Shaun White's High Roller Hold 'Em event on Saturday night introduced an extra dose of both strategy and luck to the big air game at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., with 10 competitors playing hands of poker to determine different tricks of varying difficulty tied to the face value of each card in the deck.
"It's hard if you don't practice certain tricks all the time," said White, who hosted the event but did not compete.
The first few hands of play were won by the riders with the easiest tricks: Ian Thorley won the first hand, landing his Cab 900 after heading into competition with a mere eight of diamonds that held up after Mark Hoyt crashed a Cab 1260, and Pat Burgener hip-checked his backside double cork 1260. Sage Kotsenburg similarly won the second hand with a backside 1080 that stood up after five subsequent riders fell -- including contest favorite Mark McMorris, who drew an ace but couldn't land the triple cork to back it up.
McMorris, who has been staking out a reputation as the king of the triple cork in recent years, drew another ace in the third hand but still couldn't put a triple down cleanly, losing the hand to Burgener's much easier backside double cork 1080. Burgener and Kostenburg had the highest chip totals at the close of the first three-hand round, earning automatic entry to the five-man final table.
The remaining eight athletes entered a second three-hand round, with Chas Guldemond's Cab double cork 1260 taking the first hand, McMorris finally winning a hand with a frontside double cork 1080, and Eric Willett winning the third hand with a Cab 1080. Willett and Guldemond guaranteed their spots at the final table as the highest chip winners in Round 2, and Gjermund Braaten won the luck-of-the-draw last-chance qualifier round with a Cab double cork 1080.
Guldemond, the locals' favorite, came out on top at the final table after staying out of the first hand fray won by Braaten's Cab 900 then collecting a $23,000 chip pot in the second hand with a backside double cork 1260 after drawing the king of diamonds. Braaten ultimately finished in second, just ahead of Willett, but neither could catch Guldemond's chip lead.
"I'm just loving my local crowd: give it up for South Lake," said an exuberant Guldemond, whose cheering section on Saturday included South Lake locals Hannah Teter and Jamie Anderson. "I'm not much of a poker player," he admitted, despite walking away with the $25,000 top prize. "It's kinda crazy ... it makes you have to be really confident because you're not always going to get the trick you feel 100 percent confident with and you've got to bet big to win big."
High Roller Hold 'Em: Final Table Results