On Tuesday night, the Golf Channel program “Golf in America” profiled the life and times of Walters Golf CEO Bill Walters. The seven-minute segment on the prolific businessman and nosebleed-stakes gambler featured vignettes with several poker icons.
The Golf Channel piece opened with World Poker Tour host and Poker News Daily Guest Columnist Mike Sexton giving Walters’ relevant background: “Bill was a big-time gambler. I mean he was the biggest gambler in the country, betting on sports, betting on golf, betting on pool, and doing anything.” Sexton was the lone inductee into the 2009 Poker Hall of Fame.
Three-time bracelet winner and old time gambler Dewey Tomko chimed in, “He might win $100,000 or $200,000 that day at golf and then lose it at blackjack.” Tomko was voted into the Poker Hall of Fame two years ago alongside hole card camera inventor and bracelet winner Henry Orenstein. Also sharing his memories of Walters was DoylesRoom namesake Doyle Brunson: “He’s legendary for being the best sports bettor in the world.”
Seven-time bracelet winner Billy Baxter noted that no one has ever “beaten sports in the history of the world like [Walters] has.” Meanwhile, Walters shared why he’s grown fond of gambling on anything under the sun: “Risk taking of any kind is what makes you feel alive.” His grandmother raised him in Munfordville, Kentucky, where his uncle owned a pool hall. Walters began playing pool at the ripe old age of four and moved to Las Vegas in 1982.
One man who knows a considerable amount about gambling is the legendary Jack Binion, who told Golf Channel cameras, “Gambling is just manufactured emotion, manufactured thrill.” Sexton then added that Brunson, Baxter, and the late Chip Reese were known to gamble for plenty of money on the links, with Brunson revealing that the group “formed a friendship and a bond that lasted for 20 years.”
A three-man scramble was held featuring Tomko, Sexton, and Brunson taking on three other players who hit off the back tees. Binion served as the event’s emcee and remarked, “People love to gamble when they golf because, if you bet on a ball game or even poker, there’s some fate to it. In golf, I feel like it’s you – you either win the money or lose the money.” Walters added that $1 million could be won or lost in a single afternoon of golf, adding to the drama of the sport.
Walters helped start the Desert Pines Golf Club in Las Vegas in 1996, but allegations arose that political ties helped him acquire other properties. Nevertheless, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman told “Golf in America” viewers that Walters’ success was simply due to his business acumen. The company now owns and operates three golf courses in Las Vegas: Desert Pines, Bali Hai, and Royal Links.
Sexton summed up why Walters received a seven-minute feature on the Golf Channel’s “Golf in America” last night: “He’s absolutely the most phenomenal, successful businessman [there is]. He made the transition from the gambling world and hustling to the business side of things. He’s the smartest hillbilly that there ever was.”
“Golf in America” airs every Tuesday at 9:00pm ET on the Golf Channel.