Puggy Pearson

Father of 'freeze-out' poker


Walter Clyde Pearson (Puggy Pearson), card player: born Adairville, Kentucky 29 January 1929; married (one son, one daughter); died Las Vegas 12 April 2006.

"Puggy's looks fool you, that pug nose and round face, that unbrilliant look of any sort. You just cannot conceive that a man like that is smart at anything. And he isn't smart at anything. Except one thing, and that's cards." That was the oddsmaker "Jimmy the Greek" Snyder's assessment of Puggy Pearson.

Pearson was smart enough at cards to make his living by them for nearly half a century and in Las Vegas, the home of high-stakes poker, to become the 1973 World Series of Poker champion, winning the $130,000 prize with the unremarkable hand of Ace high. "Even if I hadna won that hand I would still've been the best player," he said.

Pearson is described by his fellow player Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson as "one of the pioneers of poker as we know it today" and was part of the generation of players who bridged the gap between poker's gunslinging US past and the worldwide commercial success it now enjoys. He was known as the father of the "freeze-out" tournament, the style adopted at the World Series of Poker in the year after its inception at Binion's Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas in 1970.

The first World Series of Poker was contested between only a handful of players (in the year Pearson won, the field had expanded to 13) but last year's championship event attracted 5,619 entrants from all over the world and had a top prize of $7.5m. Pearson attended every year as either player or spectator, a cigar-smoking, Runyonesque character, often in costume - dressed as an American Indian, with warpaint and head-dress, perhaps, or Genghis Khan, with crown and earflaps.

He was born Walter Clyde Pearson in Adairville, Kentucky, in 1929, on the brink of the Depression, and the family drifted south to Tennessee as his father searched for work. "Puggy", so called after his nose was flattened in a childhood accident, was one of nine children and, as he explained to Playboy magazine in 1973, the family often had to move on because the rent was overdue. On his first day at school, "I had a complex about being poor and the shape of my nose. Everyone was better than me . . ."

He left at 14, having already begun his card-playing career: "I started hustlin' real young, at 10 or 11. I just started playin' cards and pool with the other paper boys." He first learned to play poker in the navy, taking to it enthusiastically - "While everyone else was throwin' their money on drink and women, I was organising poker games" - and on his discharge in the mid-1950s started to earn a living at the game.

Despite his successes at no-limit Texas Hold 'Em, Pearson's preferred form was limit poker, he told the writer David Spanier, as he considered it the best way of making a profit in the long term: "The best player's gonna get the money in limit poker, sooner or later."

In 1987 Pearson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame and, as Brunson says, "is acknowledged by his peers as one of the greatest poker players of all time".

Diana Gower

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home