Golf meets poker in Series

May 6, 2008 7:00 PM

by Kevin Stott | There’s nothing else quite like it in sports.

Combining amateur golfers, pro poker players and other notable celebrities with golf, gambling, poker skills and a beautiful golf course in southern Nevada, the World Series of Golf really does have it all.

Set for May 12-15 at the Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas, 30 miles north of the Strip, this second annual event will feature 80 amateur golfers putting up a $10,000 buy-in each to participate in this one-of-a-kind event.

Each hole is played in a way similar to Texas Hold’em with players anteing up having the opportunity to go all-in after teeing off, making bets after each stroke or simply picking up their ball and "folding" the hole if they wish – just like cards. The event is played under standard USGA rules.

The World Series of Golf – which has patented this unique style of play and took its name from the World Series of Poker – is a publicly traded company (OTCBB: WSGF) with global aspirations according to president Terry Leiweke.

"The World Series of Golf is a completely new way to experience the game of golf," said Leiweke. "It demands skill on the links, betting savvy and nerves of steel."

Last year’s inaugural event at Primm Valley Golf Course came down to a final five group indicative of what the WSG is all about: poker pros Rhett Butler and Phil Ivey; Paul Schuller, an electrician from Clinton, Washington; Ken Tanner, a retired railroad conductor from Penrose, Colorado; and Mark Ewing, a day trader from Newport Beach, California.

Ewing, an 11-handicap, won the WSG and the healthy $250,000 first-place prize money by sinking a three-foot putt on the 16th hole after going "all-in" on his approach shot to eliminate Butler and Schuller.

Butler finished second ($60,000 prize money), Schuller third ($50,000), Ivey fourth ($40,000) and Tanner ended up fifth ($30,000).

Other notable players in last year’s WSG were poker players Steve Dennenmann, Ken Einiger, Blair Rodman; actress Tanya Roberts, blackjack player/author Max Rubin; former Miss Nevada Michelle Yegge; former NFL QB Mark Dyle; and former MLB player Dusty Allen.

This year there will be even more familiar names after the WSG announced a title sponsorship agreement with Full Tilt Poker. Along with Ivey, who returns for a second year, Allen Cunningham, David Benyamine, Brandon Adams, David Grey, David Oppenheim, Andy Bloch, Erick Lindgren and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson are all scheduled to participate from "Team Full Tilt."

"When you get a guy like (Chris) Jesus (Ferguson), you know, he’s an avid golfer but he’s a terrible golfer. He’s a 36 handicap," said Leiweke. "We love him. But I guarantee you during the match, because of his poker skills, he will put pressure on some people."

New celebrities onboard this year include Ray Romano, Alan Thicke and Emily Jillette, the wife of local comedian Penn Jillette.

After being broadcast on NBC last year, this year’s event will air on CBS Sports which will air it June 28 and 29 domestically in two one-hour blocks. Leiweke said Setanta Sports will air the event later overseas with six to eight hours of programming.

Leiweke revealed that the best strategy in the event is the one Ewing and his partner employed last year.

"These guys really had it figured out," he said. "Mark Ewing brought his buddy … so what he did, the gambler (his buddy) placed all the wagers. And all Mark did was play golf."

Leiweke said in the end, it comes down more to money management and timing than actual skill on the links.

"Last year more gamblers than golfers moved on in our event," he said. "And a lot of golfers were scratching their heads trying to figure out how they played a great round of golf and got taken out. It’s not about who has the best 18-hole score. If a gambler gets on a run, on three holes he’ll point out."

If you are interested in attending or would like more information on The World Series of Golf, visit their website at www.WorldSeriesOfGolf.com.