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Poker Stories Podcast With Gavin Griffin

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jan 13, 2021

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 39
From: Darien, Illinois
Live Tournament Earnings: $5.06 Million

Top Live Tournament Scores

Date Tournament Place Winnings
April 2007 EPT Grand Final Main Event 1st Place $2,429,103
Jan. 2008 WPT Borgata Winter Open 1st Place $1,401,109
May 2004 WSOP $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em 1st Place $270,420
June 2012 WSOP $1,500 Omaha 8/ob 2nd Place $163,625
Feb. 2007 WSOP Circuit Rincon Main Event 3rd Place $86,685

Gavin Griffin was one of the original stars of the poker boom, becoming the then-youngest World Series of Poker bracelet winner in history at the age of 22 at the 2004 summer series. The Darien, Illinois native earned $270,420 for taking down the $3,000 pot-limit hold’em event. He busted Phil Hellmuth at the final table, which prompted the Poker Brat to utter the now infamous line of, “If there weren’t luck involved, I guess I’d win every one.”

A few years later, Griffin made the trip to Monte Carlo for the EPT Grand Final Championship and took it down for $2,429,103. In 2008, he won the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Open for another $1,401,109. The three marquee tournament titles made him the first player ever to win poker’s Triple Crown, a feat that has since been accomplished by only eight others. In 2012, the Card Player columnist nearly added a second bracelet, finishing runner-up in the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better event. The 39-year-old has more than $5 million in career tournament earnings.

Highlights from this interview include the relationship between Dalmatians and horses, ‘losing’ for a living, leaving TCU for poker, riverboat casino dealing, winning his WSOP bracelet, Hellmuth’s quote, running good while being sick, David Pham’s consistent lie, the Triple Crown, what you do with a free Harley Davidson, feeling the pressure from PokerStars, a $1,000-$2,000 2-7 triple draw game, side bets with Gavin Smith, Mike Sexton’s chuckle, being an ‘equities analyst,’ and disappointing Tobey Maguire fans.

The Transcript Highlights

On What His Bankroll Looked Like Before Winning His Bracelet

GG: I was in Texas, just staying on a buddy’s couch for a while, playing the games around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A friend of mine said he was going back to Vegas, and asked me if I wanted to come with him. So, I just drove out there and stayed on his couch for a while. I think I maybe had a $20,000 bankroll [at the time]. Nothing [huge,] but certainly enough for someone who didn’t pay any rent, living with my parents or staying on people’s couches.

JR: Right, it’s a [decent] amount of money for someone with no bills, low expenses, but it’s not a lot of money to play a $3,000 buy-in event… So, let’s talk about the bracelet win. You took down that $3,000 pot-limit hold’em event for $270,000. What was your mindset going into the final table, your nerves, given that you only had $20,000 behind?

GG: I was reckless playing it, obviously, but I had won about $1,800 in satellite lammers, and I had a good winning session in a cash game the night before. I’m not saying it was a good decision, but I didn’t exactly just put up $3,000.

Going into the final table… The thing is, I was 22 years old. I was playing poker well at the time, and I never even once thought about how much money we were playing for until we got three-handed and they started discussing a deal. It didn’t even occur to me that we were playing for a lot of money until that point.

On Winning The WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open For The Triple Crown

JR: So, you win the Triple Crown, which has since been done by only eight more players. Did that mean anything to you, or did you even know about it?

GG: I think it was in December of 2007, I heard Daniel Negreanu saying something about wanting to win a Triple Crown. And I was like, “What does he mean by that?” I liked playing tournaments, and I was happy to play tournaments that had good value, but I was never somebody who played 150-200 tournaments a year. I would play 20 at the WSOP, and maybe another 20 throughout the year. But I heard Daniel… and I thought to myself, ‘I guess I could try and win a World Poker Tour event.’

I played the Bellagio tournament, and then I decided to go to Tunica. The only time I’ve ever been to Atlantic City was when I won [Borgata]. I’d never been before, and I’ve never been since. (laughing)

JR: [In addition to the $1.4 million], you also won a Harley [Davidson] motorcycle. I assume you drove it back?

GG: (laughing) That Harley turned out to be a gigantic pain. I wasn’t even thinking about it at first, and obviously I wasn’t going to drive it home. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life, and don’t think I ever would. So, I had to figure out what to do with it… I lost track of it for a couple of months, but then found someone who wanted the bike. I figured I would pay to ship it out to me, and then sell it to this person. But when I emailed [the dealership] again, they told me they didn’t have it anymore. I was like, ‘What do you mean you don’t have it anymore?’ This was a custom motorcycle made specifically for this tournament. They ended up sending me some money for it. ♠

A Big Side Bet Sweat With Gavin Smith

Julio Rodriguez: What was your largest non-poker wager?

Gavin Griffin: I don’t really bet on anything that’s not poker, although I did have something that was kind of a prop [bet]. I made the final table of the $5,000 buy-in Harrah’s Rincon WSOP Circuit event in 2007, and on day one of that tournament, Gavin Smith and I were at the same table. I don’t remember the [exact details] of the bet, but it was a must-win. It was his $150,000 to my $100,000, that was only paid off if one of us won the tournament.

JR: What a sweat.

GG: Especially since he [made the final table] as well. I finished third, and he finished seventh. [After he was eliminated,] he was doing commentary for [the final table] webcast, and he was actively rooting against me while we were playing. (laughing)

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Dan Smith, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.