LAS VEGAS — Gabe Scott was locked in battle at the final table of the $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha event at the World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel and Casino while his beloved Oklahoma City Thunder was taking on the Miami Heat back home. Scott had on one of his Thunder shirts to show his support for his favorite team.
Ultimately, the Thunder would lose Game 2 that night, but things went much better for Scott. The poker young gun scored a victory just after midnight to earn $361,797 and the most coveted of poker bling — the gold bracelet. Friends and family cheered him on, both in Las Vegas and watching the World Series of Poker's live online feed.
“Going deep into the tournament I was very focused and ‘in the zone,'” said Scott, 23, of Oklahoma City. “I was not thinking about trying to move up places in the money; I wanted to win it. At the final table, I didn't want to know what each place paid. I was only concerned with one place and the bracelet. I had already final-tabled the same tournament the previous year, and I would only be happy with first place.”
Despite playing for big money and the prestige that goes with winning a bracelet, Scott said he stayed focused on his goal.
“The pressure was not so much of a factor for me. But I knew that it would be for the other guys, and I used that to my advantage. It seemed several of them only wanted to stay in as long as they possibly could. I was playing to win,” he said. “Second place is considered a nice run, but it's not winning. You will be placed in the same category as everyone else who did not win. There is only one winner, and that's what I knew I had to be.”
Growing up in Norman, Scott was a dedicated student at Norman North High School, taking advanced courses and excelling in math. He played soccer and ran cross-country, and his grades and test scores were good enough to earn the National Merit Scholar honor. He entered the University of Oklahoma with scholarships to pay for four years of college and was conditionally accepted into OU's medical school. But the poker bug began to bite.
During high school, Scott and some friends organized small buy-in tournaments and occasionally raised the stakes to as high as $20. During his senior year, he began playing a bit at his local casino.
“Whenever I could save up a little extra cash I would go and play $1/$2 No Limit Hold'em,” he said. “I actually started taking shots at the game just before I turned 18 and hoped I didn't get asked for my ID.”
Around that time, a friend began playing online poker, eventually building up a bankroll of $10,000 and getting serious about the game. Scott got interested also. By the time he moved into his dorm at OU, Scott had deposited $7,000 online, which he had earned playing at Riverwind Casino.
“When I saw what kind of money he was making, I decided that I wanted to do the same,” Scott said. “I asked him to teach me what he had learned about the game. Halfway through my second year at OU, I had moved up in stakes many times and was making so much money that I decided to switch career paths.”
A poker pro was born, and while he mostly focuses on cash games, he also occasionally plays tournaments. A $30,000 win in an online tournament allowed him to jump up in stakes, and he now plays live in casinos more since the federal crackdown on online poker. His favorite game is Pot Limit Omaha. He made the final table last year at the same tournament he won at the World Series of Poker this year, winning $40,000 for eighth place in 2011. Omaha is similar to Texas Hold'em, but each player receives four cards and must play two cards in his hand and three of the five community cards. When at home, Scott is a regular at several Oklahoma casinos, including any Pot Limit Omaha cash games.
Currently, poker is his full-time profession, and his parents and girlfriend are supportive of his poker life. So far, Scott has no major plans for his winnings.
“I don't really have any plans for the money right now, other than using it to continue playing poker. I took my girlfriend shopping here in Las Vegas kind of as a thank you to her for her continued support. I now plan on playing the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha event, to hopefully pick up my second bracelet.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer based in Rockwall, Texas, and covers poker for The Oklahoman. His new book is “Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering and Poker Faces,” available at www.RaisingtheStakesbook.com, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.