mid to late forties, were other poker legends of the era, like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. As Las Vegas grew in popularity players would arrive from the east coast to the west coast to taste the action, the color that these characters added to the scene cast a certain glamorous notoriety to the scene.

You can say that what really put Johnny Moss, Texas Hold'em poker and Las Vegas on the world map was the poker marathon organized by old friend Benny Binion to advertise his new Horseshoe Casino . The game was played through the spring and summer of 1951 lasting more than five months. Eventually Moss defeated his older and more experienced opponent, a poker legend, Nicholas Dandolos, who went by the exotic title of Nick the Greek.

Although during the epic course of the game, just about very form of poker invented was played, the variation known as Texas hold'em really captured the imagination of the crowd who would gather every day and night to watch these two seasoned professionals attempt to grind each other into the dust.

Johnny won from Nick the Greek a sum reputed to be between $2 to $4 million dollars. Whatever the exact figure might have been; it was still a huge sum of money for those times.

The general consensus is that from this game, the World Series of Poker was born and from it grew the massive industry that is Texas hold'em poker, now played online and in massive televised tournaments by millions of players every day. Johnny Moss took part in the tournament from its early days in the 1970's till the mid nineties, and is one of only two players every to win the tournament three times, a feat largely expected never to be repeated. During his more than 70 years as a professional gambler, Johnny Moss won and lost millions of dollars. The interesting but sad fact that most of his winnings were at poker, where his tremendous skills and knowledge of the game could be put to effect. Sadly Johnny was hooked to other forms of gambling where lady luck played a much larger part. He was known to be particularly fond of shooting craps, and over the years left several million dollars behind on the tables.

Johnny Moss passed away at the ripe old age of ninety, still playing the occasion game of poker. His life was one that legends are made of, and his impact on the global poker scene will never be forgotten.

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