'The Guy They Always Forget' Makes Deep Run In 2012 WSOP, 31 Years After Loss To Stu Ungar
Perry Green Still Enjoys Coming To Las Vegas After 56 Years
With a short stack all tournament, Perry Green said he had a switch blade while his opponents were using machine guns. But he still enjoyed himself this summer in the World Series of Poker main event — more than three decades after he finished runner-up to the late Stu Ungar.
Green, 76, has been coming to Las Vegas to play poker for longer than most of the 6,598-player starting field has been alive. Over fifty six years, the Alaskan has made numerous treks to the Mojave Desert to compete among the most recognized gamblers in the world. His most recent ended with a 152nd place finish in the main event for $52,000. He also owns three bracelets dating back to the WSOP’S infancy.
Green said that Ungar — widely regarded as one of the game’s all-time best players — didn’t worry him at the time. When the two men squared off on the felt, Ungar hadn’t yet become a poker legend, nor had the drugs and pitfalls of Las Vegas, Nevada yet destroyed him.
“I was more aggressive than Stu,” Green remembered. “I had him all-in three times. I had A-K when he had A-Q, and the board brought a full house. I had 10-2 of clubs when he the A-J of clubs on a board with the jack of diamonds and the nine and eight of clubs. I had him shaking on that one. Another time, with 10 players left, I had 10-9 of clubs, and he had pocket fives. He won that one as well. So, he’s the champion, and I’m the guy they always forget.”
When asked if he’s disappointed that his photo isn’t on a wall at the Rio Convention Center like those of past champions, he said: “It’s OK, as long as it’s not hanging in the post office.”
While Ungar eventually unraveled into the abyss, Green continued with his life, carving out a career in the fur business. “I can’t retire,” said the still-working Green. “What would I do? Play golf every day? That becomes a job. I’m still interested in life and staying young.”
According to Green, the game has become brutally tough, skill-wise. During the early years, there were no professional tournament players, he said. Those who played relied on cash games. Nowadays, livings are made by analyzing such things as stack sizes relative to the blinds and antes. When to move all-in has become a science.
“When people came to Las Vegas, there was one poker tournament,” he said during a break in play. “People didn’t have tournament experience. These players are more methodical. They look for the soft spots. I have six grandchildren who are as old as 50 percent of the field. I feel out of place against these phenoms, but I can handle it.”
Despite the main event becoming nearly impossible to win, Perry said he loves how the game has evolved and become somewhat mainstream. “It’s wonderful to see,” he said.
When he isn’t at the World Series, Green’s interest in poker takes the form of a small-stakes home game that ends at 10 p.m. because at that hour, he said, “everybody falls asleep.”
Green was frequently exhausted during the long days of the main event. “It’s impossible when you’re 76,” he said of his energy level. “If I was holding a lot of cards, it wouldn’t be so hard.”
Green has been visiting Sin City long before the proliferation of the mega resorts. He said the town feels “less personal” than it once did, but he still enjoys coming back in his old age and seeing his old acquaintances. “It’s an exciting place that everyone should go to,” he said.
Once back home, Green will continue working hard, which includes preparing to open a sports bistro in Rancho Mirage, California. “I wanted to create some jobs for when Mitt Romney is president,” he said. “God, I hope he becomes president.”
Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus
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