Gavin Smith: A Tribute to the Legend

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Gavin Smith Poker Player

Gavin Smith was one of the brightest poker stars of the last decade. His aggressive but funny style left its mark on the history of live tournaments and touched the hearts of many great high rollers. His unexpected death brought a lot of grief to his family and friends, leaving behind an empty seat at the poker table. This is the story of a maverick who really has contributed so much to the development of the game!

Early Years

Gavin was born on September 4, 1968, in Guelph, Canada. His father taught him how to play cribbage and rummy, but it was only at the age of 26 when he began to take gaming seriously and to devote a lot of time playing poker. The first time Gavin was introduced into the game in 1994 when a traveling charity tournament was hosted at a local golf course. Back in 1996, he became a dealer and founded his own poker club. But he then went on working as a taxi driver and worked on a golf course! Gavin had good mathematical thinking, which helped him earn a bachelor’s degree in economics and succeed as a poker pro.

World Poker Tour

In 1998, Gavin decided to visit Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket. He took the tour by storm and made it to the two final tables. The next year he came back and won the No-Limit-Hold’em main event at the WPT World Poker Finals.

In 2000, Gavin Smith became a winner of the Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better event at the Foxwoods again. Poker became even more interesting for Gavin Smith when he finally got acquainted with Erick Lindgren. This new friend coached Gavin Smith to help him with his strategic play. Both of them became representatives of the Full Tilt poker and finally burst into the ranks of the true high rollers!

Gavin Smith made his first steps on the US stage in 2000 when he finished fourth in the Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Split event held in Atlantic City. One of Gavin’s biggest poker game wins took place again in Foxwood in 2003. He took second place after John Cernuto at the WPT Poker Finals. He cashed out $33,630, which was his first major big win. Also, this tournament saw his astonishing win over Kenna James, who is generally recognized as a genuine poker pro.

During the period of 2003-2005, Gavin focused more on his tournament play, rather than on cash events. This resulted in a very good outcome. He managed to get into the top in 10 out of 14 events and finished first in as many as four of these.

But his big entrance into the real poker community finally happened in 2005, when he took the first prize in the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown in Las Vegas. Gavin defeated Ted Forrest and scooped $1,128,278 at the final table! Then, in October of the same year, he made it to third place in the 2nd Annual Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship. In 2006, he finished fourth in the WPT final table. Later that year, he earned the WTP Player of the Year award for season 4.

In 2008, Gavin Smith ended up second in the WPT North American Poker Championship. He bagged $542,129 at this Niagara Falls event.


Gavin SmithHis first acquaintance with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) happened in 2003 when he limped in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em and finished 52nd. Gavin continued to cash in throughout 2005 and 2007. However, there was no luck there, as he finished 471st and 592nd respectively. Gavin Smith managed to become a participant in the WSOP circuit event on May 2006. This took place in Harrah’s New Orleans, giving him $293,930 in cash. He really spiced up the tournament by making a real money bet with Allie Prescott. If Prescott won the event, Gavin Smith was to give him $100,000 annually for 10 years. If Smith won, Prescott was to pay him $70,000 at the same rate over time. None of them really won, so the bet didn’t really make any sense. Nevertheless, word spread, and this was a real news highlight of the tournament.

Things changed in 2010 when Gavin Smith got his first WSOP bracelet. During the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em he beat Danny Hannawa and snagged $268,238 for first place.

This career-defining moment happened because of the strong will demonstrated by this poker player, who is always partying. Gavin Smith finally managed to make it to the top as he finally decided to quit drinking and partying for a while, so he could finally show his best at the poker table. When he cashed in at the Heads-Up, the game showed the result: and he had been showing his best during the final days of the tournament.

TV and Fame

During the poker boom, Gavin Smith did a lot to popularize the game. He had entrance tickets starting from any major tournament to WSOP main event, hitting poker tables all over the US. But live tournaments are not the only thing he enjoyed participating in. He has also had the chance to appear on poker TV shows. For instance, he finished third at the NBC Heads-Up Championship, broadcasted in 2007.

He appeared in the Poker After Dark and even won a couple of weeks. He defeated Phil Ivey in Season 3. This game can be called a truly historic one! In 2006, he took the first prize at the World Pro-Am Challenge, winning $500,000.

Card Player Magazine made him one of the hosts at The Circuit Radio Show. His career there didn’t last long, and he had been working for 7 months only. From 2007 to 2010 he co-hosted the PokerRoad Radio show with Joe Stapleton.

He also tried to play online poker under several names, but apparently, that didn’t bring him much success. One of his nicknames, “birdguts,” stuck to him even during live tournaments. There is no explanation found to it whatsoever. Another nickname mentioned by Joe Stapleton was “The Caveman.”

Gavin Smith’s passion for the game is second to none, so he had several interesting bets with Joe Sebok. For example, in 2006 they bet on who was going to become a winner of the Card Player Magazine points. In the end, on Day 1B, Sebok appeared in a bear outfit; while on other days, he even appeared as Wonder Woman. But his revenge didn’t have to wait for too long, and after losing the next bet to Sebok, Gavin Smith made a four-leaf clover tattoo on his upper right shoulder with the J.S. initials.

All of these adventures inspired him and Joe Sebok to start their own show “Prop Bets,” which was broadcasted on the website.

Besides appearing on the Card Player magazine cover, he also managed to appear in an episode of High Stakes Living. Because of his humor and natural wit, he also appeared on Late Night Poker and Face the Ace. It was a pleasure to watch this poker enthusiast lead play the game both live and on TV!


No matter whether you were an opponent or a friend, Gavin Smith would always show you a lot of empathy and dignity during the game. His aggressive game style was accompanied by constant chatting, which has led to him being characterized one of the most talkative punters out there. This often helped him to faze out his competitors from the game.

He has also participated in numerous charity events and tournaments that were aimed at popularizing poker among laymen. One of the most shining examples of his great kindness to others was when he organized the poker community to raise money for a young girl whose mother had died of terminal cancer in Ontario.

He inspired such poker celebs as Daniel Negreanu, Michael Mizrachi, and many others to help young Peyton Novoa keep the memory of her mother alive. Several household names participated in signing merchandise and selling autographs in a silent eBay auction. Gavin took the matter even further and brought up the discussion of this charity on the ESP, as well as on popular poker sites like

Nevertheless, there were still some drawbacks to his high roller style of living. Frequent parties and nightlife lead to problems with alcohol, which became a lifetime problem for Gavin Smith. He was open about it with his friends and fans. This forced him to resign from the game for a while.

He had been spending more time with his wife and two sons, residing mostly in Alaska. Unfortunately, he had separated from his wife later on and took custody over Kingston and Keegan. After these events, he moved to Texas and paid more attention to raising his sons.

After several decades in the game, Gavin had almost $6 million in tournament earnings.


His unexpected death on Monday night, January 14, 2019, touched every soul in the poker community. Gavin Smith passed away at the age of 50 at his home in Houston. The police reported that he died of natural causes. Many professional punters paid their tribute to the legend on social media. Todd Brunson, Will “The Thrill” Failla, Eric Crain and many others discussed the life of this great gambling legend in their interviews, many of them fondly recalling how much fun it was to be around him, and how many amazing things he did for the industry.

Gavin’s friend and poker professional Josh Arieh founded a website GoFundMe to support his two orphaned sons. All the funds donated are being transferred to the law firm escrow account. The trust fund to help Gavin’s children has still to be established.

This action caused some public outbursts among well-known celebrities like Doyle Brunson, who tweeted that he couldn’t understand why the kids needed to get any charity money; as Gavin’s brother would have to take custody over them, and he was believed to be quite a rich man. But it wasn’t long before there was a deluge of responses! Many people supported donating to the kids, as Gavin would have done the same for anyone among the professional players.

There was no evidence that his brother was “filthy rich,” and it really didn’t make any difference to anyone. Despite all of the controversy, poker pros are still donating on the website to commemorate this great man, who has contributed so much to the game.

The personality of Gavin Smith that there is a lot more to the poker game than tournaments and wins. It’s often not only about winning or losing, but also about the kind of person you are!

Three Facts About Gavin Smith’s Death

There are still some questions about Gavin Smith on the Internet. All the answers to these questions can be found here.

What did Gavin Smith die of?

According to the police report, Gavin Smith died of natural causes. There are many different stories about what caused the ill health that led to his early death. The most widely spread rumor is that his high roller lifestyle could have damaged his health quite a lot.

What is Gavin Smith worth?

There have been many discussions about the actual size of Gavin Smith’s fortune. He is believed to have been worth $6 million.

When did Gavin Smith die?

He died on January 14, 2019 (aged 50)  in Houston, Texas, United States.

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