Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #14 Gavin Smith
When you’re able to see something in person it typically has more meaning. I was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker to cover Event #47, a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Event for the Twitter Poker Tour. One of our own was playing, and was entering into Day 1b on Sunday. When I arrived on Saturday, I decided to check out action in the other tournaments running, and a special event had evolved at the ESPN Featured table in the Amazon room at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino. Event #44 (a $2,500 Mixed Hold’em Event) had played down to a final table, revolving between Limit and No Limit Hold’em. Also playing was Event #45 which was a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Event and their Day 2 was winding down. Because a friend of mine (Alex Outhred) had a good sized stack in that event, I stuck on his rail for the remainder of the evening, and all the while kept sending glimpses over to the Featured Table where a unique event continued to unfold. When play wrapped for the night, I finally headed over to watch and claimed a seat to witness an event that I will remember forever.
The cast of characters at the final table was highlighted by Gavin Smith. A long time pro of the Online Poker site Full Tilt Poker, Gavin was also a member of the “Old Guard” with his first cash coming in the 2003 World Series of Poker. He had 15 Cashes coming into the World Series of Poker, and this year had a really great run in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship Event cut short in 9th place. This final table was only his 2nd WSOP Final Table, with his first being a runner up finish in the 2007 $1,500 Buy in Pot Limit Hold’em event, placing Gavin in the discussion of those that were dubbed with the title “Best without a bracelet” debate. His biggest career score was a win at the 2005 WPT Mirage Poker Showdown, where he won the $1.12 Million first place prize. Since then he’s cashed in multiple tournaments around the globe including several final tables at the WPT and the WSOP-Circuit events. But Gavin is perhaps known more for his celebrity as a host on Poker Road Radio with his friend Joe Sebok, as the two engaged in several prop bets and hilarious banter for years.
Also at the final table was Dwyte Pilgrim who was the owner of 3 WSOP-C Championship Rings in just two years, and was an up and coming superstar. Pilgrim had more than $700,000 in earnings since 2008, but would only book slightly more than $20k in this event when he would exit in 8th place, and leave the table with 6 unknown players, and Gavin Smith. The Pilgrim elimination served as the point that things began clicking for Smith, who surged from that point from 700k to 1.2 million in chips and was running away with the tournament. But when the game switched to No Limit, Gavin tightened up and saw his stack dwindle back down again. At one point, Gavin saw his stack dip below the 500k mark. 5 players went into the dinner break with Danny Hannawa holding the chip lead with 1.1 million. Timothy Finne was 2nd with 825k, followed in turn by Jamie Rosen with 738k, Gavin Smith with 627k, and Michael Michnik holding down the short stack with 463k.
In a no-limit hand after the break, Hannawa’s AK bested Rosen’s AJ to eliminate Rosen in 5th, and that was followed by a Gavin Smith surge that saw him get back to the 1 million chip mark. Gavin’s rail was outstanding, and he was engaging them with regularity. After taking a pot with A-8 showing a straight, Layne Flack quibbled from the rail “Winning never gets old, does it?” to which Gavin responded “Yeah, but sometimes it gets hard to remember.” The crowd laughed as Gavin locked back in, now the chip leader and focused on the task at hand.
A short while later, Michael Michnik found himself in a preflop raising war with Gavin and all in with just Qc-Jh to Gavin’s pocket Red Kings. Michnik received no improvement and Gavin found himself with 1.5 million chips and the chip lead with 3 players remaining. A few hands later, it was Danny Hannawa and Timothy Finne tangling in a pot that would find Finne drawing dead to the river, and pitting Danny Hannawa in a heads up battle with Gavin Smith for a bracelet.
Smith held a slight 2.1 million to 1.7 million chip lead on Hannawa, and the two began by trading small pots with one another. But one thing was clear, when the game was limit Hold’em, Smith held a clear advantage, and in No Limit, Smith refused to get tangled in big pots unless he had the best of it. After a brief see-saw battle to begin play, Smith began to wear his opponent down. But his opponent had no quit in him, sticking around as the blinds kept creeping up, resulting in bigger swings in the pairs chip stacks. At the end of the day, Smith’s experience in these spots were just too much for Hannawa and as Gavin dialed up the aggression, he began to runaway with the chip lead, until finally Hannawa got it in with Tc-8d vs. Gavin’s Ah-Qh. The flop came down Ad-Kh-2c which left Hannawa needing running cards to stay alive. The turn was the Jd giving Hannawa a straight draw. But the river was the Js and the crowd erupted, swarming the stage and congratulating Smith in a sea of celebration.
It’s hard to describe the atmosphere inside the Amazon room at that point. The friends of Smith celebrating at the table included the likes of Joe Sebok and Layne Flack, as well as Court Harrington, and Jon Friedberg. And a host of his fellow Full Tilt Poker Pro’s Greg Mueller, Jeff Madsen, Erick Lindgren, and Chau Giang, were among several others that were there to congratulate their friend. It would be impossible to describe the moment as anything other than overwhelmingly joyous, and the moment was interrupted by Nolan Dalla, who took to the microphone and said “It brings me great pleasure to announce the champion of Event #44. It’s been a long time, and this is well deserved. Congratulations Gavin.” As Nolan presented Gavin with the bracelet, he wept.
It was a beautiful moment, and as Gavin wiped the tears away, he placed the bracelet on his wrist and hoisted his fist into the air for everyone to see as the crowd erupted into cheers, and in so doing, erased the title from his name “best without a bracelet.” The moment itself was worthy of being called one of the best of 2010, and I felt honored that I was there to witness it.