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VIDEO VAULT | The World Series of Poker, as it was way back when

Awarding the Pot.jpg

The final field is being set for the World Series of Poker -- the highlight from a couple of months’ worth of tournament play.

News 3 has covered the event many times over the decades, including 35 years ago, when reporter Marla Martin had the story.

"The list reads like a who's who of gamblers," she began. "Jack 'Treetop' Strauss, Johnny Moss, Stu Ungar and 105 other well-known and not-so-well-known poker players have put up the $10,000 to buy into this game."

Ungar had been given the nickname "The Kid" when he won the event in 1980 at age 22. He had a troubled life out of the spotlight though, involving a long history of substance abuse. He would die of heart failure in a Las Vegas motel room in 1998 at age 45.

Strauss was the defending champion going into 1983, and Moss had been the first person to win the event 13 years earlier. Other players seen in the story included comedian Gabe Kaplan (who had achieved fame on the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter"), and Vegas World hotel/casino owner Bob Stupak.

"This is the final event of the 1983 World Series of Poker," continued Martin. "The no-limit Hold 'Em game that will determine the world champion. What draws them here to Binion's Horseshoe?"

The tournament had its beginnings at Benny Binion's property in 1970, when he gathered what were considered to be the seven best players in the world. The cowboy-entrepreneur passed away in 1989, and the hotel/casino was sold to Harrah’s Entertainment — now Caesars Entertainment — in 2004. Since then, the WSOP has been held at the Rio.

"I know all these people. And most of them are my vict...err, friends at some time or another," said 1972 champion Thomas 'Amarillo Slim' Preston with a smile, in response to Martin. "And it's a get-together. Then too, we play for enough money that it's sizable. You know, if you can win this, that'll buy a lot of pork chops!"

"Not only will the winner be best among his peers, but he will take home over half a million dollars in his pocket," observed Martin.

If her reporting seems gender-specific, it's because at that time there had never been a female participant. The following year, a woman put up the $10,000 buy-in for the first time, and it's been a non-factor ever since.

"In this tournament, anyone can win from any position," 1972 winner Bobby Baldwin told Martin. "Amateur or pro."

Baldwin had a surprising career trajectory from the players' side of the green felt to high up on the management side of Las Vegas gambling. Today, he is an executive with MGM Resorts International.

"The game will be played for at least seven hours a day, with short breaks for meals," outlined Martin. "It may not be played on a playing field, but it requires concentration skills similar to those of an athlete. Most of these players say they don't rely on a special strategy to win. Instead, they rely on their instincts, skills and a little luck."

Martin's 1983 description still applies. The final field for the 2018 World Series of Poker's main event is determined Wednesday at the Rio, with the last hand set for July 14 when a new champion will be determined.

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