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WSOP: History -- 1984 Recap

Jesse Alto Goes on Tilt for the Ages and Jack Keller Wins the Main Event


The World Series of Poker experienced another 25 percent spike in growth in 1984, and the field grew to 132 players. The Binion’s managed to commandeer 17 tables that year, so there was plenty of room for both the tournament fields and large cash games on the side. Dewey Tomko won two bracelets in the preliminary events that year, picking up titles in the $10,000 deuce-to-seven lowball event, and the $5,000 pot-limit Omaha event. Another professional player who took down a bracelet in a preliminary event that year was WSOP rookie, Jack Keller. Keller was also among the final three players left in the main event when action got down to the wire at the championship table in 1984. He was joined in the final three by two adversaries, Jesse Alto and Byron “Cowboy” Wolford.

The players who left the table before these three men included Rusty Lepage (ninth), Howard Andrews (eighth), Michael Allen (seventh), Curtis Skinner (sixth), Rick Hamil (fifth), and David Chew (fourth). Jack Binion tried an experiment that year where he replaced the chips on the table with cash bundles of equivalent value when three-handed action began. This was done to force the action a little bit, because of the anemic heads-up play that had transpired the year before.

Alto took the cold-hard cashes' presence to heart and began to take control with an aggressive strategy that grew his chip stack to 1.32 million. Alto had come close to winning the main event before, finishing in second place in 1976, and fifth place in 1978. He was making major steps towards his first world championship until he was dealt a crushing blow. Alto opened the pot and Keller got out of the way. Wolford made the call. The flop was dealt A K 9 and Wolford bet 15,000. Alto made the call and the turn fell K. Wolford led the action again, this time to the tune of 40,000. Alto called and the river rolled out the 2. Wolford moved all in for 101,000 and Alto went into the tank for five of the most agonizing minutes in WSOP history. He eventually decided to muck and his agony only increased when Wolford turned over 5-3 for a huge bluff.

Jack KellerThe bluff had put Alto on one of the worst cases of tilt the main event has ever seen. He moved all in blind on the next two hands and doubled up Keller twice. On the third hand after the bluff Alto was out in third place. This left two players who had been struggling just minutes prior, to play heads up for the bracelet. It didn’t last too long as the final hand came down to a pocket pair vs. middle pair on the board battle. Action picked up on a flop of 9 6 5 when Wolford decided to move all in with 6 4 and Keller called him down with pocket tens. The turn and river were dealt 8 J and Keller won the bracelet and $660,000.


1984 WSOP Results

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