Gavin Smith’s Loss Hurts Poker Fans As Much As His Poker Family

Jessica Welman January 17, 2019 3552 Reads

It is abundantly clear the people who knew Gavin Smith miss him dearly. When news broke Tuesday that Smith, 50, died in his sleep, seemingly every person in poker had a story about him and took to Twitter to share.

These people knew Smith was a dedicated dad to two boys. Knowing Smith wanted nothing more than for them to be taken care of, over 360 people donated more than $50,000 to a GoFundMe page to help support them.

There is another group that is going to miss him, too.

Poker fans.

Smith is a poker podcasting legend

Before I got into poker media, I was a fan. I read every update from every event. If poker was on TV, I stopped what I was doing to watch.

I also downloaded every episode of The Circuit podcast, hosted by Scott Huff, Joe Sebok, and Smith. Then I downloaded every episode of PokerWire Radio, hosted by Joe Stapleton, Sebok and Smith. After that, I downloaded every episode of PokerRoad Radio, hosted by Ali Nejad, Sebok and Smith.

I didn’t just download these pods, listen and move on. I would listen to my favorite episodes over and over. Whether Haralabos Voulgaris was discussing his fight with Freddy Deeb or Sebok and Smith were impersonating their friend “Chrith Bell,” I was there for all of it.

I couldn’t play at these stakes, and the WPT did not travel anywhere near my home in Kentucky, but thanks to Smith and the rest, I got a glimpse of what it was like to be there.

I’ll be honest, too. Once I got into media and saw what happened before and after the pod, it really was as fun as it sounded.

Smith won fans over with his brutal honesty

Every podcast host had something they brought to the table. What Smith brought was brutal honesty. Someone would ask how his day went and he would gladly admit he played like garbage. Then he would walk through hands and critique himself for doing the wrong thing.

He let the audience know when he drank too much. He called out his friends on being deep in makeup. He would clown on anyone, but no one more than himself.

Before Twitter even became a thing, Smith was letting us into all the minutiae of his day. And unlike social media-savvy celebrities and poker pros alike who carefully cultivate an image for the internet to see, Smith blasted in completely unedited.

This unfiltered and admitted mess was very easy to root for, so he quickly became one of the stars of the US poker boom. He was never going to let a final table or massive sums of money interfere with his fun.

It’s a far cry from televised and live stream poker today. Just last week, Twitter debated whether or not players hiding in their hoodies should be against the rules. The highest high rollers regularly play on streams in virtual silence.

In the current poker world, we likely won’t see another Smith

It is a different poker world today. Full Tilt Poker money isn’t growing on trees anymore. I understand the shift from the perspective of the players.

From the perspective of the fans though, this new reality only makes Smith’s passing hurt that much more.

He didn’t just make money playing poker; he made poker fans, too. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people gave poker a shot because Gavin Smith made it seem so fun. Even when he was on a downswing or losing, more often than not, he still found a way to enjoy himself.

These days it is much more difficult to bring new people to the game. If you look who is doing it most successfully though, it is the ones taking the Smith tact. Twitch streamers like Jason Somerville and Lex Veldhuis or video bloggers like Andrew Neeme all provide an unfiltered look at their lives and their poker play.

These guys are not making the most money, but they are the ones the fans care about. Certainly, there is a strategy to learn when watching high roller events.

But when it comes to having something enjoyable to watch and someone to root for, the recipe remains the same now as it did in 2006:

  • Be an interesting person.
  • Engage with your tablemates.
  • Most importantly, engage with the people following your career.

Gavin Smith: the everyman poker needed

There is one more thing to learn from Smith: humility. The man with the big heart very rarely let things be about him. When asked what made his podcasts work, he answered that the hosts do.

He readily admitted he was not an elite poker player. Even when he won his one and only World Series of Poker bracelet in 2010, his attitude was as approachable as they come.

“I’m just an older guy from Guelph, Ontario, who used to drive a taxi and cut greens. Now, I’m sitting here and hundreds of people have come over to me. Play poker for a living, and I just won hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is nothing in my life that can be considered a curse. Every single minute of it is a blessing.”

Pictured above: Gavin Smith(L) holds court at the WSOP with Joe Sebok.

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