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Gavin Griffin knows poker -- and a few other things too22 May 2008
Gavin Griffin used to be that guy.
You know, the kind of person you have pity for. The one who comes to your weekly poker game and manages to lose each and every time the group gets together. The one who, regardless of what kind of cards he's holding or how smart (or foolishly) he plays, always has the short stack and eventually goes home a loser.
Sure, it's hard to fathom now, since Griffin has gone on to become a PokerStars.com professional and accomplish some amazing things at the poker table, including reaping in more than $4 million in winnings during the last three-plus years. But it wasn't always a pretty picture when Griffin played poker. That is until he decided enough was enough and began to immerse himself in each and every aspect of the game.
"I guess what it came down to was that I just got sick of losing," Griffin said, remembering of those summer days following his freshman year at Texas Christian University when he came home to Illinois and started to play in a regular game with some friends three to four times a week. "We used to play in a friend's basement. It was for real short money. We played $20 buy-ins and a bunch of wild card games. But no matter what we played I always seemed to lose."
Griffin, who admittedly was never a great student, decided to hit the books. He scooped up as many poker books as possible (his favorite is "Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky) and started to play regularly on line. When he returned to college for his sophomore year, he looked for any game that was available and devoted as much – if not more – time to studying poker than he did with the classes he was taking as a speech therapy major.
He took his lumps, but gradually things began to click for him. And eventually his dedication paid off. By the time he was a junior, Griffin had become a dangerous player. He sharpened his skills even further when he took a job dealing poker at Harrah's East Chicago during the summer and at a local private club in Texas during the school year.
"I learned more from doing that than anything else, especially the private game because at least three or four of the guys who played in that game have gone on to make a living playing poker," he said. "During the summer I would deal at Harrah's on Saturday through Tuesday and then go and play on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It was a gradual learning process, but once I figured it out I started to make more money playing than when I was dealing. That's when I decided I didn't want to deal. I wanted to play poker full-time."
The decision didn't go over too well with his parents, but Griffin has made it work. His breakthrough came in 2004 when he became the youngest person to win a World Series of Poker title after capturing a bracelet with a win in the $3,000 Pot Limit Texas Hold'em Event.
Three Things You Didn't Know About Gavin Griffin
1. He's a movie fanatic. Griffin estimates that he has purchased $10,000 worth of electronic "toys" over the last few years, but his most prized-possession is his DVD selection of more than 600 titles. His top five of all time are (in no particular order) 1. The Boondock Saints; 2. The Usual Suspects; 3. Garden State; 4. The Hustler; 5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
2. He's an aspiring chef. "My girlfriend (Kristen) and I picked up some bad eating habits, so I thought that if I started to cook we would eat better and I've really taken a liking to it. Just like with poker, when I get into something I really go all out and I think I'll do the same with cooking. And it's great with the World Series coming up because I really think that the only way to succeed there is to eat well and sleep well so that you're focused and energized for the tournament. Cooking my own meals will help me do that. Who knows? Maybe I'll have my own show on the Food Network some day."
3. He is not a fan of the new World Series of Poker Main Event format. "It's good for the nine people who make the final table and it's good for Harrah's. And it's good for the nine people that those people end up hiring as coaches for the three months of the break. But I think it ruins the integrity of the game. Poker is not only a test of who is the best player, but it's also a test of mental endurance. The person who wins is usually the person who is keyed in the most and is focusing the best after those first eight days of the Main Event. But with that huge 117-day break, it takes that part of it out of the equation."
"I called home and told my friends and family that I won it and they hardly believed me," remembers Griffin, who cashed in for $240,000 with the win. "It was my first time ever going to Vegas and obviously my first World Series. I feel very fortunate to have won a bracelet so early in my career because I know some great players who have been playing for a long time and they haven't won one yet. It was a surreal feeling."
Despite that win, Griffin still had to go through some growing pains as a professional. He went through a couple of lean years, but continued to learn from his mistakes.
"I won that World Series event and thought that I had it made, but this game makes you humble," he says. "When it comes to poker, you can never stop learning. If you think you've learned everything there is to learn, then you're looking at the game the wrong way. You're stopping yourself from becoming a better player."
In 2007, Griffin snared another huge feather in his cap when he won the Grand Final of the European Poker Tour in Monte Carlo after earning his seat via a PokerStars satellite. The victory paid him nearly $2.5 million and pushed him to the top of the all-time European Poker Tour winnings list. Earlier this year he won the Borgata Winter Open, scooped up another $1.4 million and, in the process, became the first person to win a World Series bracelet, an EPT event and a WPT event.
The win at the Borgata was particularly special because it was the first time his parents had ever seen him play in person.
"That was really cool because it wasn't too long ago that they were still asking me when I was going to go out and get a real job," he says with a laugh. "My father is a hard-working guy and has been a fireman for 37 years. He just had a hard time grasping the fact that his son plays poker for a living. But now that he's seen that I'm having success and I'm making a good living doing it, he's been much more supportive."
At 26 years old, Griffin, who plays live poker four days a week in addition to playing online for 15 to 20 hours a week, still has plenty of time to accomplish even more as a poker player. In his biography at PokerStars, it says that since he has already achieved so much before the age of 30 that he "could well go on to become one of the greatest players the game has ever seen."
When Griffin hears that quote, he cautions that while he appreciates the kind words, leaving a legacy behind him as a professional poker player is not something he's overly concerned with.
"That's nice that someone would say that about me, but that's not why I play the game," he says. "I play the game because it's something I really love to do and because I enjoy it and can make a living out of it. I don't sit back and think about trying to win 30 bracelets or trying to be one of the best players ever. I don't really concern myself with those types of things and I never will."
Griffin will be playing in his fifth World Series beginning later this month. He plans on competing in between 25 to 30 events, including the Main Event, where he has had little success in the past.
"I don't know what it is, but I really haven't fared too well in the Main Event," says Griffin, who has made it to Day 2 just once in five tries. "The way I play tournaments, I'm usually out pretty early or I have a ton of chips. I'm a very aggressive. I'm not afraid to put chips in play. I try to take every edge that I can. I feel that I have to build chips in order to be successful and it just hasn't worked out for me in the Main Event. Hopefully that will change this year."
Spotting Griffin at the Rio this year will not be difficult. To promote awareness for breast cancer, Griffin dyed his hair pink last year for nearly six months, and was actually sporting the look when he won the European Poker Tour title. This year, instead of his hair being pink he will wear a different style of pink shirt every day.
"I've already got about 10 nice-looking pink shirts in my closet," he says with a laugh. "I've got to somehow find another 10 or 15 more."
The fight against breast cancer is close to Griffin's heart because of his girlfriend Kristen, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, about two years before she met Griffin. This October she will celebrate her fifth year of recovery, a huge milestone, and Griffin has always done everything he can to support her.
"It was great because I think it really did promote awareness and, to be honest, I actually loved having pink hair; that's just how I am," says Griffin who lives in the Los Angeles area with Kristen.
"Like I said, for me it's all about having a good time and enjoying life. All I want is to be happy. When poker isn't fun anymore, I'll stop playing and figure out something else to do with my life. But for now, I'm having a blast and right now there's nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing."
Gavin Griffin knows poker -- and a few other things too is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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