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There’s Something in the Water

When poker collides with spear fishing, surfing, karaoke and a lot of pirate costumes, you know it’s that time of year for Nixon’s High Tide Hold ‘em in Fiji.

Some people take their poker very seriously—too seriously sometimes. But for those who take a more light-hearted approach to the game, your ambition shouldn’t be scraping together enough for the WSOP Main Event buy-in, but scraping enough talent in your repertoire (whatever that may be) to be invited to the Nixon High Tide Hold ‘em event on Tavarua Island, Fiji. It’s probably the most unlikely and out-of-the-way poker tournament on earth but, if you break it down, it’s not really about the poker at all—it’s about what happens when a load of professional surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders and other random extreme athletes let loose in the tropical South Pacific.

For a week in the middle of February—while London was still digging out of the snow—people like skate legend Tony Hawk, world-class snowboarder Travis Rice, three-time surfing world champion Andy Irons and BMX psycho Mike Escamilla sidelined their ferocious competitive streaks and all went berserk in a multitude of disciplines including surfing, spear fishing, ping pong, fishing, extreme karaoke and, of course, poker where tequila proved to be a much bigger threat than the escalating blinds. But regardless of discipline, dogged determination to win at all costs was collectively replaced with broad smiles, occasionally slurred speech and equal determination to have as much fun as humanly possible. And considering the tools at their disposal, that wasn’t a hard thing to accomplish.

When the dust settled and stick-on pirate regalia fell away, Puerto Rican local Dylan Graves emerged as overall winner for the third annual contest, having cleaned up in the surfing division (no great surprise there) and a joint win with Maui’s Dusty Payne at the Kiddieland do-what-you-want wave-riding event. (They happened to ride a tandem canoe loaded with cold beers and coconut cannon balls while dressed as pirates. Ten points across the board.)

Back on land, Rice picked up the microphone and ran with it to the finish line of the first karaoke event to be held at the High Tide Hold ‘em, while Tani Vula held court at the ping pong table and Keao Dechape got drunk with power after winning the poker tournament. The Amazon Room this was not. But despite the frivolity of the occasion, Dechape won a trip to Vegas and for Graves’ effort, he got to hoist the trophy and claim a pair of MacBooks and, naturally, a buy-in to next year’s event.

THE 2009 NIXON HIGH TIDE HOLD ’EM WINNERS:

Overall Winner: Dylan Graves

Surfing: Dylan Graves

Karaoke: Travis Rice

Fishing: Mike Murciano

Kiddieland: Dusty Payne and Dylan Graves

Spear Fishing: Jason Napolitano

Poker: Keao Dechape

Ping Pong: Tani Vula

One on One with Mike Murciano, Nixon Team Manager and Winner of the Fishing Event

How did this year’s High Tide Hold ‘em compare to previous ones?

This year was another great one. We had an all-star crew there that was hard to beat. I’d have to say it was a little bit more tame in some aspects than previous years.

Are the poker skills improving?

I’d have to say that the poker aspect is definitely starting to get some respect. It’s definitely a main focus because it’s one that you can both be really good at but still takes a certain level of luck, so it gives opportunity to a wide range of competitors.

Who was the poker standout?

I’d have to say [pro skateboarder] Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins is a standout. She has made it into the final round two years in a row. She definitely plays up the part of not knowing what she’s doing but I have a feeling she knows exactly what’s going on. Dylan Graves our overall champion this year is also no stranger to poker. He’s constantly holding games at his house in Puerto Rico. I was pretty surprised to not see him in the final table.

What criteria need to be met to win the overall contest or particular events? What made Dylan stand out?

Well, in order to win, you have to have had some success in several events. You don’t necessarily have to win all. In Dylan’s case, he won the surfing, won the Kiddieland contest and made it to the semifinals in Ping Pong. It was close between him and Travis Rice. Dylan only beat out Travis by one point.

With Andy Irons off the professional surfing tour this year, is he going to concentrate on skydiving after his tandem leap above Tavarua?

No, I think he’s got his eye on underwater basket weaving.

Considering how much fish was caught during the week, in your best estimation, how much sashimi was consumed during the event?

Well, I know that I was responsible for supplying over 100 pounds of sashimi, and I believe there was one other yellowfin caught of around 30 pounds. So my guess is around 130 pounds of sashimi. With 35 guests, that comes out to almost four pounds per person!
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