Beating Bad Chances
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  The Next Poker Wave


Frank had attended Russ Hamilton’s golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, in the year 1999. The airfare from Las Vegas, a room at Harrahs, three green fees (inclusive of one on the famous Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course), prizes, and the bus rides to the venues for three days of golf action was all covered for an entry fee of $2,000.

More than fifty poker players attended this tournament in 1999. A writer had been sent in to cover the high-stakes golf action by the golf magazine Maxim. A camera crew sent in by the Discovery Channel had followed some of them around.

Wendeen Eolis had needed inspiration about high-stakes golf matches for a golf movie he’d been working on and so he brought a movie producer to the event. Incidentally, Wendeen had also proceeded to

Frank’s group consisted of Layne Flack, Ralph Rudd, Jack Ryan and Frank, on the first day at Sierra Nevada. Sierra Nevada was a beautiful golf course with lots of desert and trouble, however, none of the dreaded trees that hurt his slice shots so much.

Layne and Frank had decided to play Ralph (105 and Jack (93) a two-men scramble for about $1,000 a team ($500 per person) a hole after Frank had shot a 99 and Layne had shot about 95. Both poker players on each team had hit a drive in a two-man scramble, then the team (both players) selected the better drive, and then both players had hit their second shot from that spot.

A two-man team normally made several pars and some birdies because of these shot selection, but they had all been bad golfers, so they had made three bogies and one par for the first two holes of competition.

Layne and Frank knew that they were longer off the tee than Ralph Rudd and Jack Ryan had been and so they felt they had the advantage. It certainly helped to hit one’s approach shots from 120 yards out rather than 150 yards, in a scramble.

The real action began when they announced to everyone else their emergency-nine match (a desperate attempt to get even for the day on a nine-hole match defines ‘emergency nine’ about perfectly).

Huck Seed had decided to bet $1,000 a team on Frank and Layne’s side of the bet when Frank's had run of to buy more golf balls. Then Jeff Friedman had bought Huck’s bet from him for $1,000 (obviously, Jeff had felt their team would win by more than one hole), and the poker game began.

Soon they had been playing for more than $6,000 a hole, with carryovers, so that if they had tied all eight first holes, then the ninth would have been worth $54,000. Who hits the first and who hits the second was the problem with a two-man scramble.

Could one step up under tremendous pressure and hit a safe shot onto the fairway or the green when one’s partner shanks a ball into the desert out of play?Keep in mind; they hadn’t been discussing poker.

All of them had been poker champs, but this was golf. The main reason that play poker players loved playing high-stakes golf was this. When all were under pressure, could one hit the shot? Could one make the six-foot straight-in putt to win $12,000, or miss it and lose $12,000?

What had they really been made of? Was one a champion like Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, or a choker like many of the other PGA golfers on the final day of a PGA tournament?

Ralph had asked them to cancel the match as they had stood on the seventh tee during this match which had been even to this point or double their bet with him.

Layne and Frank had chosen to double their already escalated bet to $3,000 a team (it appeared as if the bets had also been kicked up now with everyone else, to about $10,000 a hole total), and then it had been their turn to hit their tee shots. Roughly 115 yards had been the distance to the hole on that par three.

Frank thought the shot Layne had hit was out of play. It had been amazing then how heavy the club had felt in Frank’s key poker hands. Frank’s team had needed him, Huck Seed (who had been following the match) had needed him, and Jeff Friedman had needed him. They would have surely lost that hole if Frank had messed up.

Frank just tried to focus himself on the task at hand as he stepped u to the ball; the task had been to hit the nine iron 115 yards and straight at the flag. He managed at least to hit it about 102 yards and knock it on the green although the club still felt heavy to him. He thought, ‘Yes!’

Frank and Layne knew what putt they would have when they walked down to their ball, since they had the exact same putt earlier in the day. At this point they had two opportunities to knock the 36-foot putt in, or at least leave it close so that they could have made the par.

They had known that Jack and Ralph would make a par (or better) from about 25 feet away, straight up the hill. But that had not been an ordinary 36-foot putt that Layne and Frank had faced; actually, it had had about 10 feet of break in it, so that lagging that putt up there close to the hole had involved a very high right-to-left curve.

That had been the sort of putt in which finding the right speed had been of utmost importance, if one had wanted to leave it close to the hole. Layne had hit a nice putt to about 8 feet past the hole, and then he had known, watching Layne’s shot, exactly what the putt would do.

Frank had already seen that putt three times that day! Sadly, he had made the same mistake he had made that morning, and the same mistake that Layne had recently made. Frank had hit it 7 feet past the hole. That had been an extremely bad result for the man who was supposed to have been hitting the money shot.

That is to say, Frank had blown it. Now they had to concede with Ralph and Jack’s par to them as they had knocked their putt to within a foot. Just to halve the hole (tie), they needed to make their 7-footer.

Their putt had broken on a left-to-right curve about 10 inches from just 7 feet or so, now that they were on the other side of that hole. Although Layne had made another nice roll from 7 feet, he had still just missed the putt on the high side.

Frank told himself to just make a good stroke. Nobody had expected Frank to make that putt so there really hadn’t been too much pressure on him by then. Nobody, except himself. Frank had pulled his putter back and stroked it as well as he could after he had stalked the putt for just over a minute.

Frank had yelled ‘Gentlemen’ (Yosh Nakano’s favorite golfing line), as he walked away smiling when the putt had rolled on the curve toward the hole. But, hold it. The putt had broken extra hard right at the end, and had still hit the hole fairly solidly, but it had not dropped. Oh well, nobody had claimed that golf had been Frank’s game!

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