A look at the ties that bind these two different activities
Poker and snowboarding seem like an odd mix, but the former has definitely captured the attention of some of the latter’s most high-profile stars. In the wake of the poker boom, a number of snowboarders all over the world have dabbled in one of the world’s most popular card games.
Snowboarding phenom and Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, for instance, has been playing poker for almost a decade. In an interview with online news show Poker2Nite, Teter revealed that the game was a popular pastime during the US team’s summer preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“I think poker brings out everyone’s competitive side,” she later told PokerNews while the Winter Olympics was in full swing. Teter also revealed that teammates Jack and Luke Mitrani and fellow gold medalist Shaun White were among the people she regularly played poker with.
In the same interview, Teter admitted that White was particularly competitive. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that the poker bug seems to have affected White way past the end of the Winter Olympic Games. Less than a year ago, he organized a poker-themed snowboarding competition in South Lake Tahoe dubbed the 2013 High Roller Hold ‘Em challenge.
For the tournament, each participant got dealt a pair of cards, each of which had a different trick on them. The riders were then required to bet on a trick and execute it. Whoever manages to land the trick with the highest level of difficulty wins the round. Chas Guldemond’s backside double cork 1260 in the second half of the finals secured his victory and the $25,000 first prize.
Another famous snowboarder who felt an affinity with poker is Norwegian slopestyle virtuoso Torstein Horgmo, who went all in during the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas last year. Horgmo bowed out of the tournament after day 3.
Swedish snowboarder Ingemar Backman, who set a record for highest air out of a quarter-pipe in 1996, had a better poker run. In 2006, he cashed over $40,000 at the partypoker.com supported World Poker Tour World Championship.
This connection between the worlds of poker and snowboarding is made even more interesting in light of the former’s efforts to replicate the latter’s successful jump into the mainstream. “Snowboarding had everything that poker still needs, the key points being good public image and the opportunity for fans to engage with the sport’s elite players,” wrote PokerListings’ Matthew Showell. “Snowboarding is what poker wants to be, and it didn’t have to change its image to get there.”
Although poker’s popularity has exploded in the past decade or so, there’s definitely still plenty of room for improvement. As for when that happens, nobody knows. For now, it’s enough that plenty of poker players and snowboard enthusiasts have something in common: a love of cards and the willingness to go big or go home.