1993 Main Event Champion Jim Bechtel Making a Run More Than Two Decades Later
In 1993, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl and Emmitt Smith was named the MVP. Bill Clinton became the President of the United States, and the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series.
That same year, a man named Jim Bechtel won a different World Series — the World Series of Poker Main Event, taking home $1,000,000.
Bechtel is a man of few words, and the words he speaks are chosen carefully. On dinner break of Day 3 in this year's big one, more han two decades after his major score, PokerNews caught up with the Arizona cotton farmer who's been coming to the WSOP since 1979.
"I went [to Binion's] to play in a smaller tournament, a $1,000 buy-in, and I got second place for $40,000," Bechtel remembered about his first experience at the WSOP.
In that event, Bechtel lost heads up to Perry Green, but the cash he won convinced him to play the Main Event as well.
"Poker looked very easy to me, and so I entered the big World Championship," he said. "When I was very close to being one of the leaders, I lost aces to kings, so I had my share of disappointments, too."
In the years to come, Bechtel cashed the Main Event no less than three times, one of those being a sixth-place finish in 1988 when Erik Seidel lost heads up to Johnny Chan, then deemed "The Master," before winning the whole thing in 1993.
This year, in 2015, Bechtel racked up the sixth Main Event cash of his poker career, and he's a real contender with one of the top stacks late on Day 3.
"It feels great to have a big stack," Bechtel said. "You can move some people around when trying to win a big pot. When you're on the short stack, you have to be careful and build it back up. The bigger the stack you've got, the easier it is to build."
For 30 straight years, Bechtel didn't miss a single Main Event, but the 63-year-old has slowed down a little bit in recent years. Last year Bechtel did not play the Main Event, but perhaps the short break has revitalized his hunger to perform.
When asked about his chances in this year's tournament, Bechtel casually said, "I'll be a pretty serious play this year, I think."
The memories of his victory in '93 still seem fresh, as Bechtel proudly recalls the biggest achievement of his career.
"All world champions have great memories of their victory," Bechtel said. "Even though there were less players then, still it was the biggest game in the world. You were the big champ, and everyone knew about it. There is no feeling like being the world champion."
Now, 22 years later, Bechtel has a chance to relive the emotion of becoming Main Event champion once again, even though the possibility of that happening is still months away.
If it will come down to experience, Bechtel might be unmatched on the felt in Las Vegas. During the 2006 WSOP, Bechtel finished fourth in the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E., the tournament later won by David "Chip" Reese.
"The Players' Championship when Chip won, when I got fourth, is a great memory," he said. "That was a great achievement for me to get that close to winning in that tournament."
Not only did Bechtel battle with Reese, he also faced Hall of Famer, and arguably one of the best to have every played the game, Johnny Moss.
"I played with Johnny in many tournaments back in the day, and I don't think a day went by that he didn't play poker," Bechtel said. "Until Johnny died, he was a true rounder. He played every day."
With Bechtel’s experience, having battled alongside the likes of Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Moss, and Reese, there's hardly anything that can scare him. If there's one thing that can bring him down, it's that reaching the November Nine is still four long days of poker away.
"I can do it again, but I don't have quite as much energy as these young boys," Bechtel said. "But I'll do alright."