The world of professional poker has a long and storied history. Since the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1970, competitive poker tournaments have given players from all over a chance to shine. New players always joining the field, with countless people vying for the fame and fortune of winning a big event. While there are many renowned modern-day players, like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey, there’s much to be said and learned about some of poker’s old guard. Today, we’ll cover one such legend from poker’s early days: Berry Johnston. 

Player Overview

Berry Enfield Johnston is an American professional poker player well known for his WSOP career. He is the 1986 WSOP Main Event champion and has earned four additional bracelets throughout his career in a variety of events, including Omaha and Razz. 

Johnston also has ten WSOP Main Event cashes, tied with Johnny Chan and Allen Cunningham for first place. He also holds the longest WSOP cash streak record, having cashed in at least one event every year from 1982 to 2010. 

He’s played on NBC’s hit poker TV series, Poker After Dark, finishing fourth in a 2008 tournament featuring multiple other WSOP champions including Phil Hellmuth, Huck Seed, and Chris Ferguson. 

Johnston has also been a member of the Poker Seniors Hall of Fame since 1989, and a member of the main Poker Hall of Fame since 2004. 

His winnings currently exceed $3.5 million, with his 72 cashes from the WSOP accounting for $2,119,871 of that total.

Early Career

Berry Enfield Johnston was born on September 25, 1935, in Oklahoma. Unlike many other players, he didn’t get into the game from a young age. Not much is known about Johnston’s early life and he didn’t start playing poker until 1970, at age 35. 

Within a few years, Johnston had moved to Vegas to further his poker career, playing high stakes against other notable players like Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese. Surprisingly, his first-ever recorded tournament cash was at the WSOP main event. Even more impressive was the fact he finished third for $104,000. 

This dominant debut was only the start of Johnston’s prolific career. He kicked off the following year with a win at the America’s Cup Of Poker for $54,500. The victory was followed by his first bracelet, a $40,000 win at the Match Play event at the 14th WSOP.

Tournament Career

In 1985, Johnston again took third in the WSOP $10,000 Main Event for $140,000. He also finished fourth in the WSOP $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha, earning $17,000.

The following year, Johnston’s career took off. He had several small cashes in January, finishing in the top five of tournaments like the Stairway to the Stars and Grand Prix of Poker. 

Then, on May 21, Johnston took down the WSOP Main Event for a massive $570,000, his most considerable cash to date. He beat numerous other well-known players including Gary “Bones” Berland, Dewey Tomko, and Jesse Alto. 

A year later, Johnston won the Grand Prix of Poker Razz event for $77,600. He maintained an impressive string of tournament results, including two second-place finishes in Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker and three cashes at the WSOP. The latter was even more impressive as it showed Johnston’s flexibility. He cashed in three different poker variants: The Hold’em main event, $1,000 Razz, and $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw.

WSOP Career

The WSOP is a constant in Johnston’s career. His 1988 run saw him repeat his achievement of cashing in three different forms of poker. He took fourth in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em and $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split events and finished ninth in the $2,500 Omaha Pot Limit and $1,000 Omaha Limit.

In 1989, Johnston won a Pot Limit Omaha event in Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker, then continued his streak of WSOP Main Event cashes. 

1990 saw Johnston earn his third WSOP bracelet, taking home $254,000 from the $2,500 Limit Hold’em event.

He claimed his fourth bracelet, along with $91,200, in 1995 at the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event,

Johnston’s most recent bracelet came in 2001 after he took down the $1,500 Razz event for $83,810.

In 2008, Johnston was featured in Poker After Dark at their Week 4 World Champions table, alongside other WSOP champions like Jamie Gold and Chris Ferguson. Johnston finished fourth. 

He continued the year with three more cashes at the WSOP. It was also around this time that he became a representative of a prominent online poker. 

In 2013, Johnston won the $250 H.O.R.S.E event of the WSOP Circuit. His most recent showing at the WSOP was actually online, in 2020. He cashed in the $400 No Limit Hold’em and $500 No Limit Hold’em Turbo events of the online series.

Johnston, the Man

With such a prolific career, it is surprising that Johnston’s results were overshadowed by his demeanor on and off the table.

He was always calm and polite, two rare traits in poker players. His fellow players loved him, with Doyle Brunson even stating, “What I admire most about Berry is not Berry the great poker player, but Berry the man. He is a deeply religious and devoted family man, who has always been a gentleman at all times,” during Johnston’s 2004 induction into the Poker Hall of Fame.