The Grand Old Man of Poker
If you haven't lost a game to Johnny Moss, you haven't really played poker.
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96
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"Johnny, I got this game all set up for you," Binion told Moss. "What do you want to do?"
"Leave town," Moss replied.
He didn't. Figuring the match would do for his business what exploding volcanoes and pirate ship battles have done for the Mirage's Steve Wynn, Binion convinced Moss to play the match. Close to five months, thousands of hands and millions of dollars later, Dandalos conceded. "Mr. Moss," the Greek said, "I must let you go."
"That Greek was always a gentleman," Moss says.
Seated at a crowded poker table, raking in several magnificent pots as if on cue, as if he intends to impress nearby observers with his still potent skills, Moss scans the casino floor. His head turns slowly, watching an elderly lady pumping coins into a slot machine, a young couple at the blackjack table, a drunk digging in his pockets for another quarter. "It's pitiful the shape people get in," Moss says. "But I never felt sorry for the losers."
Moss admits to having had a "leak," a compulsion to blow all the money he earned playing poker and golf and bowling ("I won over $2 million at the bowling alley," he claims) on sports betting and craps. "In four years I lost over $8 million at the dice tables, betting football, playing $300,000 on the middles [long-shot sports wagering]. One day I'd be giving my wife $200,000, telling her to go buy a house. Pick out whatever you want. Next day I'd be going broke, asking her to have the money returned." Eventually, Moss quit the dice and the sports and the cigarette smoking. "My eyesight suddenly got better. My bankroll got better, too. I guess I been all right ever since," he says, smiling slyly.
He wins another pot, a huge one, with a flush. His opponents watch disconsolately as what was once their supply of chips forms a sizable heap in front of the elderly fellow with the little cap and the lizard eyes. "Nice hand, Mr. Moss," one of the losers says. "Very nice."
Johnny Moss allows himself a subdued laugh. "I been a sucker now for 70, 80 years. Long, long time." He stacks his winnings into neat $100 towers. "Not bad for a sucker. No, not too bad."
Michael Konik is Cigar Aficionado's gambling columnist. Poker's Top Women
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