The Story of the 1975 WSOP Main Event

In 1975, every single World Series of Poker event was a bracelet event. After the winner of the Main Event in 1974, Johnny Moss, was awarded the very first WSOP gold bracelet for the win along with the top prize of $160,000. This trend was adopted for every tournament in 1975. With four preliminary events and what would be the biggest WSOP Main Event so far, 1975 brought huge drama, some very familiar names and a brand-new winner who claimed the biggest prize ever awarded in the WSOP – a massive $210,000. 

Angel’s Delight Follows Moss Monopoly

The first event to run in the 6th edition of the WSOP, held between May 6th and May 15th of 1975, was the $1,000-entry Seven-Card Stud event, which had 44 entries and a ‘Winner Take All’ prize of $44,000. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first player to win a bracelet in 1974, Main Event champion Johnny Moss, took the first bracelet of 1975. This victory was his fifth WSOP bracelet victory, a record that stood for an amazing 18 years.

The second event of the 1975 WSOP was another $1,000 buy-in tournament, this time in Seven-Card Limit Razz. There were only 17 entrants for this tournament, with Sam Angel, who was a one-time bracelet winner taking the trophy. Angel’s back story is an interesting one, with his life on the road in poker starting when he worked as a driver for Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandalos, but that is a story for another time. 

Selling jewelry to pay for a poker bankroll, Angel began playing the game and, while mostly a cash game regular, he played the occasional tournament. Proficient in Razz, Angel’s first WSOP title came in 1973 when he topped 32 players to win the $32,000 sole prize. In 1975, there were 17 entrants and, once again, it was Angel’s unique style that came to the fore. A powerful Razz specialist is hard to find in poker and Sam Angel was the first of them.

Baxter Brilliance Sets New Record

It was a bigger third bracelet event that took place in 1975. The $5,000-entry No Limit 2-7 Draw event was won by the youngest-ever WSOP bracelet event winner to that event, Billy Baxter. With just seven entries, Baxter won all the money, a whopping $35,000 prize. It was to be the first of many successes at the WSOP felt for Baxter, who would be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006. 

The name Billy Baxter instantly makes poker fans think of his success at the felt, and predominantly the WSOP. But Baxter pushed the game on in other ways too. Baxter began gambling at the age of just 14 when he became a pool hustler, a little like the ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson character in the 1961 Paul Newman movie The Hustler. By the time he was 16, Baxter had enough money from winning pool games to start up a poker bankroll, and at 18 he started playing in local taverns. Later in his life, Baxter successfully sued the United States Government for a tax refund of $178,000 when the judge’s ruling agreed with Baxter’s belief that poker winnings should be classified as earned income as opposed to ‘unearned income’ which had a higher tax band of 70%. Baxter’s win in the landmark case helped American poker players in the future pay a lot less tax on their winnings. 

The final event to take place before the Main Event was a $1,000-entry No Limit Hold’em event. With 32 entries, it was the former army services Jay Heimowitz who won the bracelet and $32,000. Prior to playing poker for a living, Heimowitz had left the army a rich man, apparently winning close to $10,000 in private games against fellow servicemen.  Today he remains one of just three players, along with Billy Baxter and Phil Hellmuth, to win a WSOP bracelet in four different decades – Phil is the only player to win a bracelet in five different decades.

WSOP Hold'em Event Gold Bracelet

The Sailor Hits High Tide

Going into the $10,000-entry WSOP Main Event of 1975, there were 21 entrants, and that meant a new record top prize of $210,000. Of the field, a reported 19 of the players were professionals, with just two amateurs brave enough – or rich enough – to put up their money to gamble with the best poker players in the world. 

The grueling conditions that previous champions had endured to earn the title in the previous years that a new rule was introduced, though it has since been scrapped. Back in 1975, it was decided that each day’s play in the WSOP Main Event would be strictly limited to eight hours. This saw the Main Event of that year last a record of five days.

The Nicest Final Table

The final table was packed with some real talent, with players such as Jesse Alto and Aubrey Day going close but missing out on the final three places. Crandell ‘Dandy’ Addington ran the top two close but bowed out in third place and the 1974 runner-up, Bob Hooks, found himself facing Brian ‘Sailor’ Roberts

The former naval officer Roberts hit clear waters on the final day and had a big lead going into the final hand. On a flop of 7-6-2 with two clubs, Bob Hooks was all-in with jack-nine of clubs, with Roberts calling with pocket jacks. A nine of spades came on the turn to mean a club and a club only would do for Hooks. The ten of diamonds landed on the river and Roberts was congratulated as a Main Event winner. Roberts, stoic in style and straight-faced in appearance, could finally smile. He’d won $210,000 and the now infamous bracelet. 

After the event, Bob Hooks was a picture of modesty and congratulated the new world champion on his victory. 

“A nicer guy couldn’t have won.” Hooks said. 

While it was his second WSOP title, ‘Sailor’ Roberts would never win a bracelet event through the rest of his career, despite being virtually an ever-present icon at the WSOP until his death in 1995.

World Series of Poker, original sign at Binion's Horseshoe Club

1974 WSOP Main Event                                          1976 WSOP Main Event

About the Author: Paul Seaton has written about poker for over 10 years, interviewing some of the best players ever to play the game such as Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth. Over the years, Paul has reported live from tournaments such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and the European Poker Tour. He has also written for other poker brands where he was Head of Media, as well as BLUFF magazine, where he was Editor.