When you next see Rob Gaston, he could be a multimillionaire.
The poker aficionado, who grew up in Goldendale and often spends time in The Dalles now that he is retired, has earned a spot in the 2013 World Series of Poker.
He said he always has a good gut feeling about whether he is going to do well in a tournament and he has a good feeling about this one.
“I feel really good about my chances,” he said. “Ever since I started playing I knew I was going to go [to the World Series] someday.”
He said he has won a variety of regional poker tournaments over the years, but when he played for a spot in the World Series in Ellensburg, Wash., this year he found himself in seventh partway through the tournament. In the end, though, he came back and won through some hard-fought hands.
“It was emotionally and mentally exhausting,” he said.
Gaston said he came to the poker table late in life, when he discovered his love of the game in 2002.
“Now I’m always playing poker every chance I get. I play with my son and old friends; we’ve done many, many nights on the riverbanks of the Klickitat,” he said.
Throughout his years competing in poker tournaments around the Northwest Gaston said his son Justin is often his biggest competitor. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other, and it isn’t unusual for them to sweep first and second place. So it is only fitting that Justin will also be competing in the World Series of Poker, broadcast on ESPN, for the first time this year.
“Him and I don’t spare each other in tournaments,” Gaston said.
He said what draws him to poker is the challenge of trying to outwit the other players. He compared the game to “a bunch of kings battling for land” in which poker chips are battalions of soldiers. Gaston said he believes what gives him an edge is his ability to read his opponents and know when they are bluffing.
“I read people well. I watch everyone from their toes to their head when I’m at the table, when I can. Bluffing is so important,” he said. “I sit there and study them. Sometimes I stay out of a hand just to watch people.”
He said he begins the tournament July 7 but is heading down to Las Vegas in his RV now so that he can get a feel for things and check out his competition. He said he is also looking forward to meeting some of the poker stars he loves watching play on TV. He said he never misses an opportunity to watch poker and can often be found yelling “Don’t fold! Don’t fold!” at the television.
The World Series of Poker is held in Las Vegas every year. The competition culminates in the “Main Event,” held in November, where the top players compete in $10,000 no-limit hold’em. The winner not only receives a cash prize and highly coveted bracelet, but is also considered poker’s world champion.
If Gaston gets to the Main Event, he said he plans to give half of his winnings to the poor if he wins big.
“This is a lifetime dream,” he said. “I know I’m going to do well. I can feel it.”