Gavin Smith, Canadian poker playing superstar, has died at the age of 50 in his home in Houston. Smith’s January 14 passing was confirmed in a tweet from Mid-States Poker Tour Media Director Chad Allan Holloway. Holloway wrote, “I have spoken to several of his friends who have confirmed that Gavin Smith did in fact pass away unexpectedly at his home in Texas last night. Details are scarce at the moment. RIP to one of the funniest, most genuine guys I ever got to know in poker.”
At the time of writing, no cause of death has been made public. Over the course of his career, Smith was featured on poker TV shows such as “Poker After Dark.”
Here’s what you need to know about the man they called Birdguts:
1. Smith First Came to Prominance in 2005 After a $1.1 Million Win
Smith first came to the attention of the poker community when he took home more than $1.1 at the World Poker Tour Season IV Mirage Poker Championship. That victory helped him become World Poker Tour Season IV Player of the Year. That same year, Smith was on the cover of Card Player magazine. A year later, in 2006, Smith was named as the World Poker Tour Player of the Year. Though Smith broke out at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut six years previous, in 1999, when he won a No-Limit Hold ’em tournament.
Smith began playing poker at the age of 26 having learned from his father in Guelph, Ontario, according to a profile on his official website. Prior to becoming a professional, Smith said he used to “drive a taxi and cut greens.” For a time, Smith ran his own private poker club in Ontario. His poker playing began in earnest at the “roving charity casinos in the Toronto-area.”
Smith said in an interview that when he was younger he wanted to be a professional hockey player but he “realized” he was “pretty s****y at it.” When asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t playing poker, Smith said, “I’d still be working on golf courses back home. I used to work in the maintenance department of some golf courses back home.”
2. Smith Was Described as a ‘Fast Living, Hard-Drinking, Butterball-Shaped Poker Superstar’
According to Poker News’ tribute to Smith, when he won the biggest non-monetary prize in poker, the World Series of Poker bracelet, the organization referred to him as a “fast-living, hard-drinking, Butterball-shaped poker superstar.”
Smith said after winning the bracelet in 2010, “I seem to be pretty good at screwing things up. I have a lot of issues through the years. I know this year I came in trying to try my ass of. I have not always done that. In the past, I sometimes went out and got drunk or hung out. But this year, I decided to come in and try to play my best the whole time. I cam in and the first several events I kept getting my teeth kicked in. I was playing well. I was playing my best. But I wasn’t seeing any results. And then when I cashed in the Heads-Up that helped. Then, the last three days everything just clicked. I played well and things went well and everything clicked at the right time.”
Smith won $268,238, on the day he captured his bracelet. In total during his career, Smith won more than $5.5 million in earnings.
3. A GoFundMe Page Has Been Set Up for Smith’s 2 Sons
Smith had full custody of his two sons. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family at this difficult time. At the time of writing, the page is just $800 away from its goal of $25,000. That money was raised in four hours. Among those who have contributed, his Hollywood actress and poker player, Jennifer Tilly. The page says that 100 percent of the money raised will go to Smith’s children. In describing Smith, the creator of the page said that he was a “kind soul and would help anyone.”
Outside of poker, Smith was a golf enthusiast, as well as an avid pool player and rollerblader, according to his website. In August 2018, Smith said that he had recently moved from Alaska to Houston to raise his sons. Smith told the World Poker Tour website, “I don’t really play much poker these days. I’m raising two kids. Last year, I think I only played maybe three or four tournaments, and this is the first tournament I’ve played this year.” Smith added that the difficulties in traveling while being a parent made it hard to compete.
In a 2014 interview with Poker News Daily, Smith said of the effect having a family had on his poker career, “I haven’t fully enjoyed poker for quite a while. I do enjoy tournaments once we are deep, but I don’t still have the drive to travel as I once did. Being married with kids is completely different for me but is awesome, it is harder than I ever dreamed it would be. I wouldn’t change a thing, though…my family comes first and we can still throw some poker in amongst it all.”
4. Smith Was Very Open About His Battle With Alcoholism
Smith spoke repeatedly about his battles with booze. He told Card Player in 2010, “I think I have the illusion of being a very happy person, but on the inside, I’ve got my own personal struggles… I’ve made a few changes in my life. I’m trying to drink quote a bit less than I have in the past and settle down a bit. I don’t know, I’m trying to be a little bit more professional about things, I guess.”
When asked about his partying lifestyle and reputation in a 2006 interview, Smith said, “I guess that it’s possible, but I can’t confirm. I like to have fun and I go out. I probably partake in a few more beverages than I should. I have some fun. I go out with just about anybody who wants to go out.”
5. Some of the Biggest Names in Poker Are Paying Tribute to Smith on Twitter
As news of Smith’s tragic passing began to spread across the internet, some of poker’s biggest names as well as fans of Smith’s, have taken to Twitter pay tribute to the legend: