Of the men who have captured the gold bracelet as World Series of Poker Championship Event winner, one of the most mysterious is 1986 victor Berry Johnston.
Born in Oklahoma in 1935, very little is known about Berry’s early life. It is known, much like the late poker veteran John Bonetti, that Johnston came to the poker world later in life at the age of 35. In those early years, Johnston played at the highest stakes imaginable against some of the best players of that time, including Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese. When the decade of the 1980s came is where Berry made his most important impact on the world of poker.
In 1982, Berry Johnston finished third in the $10,000 Championship Event at the World Series and has arguably one of the best histories in the event. The next year, Berry captured the first of what would eventually become five WSOP bracelets. He became the World Champion in 1986 over a final table that included Gary “Bones” Berland and Jesse Alto. Johnston also was at the final table for a third time in 1990.
The grandeur of what has been Johnston’s career, however, is in his play at the World Series. Berry is tied for third place all time with Chris “Jesus” Ferguson in the number of cashes at World Series events with 56 (with three of them coming this year). Only Phil Hellmuth and Men Nguyen have earned more. He has also made the money eleven times in the Championship Event to hold that record as well. In total, Johnston has cashed in an astounding 126 tournaments in his lifetime and has tournament poker earnings of over $3.2 million.
Johnston also plays online, representing Full Tilt Poker at tournaments around the world. He is one of the poker ambassadors for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Casino chain, frequently venturing to the felt there against the best players the mid-south has to offer.
Berry Johnston is very much a gentleman at the tables, taking the good as well as the bad with the same demeanor and as little as a “good luck” to the table upon his knockout. He is a devoutly religious man, which perhaps lends to his even keeled attitude at the tables. None other than the Godfather of Poker, Doyle Brunson, has stated, “…He is a deeply religious and devoted family man, who has always been a gentleman at all times.”
In recognition of his achievements in the poker world, and his gentlemanly manner at the tables, Berry Johnston received his greatest accolade in 2004 with his induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. Along with fellow septuagenarian Brunson, he continues to demonstrate that the “old guard” of the poker world is still able to battle with the young guns on the felt.