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The Gambling Dandy
By: Gary Wise

While I obviously love poker’s explosion, it’s come with a price. Gone are the days of gentlemen gamblers sitting quietly at the table, chomping on cigars, sharing a laugh. Now, he who is the loudest wins: If you’re a character, the camera loves you; that gets you endorsements, which get you more TV time. Poker’s new stars have taught a generation to play with bluster and gusto. The understated lady or gentleman sits quietly to the side, winning pots and playing the game the way it was originally supposed to be played.

It wasn’t always like this. Oh sure, there were players in the past who had their obnoxious moments. Ken Smith, a chess Grandmaster, used to yell “What a player!” every time he won a pot. Still, the gimmicks were few and far between in the old days, mostly because pissing off the wrong guy was liable to get you shot. If a player was going to express himself at the table, he was going to do it with a little bit of panache, keeping the sensitivities of his competitors in mind.

The prime example of this could be found in Crandall Addington. A successful Texas businessman, Addington’s trademark was his remarkable wardrobe. Known throughout the poker world as “Dandy,” Addington would change clothes as many as four times a day when playing in the World Series of Poker. Each outfit would be at the height of fashion, though today he’d admit that 1970’s fashion wasn’t what we’d refer to today as “stylish.” Regardless of the suit, it was always a spectacle. It wasn’t a gimmick as much as badge of honor, and his peers respected him no end.

Addington finished runner-up to Johnny Moss in 1974. It was close enough to the Promised Land to give him a small taste of the glory that awaited with the title, and that left him constantly yearning for his moment in the sun. He came closest in the 1978, when he was felled in the final by the game’s rising star, Oklahoman Bobby Baldwin.

Baldwin was then what Stu Ungar, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Ivey would become: the poker phenom of his generation. Affable and educated, Baldwin competed against men twice his age in a time when experience was considered by most to be the essential quality in successful poker play. It was in the 1978 World Series that he’d prove that mathematics and presence of mind were acceptable substitutes.

With the event being recorded for television for the first time in five years, the old boys’ network got together and decided a little showmanship for the good of the fans would be in order. With the professional world largely unknown and still holding a stigma to outsiders, it was decided they should create a David vs. Goliath atmosphere: Bobby would be the calculating pro; Crandall would be presented as the enthusiastic amateur. It fooled a lot of people for a long time.

After Baldwin took a major chip lead, things started getting desperate for Addington. This was a man for whom the money didn’t mean nearly as much as the title and the respect it would earn from his peers. Still, wanting doesn’t always mean having, and with just $55,000 in front of him, he was down to the point where he needed to double up fast. Pocket nines looked like a pretty good opportunity to make that happen.

He raised the $2,000 blind to $6,000, and Baldwin almost immediately put it to $20,000. Crandall paused for a moment, but it had been a long and frustrating day. He declared himself all-in, remarking that he’d need a chip to protect his cards. With a smile hidden by a big cigar, he leaned across Bobby to the masses of chips that had collected and liberated one, dropping it on his cards. It didn’t bring him the luck he was hoping for; Baldwin had pocket queens.

The flop was a heart attack: Q.-9.-K.. They’d both hit their sets, leaving Addington needing the fourth nine or running jack-ten. A. on the turn was no help; neither was 10. on the river. Baldwin was the champion.

Bobby would prove over the next two years that it was no fluke. He’d play deep into those fields only to get knocked out with top set in each of them. After elimination, he’d join host Curt Gowdy in the broadcasting booth, explaining that such beats were a part of poker and echoing that sentiment by maintaining his composure and saving any vitriol for another day. It was this measured temperament and the aforementioned education that made him so well suited to hotel management. He’s still the CEO of the Mirage Hotel and Casino in LasVegas.

For Addington, the title would never come. As the World Series grew, he came to understand that the ultimate goal moved further away, so he retired from the game to pursue his business interests. Largely forgotten by poker now, he was finally awarded an honor comparable to winning the World Series: He was inducted into the Binion’s Hall of Fame in 2005.