The poker world comes to terms with the death of the former World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker champion, Gavin Smith, after the 50-year-old died on Monday.
It’s not something we talk about. Too painful. A taboo. When I read that Gavin Smith had died aged 50, only six-years on from where I stand now, I looked across the table at John, an LA man, who once starred in the Beverley Hillbillies, and asked him, now he’s in his 70s, if he feared death.
He just shook his head, in a good way.
“I will never die, so I don’t concern myself with any of that old nonsense,” says John. “But I do worry about being alone; till the end, whatever that end may be. Do you know what I mean? That feeling of being utterly alone.”
I hope Smith didn’t feel that way.
Often the troubled souls do and reading through the many blog posts, news stories and social media condolences, this is how I now perceive him – a brilliant, troubled soul, who knew his flaws and tried his best to mend them.
The other theme running through the words that find a way through to a head full of house music is alcohol. Yet, I read, with a smile on my face, that Smith once became someone that doesn’t drink alcohol for a year, so he could win custody of his two young boys Kingston and Keegan, and win that custody battle he did. Cue the inevitable sadness that flows into the heart of any parent, especially one that’s had to fight for the right to be one.
I never interviewed Smith, because to be honest, I thought he was out of my league. I used to watch him kick up a storm on Poker After Dark, and coverage of the World Poker Tour (WPT), and remember watching him win the $10,200 buy-in WPT Mirage Poker Showdown. To me, he was a star, and I someone who didn’t understand algebra.
Smith won $1,128,278 that day, defeating 317-entrants, including Ted Forrest, heads-up, and a decade later he would also gain a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet after conquering a field of 507-entrants to win the $268,238 first prize in a $2,500 Limit/No-Limit Hold’em mix.
On Monday, he died, somewhere in Texas.
All told, Smith won 11-live tournaments in a career that will forever show $6,321,096 on his Hendon Mob resume, but I can’t help but feel that his most significant win was that court battle for his children, two young lads, who in the years to come, when the grief has subsided, slightly, will be able to watch their Dad taking on, and beating, the best in the world in a game that he once told Nolan Dalla that he was proud to have survived, yet remained a happy and friendly person.
Poker Royalty, who represented Smith throughout his poker career, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his two boys, and at the time of writing 363 people had donated $51,116 of a $100,000 goal. Follow the blue line if you want to contribute.