Bad beats for NASCAR driver Landon Cassill usually involve high rates of speed mixed with burnt rubber, occasional smashed quarter panels, and the smell of gasoline. A nice finish at the checkered flag is also nice.
But when he’s not racing around the track, Cassill has been a recreational poker player for years. He drives the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series, but recently was back at the poker table for the StormX Invitational Tournament at the PokerGO Studio.
The unique poker environment was something most players may not get to experience. Cassill may be accustomed to being in the spotlight, but even playing with celebs and crypto entrepreneurs impressed the 32-year-old. StormX is one of his sponsors this season and the driver was pleased to get in the action.
“It was awesome,” Casill says. “I didn’t really play my best poker, but it was just a blast. It was a really cool group.”
With plenty of races left in the season, Cassill spoke with USPoker about catching cards as well as hitting the track. That latter aspect of his life has even included some poker playing as well.
Hitting the poker tables
Like many players, Cassill began playing poker in high school. He and his friends were inspired by Chris Moneymaker’s win at the World Series of Poker.
“When I was in high school, we used to have a poker night with my race team every Wednesday night,” he says. “We’d just get a group of friends and always had like a $20 buy-in tournament and always played for fun. I don’t really know if I’ve ever played against super high-caliber players.”
That love of the game has continued even as his current life has him pressed for time as a married family man and race car driver. Earlier in his career Cassill would mix in a game on the road here and there even at a casino.
But the StormX (also a PokerGO partner) was Cassill’s first time at the table in about five years. Getting back was nice.
“It was kind of a good refresher to get back into the game and even discover new terminology and new ways to play the game that I hadn’t done in the past,” he says.
“It was kind of an interesting dive back into the game because I think I was playing against a higher caliber of players than I’ve ever played in my life. So yeah, I was definitely rusty and had plenty of mental errors that cost me lots of money. But it was a lot of fun.”
Taking the PokerGO stage
The opportunity to play in the StormX event also brought about some interesting connections for Cassill. That included catching up with 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.
The two met previously at a NASCAR race and shared a few laughs in the PokerGO Studio. The driver also enjoyed speaking with PokerGO director of programming and commentator Brent Hanks.
The StormX event was a bit different than the normal promotional appearances and interviews that often come with being a NASCAR driver. Not many sponsor events include poker chips and potentially a nice payday – quite a break from his normal routine.
While he didn’t find a cash in the tournament, the Xfinity driver certainly enjoyed mixing it up.
“It was just an entirely new group of people, so I really enjoyed it,” he says. “And then to play in a studio like that, it was pretty awesome.”
Life on the track & poker with Jeff Gordon
While some kids grow up playing baseball, basketball, soccer, or football, Casill spent his younger years behind the wheel. Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s been racing some type of vehicle since age 3.
“I’ve just been around cars my whole life,” he says. “My dad got me interested in racing just by having NASCAR races on TV. From the time I was a little kid, I always loved it so much. I raced in go-carts all over and kept moving up to the next level.”
Hendrick Motorsports signed Cassill in 2006 and he made his Nationwide Series debut a year later at age 18. Since then he’s raced at every level of NASCAR – Cup, Xfinity (formerly Nationwide), and Truck series. His life on the track even included the occasional card game when not in the driver’s seat.
“Back in the day, probably 2011 to 2013, I used to play with Jeff Gordon a lot,” he says. “He had a game that we would play a couple times a year and it was always either Dover or Pocono. We played in his motorhome and there was a group of us – a couple drivers, industry folks, PR reps – that would join the game. There were usually like 10 or 12 of us that would get a table going.
Cassill remembers the four-time Cup Series champion as not only skilled on the track, but also at the poker table.
“Jeff was a good player,” he says. “He’s always a really tight player. It was a good game. There was always some good money in there. But it was not extravagant by any means. Anybody could sit down and play.”
More poker in the future?
When not behind the wheel, Casill spends as much time as possible with his wife and children. He also mixes in some golf in the offseason and has competed in numerous half ironman triathlons.
More poker may also be in his future. StormX timed the last tournament when the Xfinity Series was racing in Las Vegas. The series again hits Sin City in November for the circuit playoffs.
Cassill is hoping to be in the mix both in the battle for a top spot in the Xfinity Seriea and at the poker table.
“I think StormX will be putting on another tournament again,” he says. “I’ve already committed to playing.”
* Racing photos courtesy Kaulig Racing