Grand Prix of Poker


[SS] “When I say Grand Prix, what do you guys think of?” Stan the Stat polled.

[FF] “Auto racing, of course”, Figaro the Fish insisted.

[LL] “Agreed, although I think there are multiple races called a Grand Prix”, Leroy the Lion concurred.

[RR] “Wasn’t there a Grand Prix game for the Atari 2600?” Roderick the Rock suggested.

[SS] “Yes, and it was a car racing game. But did you guys know that the original Grand Prix didn’t involve automobiles (because they hadn’t been invented yet)?”

[LL] “Perhaps a track event? No, that’s not something the French are big on. So, I guess it had to involve wine, cheese, or horses.”

[SS] “Correct! The original Grand Prix was a French horse race way back in 1807. Now known as the Prix Gladiateur, the contest originally pitted thoroughbreds age four and up over a 4,000-meter course, which was lengthened to 6,200 meters in 1861 but reduced several times to reach its current distance of 3,100 meters1 in 1991.

Grand Prix auto racing began almost a century later, in 1901.”

[RR] “But I’ll bet you really want to talk about a different kind of horses, am I right?”

[SS] “And a different type of race. For chips. Steve Wynn created the Grand Prix of Poker for the Golden Nugget in direct response to the Stairway to the Stars at the competing Stardust poker room:

Grand Prix of Poker (1984 to 1987)

Dates Events Main Event Winner Notes
November 28 to December 13, 1984 15 David Baxter ($320,000) Robert Baldwin finished second for $128,000. Hal Fowler won the $1,000 Seven Card Stud for $76,000 and the last tournament cash of his career. Ray Zee won the overall points championship to take home a new Mercedes 380SL valued at $45,000.
December 2 to 19, 1985 15 Dewey Tomko ($355,000) Tomko, who also won the $2,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em for $123,750, defeated Baxter ($142,000) heads up for the title. Ken Flaton edged out A.J. “Action” Jackson to win a 26-foot Chris Craft boat valued at $55,000 for the best overall player in the festival.
December 1 to 20, 1986 17 Hugo Mieth ($247,000) The amateur and the pro Mike Hart agreed to split the first and second place prize money and play for just the title. Barbara Gold, the first woman to win a major poker tournament, won three open events to earn a Chevrolet Corvette valued at $31,000 as the best overall player at the festival, while Said Barjesteh got a Suzuki JX Samurai for second, and Robert Turner settled for a Hyundai All-Terrain Vehicle for third.
November 29 to December 19, 1987 16 Jim Doman ($400,000) Howard Andrew had to settle for $250,000 for second place. Berry Johnston ($77,600) won the $1,000 Razz, Jack Keller ($97,000) the $2,500 Limit Hold ‘Em, and David Reese ($108,400) the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em.

Notes:

  • Pro-Celebrity Charity Tournament:
    • In 1984, actor Mike Warren and pro Jack Keller won the event, which featured his co-stars Ed Marinaro and Rene Enriquez, as well as Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka, Dionne Warwick, Alan King, and Sarah Vaughan. $10,000 in prizes were donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.
    • The 1985 tournament included defending champ Michael Warren, Ed Marinaro, Rene Enriquez, Telly Savalas, Diahann Carroll, Kathy Rigby, and Jerry Lewis. Country singer Doug Kershaw won with pro Bill Smith, marking the second straight year the reigning WSOP Main Event champion had won the event.
    • The 1986 event had one of the unlikeliest winners: Charo! The Spanish-American actress, comedienne, and musician teamed up with Bobby Baldwin to top 35 other teams for the first place donation.
  • At both the 1985 and 1986 festivals, singer Willie Nelson took on Amarillo Slim Preston… in dominoes. Preston won 5-2 the first year to win a CJ7 Jeep from Steve Wynn and possibly some cash from Nelson. He won 5-3 the second year for an unknown prize.
  • In 1986, Cyndy Violette won the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud event for $74,400, which at the time was the largest prize ever won by a woman in a poker tournament. By contrast, Barbara Enright, the winner of the Women’s Seven-Card Stud at the 1986 WSOP earned only $16,400. The WSOP Ladies champion wouldn’t take home more than Violette did until 2005.

Footnotes:

  1. In imperial units, that’s 2.49, 3.85, and 1.93 miles. For comparison, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes are 1.25, 1.19, and 1.50 miles.

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