Roger Moore, the son of a dirt-poor Georgia sharecropper who overcame more than his share of hard-luck days in the green-felt jungle to harvest the fruits of a successful gambling career, has been enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame.
Moore, 58, fought back tears at his enshrinement ceremony Monday at Binion's Horseshoe as he recalled that in 1985 with some of his poker winnings he returned home to Eastman, Ga., bought the land where he once picked cotton and turned it into a golf course.
Moore, the 1994 world 7-card stud champion, was one of a record 313 players to enter this week's $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em finale to the month-long World Series of Poker at the downtown resort. The winner of the 28th annual event will get $1 million and the next 26 finishers will earn purses ranging from $21,200 to $583,000.
"They said I was on the short list (to be selected as the 24th inductee into the shrine), and I thought I might get drawed out on," said Moore, who had to quit school in the eighth grade to work the farm and help feed a large family that included two brothers and four sisters.
"When I first came to Las Vegas, I never thought things would happen like this. I'm very humble. It's a hell of an honor that I'll always be proud of."
Born April 10, 1939, in Chauncey, Ga., 10 miles from Eastman, where he still maintains a home, Moore learned poker as a boy in family games.
At age 11, he got into a 7-card stud game and lost a week's wages as a cotton picker to the small town's police officer. At 16, he joined the Air Force and lost every nickel he had in a blackjack game to a guy who then flipped him a quarter so he could go to the movies.
Still, Moore did pretty well as a stud player while in the service, and later, while living in Dallas, was taught Texas hold 'em by his brother.
Moore, a father of two and grandfather of three, came to Las Vegas in 1968 as a visitor and started playing $3-$6 limit at the Golden Nugget, graduating eventually to the $25-$50 game.
He moved here in 1970 and started playing in the bigger games at the old Dunes card room, then run by three-time world champ and poker hall of famer Johnny Moss.
Moss and others broke Moore a few times, but he returned to the lower-limit tables to rebuild his bankroll for the high-stakes games.
"That went on for a year, then they didn't break me no more," he said.
Moore, who learned to play Omaha hold 'em in the early 1980s, went on to win several tournament games, including a pot-limit Omaha title at the Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker, as well as titles at Bob Stupak's America's Cup and other events.
During that period, he met fellow hall of famers Doyle Brunson, Jack Keller, Amarillo Slim Preston and Chip Reese in tournament games and in high-stakes side action, where he became recognized as a formidable foe and dedicated gambler.
"Back in the early '80s, I was a die-hard player," Moore recalled. "I remember one time playing at the Flamingo during a heavy rain. It was flooding everywhere and washing out cars, but me and Moss and several others just kept playing."
Today, in his spare time, Moore enjoys long walks in the woods, as well as hunting and fishing. On his trips to Eastman, he goes square dancing every Saturday night.
Moore was one of four poker hall of famers in the field Monday for the four-day event, along with Brunson, the 1976 and '77 world champion; Keller, the 1984 champ; and Reese.
In all, 15 past world champions were in the field, as were 12 women.
However, those absent from the field provided a bittersweet memory of just how old the tournament is getting.
Moss, who won the world title in 1970, '71 and '74, died last year. Preston, the 1972 champion, reportedly is in poor health in Texas. Hall of famer Puggy Pearson, the 1973 champion, attended this year's tournament but opted not to play in the big game. Sailor Roberts, the 1975 champion, is deceased.
The championship game continues today and Wednesday in the Horseshoe Poker Pavilion and concludes Thursday under the Fremont Street Experience canopy.