In the early 1900s three men were born that would become America’s best poker players and the most famous. Sailor Roberts, born in 1931 was definitely a famous professional poker player who also hung out with Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. Both Brunson and Slim were born around the 1930s and turned to professional gambling as a way of life rather than “real jobs.” Sailor Roberts was actually born Bryan W. Roberts. Like Slim and Brunson he travelled around the US looking for games to play, which is why he is considered a rounder.
A rounder is a player who would travel around to find high stakes games, legal or not. When these players were in their prime they took up playing at several illegal games around Texas, Oklahoma and other states. The games were often run by the mob or gang members. These individuals running the games were after all the men with the money for the big wins. Sailor Roberts had a bit more than Slim and Brunson in terms of games he would play. He was known for being a contract bridge player.
Contract bridge is another game to win odds on with a standard deck. It takes four players with two competing partnerships. There are numerous clubs and tournaments now for the game that Sailor Roberts used to play as a break from poker. Unlike Slim who won four WSOP titles and Brunson with his 10, Roberts only won twice. The first was in 1974 with a 5,000 pound win. The second was in 1975 where he won the main event and earned a bracelet.
Roberts did not earn his nickname from the poker or bridge tables though. Instead, he was a part of the US Navy and fought during the Korean War. This earned him the name Sailor at the tables as he was obviously military and a sailor. The name stuck so that he used it whenever he was at the tables along with other legends. Roberts died in 1995 from cirrhosis of the liver, a direct result of hepatitis. Today Roberts is survived by a great nephew Jacob Roberts. Jacob Roberts lives in Jarrell, Texas and is only an amateur poker player.
When one looks at the early history of Sailor Roberts it is no surprise he turned to gambling after the navy. He would support himself in high school through shooting craps with buddies that he worked with as a caddy. He was also a sports minded man playing on the football team. During his time in the Navy he was able to keep up with his playing with craps and poker since most tend to love those games. It made sense that when he came out of the Navy in the 1950s that he turned to professional gambling as a means to make his living. He returned to Texas to play poker, but he also became interested in golf, poker, and girls. Eventually he began making the rounds to places where he would met Slim, Brunson, and Johnny Moss.