The 40th Annual World Series of Poker is only weeks away. Between now and the start of the Main Event BluffMagazine.com will be presenting the 40 Greatest Champions in WSOP history exclusively on WorldSeriesofPoker.com. 

The history of the World Series of Poker can’t be discussed without Puggy Pearson’s name being mentioned. He was one of the original seven players Benny Binion invited to play in the inaugural 1970 tournament. In fact, he is credited with coming up with the idea of a freeze out tournament. Pearson won his Main Event bracelet in 1973 after two consecutive runner-up finishes.

Pearson has four bracelets to his credit, but his influence on the game is immeasurable. He was a legendary gambler that toured the country on his own tour bus he called the “Roving Gambler.” Painted on the side it read, “I’ll play any man from any land any game he can name for any amount he can count.” Written much smaller underneath it said, “Provided I like it.” He was a character bigger than life and accordingly would dress in full costume for WSOP events; everything from a Native-American Chief, complete with a full feathered headdress to a dapper riverboat gambler.

A 1987 Poker Hall of Fame inductee, Pearson was born into poverty in Kentucky. He left school at age 10 and joined the Navy at 16 and served three terms. Pearson became a feared pool player and gambler while in the Navy.

Pearson joined the likes of Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, and Bobby Baldwin in the early days of Vegas forming what’s considered the old guard of poker. Pearson was a fixture in poker rooms throughout the 70s and 80s; in fact, when he would arrive at a card room he would announce “Deal me in!” without ever knowing how the stakes and who was playing. Pearson is the only person that played every WSOP from 1970 through 2005.

Pearson was not only a world class poker player; he was a scratch golfer also. Brunson once said that if his life depended on a single putt then he would want Pearson putting. 

Puggy Pearson died on April 12, 2006 at the age of 77.