Why the Poker World Is Watching Billy Baxter’s WSOP Run

  • Billy Baxter enters the final table of the 2023 WSOP $1,000 Seniors Event third in chips
  • He has won seven-time bracelets and was inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006
  • Baxter also broke ground for professional poker players in an IRS lawsuit
Billy Baxter
All eyes are on Billy Baxter in the $1,000 Seniors Event at the WSOP, as he is third in chips entering the final table. [Image: Flickr.com / World Poker Tour]

Billy Baxter runs deep at WSOP

It’s been 21 years since Billy Baxter last left the World Series of Poker with a bracelet. This week, he has a chance to win another, making the final table of the 2023 WSOP $1,000 Seniors Event. With his name appearing in headlines across poker media, younger readers might not understand why his deep run in the event has attracted so much attention.

Even older readers might be forgiven for having missed or forgotten his significance, but they shouldn’t have. It’s not just because he should be remembered as a great poker player — though he is that — but for his wider contributions to the game.

Legendary resume

Billy Baxter has seven WSOP bracelets, tied with Men “the Master” Nguyen, and behind only six other players on the all-time list.

The late, great Doyle Brunson once said of Baxter that “he gives you that country-bumpkin smile and that good ol’Georgia-boy accent, gets you laughing and having a good time. Then you look up and he has got your money.”

he won at least one bracelet in each of the subsequent decade until the 2010s

Baxter isn’t just some old school pro either – he’s a long time stalwart of the game. The first of his WSOP bracelets is from 1975, the sixth WSOP ever played. Since then, he won at least one bracelet in each of the subsequent decade until the 2010s.

During that period, he was known as a great poker player, but also as a great all-round gambler. He started out hustling pool as a teenager and went on to play gin rummy and bet on sports professionally.

Baxter had a close relationship with Stu Ungar, who was not only a prodigy at poker, but also at rummy. The pair played both games, and though Ungar might have been the better player, Baxter usually came out up overall thanks to all the side bets.

Despite their competitive relationship, Baxter was the one to back Ungar in his famous 1997 WSOP Main Event run, Ungar’s third Main Event win and his last major poker appearance.

The first professional poker player

That career should be memorable enough. but perhaps Baxter’s biggest contribution to the poker world was not at the card table, but in court. Billy Baxter is arguably one of the first American professional poker players, at least as far as the IRS is concerned.

gambling winnings reclassified as earned income

It was Baxter that sued the IRS to allow poker players to be treated as professionals. William E. Baxter Jr. vs. the United States of America saw his gambling winnings reclassified as earned income, reducing the tax rate and allowing him to deduct expenses.

Every player who fills out Schedule C on their 1040 owes those savings in part to Baxter.

For all these reasons, Billy Baxter was entered into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006 and is being cheered on in his search for bracelet number eight.

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