About Gavin Griffin
|Current Residence||Darien Ill.|
|Born||Aug. 28, 1981|
|Birth Place||Darien Ill., US|
Gavin Griffin's reign as the youngest-ever World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner didn't last long, but it did put the then 22-year-old former college student on the map.
And once he was there, it didn't take much for him to confirm why he deserved the recognition.
He picked up the bracelet at the 2004 WSOP $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event to beat out previous-record holder Allen Cunningham by three months for the title of youngest-ever WSOP winner. Though Eric Froehlich and then Jeff Madsen would crack the record in subsequent years, neither would out-cash Griffin's $2.4 million win at the European Poker Tour 2007 Grand Final.
Born August 28, 1981, in the small suburban town of Darien, Ill., Griffin was an avid sports fan from childhood. Baseball in particular was a favorite of the boy, who started playing at age 5 and was competing in about 100 games a year in multiple leagues by the time he was 13.
When graduation from alma mater Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park, Ill., loomed, Griffin was considering several college baseball scholarships. In the end though, he turned down the offers, telling PokerListings.com, "I didn't think I would ever make it to the major leagues, and I didn't want to be a grinder in the minors my whole life."
Instead he in enrolled at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth in 1999 to study speech pathology. Though the profession didn’t initially leap out at Griffin, when it came time to pick a major he remembered his grandfather, with whom he had a close relationship growing up. When Griffin was just 8 years old, his grandfather suffered a stroke and required a speech pathologist which inspired his career choice.
That is, until poker got in the way.
During summer break from college his freshman year, Griffin's friend invited him over for a home game. He bought in for $20 worth of non-traditional poker with strange rules and crazy wild cards. The most he could lose in a night was about $60, but after playing three or four times a week Griffin realized that, as a broke college kid, he couldn't afford his negative expectancy at the table.
From there he shaped up his game by reading poker books and scouring the online forums. Gradually his game improved to the point where he was a decent player.
In his fourth year of college Griffin took up part-time work as a dealer for a private poker room in Arlington, Texas. There he would deal five to six hours a night, squeezing in time for his own game before or after a shift.
The games were low limit, but by no means easy. Regulars included skilled high-stakes online players Raja Kattamuri and Dustin Sitar as well as pro players Brian Fosbury and Derek Opitz.
"This is where I really developed into a very good poker player," Griffin told PokerListings.com.
So good, in fact, that the lure of the cards eventually became stronger than the call of the text books, and after four years at TCU Griffin quit to become a pro player.
The same year Griffin was back in Texas for a couple months, playing some online poker after having moved back to Chicago. When the World Series started up, Griffin decided to make his first trip to Las Vegas to play a couple tournaments. The win - Griffin's second WSOP event - garnered the young man a $270,000 paycheck and a lot of attention.
It was a thrilling moment for the normally laid back guy; later he would describe it as an even better feeling than winning the $2.4 million in Monte Carlo.
"It was overwhelming," he said. "To do something so early in life that so many poker players spend much of their lives trying to do is incredibly exciting. At the same time, I realized that it was something that wouldn't be happening every week."
Even so, it was enough to keep Griffin playing poker. He has been a fixed presence on the tournament scene since and has eked out a handful of final table placements.
In 2004, Griffin finished third in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event at the 10 Days of Hold’em in Las Vegas for a nearly $10,000 cash. He kicked off 2005 with a seventh-place bust out at the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica which earned him $27,379.
As Froehlich and then Jeff Madsen bested his World Series youngest-winner record in 2005 and 2006, Griffin struggled and, although he cashed in three events, his best finish was 16th at the 2006 WSOP.
He picked up the pace later that year however with respectable wins at Festa Al Lago V Poker Tournament in the $ 3,000 No-Limit Hold'em event for fifth place and $16,795, and also placed fourth in the Five Diamond World Poker Classic $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event for a $41,855 cash.
Then came the 2007 EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Early in the tournament, Griffin wasn't feeling the event and was fighting a cold. Nonetheless, he outlasted 705 competitors - the biggest playing field in the tour's history - when he beat Canadian Mark Karam in heads-up play.
Despite his early success, though, Griffin has managed to keep his ego in check and his focus simple.
'My career goals as a poker player are to make a living at it," he said. "I have no illusions of grandeur; I'm not hoping to be considered the greatest player of all time; I'm not looking to win 35 bracelets. I want to live a comfortable life because I play poker and I'm good at it."
And, so far at least, Griffin hasn't grown tired of the game. He plays online weekly and turns out for any tournament with a solid structure and good value. The game, he said, is a mental challenge.
"I like pitting my brains against other people's and seeing how it turns out," he said. "I like the exhilaration of making a great call and being right, making good laydowns, great value bets. I really just like playing and all that it entails."
Though for a while that meant the jet setting life of the poker pro - he once dated fellow pro Jennifer "Jennicide" Leigh - Griffin is now settled into a relationship with Kristen, a breast cancer survivor whom he honored by dyeing his hair bright pink in 2007. Cancer is now Griffin's chief charitable cause, and in 2007 he set out to raise $50,000 for research by signing up with Kristen in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
When he does have free time Griffin said he enjoys hanging out at home in Orange County, Calif., with his girlfriend, dog and two cats. The crew spends time watching his large DVD collection and going out on the weekend. True to his competitive nature at the poker table, Griffin also enjoys board games and video games.
And although he is no longer eligible for any future youngest-player honors, there's no doubt that this young gun has plenty of time to strive for even more desirable poker accolades.
- At age 22, briefly held the record as the youngest-ever player to win a World Series gold bracelet
- Winner of the $2.4 million 2007 EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo
- Studied speech pathology and worked as a dealer before quitting to turn pro in poker