(Photo courtesy of Card Player magazine)
Writer’s Note: The opinions expressed here are entirely those of Nolan Dalla. These views do not reflect the official position of the World Series of Poker, Poker Hall of Fame, Caesars Entertainment, or its staff.
Let me make this perfectly clear.
I am completely neutral on the question of who should be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame — Class of 2012.
I’ve already made my public pitch this year — and failed.
That said, I remain very much interested in this year’s list of nominees, put forth by votes from the general public and subsequently screened by a committee — of which I’m privileged to be a member. Each of the ten individuals on this year’s nomination list are worthy of serious consideration. I’m convinced that just making the list demonstrates an appreciable degree of respect and gratitude by people throughout our game. Indeed, there can be no greater satisfaction than knowing one’s contributions are recognized by his or her peers.
For those who missed this year’s official list of finalists, they are (listed alphabetically):
Brian “Sailor” Roberts
Since the list of finalists was released, I’ve heard some people question the inclusion of one candidate — namely Brian “Sailor” Roberts. Most people don’t know much about Sailor, other than the fact his portrait hangs on the wall at the World Series of Poker, as the esteemed but largely forgotten winner of the world championship back in 1975. Moreover, they probably don’t know that Sailor passed away in 1995.
Even respected members of the poker media, including those who will cast their votes on the finalists this week, may not fully understand or appreciate Sailor’s colorful life and the impact he had our game, including many of its most legendary players. In a remarkable testament to everlasting friendship, some of those people who were most impacted by Sailor are now fighting for him to be recognized.
Indeed, some of those who knew Sailor best recently approached me. They asked for me to join them in supporting Sailor’s nomination. I was flattered by the overture. But I did not think it was my role at this late stage of the process to twist arms or try and persuade voters. While it’s entirely appropriate for me to speak out during the general vote and share an opinion, I’m not going to try and persuade those who should ultimately make up their own minds.
That said, I will share what two living poker legends wrote to me by e-mail (with their permission). Doyle Brunson and Crandell Addington, both Poker Hall of Fame inductees and fine gentlemen, revealed some perspectives about Sailor that most of us probably didn’t know. They knew him best. He was far from a perfect man. He had his flaws. But he may have been as great a poker player as there was at one time in our history. And so, I have agreed to give their words and thoughts an even wider audience.
Permit me to do exactly that:
FROM DOYLE BRUNSON
The best recommendation I can give Sailor is that outside of Chip Reese, Sailor was the best player in multiple games that I have ever seen.
True, we didn’t have the variety of poker games that are out there today. But we didn’t have any limit games anywhere either.
Sailor was truly an artist when it came to the game of Lowball, and had the best insight of any player I’ve ever seen — be it modern days or old school days. He devised devious ways to win pots in the most unorthodox fashion.
He had balls the size of basketballs and kept me concerned about our safety during our many years of traveling. He could win or lose a pot with the same demeanor of the aforementioned Chip.
He was also the most popular player in our era — especially with the women. Most people considered me to be the best player in the infancy of Hold’em. But I always considered Sailor to be as good, maybe better, than myself. In fact, because he was a few years older than me, I considered him as my mentor as well as my best friend.
If you talk to any of the Hall Of Famers that knew Sailor before his drug problems, you will find nothing but respect and the highest regard for him. And by the way, please don’t ask me to make his presentation speech. Crandell is a much better speaker.
FROM CRANDELL ADDINGTON
Sailor Roberts is the last of the Texas Road Gamblers who supported the Binions as they set the poker feast that all players and the media are dining on today who is not in the Poker Hall of Fame.
It is time that before he is lost in the rush of history that he be recognized for his skills as a road gambler who specialized in No-Limit games at the highest level.
Could Doyle and Slim have had such exceptional careers without their early partnership with Sailor? Would their careers have taken different paths? Their skills were and are exceptional. But would they have been like the Three Musketeers without D’Artagnan? Would the WSOP even exist today without the three of them as the core axis around which the Binions built what became an empire?
The three of them were a formidable road team. Doyle and Slim are members of the Poker Hall of Fame. It is long past time for the late Sailor to be reunited with them.
Note: The official announcement as to who will make the Poker Hall of Fame — Class of 2012 is expected to come early in October. The honorees will be officially inducted at poker’s world championship, at the Penn and Teller Theater in Las Vegas at the end of October.
TO ALL MEDIA — PERMISSION IS GRANTED TO MEDIA TO USE ANY OF THE MATERIAL IN THIS POST IN ANY WAY.