Old School: Perry Green Celebrates Decades of Poker With Big Bet Cash
Perry Green remembers that first check after joining the Army – and $14 sure didn’t seem like a lot. Disappointed, he just knew that wasn’t enough and he set about to change the situation. His salvation would come in the form of spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds. After joining in on some barracks poker games in Carmel, Calif., the young soldier changed his fortune – eclipsing $14 by another $1,000.
After being transferred to teletype school in Fort Gordon, Georgia, his bankroll continued to grow – through poker not through rank.
“I continued winning at poker and said, ‘Well this is pretty good,’” he says.
“I first came to Las Vegas in 1958. Before everyone who’s playing in this tournament was born.”
As Day 2 of the $2,500 Mixed Big Bet played out in the Rio, the 82-year-old Green was among those making a deep run – his poker skills still sharp so many years since jumping into those Army games.
Growing up in Alaska, Perry loved the outdoors – fishing rivers and streams, and hunting for wild game. It was a nice place to grow up, he says. After high school, he joined the Army and was sent to work in communications in Alaska before it was even a state. He still lives in Anchorage and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“Alaska was the most wonderful place to grow up and still is a beautiful place,” he says. “Except now we’re getting too many Californians up there trying to change us to be like California.”
After leaving the service, Green worked as a fur buyer and also began heading out regularly to Sin City. The poker success continued.
“I first came to Las Vegas in 1958,” he says. “Before everyone who’s playing in this tournament was born.”
“I don’t even expect to cash out. I just play for the mental exercise.”
Green looks back fondly on those old Vegas days.
“It was a lot friendlier in the old days,” he says. “You knew all the owners of the casinos, and they knew you. And they protected you and were fair, and gave you a good gamble and great accommodations – particularly Jack Binion and the Binion family.”
A three-time bracelet winner, Green has been playing in the WSOP since the 1970s and tries to make it back at least for a tournament or two each summer. And when it comes to A-5 Lowball, he definitely has some skills. He won the $1,000 event in 1976 for $68,300 and then won the $5,000 version again in 1977, although there were only two players in that one. His third bracelet came in 1979 when he won a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event for $79,500.
In 1981, Green finished second to Stu Ungar in the Main Event and took home $150,000. Numerous cashes and final tables would follow including an eighth-place finish in the Super Seniors event in 2015.
With lifetime tournament winnings of $1.2 million, Green has seen the series’ growth from its early days in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, he was back mixing it up at the tables again.
“I’m just playing for the fun of it,” he says. “I don’t even expect to cash out. I just play for the mental exercise.”
While he may not have expected to be in the money, he did just that – finishing 27th for a $3,777 min-cash – not bad for an octogenarian in a tournament full of tough and experienced players many decades younger.
I’m glad I came back. It’s been fun, but I’m leaving as soon as this tournament’s over. I’m out of here.”
This would be his last tournament of the summer, and he was ready to get back to Alaska. Green has five children, 13 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He and his wife have been married 62 years.
“And I’m still playing poker,” he says. “My goal was just to compete, and I did. I’m glad I came back. It’s been fun, but I’m leaving as soon as this tournament’s over. I’m out of here.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, HoldemRadio.com, and TrueGamblingStories.com.