Berry Johnston is the most prolific Main Event tournament player in WSOP history. He sits behind only Hellmuth, Ferguson, and Men “The Master” Nguyen in terms of most WSOP cashes in history. He won the Main Event in 1986. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2004, and yet Johnston is largely unknown and unrecognized by most poker fans. He has never gloated in glory, suffered in defeat, or committed a tournament ending melt down; instead Johnston has been a consummate professional for the better part of three decades, a man “who has always been a gentleman at all times” said Doyle Brunson.
Johnston has five WSOP bracelets, including his 1986 Main Event bracelet, but more impressive is that Johnston has cashed in the Main Event more than anyone else in history. Before winning in 1986 Johnston had two third place finishes in 1982 and 1985. He had two other in the money finishes in the 80s with a 32nd in 1987 and a 29th in 1989. He started the 90s with a 5th place in 1990, a 17th in 1992, a 21st in 1995, and a 16th in 1996. Johnston proved he could play with the new breed of poker players when he placed 113th in the 2007 Main Event. All total, in ten cashes he has won more than $1,000,000 in the Main Event alone in his career.
Johnston won his first bracelet in 1983 in a Heads Up event. His third bracelet came by way of Limit Hold’em in 1990. Five years would pass before he won his fourth bracelet in Limit Omaha. His last bracelet was won in 2001 when he won a Razz event. Johnston has made 27 final tables in 56 WSOP money finishes.
The Hall of Famer moved to Las Vegas in 1982 to play poker professionally. Born in 1935 in Bethany, Oklahoma Johnston embarked on his poker playing dream much later in life than many of his contemporaries. Johnston has been a gentleman of the game and nothing better illustrates it better than his bust out from the 1985 Main Event. He found himself all in preflop against T.J. Cloutier and Bill Smith and when busted he stood up and shook the remaining players’ hands and wished them good luck. His wife was nearby and when he approached she said, “Honey, I’m hungry. Can we go eat now?” Unfazed from being knocked out of the most important tournament of the year he replied, “Ok honey, we’ll go eat if that’s what you want to do.”
Johnston returned to live in Bethany, Oklahoma with his wife. He continues to play in WSOP tournaments, is deeply religious, and dedicated to his family.