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It Pays To Know The Rules

by Greg Raymer |  Published: May 19, 2021


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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at

In 2008, I was invited to compete in a charity event called the Nick Lachey – Jimmy Johnson Skins Game, in Phoenix a few days before the Super Bowl. I had played in some previous charity golf events, but it turned out this one was structured very differently. I was told to let them know what my charity was before arriving, and that I could bring a guest to play with me.

Usually, these events raise money by soliciting funds from corporations. In return they get some marketing value, and some of their people play in the event with the celebrities. Here it seemed, instead of the charity being preselected, they would give some of the money to the charity of my choice. Awesome.

I arrived and they asked me about my guest. I had only been invited a few days before, so I didn’t have one. They told me to go to cart 7A, and that I would tee off on the seventh hole in a shotgun start. It was there that I met my scramble partners, the Judd brothers, who were Nick Lachey’s accountants. I also learned that for my charity to receive any money, we had to win it.

It was a four-player scramble, and whichever team had the lowest score on each hole would win money for their charity. It was expected that every hole would be birdied, and some holes would get eagled. The tie-breaker was closest to the pin. That is, if 12 of the teams got a birdie on the first hole, whoever was closest to the pin for their birdie putt would win the hole.

Well, I didn’t know any of this, and I’m not a very good golfer (at that time my handicap was about 14). The Judd brothers, while nice, fun guys to play with, were only a little better than me. No surprise, we did not win anything for my charity.

The next year I was invited back to the second Lachey-Johnson Skins Game. This time I understood, if I wanted to win for my charity, I needed to bring a guest who was a great golfer. I called the host golf course in Tampa, and spoke to the head pro. I asked him for help finding a great, local golfer to be my ringer. He hooked me up with a pro who had lost his playing card after an injury, and was working to get back onto the PGA tour. Moreover, he lived on the golf course, and knew it intimately. I contacted him, and he agreed to be my partner. Suddenly, we were going to win a LOT of money for my charity!!

However, just as we were about to tee off, some of the people running the event came to us with some unexpected news. They told me my guest was more than welcome to play on my team, but professional golfers weren’t permitted to compete for the prize money. So, if I wanted to win anything, he couldn’t play in the scramble. He said he would play his own ball, just for fun, and coach the rest of us (me and the Judd brothers again) through the round. He told us the best line for tee shots, and helped tremendously in reading putts. With his help, we managed to win a little money for my charity.

Same thing next year, just before the Super Bowl in Miami. Now, I had learned my lesson. Again, I called up the head pro of the golf course. This time, he helped me find a ringer who was not a pro. I invited the club champion to play as my guest. Not quite a tour pro, but he was the best amateur player of all the members in that private club, and knew the course well. Again, I was paired with the Judd brothers. Together, we managed to win two skins, although through an interesting twist.

On our last hole of the day, I managed to hit my approach shot to inside three feet on a par 4. As it turned out, this was not a shot to brag about. I selected my 5-wood, and did manage to hit the ball solid and straight. We couldn’t see the ball land on the elevated green. However, the volunteers who measured the putts were jumping up-and-down and shouting, so we knew it was a good one.

We high-fived and cheered amongst ourselves. It was then I noticed my mistake. Instead of pulling my 5-wood, I had grabbed my 3-wood. As such, hitting the ball that close required not only that I hit the ball well, but also that I accidentally use the wrong club. Better to be lucky than good.

During the awards ceremony, we expected to win that hole, which would mean $15,000 for my charity. This was going to be a huge deal for them, since they are a stand-alone, no-kill cat shelter here in Raleigh ( However, as they were reading off the names of the celebrities, and having them come up for their ceremonial over-sized checks, they called off all the $15K winners, but not me.

Oh no! Apparently, the group behind us, consisting of Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, and their guests, must have beaten us. Then, a while later, my name does get called, and somehow we have won $30,000 for Safe Haven! Apparently, the first hole of the day, a super-tough par 4, a hole that we birded from off the green (such that the volunteers didn’t even measure the putt), was not birdied by any of the other groups. An unexpected but wonderful result.

The point of all this is not that I won $30,000 that day for my local cat shelter. The point is how much more I might have won for my charity in the previous two years, if I had only known the rules.

We all know the basic rules of poker. A flush beats a straight, three-of-a-kind beats two pair, etc. But, do we know the full rules for the bad beat jackpot in our poker room? Or the high hand award? Do you know the detailed rules when it comes to things like string-bets, putting out the wrong number of chips, and so on?

If a scenario comes up, and the floor makes a bad ruling, would you know? And would you know what you should do next? Should you ask for the shift manager, or the room manager, or would that just be a waste of time? Knowing all these “minor” rules could save you a lot of headache, and possibly even save/make you a lot of money. It’s best to know all of the rules, since any one of them could have a big impact on your bottom line.

Have fun, and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.