Ulvis Alberts. Poker Face

        In the 1970's, there was only one tournament game the professional gamblers waited for all year and that was the "World Series of Poker" at Binion's Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas.
        Downtown had no glitz or glamour like the Las Vegas strip. And hardcore poker players, for the most part, knew each other by name and reputation. It was a meeting of "friends." And mostly it wasn't about the money but rather bragging rights. There were no players wearing sunglasses to hide their "poker face." There were no sweaty faces, or twitchy nerve endings in the poker room. Just cigar and cigarette smokers sipping bottled water. The event was "World Series of Poker" an idea developed by Benny Binion in 1970 to attract his poker friends, mostly "road gamblers" from the hidden backrooms of bars in Texas.  His motto: "give-em good food and an honest gamble and they'll come."  
      The players that participated in "the big one", the Texas Hold-em buy- In at 10,000$US, were less than 75 players. But I had access, with my noisy, 35mm, Nikon film camera, to the poker players.
      I photographed gamblers with names like: "Amarillo Slim" Preston; "Puggy" Pierson; Jack "Treetop" Straus; "Sailor" Roberts, Doyle Brunson and Stu "the Kid" Ungar who won three WSOP championships before overdosing on drugs. Legendary Jack "Treetop" Straus that in 1982 worked his last 500 dollar poker chip up to win the half-million dollar championship.  Hence, the legendary saying, "all you need is a chip and a chair!" to win a poker tournament.
    In 2002, I returned to the WSOP, still at Binion's but the scene was not the same. The characters I met at Binion's Horseshoe casino were dead. The only remaining legend was Doyle ("the godfather") Brunson. Today, he's 77 years old and can be seen on "High Stakes Poker" in live cash games at the Bellagio.
     "In the old days when you sat down at a tournament poker table you knew six or seven of the eight players. Today, you're lucky if you know one of eight. It's a new game." says poker pro Chris " Jesus" Ferguson .
      In 2004, the WSOP brand was sold to Harrah's Entertainment and is held at the Rio Casino. It attracts more than 7,000 entrants in the final Hold-em event.
      Some of the players wear sunglasses at these events but I'm not sure if it’s because they are hiding a "poker face," shielding their eyes from TV lights or just want to look "cool." Lady Gaga had a hit song called "Poker Face" a few years ago. It wasn't about poker but other choices. Both of my photography books, the first in (1981) and "Poker Face 2"  in (2006) used these familiar words.
    But was I searching for a poker face when I was photographing?
Would I recognize a poker face thru my camera lens before I took a picture? Probably not on both counts. You as the viewer of my poker photographs have to decide on a "poker face" in my images. Does the secret of a "poker face" remain a secret? Probably, yes.

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