July 2018

Johnny Moss

The late Johnny Moss, who became known as the ‘Grand Old Man of Poker’, had the distinction of being the first winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1970, although, at that time, he was elected overall champion by the five other contestants. Nevertheless, Moss went on to win the WSOP Main Event, in its current form, twice more, in 1971 and 1974. Born in Marshall, Texas before World War I, Moss was one of the original Texas ‘road’ gamblers and was hailed by Thomas Preston Jr., a.k.a. ‘Amarillo Slim’ – winner of the WSOP Main Event in 1972 – as the best poker player who ever lived.

Moss reputedly played Nick Dandolos, a.k.a. ‘Nick The Greek’, heads-up for five months at Binion’s Horseshoe, Las Vegas, between January and May, 1949, winning up to $4 million. However, Benny Binion did not open Binion’s Horseshoe until 1951, having only regained his gaming licence in 1950 and the story only came to light in 1971, five years after Dandolos’ death, so the account may well be apocryphal. Nevertheless, Binion did establish the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 and Moss and Dandolos were among the first inductees.