Perhaps no event from the year 1985 best represents this collective feeling than the famous summit meeting of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev on November 19th. The world truly marveled to see two nations, formerly the bitterest of enemies, coming together to agree that there were just too many nukes on the planet. After all, was it really necessary to have the capacity to blow each other up hundreds of times over? Would it not suffice to be able to reduce the entire planet to a smoking heap of ash say, a few dozen times? These were precisely the questions that were addressed at that summit meeting and I will never forget the sense of optimism we all felt at seeing those two world leaders shaking hands for the press.
You can be sure that Benny Binion was feeling equally sanguine about his prospects in the year 1985, but for more personal reasons. After all, he was celebrating the 15th anniversary of his beloved brainchild, the World Series of Poker. What had begun as essentially a novelty and an excuse for some poker buddies to get together and compete for a shiny silver cup, had mushroomed into nothing less than a phenomenon. Each year, the WSOP got bigger and bigger, attracting more and more talented players and an ever-widening audience of fans.
Therefore, you can imagine that it was with high hopes that the starting bell sounded for the 1985 World Series of Poker. No one could guess who the champion ultimately would be. Was it possible that the great Jack Keller could pull off a back-to-back of victory after having stunned just about everyone with his win the year before? Or, would one of the old classics like Doyle Brunson or Bobby Baldwin return to glory in a blaze of blinding poker skills?
In fact, neither of those two scenarios took place. What happened was that a modest, soft spoken player with the very unflashy name of Bill Smith defeated a huge field of 140 competitors to win the main event and take a massive pot in the process. Benny Binion was so taken aback by this development, legend has it he consumed twice his usual nightly amount of whiskey that evening in '85.
by Mason Raymond