It's the early '80's, and I'm tooling along in my Camaro looking for the right highway to get me to the next poker game. I've spent two days in Denver, and a night in Trinidad, Colorado, working my magic (or lack thereof) in home games and a game above a pizza parlor. So far, the players are better than I have been lead to believe, and the next game in New Mexico is going to define how this trip ends: winner or loser.
A few hundred miles from Trinidad, I'm somewhere past Tucumcari and closing in on Clovis. I'm lost, tired, and hungry. The day is just easing past twilight and the sky is an endless panorama of orange around me. Relaxation starts, then ends quickly as the back of my car starts to fishtail. I over correct to the left and end up with a back tire in a ditch.
After skidding to that slippery stop, I open my door, then slam it shut. The ground is moving. I'm dizzy, and can't figure out what's going on around my poor Camaro until I realize why I was skidding. Spiders.
Are you kidding me! My skin is crawling, and so are the tarantulas all around me. The road is a moving mass of spiders. Why did the spider cross the road? Because it's migration time. In an instant they are an image in my rear-view mirror, but the next fifty miles are a waking nightmare. Every little tingle on my legs might be a huge tarantula, and I drive with the dome light on. I look like a scared fish in a fish bowl to other drivers, but I don't care. I refuse to get out of the car and drive dangerously close to running out of gas before necessity demands that I pull over and fill up. I don't check the oil - could be spiders under the hood!
I may have driven a little fast that last fifty miles, and I'm early for the game. When the host meets me at the door, I take note of his beautiful silk suit. I'm in jeans and a short sleeve shirt, but I relax, and stay until all the other players have come, and gone. Only because the game was so good, not because I was afraid to get back in my car.
Driving to a hotel afterwards, I put the game into perspective. I played poorly early on, had a rush, and wound up with the lion's share of the cash on the table. Thinking back, it was the host who threw me off. That damn silk suit.
I judged him as well off, easy with his money, and probably hard to bluff. I was dead wrong on two accounts. He was playing hands early because he was catching cards, not because he played loose, and I lost several bluff/semi-bluff opportunities because he was actually fairly tight with his chips. Lesson learned. Don't judge a book by its cover.
Before the hotel beckoned in my windshield, I also thought of how much my host had reminded me of Crandall Addington. If ever there was a player "dressed for the game," it was Crandall. From San Antonio, Crandall spent plenty of time playing poker around Texas in the 1960's. His ring-game, cash and tournament play was notably excellent in the 1970's, but he was also one of the strongest heads-up players in the country.
Players like Ken Smith wore fancy clothes, but Crandall always wore a suit, and even won money from those who doubted he could keep his tie knotted firmly through the entire World Series of Poker Tournament. Gracious and outgoing, Crandall took his early poker winnings and invested in real estate. By the time he was making final tables at the WSOP Championships, he was investing in the Market and doing the Texas oil-wildcatter thing. Doing it so well, in fact, that the $10,000 buy-in for the championship was no longer a concern.
Crandall finished second to Johnny Moss in 1974, and was third in 1975 when his friend Sailor Roberts won. Coming so close to winning kept his interest piqued, and he once again found himself at the final table in 1976. This time however, it was another fellow Texan, Doyle Brunson, who came away with the championship. Doyle repeated the feat in 1977, but in 1978, Crandall had a chance to win when he found himself at a final table that didn't have a previous champion at it.
This time, it was five Texas gamblers and just one young man from Tulsa, Oklahoma: Bobby Baldwin. After Jesse Alto, Buck Buchanan and Louis Hunsucker each made their exit, Crandall was heads-up against Baldwin. As play resumed, Crandall held almost a two-to-one chip lead.
Baldwin, considered at the time to be one of, if not the best, no-limit player in the country, made a $30,000 bet at a flop of Qd 4d 3c. Crandall called, but folded when Bobby bet nearly all his chips after the ace of diamonds hit the turn. Crandall still had the chip lead, and with a flush possibility and also two over-cards on the board, he made a prudent decision.
However, Baldwin showed his cards as he swept in the pot , having won on a stone cold bluff. Unfortunately, that hand was the turning point in the heads-up action, and Baldwin went on to win the 1978 World Series of Poker Championship. Addington, showing his usual grace and poise, settled for second place and prize money of $85,000.
Always a gentleman, Crandall Addington may not have won a WSOP Championship, but each year he played there was a chance he might have been one, and his record of close finishes in the 1970's speaks for itself. Certainly Crandall will always be remembered as the classiest, and Best-Dressed of all WSOP combatants.
Ed note: Crandall was recently inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. Read about that here