CC: OK, I'll ask the questions and I hope you have the answers.
Charlie: Well, I'll dream one up if I don't.
CC: I'm here with Charlie Hyde, who I always recognize when I go to the Bellagio. I'm one of the literally thousands and thousands of faces that Charlie's played with. First, tell me where you live now and what you do.
Charlie: I am currently retired and live in Midland, Texas, since 1967. I spend quite a bit of time in Las Vegas playing poker only because that's what I really enjoy.
CC: Tell us where you grew up.
Charlie: I was born and raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina. This was a small town owned by Charlie A. Cannon. He owned all the textile mills, he owned the fire department, the police department, all the buildings and houses in Kannapolis, so he owned the whole town, and anything you did went through C.A. Cannon.
CC: Was your family in the textile industry?
Charlie: My father worked forty-seven years for Charlie Cannon, and my mother also worked but she had five children.
CC: When did you leave there?
Charlie: I left in 1967 and came to Midland. I originally worked for Barclay's Bank and eventually retired as a Vice President in 1980 from them. They moved me there. I retired there in Midland then went to work for Clayton W. Williams, Jr. who is an oil producer, he ran for governor twelve or fifteen years ago. I worked for him for six years; I was his credit manager at the time.
CC: And your family?
Charlie: I have two boys, Mark and Christian, and they're grown and gone, which is good news! Your children are never fully grown; they're yours until you're put to rest.
CC: Charlie, tell me about poker. When did you start playing, and how did that happen?
Charlie: Actually, in the country they started a poker game; I guess I was twelve years old at the time. The first pot that I played, I bluffed at it and won it, but since that time I don't think bluffing is the way to go! I would never, ever recommend that.
CC: So you haven't bluffed since, right?
Charlie: Absolutely not! I don't live on that. If you live on that you die on that, and that's not the way to play the game. I was playing home games, and when I went to college at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina, there were pretty big games there. This was a Bible-related church school, and the very first day we were there we had a poker game going and the bathtub full of beer and whiskey and six girls in the room and we were playing poker. The dean walked in, and we got twenty permanent demerits that day. Twenty-one demerits and you're out of the school, so we had to go the entire four years without a demerit.
CC: What kind of games did you play in college?
Charlie: The game there was 7-card stud, and that's originally what I was playing.
CC: And did you keep playing when you moved to Texas?
Charlie: Yes, we had home games in Texas three nights a week and went to Odessa, so we were really playing four nights a week.
CC: When did you start coming to Vegas?
Charlie: It was in 1967, I came out with my very best friend Bill Isabelle, who has since passed away. He knew everybody and was twenty years older than me, and we always went to Binion's Horseshoe. I met Benny Binion and Jack Binion, the whole family, and I've known them since 1967. Binion's Horseshoe was the most exciting place on earth for all those years. Originally, I came twice a year, then it increased to ten times a year now it's twenty or thirty times a year.
CC: Did you play in the World Series in the 1970's and 80's?
Charlie: Oh yes. I played in probably seventeen or eighteen events, but I always won a satellite in so that made it quite convenient. 45th was my best finish in the Main Event, but I don't recall when that was. I was always 45th, 46th, 47th, 48th. I'd get to there and stall, I'd just wither on the vine, I never seemed to do anything after I got to that point.
CC: Back in the 70's and 80's, tell me about some of those games at Binion's.
Charlie: The best way to describe some of this, I had one poker player in particular Norman Shaw; he was one of the best poker players I've ever seen. He's deceased now, but his nickname was Iron Drawers because when he got a pair of jacks, you could bet everything you ever had and he was going to call you. If it came A-A-K, he was going to call you. One of the cocktail waitresses came up to him and said, "Mr. Iron Drawers, here's your drink." She thought it was his name.
CC: Did you play with any of the great legends of the game?
Charlie: I've played in certain games with probably every poker player who's famous: Stu Ungar, Chip Reese , Big Doyle Brunson, I played a lot with Todd Brunson. Doyle's son Todd and my son went to school at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. I went to Lubbock to play poker one day and lo and behold here sat both the boys playing cards. I said, "Why aren't you in class?" "Aw Dad," my son said, "They don't have class today." Well, this was a big lie. They did have class, but they didn't go to class, they just played poker. But that's the way it was.
CC: What's your first memory of Chip Reese?
Charlie: I met him thirty years ago, and I think personally that Chip Reese is the greatest poker player that's ever lived on the face of this Earth, and I'm talking about everybody living, dead, or not yet born. He has the most control all the time, he's always in control, he never makes mistakes, he just always wins. He is just the best winner in the world.
CC: And he's been that way since you saw him?
Charlie: Absolutely. He is my ideal of a person who plays poker. He does everything very modestly, he's not a bragger, he has great, great character, and that's not something you can say about many gamblers.
CC: Another person you mentioned who might not be described like that but was also a great player was Stu Ungar. Tell me about him.
Charlie: Stu Ungar was probably the most gifted player in the world; however, he would have lapses because he was a drug user. He would have lapses and couldn't put two cards together. Very unfortunately when he died, he died broke. It's really sad that a person more gifted than anyone I've ever known had to get hooked on these dangerous drugs.
CC: You've seen the World Series literally since it was invented. How difficult is it not to see it at Binion's for you?
Charlie: It's very, very difficult, but everything has changed. It seems like rather the friendships you used to develop, these people used to be like a family. Now, 8,000 people come here. Thirty years ago, there was only 10,000 gamblers in the entire world, they'd come from England, Ireland, Alaska, wherever. We knew everyone. A hundred people would come from Australia, we knew every one of them, we'd hug each other like it was a hometown meeting. It was fun, fun, fun, but here it's strictly business. It grieves me somewhat.
CC: When I first sat at the table with you, there are a couple of things that are noticeable with you. One is you are always stacking chips, but the other is that you seem to enjoy it a lot.
Charlie: You have to have a love and respect of the game to really get into it. This is what makes the great, great players what they are. I knew some players whose attitude toward poker was really bad, and they have won but they don't last. Your attitude has a lot to do with your success.
CC: You come here fifteen-twenty times a year now. What games do you normally play?
Charlie: Texas Holdem only, I rarely play anything else. I played no-limit my entire life until about eight years ago. You couldn't find a no-limit game anywhere in the United States, so we had to change to limit. It's quite a change, because no-limit players tend to be very poor limit players because no-limit players may only play two hands a day to make a living. Limit players play hundreds of hands, and you have to be real, real aggressive. There is a distinctive difference. I have been playing limit mainly because at my age I've noticed that my mind has slowly eroded down and I'm getting a little tottery. My mind has slowed, and I can tell it in the process.
CC: You've been in Vegas when there would be only three or four tables going at a time at Binion's. This explosion that we're in the midst of now is almost beyond belief for someone with your history.
Charlie: Let me tell you what happened in 1984. I was registering at the front desk at Binion's, and I looked over and saw the no-limit game going. Jack Binion was sitting there playing, and he waved at me to come over. I went over, and he said, "Take my seat." I said, "Jack, I don't have any money and haven't checked in," and he said, "Hell-fire, I'll get you some money. Use my money!" We did that for about fifteen years. Every time I'd come in, he was there sitting to wave me into his seat. I'd be broke, didn't have any money, and he'd say, "I'll get you money." It became a running joke.
CC: Now, you can't find a seat.
Charlie: Now, it's very difficult to find a seat at no-limit, but they've changed the structure around so that's it not really what we played. We'd play $10/25 or $25/25/50 NLHE, a lot bigger games.
CC: The huge influx of players now, many of them that you'll see at the Bellagio have played online a lot and come in to play live. What do you see in these new players?
Charlie: The new players are very, very smart. They're a lot quicker in advancing. We had no coaches, no internet to play on. They play and get many, many hours of practice now on the internet, and the only way you can truly be a very good poker player is through experience of playing. That's just the way it works, and they're able to do it quicker. Coaches help, but I've never had one. If I'd wanted one, I would have gone to Chip Reese because he's probably the smartest poker player that I've ever been close to. He's not a real, real good friend of mine. My best friend in the world is Pat Callahan, and I always thought Pat was the best player in the world, and I'd probably have to put Pat and Chip at the table to see who wins so I can pick out who's #1.
CC: I wouldn't want to sit with either of them, that's for sure. A couple of final questions. I have to ask you about your trademark, your suspenders and your shirt. Tell me about that.
Charlie: The suspenders began in 1974. I had some made up, and I only had a horseshoe at the bottom and top of the suspender and in between was Binion's on both of them. That was the original one, but since that time they've become more elaborate and we have fancy money and Texas, and several other things. Somebody will suggest something, and I'll just add them.
CC: And you just have one pair?
Charlie: Several hundred pairs, and I have them for almost every casino. The Poker Room Manager at the Bellagio came to me and said, "Let's you and I market these suspenders." I said, "Why don't you just set it up, and I'll tell you what to do." We didn't talk any further than that, but he's such a great guy too.
CC: So will you be playing any satellites at the World Series?
Charlie: Oh no, I have no intentions of playing in any of these events. I play for the fun of it. I love to win, but I promise you no matter how many years you've spent playing or how great you are or how good your attitude is, those cards will humble you. Some days, you were not meant to play poker, and I don't care where you're from or how many days you've played, you'll have your day in the barrel as we call it.
CC: A final question, Charlie. Since you've been playing longer than many of these folks have been alive, what are a couple of things you would recommend for young and old players who are trying to get better or move up?
Charlie: Well, the most important thing is that poker can help you build your character. Be respectful of the other players, this is very important. You can build character by being a good player and a good neighbor to your fellow poker player and show some respect to people that give you a bad beat, you have to respect them because it's going to happen to everyone in the world. One of the most important parts of poker is self control. If you don't have good, solid self control, you'll never be a very, very good player. That's the key to everything, self control, and respecting the game.