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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where are they now - Puggy Pearson

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Walter Clyde Pearson was much like many of his poker counterparts in that he lived a full, exciting life right down to the last second. He can also be credited with being an originator, as it was his idea to make poker into a tournament, or a “freezeout.” In a casual conversation with professional gambler Nick “The Greek” Dandalos, he mentioned how poker could probably gain fame if you were to make it a “last man standing” type of affair. As poker history has suggested, he was definitely right about that.

Pearson was born on January 29, 1929 in rural Tennessee, one of nine brothers and sisters. At just 10 years old he dropped out of school because he was more important to his family as a money maker than he was sitting in a classroom in school. The Pearson clan moved continuously throughout his childhood, usually around the time rent was due.

When Pearson was 12, he was doing some construction at a church which also coincided with a church program that featured a lot of young ladies roughly his age. In an attempt to showoff, he thought he would walk on his hands, something at which he was very good, across the stage at the church. A loose board broke under Pearson’s weight, sending him falling face first and severely breaking his nose which soon resulted in the nickname he would be known as the rest of his life, “Puggy.”

Already a well known pool hustler in his native Tennessee, Puggy joined the Navy at just 16, his first of three terms. It is reported that during his tours of duty, Pearson did a fine job supplementing his naval benefits to the tune of $20,000 dollars by playing fellow cadets in pool, cards, and a various array of other games of chance.

Shortly after his final tour in the Navy he moved to Las Vegas, where he quickly befriended the likes of Doyle Brunson and “Amarillo Slim” Preston. It is also safe to say that Preston and Pearson were cut from the same cloth. On top of being two of the premier poker players of their era, they also enjoyed playing, or “hustling,” any kind of game.

Pearson famously had a bus made just for him, as he went around challenging people in their choice of games. The side of the bus read, “I’ll play any man from any land any game he can name for any amount he can count.” However, always the hustler, the fine print read, “Provided I like it.” It’s impossible to say how much he won from these contests, but if you listen to Brunson and Preston, he was clearly up.

On top of those activities, Pearson was a scratch golfer (scratch means he had no handicap, like those of amateurs. Brunson has said of Pearson that he was the best clutch putter he had ever met, and that included the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Ben Crenshaw, three of the best golfers to ever play the game. Not surprisingly, Pearson also added a generous amount of money to his portfolio from various golf events.

Pearson became known on a world level when he won the 1973 World Series of Poker main event. In the final hand of the tournament he knocked out his good buddy Preston when his A-7 held up against Slim’s K-J. The victory was actually Pearson’s second WSOP Bracelet, the other coming in the Stud tournament in 1971. History suggests that Pearson’s best game was by far Stud, and it shows as two of his four bracelets came in that game.

Puggy was also known as being one of the most generous people in poker. If a fellow gambler was down and out, or was in debt to a fellow gambler, it’s said Pearson was always quick to lend a helping hand.

However, his biggest downfall seemed to be dealers. Two separate occasions, both confirmed by various sources, are two of the more shocking examples. Once he reportedly threw his cards at a dealer, at which point the female dealer took off her high heel and struck Pearson in the head, causing stitches. The more shocking of the two is when Pearson actually urinated on a dealer. Both of these stories come as a bit of surprise, as Pearson was actually known to lend dealers money if they were in need, or if their family was having problems. Despite the two known cases of temper issues, Preston described his friend as “softer than butter on a hot stove.”

Pearson is believed to be the only player to be at every WSOP from 1970-2005. He was a mainstay at Binion’s casino for many years, always greeting fellow card players with a handshake and a story. The last few years of his life, his poker play mainly consisted of playing $20-40 Omaha 8 or Better at Bellagio. Pearson died in April 12, 2006, but not before literally changing the way poker was played.

Major Tournament Victories

1971, Limit Seven Card Stud, $10,000
1973, $10,000 No Limit World Championship, $130,000
1973, $1,000 No Limit Hold’em, $17,000
1973, $4,000 Limit Card Stud, $32,000

*Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled here are obviously deceased.*

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