Paiute event combines golf, poker

Golf and gambling. For many, it's the perfect combination.

Whether it's a $5 Nassau in a regular weekend game or Al Czervik betting Judge Smails $80,000 on a putt in "Caddyshack," more often than not, money changes hands during a round.

Terry Leiweke put together the World Series of Golf in 2007 with the idea that betting would be an integral component. Trying to ratchet up the concept, Leiweke decided to add the check-and-raise elements of poker.

"Golf needs a little shot in the arm," Leiweke said. "You have to be able to play well to win, and you have to be able to bet wisely to win it."

When play begins today at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, 125 amateurs will try to putt and bluff their way into Thursday's finals. The winner will walk away with $300,000.

Each player starts with a $10,000 buy-in. They are paired as closely as possible in ability level and compete within their own group.

Players ante up as they would in a game of poker before each hole. Prior to each subsequent shot, players have the option to call, check or raise their partners which builds the pot for the hole from tee to green.

When players fold, they pick up their ball and move on to the next hole, losing whatever money they bet. A player is eliminated when he or she is out of money or doesn't have enough left to make the ante at the start of a hole.

Winners advance to Wednesday's round and recoup their $10,000 entry fee.

"It's a patented method of play," said Leiweke, president of the WSOG. "I think those who have played in it absolutely love it. It's a skills-based event."

Jeff Egan of Glenridge, N.J., termed it "the greatest format ever conceived for golf."

"The betting can be just as important as the golf," said Glenridge, who played in the first two events, has a 10 handicap and will compete today despite a sprained left ankle.

Emily Jillette said to have a shot at winning the event, a player must be able to manage the money as well as the golf game.

"You learn to be aggressive both with your golf and with your betting," said Jillette, who plays to a 10 handicap and is the wife of entertainer Penn Jillette. "The betting is a very important part of it. I learned that last year."

The event will be televised this summer on WGN (Cable 16) with the first installment set to air June 27 and 28. There will be 26 hours of coverage from the three-day event.

"I think it'll become very popular," Jillette said. "It's a very Vegas-y thing to do."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at or 702-387-2913.