Why can’t top poker players stay away from the golf course?
It’s a little known fact that poker players go wild for golf. Yes, golf. There must be something that metaphysically links the two games as it’s a definite phenomenon. In fact you could say that top poker players seem to have a minor obsession with what Mark Twain dubbed “a good walk spoiled.”
It looks like it goes back to legendary poker player Johnny Moss. He was the first winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1970. He was one of the first players to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame and played professionally for decades.
His nickname was The Grand Old Man of Poker and he was so influential that many trends within the poker world began with him. And a love of golf was one of them. The Texas born gambler learned how to play golf in the 1930s. Much practise later he got his handicap down to eight.
But, as with his massive success and longevity in poker, his success was mostly down to his ability to hold his nerve and psyche out his opponents. Thanks to his years of practise at the tables, he was able to stay calm and focused, no matter how much money was on the line – either in poker or golf games.
He used his analytical brain to work out odds of beating his opponents and would lay down challenges to make them crack quicker. Johnny passed his love of golf on to the next generation of poker players from Texas, including Jack Straus, ‘Sailor’ Roberts and Doyle Brunson. Brunson played golf at the Las Vegas Country Club for hundreds of thousands of dollars during the 1970s, using the same techniques and steel nerve that won him hundreds of thousands at poker. He wrote a book called Super/System, which was originally called How To Win $1,000,000 Playing Poker and used to joke about writing a sequel called How To Lose $1,000,000 Playing Golf.
In 1974, the Professional Gamblers Invitational (PGI) started. It was a golf tournament for a lot of prize money and was a huge success. There were some complicated rules which basically capitalised on the fact that most of the players were used to hustling, betting and winning by stealth.
The connection between the high stakes poker players and golf continued to increase over the next 25 years until, in 2007, poker was almost taking a back seat to golf even in Las Vegas. That summer, poker star Erick Lindgren bet on four consecutive rounds of golf at Las Vegas Bears Best golf course. He won $340,000.
And of course it’s this that keeps the connection between golf and high stakes poker flowing – it’s about gambling, the scoreboard and the chances of winning big and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down!