BY CHAS GULDEMOND
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Snow Park Technologies about a new event with a unique concept. The event is called High Roller Hold ‘Em. It is an event that consists of poker mixed with big air and was to be held in South Lake Tahoe. You can't beat spring shredding in Tahoe so I was in! For me, there isn't a better place to hold an event and it seemed like this unique contest format would be fun!
After spending a few days at Lake Havasu with Rockstar, I got to Heavenly, settled in and suited up for the first practice day. All the riders got to the venue where the jump was and we were stoked on the setup. Right at the bottom of the hill was a huge big air jump and at the end of the landing there was a stage with a poker table centered on it. The rider list consisted of 10 of the best big air riders including my U.S. Snowboarding teammates Eric Willet and Sage Kotsenburg. We all had a great session on the jump! Everybody was impressed by the setup and even more impressed with the stunning views of Lake Tahoe. After practice on the jump, it was time to sit at the poker table and see what the poker aspect of the event was all about. Basically, the rules are that there are four rounds of poker. The first two are qualifiers, the third is a last-chance qualifier and the fourth is the no-limit final. In the first two rounds, only two people advance to the final based on highest chip count at the end of each three-hand round. Then, there is a last-chance qualifier, where only one person moves on to the final. The five-man final is no-limit hold ‘em with three hands.
On the table, the rules were there are 52 normal playing cards each with a different trick on it. The higher the card, the harder the trick. Each hand consists of every rider getting three cards and picking the highest card and the best trick they think they can do. After choosing that one card, we would bet the other riders depending on how confident we felt in the card/trick we were holding. After the betting goes down, the riders flip the cards to show the tricks they were betting on and head up to the jump to put their money where their mouth is. The guy that lands the best trick wins the pot. The two highest chip holders after the three hands move on to the final. It was a lot to take in, for sure, but when I got done with the demo, I had developed my playing strategy for the next night.
The next day came and I was feeling lucky. I had an amazing practice and saved some energy for the event. When it was time to play, I put on my poker face and made it into the no-limit final, landing a cab 12 (a ''king of hearts')' in the second qualifier. Then it was time for the finals. I had a good hand on the first deal, but I decided to fold because my game plan was to fold on every first hand. The next hand was dealt and I had another ''king of hearts'' – a double backside 12 – and I bet big. I raised the bet just enough so the other riders would not fold. When it was time to jump, I had full confidence in the trick and put it down and won the pot. On the last hand, a lot of the riders folded so the pot was not big enough for anybody to beat my chip count so that made me the winner.
In the end, I played good poker, stuck with my strategy and bet big when I knew I was holding a good card. It worked out and it ended up being one of the most fun events of the year. I was so stoked on the night and I’m amped to come back and play again next year.