Poker helps Jamestown family through fire, tough times
JAMESTOWN, N.D. If the first day of the new year is any indication, 2011 promises great fortune for Andy Gray. The Jamestown resident bested 1,715 fellow poker players from the North Dakota Texas Hold'em Championship on Jan. 1, and won the $40,00...
If the first day of the new year is any indication, 2011 promises great fortune for Andy Gray.
The Jamestown resident bested 1,715 fellow poker players from the North Dakota Texas Hold'em Championship on Jan. 1, and won the $40,000 first prize payout.
"It was very fast, very furious," Gray said of the final round. "A lot of fun. A lot of people screaming."
The Vegas Motel in Minot holds the North Dakota Texas Hold'em Championship around each New Year holiday. It benefits Minot State University.
Gray and his wife, Jeri, live in Jamestown. The couple play in about 20 poker tournaments a year and in the meantime, gather 'round the card table for Free Poker Network games in Tapps Lounge at the Quality Inn & Suites in Jamestown.
Andy may be the weekend's biggest winner, but he may not have played many hands without Jeri's influence. Seeking a hobby, Jeri joined the Free Poker Network in Jamestown as a way to keep busy and make friends. An import from East Los Angeles, Jeri said making friends in the Midwest didn't come naturally.
"It introduced me to a whole new realm of people," she said.
And while Lady Luck visited the Grays in 2011, the family wasn't always so fortunate.
Their house caught fire in September 2009, leaving their pets, son and son's fiance without a home.
But even when good fortune failed, poker helped the family through, Jeri said.
Friends and even acquaintances the couple had met through flushes and full houses lent hands and time to make things right again.
"We've made amazing friends," Jeri said.
Jeri is an accountant by trade and manages Radio Shack in Jamestown. She said playing poker takes 95 percent luck, 4 percent skill and 1 percent karma. She said she plays the game of bluffing by her gut feelings.
Unlike her, Andy plays by the numbers.
An engineering technician for the Department of the Navy, Andy is mathematically-minded. He plays poker by assessing his chance of winning and analyzing its risk.
To put it bluntly -- "He's a nerd," Jeri said.
Andy's winning hand, the Queen and 8 of Diamonds, had only an 8 percent chance of winning combined with the community cards of Jack and 5 of Spades, Queen of Clubs and 2 of Hearts, Andy said. But given his hearty stack of chips compared to that of his opponent, Greg Dahle of Carpio, N.D., Andy decided to play rather than fold.
"To me, it was worth the chance to try to take him on," Andy said.
With their earnings, Andy and Jeri said they're not entirely sure what to do.
They've thought of some things like upgrading Andy's motorcycle and are considering taking their five children on a trip to Las Vegas. But in the meantime, determining how to spend the $40,000 is almost as fun as actually spending it.
"We really don't have much of a plan for the money. Right now, it's going to sit in the bank," Andy said.
The Jamestown Sun and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.