Like many of you, I play a little poker from time to time. We used to have regular games with all the pro riders, mostly the Pointless guys, but as the poker craze has died down, so has the frequency of our games. (*Note – We never play, nor do we encourage playing, for real money. Most of the time we use candy, it’s much more responsible.) Still, the other day somebody asked me who I thought was the best poker player among the wakeboarding group. Well, I’ve played with them a lot and won my fair share, but that’s probably just luck. But as a public service, in case you ever run across any of these guys at a Tour stop pick-up game, here are the ones to fear the most, in order of toughness:

1.)    Parks Bonifay – Like everything else he does, Parks has put in the time and taught himself to become a really good player. He was laid up for a few months after surgery and spent a lot of the time playing online (for play money of course). Also, he is easily the best at doing tricks with his chip stack, so that’s intimidating.

2.)    Jack Blodgett – Jack has big cajones at the table. He’s not afraid to bluff, and he has a great poker face. Although having said that, I’ve picked up one minor “tell” from him that always gives away whether he’s got the goods or not. For $500 I will let him know what it is.

3.)    Danny Harf – Okay, right off the bat, Danny doesn’t care, so it’s hard to play against him. He’s got a lot of candy, if you know what I mean, so losing a little bit is no sweat to him. He’s like freaking Willy Wonka compared to the rest of us. Danny will push all his chips into the pot at the first sign of confrontation. He might have aces, but he’s just as likely to have 10-5 off suit. You just never know. That’s what makes him good.

4.)    Shane Bonifay – Used to be just okay, but now he knows the game pretty well and finishes in the candy most of the time. Shane goes through life with kind of this permanent smirk on his face, so if it turns serious, you can bet he’s got something pretty good.

5.)    Josh Sanders – To be perfectly honest, Josh doesn’t really know too much about poker. BUT, he won $15,000 (worth of candy) in a tournament in Reno against other action sports athletes, so that gives him some cred. I gave him some pointers and he still owes me dinner, although now that he’s married that money is probably already spent.

Other notables:

Rusty Malinoski – There are certain things you don’t play against Rusty – hockey and arm wrestling come to mind. Poker does not.

Shawn Watson – Watson is not a bad player, but he takes so freaking long to count out his chips it kind of throws you off your game. I don’t know if that’s a strategy or if he needs a tutor.

Erik Ruck – Ruck has the best poker face I think I’ve ever seen. The only emotion you can ever tell Erik is experiencing is happiness or laughter. Other than that he’s a rock. If he wanted to learn the game a little more, Erik could probably be a pro. The pressure doesn’t get to him, he eats it up, like candy.