The Poker Legend Johnny Moss


Posted: December 12, 2022

Updated: December 12, 2022

  • The poker legend Johnny Moss
  • His epic wins
  • Poker back in the day

Few people in the history of poker have accomplished more than Johnny Moss. He won three of the first five WSOP events, triumphing nine times in total, and was the proud owner of eight bracelets. Though, casinos were quite different back then. The poker legend Johnny Moss’s matches are just as legendary. Let’s see them below!

Johnny Moss is not only the first champion of the WSOP, but without his five-month-long poker marathon with the famous Greek, there would be no WSOP! He was a true gambler from Texas who could sit at the table non-stop for days on end. He actually spent most of his life in casinos. Even at 88, Moss was still an active player. According to online gambling sites in the US, Doyle Brunson, the former professional poker player, claimed that Johnny Moss was the best of his time!

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The Poker Legend Johnny Moss

There are many stories about Johnny Moss, some of which are true, some of which are not, and, as is often the case, they have been colored over the years. When Moss started playing poker, it was normal for people to walk around poker rooms with loaded guns in their pockets, and no one said a word. Of course, Johnny always had his gun with him.

One such afternoon he noticed a hole in the ceiling. This is how the house tried to keep an eye on the players’ cards. Moss first approached the owner, said he knew what was going on, and wanted the cheater to come down immediately and have the hole filled.

If not, then he will definitely shoot at the ceiling. The owner pretended not to understand, and Moss did not hesitate to fire where the fraudster was also injured. It was a different world back then. Another legendary story happened next to the golf course.

Moss made a big bet with a guy that he could beat him. At that point, Moss was friends with a couple of bad guys, and his chances of winning were dim. The mobsters were already considering eliminating the other guy, but Moss succeeded in the end, and they didn’t have to pay the quarter of a million dollars they had bet on instead of Moss.

Johnny Moss vs. Nick the Greek

One of the most famous poker battles happened between Moss and Nick Dandolos in 1949. Nicknamed the Greek, the brilliant player asked Horseshoe casino manager Benny Binion to match him with the best. Binion agreed but on one condition!

The poker legend Johnny Moss
Picture Source: Pixabay

They had to pay entire match in the lobby of his casino, where the audience could watch. The Greek agreed, and with that began a five-month battle between Moss and Dandolos, at the end of which Moss was able to get up from the table the winner. The game’s pace was crazy! Each session usually lasted four days and paused only for short sleep breaks.

Anyone could enter, but for the most part, only Moss and the Greek played against each other. Of course, a few brave applicants tried their luck in the minimum $10,000 buy-in game, but they lasted for only a couple of days, and their money ended up going to the two professionals. Different information has come to light about how much Moss won. Some say two million dollars, but he once stated he did not stop at four million. By the way, this big battle inspired Binion to start the World Series of Poker, and Al Alvarez wrote a book based on the story, The Biggest Game in Town. 

Later, in another book, Steve Fisher questioned whether the game even happened. The Greek died not long after, so he could no longer ask him. Moss told his own version, and Benny Binion allegedly kept avoiding the question about the tournament. According to Fischer, Binion always dismissed those who asked him about the event by saying that his memory was not what it used to be. However, the author thinks the casino owner did not want to spoil such a legendary story with the truth. Though, this is only a theory.

The poker Legend Johnny Moss

The names WSOP and Johnny Moss are fused together. We already mentioned that his marathon poker battle against Nick Dandolos inspired Benny Binion to organize the WSOP, which finally happened in 1970 for the first time.

The poker legend Johnny Moss
Picture Source: Pixabay

Binion saw big money in inviting the best poker stars to his casino, who would then compete against each other. Though he did not figure out the whole tournament, the main concept of the competition was that the six invited players compared their skills in different games: Texas Hold’Em, Razz, 7 Card Stud, 5 Card Stud, etc. You can check out the current WSOP events at Everygame Poker!

At the end of the games, they took a vote to decide who would win the first WSOP. It was a difficult decision because everyone voted for themselves during the first vote! After that, Binion came up with the rule that no one could vote for themselves. This is how Johnny Moss became the first winner, who did not receive a bracelet, but a silver cup. A year later, at the end of the $5,000 buy-in match, Johnny Moss became the winner once again.

In addition, he finished first in another competition, so he won two bracelets in a short period of time. Of course, that meant a lot of money too. Moss won his biggest prize in 1974 in the $10,000 no-limit Hold ‘Em tournament when he pocketed $160,000. The poker legend Johnny Moss also won the 7 Card Stud in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1981, and his last bracelet in 1988. Amazingly, his career winnings at the WSOP alone were worth over $800,000.

One of the Best Players

Johnny Moss lived and played at a time when poker was not as popular as it is today. However, his career is largely due to the fact that the various tournaments’ popularity increased rapidly, and Moss did not want to miss out on them.

The poker legend Johnny Moss
Picture Source: Pixabay

In 1979, at the Amarillo Slim’s Superbowl of Poker event, he won a total of $52,000, but two years later, he won the 7 Card Stud game in the same place, already winning the $57,000 prize. It would be impossible to list how many events he competed in and how much money he won exactly.

Considering his entire career, the amount he won playing cards was close to $1,300,000. He played his last tournament in 1995, and even though he was already 88 years old, his mind was still razor-sharp. He ended up finishing in seventh place, earning just over $6,000. Half a year later, Johnny Moss died. Although he was not young, his death shocked a lot of people. Fortunately, during his career, he achieved enough to be remembered forever. Also, as online gambling sites in the US state, he was the first to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame!

The Poker Legend Johnny Moss

Johnny Moss had massive success at the poker table, but not only there. He was a feared opponent on the golf courses and in the bowling alleys, and if it weren’t for poker, he could have still become a millionaire because he made large sums of money in these sports as well. Moss moved to Odessa in the 1950s to be close to the booming gambling industry and the oil business. In the last stages of his life, he even quit smoking in order to live a fuller life.

Regardless, his health worsened rapidly, but his love for the game remained. Every time he sat down to play poker, his opponents at the table knew and guessed that something special was about to happen, which was usually the case. The poker legend Johnny Moss died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 88 in 1995. He might have been the first legendary poker player, but certainly not the last! Check out another casino legend: Archie Karas!

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