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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now - Berry Johnston

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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.

Many of the poker players that we have discussed in our “Where Are They Now Series,” seem to believe that the way to fully come to your money making potential is to get your name “out there” as much as humanly possible. If they have a chance to be on a talk show, they take it. A chance to be in a magazine, they take it. A chance to write a book, once again, they take it. There doesn’t seem to be anything ultimately wrong with this strategy, as it gives commoners a chance to be introduced to these poker playing greats and the dream of playing against them one day. That, of course, would usually help the champion, as the commoner is living out a dream while the champ is relieving that same commoner of the money in his wallet. Five-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Berry Johnston has taken on an exact opposite approach, and with the same, if not more, success.

With Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Stu Ungar, information about their early lives is typically as easy as typing one of their names in a search engine and awaiting the thousands of results. For Johnston, it’s a little more difficult. Johnston has always been fairly hesitant to give interviews, and when he does they seemed to be short, or focused on the current poker events, than anything regarding his past. He isn’t attempting to be mean with these interviewers, but he typically believes that most things in his life should remain private, but what we do know about Johnston shows us that he is a true gentleman.

Johnston was born in Oklahoma in 1935, but didn’t take up poker until he was 35. Despite being a profoundly religious man, with deep rooted family values, Johnston still liked to gamble in his young age, but on a different kind of green surface, the golf course. It’s unclear how much money Johnston made from golf in his earlier years, but he has said he had “made a living off of it,” so if you figure a gambler generally has a different value system of money than most, he was probably doing well. With no intention to ever gamble outside of golf, he started watching some of his golf peers play poker in the clubhouse after a round and gradually worked his way into some games, and then like most, fell in love with it, only 30 or so years later than most poker champions.

Johnston has been quoted as saying he set two immediate goals for himself when he chose poker for his new profession. Number one was that he wanted to make a living playing poker the same way he had been doing with golf, and number two he wanted to be a world champion. The first goal seemed like a relatively modest goal. After all, you can go to Vegas and pick out tourists and probably make a fair living off of them alone without ever setting foot in a tournament. However, the second goal seemed a bit far fetched considering the players he would have to beat to become a world champion would consist of players that have been playing the game 90 percent of their lives. Nevertheless, Johnston left his native Oklahoma with his money he had made from golf, and his two dreams.

Johnston arrived in Vegas in 1970 where he almost immediately began to find some success at poker games, particularly Pot Limit Omaha. To current readers it would seem odd that someone could, or would choose to make Pot Limit Omaha their game of choice, but in 70’s No Limit Hold’em was just another game, and was actually being played less than the other games such as Omaha, Stud, and Limit. Despite the success he was having at Omaha he knew he would have to master No Limit because that was the game used to determine the world champion. It wasn’t until 1982, and at the age of 45, that he felt he was ready to try his luck in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship.

Johnston is certainly an example of the old adage “practice makes perfect.” He could have made the jump to Vegas and jumped right into the biggest poker tournaments in the world, but his bankroll management was just as great as his poker game, and he has attributed that fact to most of the success his career has brought him.

Johnston almost won that 1982 WSOP Championship, but fell just short, finishing in third place. The $104,000 prize helped kick start Johnston’s high-stakes career. On top of bankroll management, Johnston has said the only way to ensure you can make a living from poker is being successful in the ring games, something he was also able to do relatively soon into his poker career. For Johnston though, the world champion dream still remained.

Johnston would win his first WSOP bracelet in 1984 in the $2,500 Match Play event, but didn’t cash in the Main Event that year. In 1985 Johnston once again came in third place in the Main Event. For most people, you would expect finishing in third place for the second time in two years would make you a little upset. Not for Johnston. Johnston simply stood up, shook the hand of the two remaining players, walked over to his wife and told her he was hungry and that he wanted to go eat, and that’s exactly what he did.

There have only been a handful of top poker players in the world that have never even shown the slightest bit of anger after being sucked out on. Johnston not only shows unimaginable composure at the poker table, but has also earned the respect of poker players everywhere, including Doyle Brunson, "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.”

It is said that nice guys finish last, but in 1986 Johnston proved that wrong. One hundred-forty-four players entered the 1986 tournament. By the end of the first day, 45 players had been eliminated, but among the remaining players was 1985 winner Bill Smith.

Day two saw the field drop to 36 players remaining. Of the 36, there were four champions left, including Smith, and Gabe Kaplin, who was in first place. However, by the time the final table came around starting the last day of the tournament, all of the previous champions, except Smith were eliminated. If Smith won, he would have become only the third player at the time to win back-to-back tournaments.

Johnston, who was in the middle of the pack to start the day, rallied from behind to make dream number two come true for him. Johnston was finally a World Series of Poker Champion at 50 years old, and the $570,000 grand prize for first was a nice bonus as well.

A lot of poker players just have a few decent years where everything seems to go right for them. Johnston has had about 40 of these years. Johnston has proved that just because you assume a quiet demeanor at the poker table, you can still become a great player, and in Johnston’s case he may be the best tournament player ever. Johnston has won five WSOP bracelets. He has cashed in 52 WSOP events, including 30 final tables, putting him at first place all-time in both of those categories. He has also cashed in dozens more events. It is believed that nobody has cashed in as many major tournaments as Johnston. Johnston was also inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2004.

Although he is in his 70’s now, and has since moved back to Oklahoma from Vegas, he still makes a routine out of cashing in big events. Just last year, Johnston cashed in the WSOP Main Event, and he will most certainly be back in 2008 looking to do the same thing.

Major Tournament Results

11-Feb-08 $ 20,000 Week 4 - "World Champions"
Poker After Dark III, Las Vegas 4th
06-Jul-07 $ 10,000 World Championship No Limit Hold'em
38th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2007, Las Vegas 113th $ 58,570
02-Jul-07 $ 1,000 No Limit Hold'em
38th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2007, Las Vegas 62nd $ 8,067
25-May-07 $ 500 H.O.R.S.E
Scotty Nguyen Poker Challenge, Tulsa 9th $ 900
25-Jul-06 $ 1,500 No Limit Hold'em
37th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2006, Las Vegas 108th $ 6,122
17-Jul-06 $ 1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
37th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2006, Las Vegas 21st $ 3,583
11-Feb-06 $ 500 Triple Draw Lowball
Oklahoma State Championship of Poker, Tulsa 2nd $ 12,600
09-Feb-06 $ 300 Pot Limit Omaha
Oklahoma State Championship of Poker, Tulsa 3rd $ 7,560
08-Feb-06 $ 200 Limit Hold'em
Oklahoma State Championship of Poker, Tulsa 36th $ 256
01-Jul-05 $ 3,000 No Limit Hold'em
36th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2005, Las Vegas 22nd $ 13,940
12-Jun-05 $ 2,000 Pot Limit Hold'em
36th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2005, Las Vegas 15th $ 8,940
06-Jun-05 $ 1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo
36th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2005, Las Vegas 30th $ 3,375
11-Apr-05 $ 2,000 No Limit Hold'em
Third Annual Five-Star World Poker Classic, Las Vegas 9th $ 9,400
16-May-04 $ 1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em
35th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2004, Las Vegas 44th $ 1,420
09-May-04 $ 2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Split
35th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2004, Las Vegas 17th $ 3,440
12-May-03 $ 1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split
34th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2003, Las Vegas 5th $ 16,260
09-Jan-03 $ 500 Pot Limit Omaha
The Fourth Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open, Tunica 14th $ 2,614
02-Dec-02 $ 1,000 Limit Hold'em
Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic - 2002, Las Vegas 5th $ 6,373
28-Sep-02 $ 500 Limit Hold'em
2002 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 12th $ 670
18-May-02 $ 1,000 Seniors Championship - No Limit Hold'em
33rd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2002, Las Vegas 21st $ 2,240
13-May-02 $ 5,000 Pot Limit Omaha
33rd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2002, Las Vegas 5th $ 22,640
15-Feb-02 $ 300 Limit Hold'em
2002 L.A. Poker Classic, Los Angeles 27th $ 2,683
16-Jan-02 $ 1,000 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo
The Third Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open, Tunica 7th $ 2,648
18-Sep-01 $ 200 Razz
2001 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 5th $ 582
15-Sep-01 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Hold'em
2001 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 5th $ 3,148
02-May-01 $ 1,500 Razz
32nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2001, Las Vegas 1st $ 83,810
01-May-01 $ 2,000 Texas Hold'em (pot limit)
32nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2001, Las Vegas 24th $ 3,145
24-Apr-01 $ 2,000 Texas Hold'em (no limit)
32nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2001, Las Vegas 14th $ 8,555
19-Nov-00 Final Table No Limit Hold'em
2000 World Poker Finals, Mashantucket 2nd $ 81,600
03-May-00 $ 3,000 Limit Hold'em
31st World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2000, Las Vegas 4th $ 32,040
08-Apr-00 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
The First Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open, Tunica 4th $ 13,376
05-Apr-00 $ 1,000 Limit Hold'em
The First Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open, Tunica 5th $ 4,758
24-Jan-00 $ 1,000 Omaha Hi/Lo
Carnivale of Poker III, Las Vegas 8th $ 2,880
16-Aug-99 $ 500 Omaha Hi-Lo
1999 Legends of Poker, Los Angeles 3rd $ 5,180
30-Apr-99 $ 2,500 Omaha Pot Limit
30th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1999, Las Vegas 13th $ 4,755
16-Jan-99 $ 1,000 Limit Hold'em
Carnivale of Poker II, Las Vegas 8th $ 5,400
07-May-98 $ 3,000 No Limit Hold'em
29th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1998, Las Vegas 21st $ 4,356
29-Apr-98 $ 2,000 Hold'em Pot Limit
29th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1998, Las Vegas 14th $ 4,580
25-Apr-98 $ 1,500 Omaha Pot Limit
29th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1998, Las Vegas 12th $ 4,644
22-Apr-98 $ 1,500 Seven-Card Razz
29th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1998, Las Vegas 3rd $ 23,250
01-Apr-98 $ 5,000 No Limit Hold'em - Championship Event
1998 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 4th $ 13,000
26-Mar-98 $ 1,000 Omaha Hi/Lo
1998 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 3rd $ 5,400
22-Jan-98 $ 5,000 Championship Event - No Limit Hold'em
Carnivale of Poker, Las Vegas 6th $ 26,775
20-Aug-97 $ 1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
Hall of Fame Poker Classic 1997, Las Vegas 3rd $ 24,075
02-May-97 $ 2,500 Omaha Pot Limit
28th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1997, Las Vegas 9th $ 9,150
22-Apr-97 $ 2,000 Limit Hold'em
28th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1997, Las Vegas 7th $ 27,200
23-Jan-97 $ 5,000 No Limit Hold'em
1997 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 2nd $ 100,000
22-Jan-97 $ 500 Limit Hold'em
1997 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 2nd $ 14,175
17-Sep-96 $ 1,055 Pot Limit Hold'em
1996 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 9th $ 1,700
14-Sep-96 $ 1,055 Limit Hold'em
1996 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 2nd $ 14,260
04-Sep-96 $ 335 No Limit Hold'em
1996 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 9th $ 875
03-Sep-96 $ 2,000 No Limit Hold'em
Seniors III, Oceanside 3rd $ 2,700
02-Sep-96 $ 335 Limit Hold'em
1996 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 1st $ 29,790
02-Sep-96 $ 500 Pot Limit Hold'em
Seniors III, Oceanside 5th $ 1,100
01-Sep-96 $ 500 Limit Hold'em
Seniors III, Oceanside 5th $ 1,000
27-Aug-96 $ 300 Limit Hold'em
Seniors III, Oceanside 1st $ 5,100
13-May-96 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
27th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1996, Las Vegas 16th $ 23,400
27-Apr-96 $ 1,500 Seven-Card Razz
27th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1996, Las Vegas 3rd $ 21,750
Sep-95 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Hold'em
1995 Four Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 9th $ 2,160
27-Jul-95 $ 500 Limit Hold'em
Seniors II, Oceanside 1st $ 9,000
25-Jul-95 $ 200 Pot Limit Hold'em
Seniors II, Oceanside 2nd $ 4,200
15-May-95 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
26th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1995, Las Vegas 21st $ 17,300
27-Apr-95 $ 1,500 Omaha Limit
26th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1995, Las Vegas 1st $ 91,200
03-Nov-94 $ 300 Omaha Hi/Lo
Gold Coast Masters, Las Vegas 1st $ 18,630
09-Sep-94 $ 500 Pot Limit Hold'em
Queens Poker Classic Summer Edition, Las Vegas 9th $ 2,320
08-Sep-94 $ 500 Omaha Hi/Lo
Queens Poker Classic Summer Edition, Las Vegas 2nd $ 14,100
06-Sep-94 $ 500 Limit Hold'em
Queens Poker Classic Summer Edition, Las Vegas 6th $ 3,395
04-Aug-94 $ 300 Omaha Hi/Lo
10th Annual Diamond Jim Brady, Oceanside 3rd $ 8,004
07-May-94 $ 5,000 Limit Hold'em
25th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1994, Las Vegas 3rd $ 63,000
06-May-94 $ 2,500 No Limit Hold'em
25th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1994, Las Vegas 8th $ 11,000
31-Aug-93 $ 5,000 No Limit Hold'em - Championship Event
Jim Brady Month, Los Angeles 3rd $ 47,025
25-Aug-93 $ 1,000 Omaha Hi/Lo
Jim Brady Month, Los Angeles 8th $ 2,500
22-Jul-93 $ 200 Omaha Hi/Lo
Gold Coast Open, Las Vegas 3rd $ 3,603
04-May-93 $ 2,500 Omaha Pot Limit
24th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1993, Las Vegas 3rd $ 38,400
25-Feb-93 $ 500 Hold'em Shootout
1993 L.A. Poker Classic, Los Angeles 3rd $ 9,214
07-Nov-92 $ 1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
Hall of Fame Poker Classic 1992, Las Vegas 3rd $ 21,420
27-Oct-92 $ 1,500 Limit Hold'em
Hall of Fame Poker Classic 1992, Las Vegas 11th $ 2,196
11-May-92 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
23rd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1992, Las Vegas 17th $ 10,100
05-May-92 $ 5,000 Omaha Pot Limit
23rd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1992, Las Vegas 8th $ 6,000
29-Apr-92 $ 1,500 Omaha Limit
23rd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1992, Las Vegas 2nd $ 39,600
07-Jan-92 $ 500 Omaha Hi/Lo
Queens Poker Classic II, Las Vegas 14th $ 950
30-Oct-91 $ 1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em
Hall Of Fame Poker Classic 1991, Las Vegas 5th $ 10,050
28-Oct-91 $ 1,500 Limit Hold'em
Hall Of Fame Poker Classic 1991, Las Vegas 2nd $ 73,200
17-Jun-91 $ 300 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo
US Open, Las Vegas 2nd $ 8,340
May-91 $ 1,500 Ace to Five Draw
22nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1991, Las Vegas 6th $ 10,680
May-91 $ 5,000 Omaha Pot Limit
22nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1991, Las Vegas 9th $ 6,300
May-91 $ 1,500 Omaha Limit
22nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1991, Las Vegas 11th $ 2,772
27-Feb-91 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
Queens Poker Classic, Las Vegas 1st $ 38,000
14-Feb-91 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em
Amarillo Slim's Superbowl Of Poker, Laughlin 2nd $ 28,500
14-Dec-90 $ 2,500 Limit Omaha
Hall Of Fame Poker Classic 1990, Las Vegas 2nd $ 51,000
11-Dec-90 $ 1,500 Limit Omaha
Hall Of Fame Poker Classic 1990, Las Vegas 2nd $ 38,400
29-Jun-90 $ 200 Limit Hold'em
Summer Poker Festival, Las Vegas 1st $ 26,908
14-May-90 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
21st World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1990, Las Vegas 5th $ 75,150
11-May-90 $ 2,500 Limit Hold'em
21st World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1990, Las Vegas 1st $ 254,000
15-May89 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
20th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1989, Las Vegas 29th $ 7,500
30-Jan-89 $ 200 Pot Limit Omaha
Amarillo Slim's Superbowl Of Poker, Las Vegas 1st $ 69,400
May-88 $ 1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split
19th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1988, Las Vegas 4th $ 18,540
May-88 $ 1,500 No Limit Hold'em
19th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1988, Las Vegas 4th $ 27,270
May-88 $ 1,000 Omaha Limit
19th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1988, Las Vegas 9th $ 3,420
May-88 $ 2,500 Omaha Pot Limit
19th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1988, Las Vegas 9th $ 9,050
11-May-87 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
18th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1987, Las Vegas 32nd $ 7,500
May-87 $ 5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw
18th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1987, Las Vegas 5th $ 17,000
May-87 $ 1,000 Seven-Card Razz
18th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1987, Las Vegas 11th $ 1,630
Feb-87 $ 2,500 No Limit 2-7 Lowball
Amarillo Slim's Superbowl Of Poker, Las Vegas 2nd $ 24,000
Feb-87 $ 200 Pot Limit Omaha
Amarillo Slim's Superbowl Of Poker, Las Vegas 2nd $ 27,020
12-May-86 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
17th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1986, Las Vegas 1st $ 570,000
Jan-86 $ 1,000 Razz
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 3rd $ 4,200
Jan-86 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 1st $ 16,000
Jan-86 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em
Grand Prix of Poker 1986, Las Vegas 4th $ 45,600
Jan-86 $ 5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw
Grand Prix of Poker 1986, Las Vegas 3rd $ 42,000
Jan-86 $ 500 Razz
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 3rd $ 3,200
Jan-86 $ 500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 5th $ 1,440
Jan-86 $ 500 No Limit Hold'em
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 3rd $ 2,400
Jan-86 $ 5,000 No Limit Hold'em
1986 Stairway to the stars, Las Vegas 3rd $ 15,300
13-May-85 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
16th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1985, Las Vegas 3rd $ 140,000
May-85 $ 5,000 Pot Limit Omaha
16th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1985, Las Vegas 4th $ 17,000
Jan-85 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
1985 Stairway to the Stars, Las Vegas 3rd $ 3,600
Jan-85 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em
Grand Prix of Poker 1985, Las Vegas 4th $ 35,500
Jan-85 $ 5,000 No Limit 2-7 Lowball
Grand Prix of Poker 1985, Las Vegas 2nd $ 43,000
Jan-85 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
1985 Stairway to the Stars, Las Vegas 2nd $ 4,800
Jan-85 $ 500 Limit Omaha/Hold'em
1985 Stairway to the Stars, Las Vegas 9th $ 960
Jan-85 $ 500 Pot Limit Hold'em
1985 Stairway to the Stars, Las Vegas 2nd $ 7,100
Dec-84 $ 1,000 Pot Limit Omaha
Annual Jack Straus World Match Play Championships, Las Vegas 2nd $ 8,000
Dec-84 $ 200 Pot Limit Omaha
Annual Jack Straus World Match Play Championships, Las Vegas 2nd $ 7,625
Sep-84 $ 1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
America's Cup Of Poker 1984, Las Vegas 2nd $ 12,000
May-84 $ 10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw
15th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1984, Las Vegas 4th $ 21,000
May-83 $ 2,500 Match Play
14th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1983, Las Vegas 1st $ 40,000
10-May-82 $ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship
13th World Series of Poker (WSOP) 1982, Las Vegas 3rd $ 104,000

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