Pro snowboarder Chas Guldemond knew the competition was all about odds, and he had a plan.
The plan wasn’t perfect. It did after all involve Guldemond folding on the perfect hand, the one with a cab 1260.
“It wasn’t full proof, but I knew the chances of winning on the first hand were really slim,” Guldemond said. “Everyone bet big on the second and third hands so throughout the competition I folded on my first hand every time, no matter what the cards were.”
The strategy, and Guldemond’s crisply executed tricks, landed the former Truckee and West Shore resident in first place at High Roller Hold ‘Em, a poker-inspired big air competition at Heavenly Mountain Resort on Saturday. Gjermund Braaten, a pro snowboarder from Norway, took second. Eric Willett, a Breckenridge rider with four X Game medals to his name, took third.
Here’s how the competition worked. Each rider was dealt three cards per hand with each card featuring different tricks based on the face value of the card. The riders bet on the trick of their choice and then had to execute the trick off an 80-foot jump to win the round and advance to the Super Final.
In the Super Final, Guldemond was dealt a perfect card during the first hand — the cab 1260. So tempting, but to bet on it flew in the face of his strategy. He folded.
“My next best card is a back double 12, and I got that the next hand so I bet on it. I bet on it to the point where people would bet big, but they wouldn’t fold,” Guldemond said.
The card was the king of diamonds. The trick was a backside double cork 1260. Guldemond had the competition right where he wanted them. Now it was just a matter of execution.
Since he folded in the first hand, Guldemond hadn’t hit the jump in a half hour. The temperature had since dropped and the speed of the jump was now unknown.
“I’ve been doing back 12’s for 10 years now so I was pretty confident, but I hadn’t hit the jump in awhile,” Guldemond said. “It was really choppy, almost icy at that point, and when I put it down nice and clean it was such a good feeling.”
Guldemond stomped the massive trick down the long landing strip. It was a good feeling after a long night at the poker table. Guldemond hadn’t secured a spot in the Super Final until Round 2.
Ian Thorley won the first hand, landing a cab 900 after drawing an eight of diamonds at the poker table. Sage Kotsenburg won the second hand with a backside 1080 while Pat Burgener’s backside double cork 1080 won the third hand. Burgener and Kostenburg had the highest chip totals at the close of the first three-hand round, earning automatic entry to the five-man final table.
The remaining eight athletes entered a second three-hand round, with Guldemond’s cab double cork 1260 taking a hand. Mark McMorris won a hand with a frontside double cork 1080, and Willett won the third hand with a cab 1080. Willett and Guldemond guaranteed their spots at the final table as the highest chip winners in Round 2.
Braaten nabbed the fifth final spot with by winning the luck-of-the-draw, last-chance qualifier round with a Cab double cork 1080.
“It was just really fun and something new,” Guldemond said. “The same old competitions get boring because it’s the same format. You qualify and then you do finals, so it was nice to mix it up.”
The lake view and killer sunset exploding behind Desolation Wilderness also made the competition a nice reprieve from the norm. And unlike most of the riders there, Guldemond gets to call this place home.
“It’s nice to have an event in Tahoe. There’s a good crowd, good people around here and really good resorts,” Guldemond said. “I definitely enjoyed it, and I watched all phases of that sunset.”
Honoring Chelone Miller
“It was a bittersweet victory because yesterday I found out that my friend and fellow pro snowboarder Chelone Miller passed away the night I won,” Guldemond said.
Miller, the younger brother of Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller, died Sunday in the area of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He was 29.
Guldemond didn’t know it while he was riding in the competition, but now, looking back he felt like Miller was there with him.
“He must have put some sort of energy into me that night. It’s hard to explain,” Guldemond said. “But rest in peace Chelone Miller.”
— Heavenly Mountain Resort contributed to this report.