Hall of Fame Poker Player Dewey Tomko, possesses a combination of calm stoicism and an unrelenting corrival even the most accomplished athletes and talents would acknowledge. The members of this exclusive club trade and sashay like a colloquium that is closed to the public. Gamblers have a look that is placid but a direful competitive presence with an inner desire to competitively annihilate the opponent without remorse. Born on New Year’s Eve in 1946, Dewey Tomko has the equivalent of an Emmy and an Oscar as a world renowned gambler with a full time card game and a part time golfer. In the context of a relatively sublime ensemble of comparison, he is the insurance policy for gambling. As a professional golf superstar once exclaimed; “If I had to pick one person to putt for my life, it would be Dewey Tomko”. In the steely air of Pennsylvania, the pool halls invited and Tomko arrived with the bicycle talent that blossomed into a career.
Deuce to Seven Draw Low-Ball
There is a plethora of iconic sports legends, dignitaries and celebrities that stake claim as his close friend. Among those who would appeal to your emotions are Arnold Palmer, Michael Jordon, Steve Wynn, Jack Binion, Doyle Brunson, Hawk Harrelson and every other celebrity and talent known to mankind.
The card game at the professional level is incontrovertible. It is perhaps one of the richest cantles in American History. The historical dossier contains Names like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and Billy the Kid. It is a succulent slice of our history like Moms apple pie, the gentleman’s handkerchief and the American Pastime.
It is also a staple in some of the greatest motion pictures ever produced like The Sting, Cool Hand Luke and Tombstone. The card game is also synonymous with a round of golf where family and friends gather at the grill or in the locker room. Where there is a golf game, there is a card game.
Ironically, our interview takes place at a great American hangout, Dewey’s Indoor Golf and Sports Bar in Orlando Florida. It is owned and operated by Dewey himself. This week the city hosts the PGA Tours prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational. Throughout the week you will likely see the King himself along with the entire field of players and caddies winding down from the days round.
Here is a “One on One” with Pro Player Insider and one of the greatest Gambling Hall of Famer’s in history, Duane “Dewey” Tomko:
PPI: How many championships did you when and how many bracelets do you own?
DT: I…ahh…I have 5 world championships, 5 bracelets.
PPI: How old were you when you first started to play cards?
DT: Ah….I been making a livin in poker since I was 15 years old…15 making a living playin poker….
PPI: When did you discover you were really good at poker?
DT: I think I realized when I was in college, when I ahh paid for my college tuitions and ah you know…and basically through college when all the veterans were coming back from overseas and we all played poker and I um…put my way through college playin poker…
PPI: What was your first indicator?
DT: My first indicator was ahhh, I don’t know how to explain this but…um…maybe you can figure it out…but I started playin poker…my first indicator was when I played poker…I didn’t even know that…ya know flush beat a straight..or two pair beat a pair…I didn’t know I had a card in front of me…and to tell me what one I didn’t…I still beat the game…because I knew the people…ya understand what I mean? In other words, I had a look and see what won…and I still won all the time, because just the fact is…ahh…I could read people, knew what they had and what they didn’t have. I just always had a knack of reading people…it’s the only thing I can do in life…I can’t change a lite bulb, I can’t even pump gas…the only thing I can do is play poker.
PPI: You are an excellent golfer. Tell us how you started.
DT: I started playing golf just for the simple reason because around poker tables ahh…people want to gamble, so I learned to play golf so I could win a lot of money playing poker, that’s the reason I started, I mean, I started golfing so I could win a lot of money on the golf course from other poker players, you understand what I mean?
PPI: So you just played golf to gamble?
DT: Yea…That’s actually why I started playing golf…while we’re playing poker we used to make golf games and everybody was bad…and it was another way, another avenue to make money, so to bet on the golf course…just like you bet on football games, ahh…that’s how I got started to try and make money and then naturally it grew into a disease…and ya can’t stop… (He laughs)!!!
PPI: How and when did you know you were really good at gambling?
DT: Umm, well 15…I was making a living at 15 years old…I was beating everybody, old men that was playing 20-30 years…
PPI: How much were you playing for?
DT: Ahh not much in those days, I mean, probably, $5.00 and $10.00 limit…stuff like that.
PPI: At your biggest events, how many people watched the card game?
DT: Ya talking about on TV? Well millions watch it on TV…but ahh…ya know, 5-10 thousand watching in person, we do it in arenas…like the World Series of Poker, they set up actual bleachers at the final table.
PPI: What is the most amount of money you ever saw at the table?
DT: Ahh…that’s a trick question…because ya talking about a tournament or a cash game?
PPI: Cash game.
DT: 20 million… (Laughs!)
PPI: On the golf course?
DT: I played many times…most I ever played for was a million dollars a hole….
PPI: Who was playing can I ask?
DT: Yea, actually did a TV show where ah…for ESPN where we had nine of us put up a million dollars a hole it was all poker players..ah Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth…these are all poker players, it was just anyhow…to answer some of these questions, I probably played for as much money playing golf as I have playing poker…there’s actually a golfers gambler hall of fame….not the poker hall of fame…everyone on there has at least played for a million dollars a day…what we do is while we’re in there playing poker for ten hours, start thinking about how you can make more money…football games…most golf matches are made sitting around the poker table…first time I won a million dollars, guy paid me in gold kugerrands (SP)…he said hold on to these until I can give you cash…
PPI: What happens before the game, anything you do to get ready?
DT: Experience is experience, you either lose and accept it or go figure out how to win…take an average pro golfer playing with his own money probably wouldn’t do to good…but after a few times…
PPI: Who was your favorite poker player?
DT: Doyle Brunson
PPI: Of all the famous films that feature a card game, what is your favorite film and favorite scene?
DT: Rounder’s with Matt Damon…that scene was ahh…the guys playing poker and he calls a gigantic bet because he learned something ten hands earlier how a guy…he’s eating a cookie…he ate the cookie certain way when he was bluffing…and when he aint bluffing he don’t eat the cookie a certain way…so the guy at the end risks all his money on the fact is he realizes this guy takes a bite a certain way on the cookie when he’s bluffin…so it’s something like we do in poker…you risk something you see…like most people say well I think your bluffin and they’ll throw the hand out…. A good gambler will know it and ya do something about it…ya call…he proceeds; ya know what I’m talking about?
PPI: If you were cast in a film that would you like to be other than yourself?
DT: Nobody (Laughs).
PPI: How do you contain yourself from excitement or anger during the match?
DT: It’s just experience, my theory is all you can do in anything weather it’s golf, poker or anything…..do the best you can possibly do, play the hand the best you can possibly play it….and the results you can’t worry about…so if you lose the hand and ya did everything you can there’s nothing you can do about it…if you lose on the golf course and you prepared and you lose? ya lose…some of the best putts in my life for a million dollars, I missed em…but it didn’t bother me at all cause I rolled it as good as I could and I thought I made it and it didn’t go in…doesn’t bother me at all…now if I make a bad effort…and I didn’t prepare myself, that would bother me…
PPI: We see it a lot in the movies; did you ever drink or smoke during a card game?
DT: No that’s all movies…, I see a guy smoking or drinking at the table, he has flaws…and I make my living off of people with flaws…
PPI: Before a round of golf for big money, how do you “size up” your opponent? Who decides where you’ll play?
DT: That’s part of all the matching up, give you an example…that’s where the edge comes in…if you have two guys one’s a fast greens…which I am.. putter and ones a slow greens putter…I’m gonna lead the guy to a fast green…
PPI: What is the best tip you can give our readers on becoming a real good Poker Player?
DT: Here show it works in poker…everybody’s catching cards and you aint…you have to learn how to control that greed…if somebody else is making money you can’t worry about it…envy…if you can’t control that you can’t be a good poker player…you have to really, really, really, have an iron clad discipline….attitude…you can’t weaken…
The Wide World of Sports
PPI: In your opinion who is the best ever in the NBA?
DT: Michael Jordon
PPI: Best ever in MLB?
DT: Hawk Harrelson, he did everything, pool player, golfer, arm wrestler…he was a baseball player but he was a rounder…I can identify with him…see what I’m saying…
PPI: Best ever in the NHL?
DT: Wayne Gretzsky…
PPI: Best ever in the NFL?
DT: Hell I don’t know…ahh
PPI: I know you know so many athletes…
DT: Who the hell knows…that’s a tuff question…tell ya what…All the quarterbacks in western Pennsylvania… (Laughs!)
PPI: What was the most exciting sports venue you ever attended?
DT: Watching Arnold Palmer for 18 holes when I was a kid….only thing that ever got my juices flowing…
PPI: Who is (male or female) the most exciting athlete you have ever witnessed?
DT: Arnold Palmer
PPI: Pre-game meal: Do you have a favorite? Where?
DT: Actually what I do, if I really want to play good…I fast…mind works better on an empty stomach…
PPI: Past game: Where are you going and what will you having?
DT: Cheese Burgers, Pizza and Chocolate Cake (Laughing).
PPI: Shoes, you’re favorite, what are they? Do you have a lucky piece of jewelry?
PPI: Poker game ensemble, do you have a favorite thing to wear? For Luck?
DT: If it’s really important…I just wear black and the only reason is it makes me feel comfortable…colors put poker players in moods…probably why Tiger Woods on Sunday wears red…makes you respond…you were in that situation before…so you try to be the same…
PPI: Golf: your favorite course? Handi cap?
DT: Shadow Creek…Scratch…
PPI: Your’ favorite bottle of wine?
DT: Don’t drink (Laughs).
PPI: Your favorite Cigar?
DT: No, don’t have one…
PPI: What is your favorite place to get away from it all?
DT: Shadow Creek, Vegas. (Laughs).
PPI: Alright, dinner; you’re cooking what are we having; include the wine and cocktail’s, your dream meal?
DT: I don’t cook!
PPI: You don’t Cook?
DT: Hell no, I don’t even know how to make toast! (Laugh’s). When you’re a gambler…you don’t know how to do nothing…here’s what I can do, I can order off a menu…and that’s it.
PPI: How much money have you won gambling?
DT: You know what? I’m not even gonna tell you cause you won’t believe me…
Dewey, you are the man.
Dewey Tomko banner image photo credit to Rick Pezzimenti of Pezzimenti Photography
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