My First WSOP: Four-Time Bracelet Winner Artie Cobb Reflects on Early Days of Poker
Look over a list of four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winners and you won't be surprised at many of the names. Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim, Bobby Baldwin, Tom McEvoy, Mike Matusow are all men with storied careers who've captured four pieces of gold. However, one name that might not jump out is Artie Cobb.
Cobb, who turns 73 later this year, won his first bracelet in 1983 when he defeated a field of 104 in Event #3: $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low for $52,000. He collected three more bracelets, all in stud events, in 1987, 1991, and 1998. His total WSOP earnings amount to $875,577, with the most recent $3,863 coming when he cashed the first ever Super Seniors event in 63rd.
On the way to the payout cage, we asked Cobb to reflect on his first WSOP experience, and he was happy to oblige. He took a seat on the black bench outside of payouts and waved away a friend so he could talk to PokerNews.
“He's waiting to borrow money,” Cobb said with a laugh.
Cobb's very first cash came at the seventh WSOP, in 1976. There, he finished second for $4,250 in the same tournament he would win seven years later. Losing heads up in his first big tournament run had to be disheartening, right? Not exactly, considering there was no heads-up play.
“It played to when there were two people left,” Cobb explained. “Whoever had the most money won, and whoever had the second-most came in second.”
Cobb admitted he received a little untoward help, but it wasn't enough to get him to the finish line.
“The gentleman who got third, I happened to know from playing around town,” he said. “He tried to make me win. It was close, but [Doc Greene] beat me by like 1,000.”
Cobb and Greene were the only two to cash in the 17-player tournament, with Greene earning $12,750 and the bracelet.
Cobb believes that was the only event he played that year, though he said it was difficult to recall considering it's been almost 40 years.
“I'm not sure what the schedule was in '76,” he said. “At that time, I wasn't playing hold'em.”
That wouldn't have been a problem. That year's WSOP, which began in early May, featured just eight events, and only three were hold'em tournaments, with two stud, one stud hi-low, one limit ace-to-five lowball, and one no-limit 2-7 single draw. In fact, when Cobb first arrived in Las Vegas, where his wife worked at the WSOP as a cashier, he had no hold'em experience, which held him back from helping out a friend in one instance.
“When David Sklansky wrote his first book, we were playing at the old Sahara and he said to me, 'Artie, when you have a few minutes, can you critique this book for me?'” Cobb sad. “I read it, and I'm not understanding the nuances. I said, 'I'm not the right guy for this.'”
One thing Cobb distinctly recalls about his early WSOP experience was the first-class treatment of the players by Benny Binion and his staff. He echoed many of the thoughts shared by Perry Green in an earlier installment of this series.
“Binion catered to all the Texans, but he really catered to all us smaller guys, too,” Cobb said. “He set up a buffet that anybody could come to. All the 1-2 players played downtown at the Four Queens and the Horseshoe – those were the main rooms in those days – and during the WSOP, the line was gigantic because he put out first-class food at no charge.”
“There was a camaraderie of people coming in every year that you didn't see. Now, as poker started to grow, he would put the free buffet every night. All us poker players really appreciated that. The camaraderie seems to have left a little bit with corporations owning things now.”
Another thing Cobb misses from back in the early days of the WSOP was a much smaller rake. Nowadays, the rake in a standard $1,000 event is 10 percent of the pool, but Cobb said in those days it was only five percent. At the same time, he said he understands that times change and the WSOP has more expenses to cover and dealers to pay.
He added that he appreciates many of the things the current WSOP brass has done to the series, particularly the addition of the Super Seniors, as Cobb said he recognized many faces in the tournament.
“Today, I was sitting next to Rod Pardey, he's won two bracelets,” Cobb said. “We've been playing poker together since I came to town 40 years ago at the Sahara. That brought back good memories. This Super Seniors was a great idea.”
The old-school personalities of the game and the friends Cobb made over the years are what he seems to both miss and cherish most about poker.
“You meet so many people,” Cobb said. “Sklansky, Stu Ungar, Men Nguyen,John Bonetti, Alan Boston, TJ Cloutier... they epitomize what poker is all about because they're unique people.”