Or in the case of young Allie Prescott, a professional poker player. He's one of 10,000 amateur and professional gamblers who put up $10,000 to play in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this week. Maybe you saw him last week on ESPN, staring down something a lot scarier than a 3-2 count or a 95-mile-an-hour fastball: a $700,000 bet on one hand of cards.
I happened to be on the phone at the time with my son Jack in Knoxville when he said, "Wait a minute. Allie Prescott's playing poker on ESPN! I'll call you back."
Seven years ago, Jack and Allie were pitchers on the baseball team at White Station High School. Allie had the size, the speed, and the genes. His dad, Allie Prescott III, was an overpowering pitcher with big-league potential 40 years ago. He picked up a law degree instead, and these days he runs a mediation firm. His wife Barbara is a psychologist and former member of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education.
Allie, the poker pro, graduated from Tulane University, where he played baseball for a year and a half before tearing his rotator cuff. He began visiting the New Orleans Harrah's casino at about the time Texas Hold 'Em was becoming a national craze among high school and college guys. Prescott played small-limit Hold 'Em until two years ago, when a friend turned him on to Internet poker. He honed his skills and played his first poker tournament in Las Vegas, a $2,000 entry-fee affair. His fourth-place finish earned him $45,000.
A car wreck set him back, but when he returned to the table in San Jose in a tournament where the buy-in was $10,000, he had a shot at $1 million before finishing 12th and collecting $60,000. In a little over two years as a poker pro, his winnings total about $270,000, less expenses. Not bad for a guy a few years out of college.
The $700,000 bet came about this way: Prescott and a buddy, Gavin Smith, were playing in a $10,000 poker tournament in New Orleans. From the original field of 170 players, 35 were left. Prescott was in fifth place and Smith was fourth. They decided to make a little side bet.
If Prescott won, Smith would pay him $1 million, or $100,000 a year for 10 years. If the more experienced Smith won, Prescott would pay him $700,000, or $70,000 a year for 10 years. The bet was off if neither of them won or if they both made the final twosome. As it turned out, both did make the final table but only Smith got to "heads up." Playing more aggressively than usual, Prescott was knocked out, earning $65,000.
"Heads up" lasted six hours, as neither man could knock out the other. At one point, Smith had a huge opportunity with a pair of kings in the hole, but his opponent drew a fourth six on the last card. On the final hand, Smith lost to an ace high. "It was hard for me not to pull for him because he is my best friend, but maybe I will pull for him next time," said Prescott, who sweated it out in front of ESPN cameras.
How does the thrill of poker compare to the thrills of baseball? "Since I am out of sports," said Prescott. "I probably get more of a rush out of poker than just watching a game. But nothing is better than the thrill of actually playing."
Speaking for a generation of fathers, we're glad to hear that.