America’s Cup of Poker


[SS] “After the success of Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker,” Stan the Stat continued, “entrepreneur and marketing wizard Bob Stupak1 decided to host his own event to promote his Vegas World casino, which had opened in 1979 but was newly renovated. In addition to the usual variety of events and big prizes, Stupak offered the winner of the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event a free chance to win his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in a heads up match. Poker legend Berry Johnston, who would go on to win five WSOP bracelets including the 1986 Main Event, was able to survive a field of 109 players but couldn’t pry Stupak’s car keys from him.”

[LL] “You make it sound like Johnston was trying to steal the car”, Leroy the Lion complained.

[RR] “Johnston wasn’t rich and famous yet”, Roderick the Rock noted.

[SS] “Stupak certainly was. He actually built up fortune selling coupon books, believe it or not. But he was always looking for that next great idea, and America’s Cup was it. The successful festival would run through the rest of the 1980s before he killed it, and Vegas World itself would close its doors in 1995 to be replaced by the Stratosphere, which still has the tallest freestanding observation tower in the U.S.

America’s Cup of Poker (1983 to 1989)

Dates Events Main Event Winner First Prize Notes
September 19 to 28, 1983 7 Johnny Chan $130,000 When Chan took out the entire final table in an hour for his first career tournament win, Stupak dubbed him the Orient Express, because he was “very fast and very aggressive”.2
September 10 to 24, 1984 9 Mike Markos $100,000 Markos defeated Dewey Tomko heads up when he was lucky enough to catch runner-runner Sevens after bluffing all-in on the flop with nothing.3
September 5 to 14, 1985 11 unknown unknown Was it the bad luck of Friday the 13th that’s caused these results to be lost?4
September 8 to 20, 1986 15 Roger Moore $120,000 J.J. Busey finished second, Seymour Leibowitz third, and Bob Stupak himself fourth.
September 8 to 20, 1987 12 Stu Ungar $55,000 Ungar also won the $5,000+50 Deuce to Seven tournament for another $55,000.5
July 7 to 22, 1988 ? unknown unknown It’s possible this event didn’t happen despite being advertised in the June 26, 1988 San Bernardino County Sun, but the Hendon Mob database, CardPlayer, and World Poker Rank all call the 1989 festival the “7th annual”.
July 6 to 13, 1989 9 Roger Moore $80,000 Moore beat Phil Hellmuth heads up for the title.

Notes:

  • Ads for the inaugural 1983 event touted Bob Stupak as “The Polish Maverick”, WORLD’S GREATEST POKER PLAYER, and his wife Sandy as “The Australian Bloose”,6 WORLD’S GREATEST WOMAN POKER PLAYER. With training from Puggy Pearson, Stupak eventually won a World Series of Poker bracelet at the World Series of Poker in the 1989 $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw event for $139,500, five years after Sandy won the WSOP Casino Employees event.
  • The same ads boasted, “Loni Anderson and George Kennedy will be roaming around Vegas World during the America’s Cup Classic… to film ‘Fast Eddie’, the true story of famed bank robber Eddie Watson.” The movie was never made.
  • In 1984, Ken Lambert won the right to play Stupak for his Rolls-Royce, and the showman let comedian Jerry Lewis defend his car for him. Hopefully, Stupak donated a nice chunk of change to combat muscular dystrophy when Lewis won the match.
  • The festival also included Ladies-only freerolls to win various prizes. Cissy Bottoms took home a diamond bracelet and Cheryl Davis a mink coat. “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale claims to have taught his mother-in-law Jane to play Hold ‘Em in five minutes to win another mink coat. She probably made more than he did at the America’s Cup, as he had just a single fifth place finish for $1,827.”

[LL] “Ungar pretty much rolled a Yahtzee with all those Fives in 1987.”

[RR] “The Hendon database really wanted to build up his legacy.”

[SS] “I don’t know where all the misinformation came from. He certainly won enough tournaments in his short career, so he didn’t really need to get credited with another two victories worth $300,000.”

[RR] “Between the Ungar and Chan errors, I can only guess that a lot of the data came from vague memories, long after the fact.”

[SS] “Exactly right. The Hendon Mob database only started in 2001. Still, I have to give a lot of credit to those four guys — Joe Beevers, Barney and Ross Boatman, and Ram Vaswani — for their amazing poker resource.”

Footnotes:

  1. In No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Tower, John Smith refers to Stupak as P.T. Barnum’s hedonistic twin.
  2. Source: Could Three Consecutive World Titles Bring Even More Luck to Poker Ace Johnny Chan? : Big Deal article in the May 15, 1989 Los Angeles Times. The Hendon Mob database also thinks Chan won this event in 1982, but the festival didn’t debut until 1983.
  3. The Hendon Mob database says Stu Ungar won the 1984 Main Event, but the September 16, 1985 Poker Player newspaper disagrees and is a much more reliable source for tournament of this era.
  4. The Hendon Mob database knows about the 1985 America’s Cup of Poker, but is missing most of the events, including the Main Event.
  5. The Hendon Mob database says Ungar won another $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event at the 1987 America’s Cup for $150,000, but it appears to be a bogus claim with no tournament details. All of the America’s Cup events in most years are also incorrectly placed in January (only 1984 and 1989 are correctly put in September and July respectively).
  6. Sorry to disappoint, but I have no idea what a “bloose” is. The Urban Dictionary definition refers to a man, not a woman.

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