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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Gavin Smith

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

When I met Gavin Smith this summer at the Boys and Girls Club Charity Event hosted by Howard and Suzie Lederer at the Golden Nugget, I have to admit that I thought he looked like the cab driver that had just driven me to the event.  It was not meant to be an insult, it was just an observation and a realization that you should never judge a poker player by his looks, especially when the one you are talking to has won over five million dollars in live poker tournaments, hundreds of thousands more online, and who knows how much in cash games.  Imagine my surprise when doing research for this story when I read that one of Smith’s jobs before he hit it huge on the poker circuit was that of a taxi driver.  Not that it was Smith’s intention, but his career progression in the poker world shows that while times may be tough at the start, if you keep working hard you could be among the biggest names in the game too.
Gavin Smith was born in Guelph, Ontario on September 4, 1968, fellow Canadian to the likes of Isabelle Mercier and Daniel Negreanu from Canada.  Smith was introduced to cards at an early age, but it wasn’t until he was in his late 20’s did he first play poker.  The games of choice in the Smith household were Cribbage and Rummy.  When Smith was old enough, his dad was excited that he had a partner to play these two games with, his two favorite games.  Smith’s dad also enjoyed taking the family camping, and on these trips father and son would spend most of the daylight hours, and sometimes night time by the light of a lantern, playing these games.
For a lot of poker players, they started looking to play the game with serious vigor as a young adult, but for the few who didn’t, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what they spent their time doing as a young adult, until they were eventually introduced to the game, or in many cases, the game found them.  Gavin attended college, earning a degree in economics.  At the time he felt that his degree wouldn’t help him, but little did he know that in about a decade or so he would be among the best poker players in the world and having any economics degree in your back pocket would prove him well in a world surrounded with so much money.  Instead Smith earned a living working as a taxi driver and working on golf courses around the area.  Golf, one of Smith’s first loves, led him to his next love, poker.

In the mid 1990’s Smith was working at a golf course when a charity poker tournament was held in the clubhouse where he worked.  Smith joined the poker tournament on a whim, and before the end of the day he was hooked.  The charity poker tournament traveled around Canada putting on events and for the next few years, while continuing to work at the golf course, he began following the touring charity poker company, playing as much as he could.

Smith wanted to be around the game as much as possible, so he took a job at a casino as a poker dealer.  Like many other players we chronicled, his time as a dealer taught him the beginnings of what would lead him to be a successful player.  He tried to mimic and memorize what the good players were doing and avoid what the bad ones were doing.  After working as a dealer for two years, Smith even opened his own poker room, operating, managing, and playing in it for a year, before shutting it down to start his journey as a professional poker player.

Early in his career Smith met and befriended Erick Lindgren.  Lindgren thought Smith had a good future in the game, and decided to bankroll Smith as he was first starting out.  Smith began playing tournaments regularly in 1998.  Smith made two final tables in the winter of that year, right after starting both at the World Poker Finals in Mashantucket.  While the money wasn’t great, it was a sign of things to come.  The following year at the same tournament series in Mashantucket, Smith won his first tournament, taking down the $500 No Limit event and $14,280.

Over the next few years Smith placed in a handful of tournaments, including a $26,200 pay day in the 7-Card Stud event at the same World Poker Finals in Mashantucket that had already been kind to him.  However, it wasn’t until 2003 that Smith began making a name for himself among the top tournament players in the game.  In May of 2003 Smith cashed in his first World Series of Poker event, finishing 16th in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Event.  Later that year he returned to Mashantucket to take down the $1,000 buy-in for $33,630.  The year 2004 would show a steady stream of success.  He cashed in the WSOP Main Event, made the final table of another $10,000 buy-in event, and cashed in his first World Poker Tour Event, once again in Mashantucket.

Smith’s 2005 year is ranked among the best years for a tournament player in the history of the game.  For starters he cashed in 18 tournaments that year, almost all of them in major events.  In a one week period between May 16 to May 23, he won nearly 1.5 million dollars.  On the 16th he won the $2,000 No Limit Event at the Mirage Poker Showdown, winning a then career high $155,880.  He wouldn’t have to wait long to shatter that record because on the 23rd he won $1,128,278 at the $10,000 buy-in WPT event.  He cashed in 3 WPT events that year, earning him player of the year honors from the WPT.

The hits have just kept on coming since his miraculous 2005.  A lot of players are lucky to have one big win in their career, but Smith consistently places high in the biggest tournaments, showing that gaining a little bit of fame hasn’t gotten to his head.  One of the few things he hasn’t been able to conquer in the tournament world is winning a WSOP bracelet, making him near the top of the list of best players to never win one.  He’s cashed 15 times in WSOP events, including a second place finish in 2007, and he has admitted this has bothered him a bit, but his success in other events has helped him get over it for the most part.  This includes nearly five million dollars to his credit in live poker, including a huge online score, from when he won Full Tilt Poker’s FTOPS Event 7 for $123,600.

Like a few of his poker pro counterparts, Gavin Smith is big into propositional bets, or simply, prop bets.  One of the bets that didn’t go Smith’s way was against Joe Sebok.  Smith and Sebok host a show on where they participate in a variety of prop bets.  One of the more famous bets on the show was a last longer bet, where the person who was eliminated first in the tournament had to get the initials of the other tattooed on their butts.  Smith lost the bet.  Smith was also on the losing end of the bet that involved his friend Lindgren playing 4 rounds of golf in the Las Vegas desert in the middle of the summer.   One bet Smith did get the better of is when he bet Sebok he would finish with more Card Player Magazine Points by the time of the WSOP Main Event last year.  Since Sebok lost he was forced to wear two ridiculous outfits chosen by Smith.  Smith chose a big bear mascot costume and a wonder woman costume, as only a true friend would.

Gavin has also done a lot of good with the fame he has found with poker.  In 2006 he helped raise money for a little girl named Peyton Novoa who lost her mother to cancer and was left with almost nothing from the cost of medical bills.  

Smith is a Full Tilt Poker sponsored professional and plays under the name “Gavin Smith.”

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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