– General Information –
Gavin Smith was a Canadian professional poker player. He was born on September 4th, 1968. He passed away on January 14th, 2019.
Smith won a WSOP gold bracelet in 2010 in the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event for $268,238. He also cashed in the WSOP Main Event in six different years.
He rose to prominence in the poker world in 2005, when he won the World Poker Tour Season IV Mirage Poker Championship for $1.128 million. The same year, he also won the WPT Season IV Player of the Year award.
He went on to appear on classic poker shows like Poker After Dark, Poker Night in America, and Late Night Poker airing on the British TV network Channel 4.
His untimely death shocked many in the poker community. Smith was remembered for his prowess at the game of poker, as well as his fun, endearing personality. The Gavin Smith Memorial Poker Tournament, held at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, was the first event at the 2019 World Series of Poker.
– Key Career Dates –
- c. 1994: He starts playing poker recreationally.
- 2005: He wins the World Poker Tour Season IV Mirage Poker Championship for $1.128 million. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of career. He also wins the WPT Season IV Player of the Year award.
- 2008: He starts appearing on the classic TV show Poker After Dark on NBC.
- 2010: He wins his first and only WSOP gold bracelet in the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event for $268,238.
– Gavin Smith’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
According to his obituary piece on pokernews.com, Smith used to drive a taxi and cut greens for a living in Guelph, Ontario. He also played a lot of cards, especially rummy and cribbage – two games he learnt from his father.
He found poker at the age of 26. Two years later, he became a dealer in a local card room. Another two years later, he opened up his own poker club in the city of Kitchener in Ontario.
He has sporadic results from $500-$1,000 poker tourneys from 1998 onwards. However, his big break in the poker world came at the 2005 World Poker Tour.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Smith’s Hendon page shows a total of $6.321 million in career earnings. That impressive sum is a product of 137 individual ITM finishes over the course of 19 years.
The first recorded cash on his poker tourney resume is from November 1998. He came in 9th place in a $500 Limit Hold’em tournament for $1,1087 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut in the US.
He kept on delivering small cashes from US events for a few years. The first time he took home a 6-figure score was in May 2005. He took down the $2,000 event at the Mirage Poker Showdown for $155,880. However, the best for Gavin Smith was yet to come.
In May 2005, he entered the $10,000 WPT No Limit Hold’em championship at the Mirage in Las Vegas. It was a sizable 317-player field featuring some A-list poker talent such as Phil Laak, Jean-Robert Bellande, or old-timey poker pro Ted Forrest. Smith was able to triumph in that field and won no less than $1.128 million. That is the biggest single live tournament score of his career.
His great victory drew some attention to Smith in the poker media – it was his breakthrough moment. Later in 2005, he came in 3rd in the $10K tournament at the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, an event held under WPT branding, for $327,610. At the end of the year, he was awarded the World Poker Tour Season IV Player of the Year title.
Smith went on to deliver some other major scores in the live tournament scene.
He had a runner-up finish in the $10K NLHE Main Event at the New Orleans stop of the WSOP Circuit for $293,930.
In July 2006, he won an invitational freeroll tournament for $500,000 on the Fox Sports show Poker Dome Challenge. In October 2008, he took 2nd place in the C$10K NLHE event for $542,129 at the North American Poker Championship in his home country of Canada.
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Gavin Smith has one WSOP gold bracelet to his name.
He took down the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event for $268,238 in 2010. This mixed game event wasn’t alternating between game types, only between Limit and No Limit Hold’em throughout the tournament. Smith beat Danny Hannawa heads-up for the title.
He came very close to capturing his first bracelet three years before that. In 2007, he lost the final duel to Michael Spegal and thus came in 2nd in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em event for $155,645.
Smith also finished in 11th place in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event in 2006 for $205,920. That mixed game tournament is very notable because it was the first one in WSOP history to have a buy-in that is more than that of the annual Main Event, $10,000.
Speaking of the WSOP Main Event, Smith was able to make it in the money in poker’s most prestigious tournament no less than six (!) times: in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, and in 2017. His highest finish out of these was in 2004, when he ultimately busted in 52nd place for $45,000. He cashed for more money, $62,021, in the 2012 Main – however, he then took 96th place in a much larger field.
Overall, Gavin Smith cashed in 38 WSOP events for a combined $1,236,501 in total.
Smith posthumously had the rare honor of having a World Series of Poker tournament bearing his name. After his untimely death in 2019, that year’s World Series kicked off with the $200 Gavin Smith Memorial Event.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Smith has appeared on a number of poker TV shows where he played live NLHE cash games in front of cameras.
He first appeared on the classic NBC show Poker After Dark in season 3, airing in 2008. There, he got to play against such poker greats as Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, or Doyle Brunson.
He also played on the British show Late Night Poker. That program aired on Channel 4 in the UK between 1999 and 2011. However, it mostly featured high buy-in Sit&Go’s, not cash games.
Poker Night in America, on the other hand, is primarily $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em cash game sessions. Smith played on season 5 of that show. There, he played against Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Torelli, and Mike Dentale, among others.
→ Online Poker ←
The online high stakes cash game database has a few hands tracked on an account named “Gavin Smith” on the now defunct poker site Full Tilt. Given the fact that he was a Full Tilt sponsored pro, it was likely the famous Gavin Smith playing on the account – however, the database website doesn’t confirm that.
→ Scandals ←
His questionable poker strategy advice
Smith has an odd video of him giving poker tips in a segment sponsored by the Canadian whiskey company Black Velvet.
In it, he suggests players should call pre-flop with almost their entire range. His thinking is that this way he can see a lot of flops cheap, while not giving out too much information about his hands.
It is unclear how serious Smith was about this piece of poker strategy advice – after all, he was known to be a fun, entertaining guy to be around.
However, if he was serious, he’s very wrong. Large sample sizes clearly show that loose and passive (meaning the player plays a lot of hands, but mostly calls and rarely raises) is the strategy that will lose the most money in poker games in the long run.