Jeff Gibralter was sitting at the poker table last year when two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Keith Lehr threw down the gauntlet.
“If you think you’re a good putter, guess what?” Lehr told his buddy. “There’s the (Major Series of Putting) coming next year.”
Gibralter, a 49-year-old professional poker player from Rockwall, Texas, won the Mini Turbo Singles No. 2 event at the MSOP late Friday and made the cut Saturday in the One Putt for One Drop high roller tournament.
Gibralter finished stroke play tied for third at 6 under to advance to Sunday’s match-play competition, which begins at noon.
The event features a $11,111 entry fee with a $110,000 first prize and benefits the One Drop Foundation, which provides access to clean water in disadvantaged parts of the world.
Former Foothill High and UNLV golfer Taylor Montgomery earned the top seed for match play, which includes celebrities Jack Wagner and Daniel Negreanu.
“It’s been incredible,” Gibralter said. “What I’ve really enjoyed the most is meeting great people. That’s really what it’s all about. I hope that it translates into there being a tour of this going forward.”
Gibralter played in the 1995 Texas Open and competed on the Hooters Tour for three years before quitting tournament golf in 1997. Four years later, he began playing poker in local home games.
“I kept taking it in the teeth a little bit. There’s a learning curve, obviously,” Gibralter said. “But through repetition, I think, I got more and more comfortable.”
At the 2011 WSOP, Gibralter finished third in a $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High/Low event for more than $107,000. He won a WSOP Circuit event in September 2012 at Bossier City, Louisiana, for over $133,000, the largest cash of his tournament career.
Gibralter has close to $600,000 in lifetime WSOP earnings.
“My golf swing started going backwards when I started sitting in the poker chair for a living,” Gibralter said.
Gibralter finished third in the Stroke Play Championship on Oct. 29 for $29,625 and was fourth in the Turbo Singles No. 2 event on Oct. 30. He also posted top-20 finishes in the Team Championship and Turbo Singles No. 3 event.
Gibralter fired a 5-under-par 31 in the final round late Friday to finish at 12 under and hold off Sweden’s Gunnar Bengtsson by one shot in the Mini Turbo No. 2. He earned $1,275 for the victory.
“I became a good putter in ’99, two years after I quit. I feel like I’ve been a fairly good putter since then,” Gibralter said. “All I’m trying to do is just focus and throw expectations out the window.”
If you go
What: Major Series of Putting
Where: Temporary stadium behind Planet Hollywood Resort