– General Introduction –
Billy Baxter is an American professional poker player and sports bettor. He was born in 1940 in Augusta, Georgia.
He has won 7 WSOP gold bracelets. He’s one of the 2 players to have won 7; and one of the 8 players to have won 7 or more. All of his WSOP victories were in lowball events. Overall, he has $2.722 million in career tournament cashes.
In 1986, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada ruled in favor of him against the US government in a tax refund case, deciding that gambling winnings ought to be declared as business income for professional gamblers. This became important in case law for all poker pros.
He’s also known for backing troubled poker legend Stu Ungar in the 1997 WSOP Main Event, which he ended up winning.
– Key Career Dates –
- 1975: He wins his first WSOP gold bracelet after finishing first in the $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event for $35,000.
- 1986: A federal court in Nevada decides that he, as a professional gambler, can declare his gambling winnings as a business income on his annual tax returns.
- 2002: He wins his seventh WSOP gold bracelet after finishing first in the $1,500 Razz event for $64,860.
- 2006: He gets inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
- 2010: He finishes 5th in the $25,500 No Limit Hold’em – Championship event at the 8th Annual Five Star World Poker Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for $256,921. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.
– Billy Baxter’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
According to his profile piece by The Cigar Aficionado, the first game the young Billy excelled in was marbles. He was the marble champion of his hometown, Augusta, GA, at age 9. However, he didn’t start making serious money until he became a pool hustler in his teenage years.
He eventually took up poker at 19. Here’s how Baxter recanted his first encounter with the card game:
“There was a bar in my hometown, a place called the Alpine Lounge, where local businessmen – lawyers, bankers, real estate people and the like – played gin up front and poker in the back. I’d come in with my winnings from pool and they would break me. Then I’d go back to the poolroom, win some more money and get broken again. But I knew that I wanted to be at the poker table. These guys had big money and they gambled big. Within a year, I started winning.”
His parents pressured him into pursuing a career as a dentist. He attended Augusta College. However, it was obvious where his true passion was from the beginning – he eventually dropped out to play pool and cards for a living.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Baxter has $2.722 million in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. That sum is the product of cashes in 83 different events over the course of 44 years.
Naturally, his earliest results from the 1960’s could not be tracked by The Hendon Mob. Therefore, the first recorded cash on his profile is his first WSOP bracelet win from 1975.
His first cash outside the WSOP is from the 1981 Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker – the second most prominent tournament series at the time, behind the WSOP. He took down the $1,000 Ace-to-Five Lowball event for $26,400 there.
In April 2008, he won two World Poker Tour tournaments in a month. First, he finished first in a $2,620 buy-in No Limit Hold’em WPT event at the Bellagio for $149,755. Then, just a week later, he bested the field in the $2,620 NLHE Seniors event for $138,990.
In April 2010, he came in 5th in the $25,500 No Limit Hold’em – Championship Event at the 8th Annual Five Star World Poker Classic, also at the famous Bellagio in Vegas. He won $246,921, which is the biggest single live tournament score of his career to date.
In February 2017, he finished 3rd in the $1,100 NLHE event at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic for $173,580.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Billy Baxter is a 7-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.
Needless to say, that is quite a rare achievement for a poker player. Only he and Men “the Master” Nguyen have 7, and only 6 other players have more than 7.
Baxter won his first WSOP gold in 1975, after finishing first in the $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $35,000. Typical of the early World Series events, it was a winner-take-all “Sit&Go” with 7 entries.
Also typical for Baxter: it was a lowball event. All 7 of his bracelet wins are from lowball events – 5 in Deuce to Seven Draw, 1 in Ace to Five Draw, and one in Razz.
A “lowball” poker game is where the lowest hand takes the pot at showdown. There are two types of low ball games: the California rule ones, where flushes and straights don’t count and the Ace is a low card, so the nut low is A2345; and the Kansas City rule ones, where flushes and straights do count and the Ace is a high card, so the nut low is 23457 (without five of the same suit).
Here’s the list of Baxter’s WSOP victories, with the year and money won listed:
1975 – $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw – $35,000
1978 – $10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw – $90,000
1982 – $10,000 Deuce to Seven Draw- $95,000
1982 – $2,500 Ace to Five Draw – $48,750
1987 – $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw – $153,000
1993 – $5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw – $130,500
2002 – $1,500 Razz – $64,860
In the 2002 Razz event, he beat his fellow American poker pro Michael Flynn heads-up to claim his historic 7th bracelet.
In 1989, he came very close to winning yet another bracelet in yet another lowball event. He finished second in the $5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball (Rebuy) tournament for $77,500.
Overall, Baxter has cashed in 36 World Series events for a total of $1.102 million combined.
However, winning tournaments himself isn’t the only way Baxter cashed in big at the WSOP. In 1997, a desperate and broke Stu Ungar convinced him to put up his $10,000 buy-in for that year’s WSOP Main Event. Ungar had won that title twice before, in 1980 and 1981 – however, over the years, his cocaine abuse got the better of him.
So, Baxter knew the risk he was taking when he finally gave in and bought Ungar in for the Main. But Ungar went all the way, winning the 1997 Main Event, and splitting the $1 million first prize money with his happy backer.
→ Live Cash Games ←
In November 2018, Baxter appeared on the revived version of Poker After Dark on PokerGO. There, he played a $400/$800 mixed game cash session against, among others, Doyle Brunson and Frank Kassela.
→ Online Poker ←
There’s no account on any online poker site that is known to be Baxter’s.
→ Scandals ←
Baxter v. United States
Between 1978 and 1981, Baxter claimed $1.2 million in gambling winnings on his tax returns.
The problem was that the government wasn’t willing to accept that sum as “personal service income”, meaning income he generated as a businessman. That way, he would have had to pay a maximum 50% marginal tax rate – however, the IRS was going for the 70% marginal tax rate, and classified his winnings as “earned income”.
At the advice of his accountant, he originally paid the full amount requested by the IRS, then sued the government for a $178,000 tax refund.
His case got on the docket of the US District Court for the District of Nevada, a federal trial court that ultimately sided with Baxter. This decision became the standard for how professional gamblers’ income should be taxed for generations.