The Hold'em Hackers
Not content with making a fortune at the tables, poker pros are now taking aim at golf
From the Print Edition:
Richard Branson, Sept/Oct 2007
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He's not kidding. Considering the stakes that he and Negreanu routinely play for, this is pretty much a wash. Maybe that can be chalked up to their knowing each other well enough to make matching up difficult. That's logical. Completely illogical is the gambling bug that suddenly bites Gavin Smith, and becomes downright infectious, on the final hole.
Approaching the 18th tee box, Smith is down $38,000, all told, to Negreanu, Sheikhan and Lindgren. The amount would be cataclysmic to your average golfer who shoots in the high 80s or 90s, but it's perfectly manageable for Smith. Maybe it's too manageable. Maybe that's why he rapidly books another $40,000 in bets, all on this last hole. The wagers set off a feeding frenzy, and Sheikhan takes bites of action from what quickly turns into a smorgasbord of risk—including a $30,000 bet between Lindgren and Negreanu which, when you factor in their Nassau, will result in Lindgren owing his friend $100,000 or $40,000. But it's Smith who's really going to town. He's getting strokes, he's giving strokes, he's the locus of wagers that have the potential to carve out a big winner and a big loser in a round that, just a hole ago, appeared to have the high-stakes equivalent of beer money at risk.
Lindgren comes through on the 18th hole, building off of a long, straight drive to beat Negreanu. They're near the green, sitting in a golf cart, looking up the fairway as Smith tees off on a hole in which he's ultimately booked $60,000 worth of action. From their vantage point, Negreanu and Lindgren see a drive dribble off of the tee. It's followed by another shot, which is difficult to follow but gets punctuated by a club being tossed 30 or so feet in the air.
"He's gonna lose the whole 60," marvels Lindgren.
"He's gonna lose his mind," declares Negreanu.
Then Negreanu turns to me and explains, "Gavin's not used to going off for that kind of a number at golf."
In the end, Smith loses all the bets, save for one that he pushes against Negreanu, who winds up ahead $74,000 on the day. Sheikhan wins $13,000 and Lindgren is up $1,000. The big loser is Smith, who is down $88,000. He looks unhappy but isn't sticking around to gripe. There are no tears, no settling up (that'll happen later, off the course), no 19th-hole cocktail in the clubhouse. With the sun setting in Las Vegas, there's just enough time to head home, shower, change, eat and hit the poker tables, where a long night of Hold' em could really decide who's ahead or behind on the day.
Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.
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