Vegas is home to more than just gaming, it is home to the history of those games and to those who created that history. Richie Brodie, lifelong “poker bum,” has played with all the greats, from Doyle and his “southern” crew, to the Mayfair’s Erik Seidel, to California’s rising 1990’s NL scene with Bobby Hoff and Barry Greenstein (along with an apparently more reluctant Dan Harrington). Today we hear his story and the story of a whole age of poker, from the pre-internet obscurity of the late seventies to a comfortable seat at the Sahara deepstack game of the Covid era.
Richie starts in upper New York but is soon drawn to the Nevada games, led by his older brother, a gambler and expert sports bettor. I say Nevada deliberately, as there is a great deal of less-told history surrounding Reno, Tahoe, San Jose, and the rest of western cards; Las Vegas just wasn’t the only place. As Richie emphasizes, the games moved, and the players followed, from famous rooms to forgotten obscurities. (One of the casinos Richie mentions, Harvey’s in Tahoe, was even bombed.)
It sounds like a lot of fun: a bunch of guys who love poker gathering at Caesar’s Tahoe for two weeks of around-the-clock-play.
Think again. This is serious business.
The approximately 100 entrants in the casino’s third annual Superstars of Poker tournament huddle intently around the fifteen tables in the roped-off tournament area.
Their concentration is so intense it is nearly impenetrable. Neither the smoke hanging heavy in the air nor the persistent clanking of coins in nearby slot machines is enough to jolt the players out of their poker-induced trance.
A television broadcasting a college basket all game goes unnoticed for hours. Finally, a passing cocktail waitress turns it off.
from the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Poker More Than a Game for Tournament Players,” probably early 1990’s
For point of reference, when Richie first started playing seriously in the late seventies, David Sklansky, with whom he would soon be playing against, had just published Hold’em Poker, one of the first modern poker books. Doyle Brunson’s Super System would not appear until 1979.
I think I missed some questions that poker players would like – the real details of the games, and I mean down to the nitty gritty: what were the sizings, how many players per hand, and such. We know Bobby Hoff introduced a lot of three betting, but what about the others? Yet Richie hints at the answer during the interview, “in reality,” he comments, “the games haven’t changed that much, but the number of players who know what they are doing has.” I think we know what that means.
Enjoy this interview full of poker history.