Premier H.O.R.S.E.s around with Mark Cuban

One never knows what to expect when first meeting an online poker prodigy. Having never met the man known as Premier, I didn't know whether to expect a pale, bearded poker hermit, or a brash, blinged-out rock star. All I knew is that Premier had been busting tables right and left for quite a while, most recently winning $65,000 in this past Sunday's PokerStars $1 million guaranteed tournament.

As I made my way to American Airlines Center in Dallas Wednesday afternoon, this was the Premier that greeted me.

Online poker pro - Premier

Premier is the kind of guy who will amble along beside you, and if prodded, admit he plays, in a word, a lot of poker. He's the type of guy who will sheepishly talk about eight-tabling tournaments for longer periods of time than most medical residents spend in the hospital. As such, he's also the type of guy who accumulates insane amounts of PokerStars VIP Player Points.

From time to time, the folks who run the Frequent Player Point store will happen upon cool opportunities, sports tickets, or other one-time items. Recently, PokerStars ended up with a chance to play H.O.R.S.E with billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. (Note: That's basketball H.O.R.S.E, not poker). The opportunity sold out of the FPP store in two hours, going to none other than Premier.


"Seventeen hours," he said.

That was how long it took for Premier to drive from Ohio to Dallas. He and his buddy Dean had made the overnight road trip, reached Dallas, napped in their car for an hour, and then showed up at American Airlines Center. They planned to get back on the road before midnight.

"I have a paper due tomorrow," Dean said by way of explanation.

To use a phrase of a younger generation, I suppose, that's just how these kids roll. The rest of us dragged our aging bodies onto the Dallas Mavericks' practice court, where Premier warmed up for half hour. I couldn't help but think, Premier's warm-up would've been more of a wear-out for the rest of us in the room. For a guy who spends hours a day in front of a computer, the kid sure has some stamina.

Online poker pro - Premier


Billionaire in blue jeans. That's Mark Cuban.

Cuban is not your everyday, stodgy pro sports team owner. Just after 3pm Wednesday, Cuban strolled onto the practice court in a t-shirt and blue jeans, like any of our old college buddies might. Unlike a lot of people who spend their days "making appearances," Cuban grabbed a ball and immediately looked like he was skipping class to shoot some hoops.

That night, Cuban would put his Mavericks up against the Clippers for the final game of the regular season. But for half an hour that afternoon, Cuban had his sights set on beating Premier.

Online poker pro - Premier and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Premier and Cuban get ready for their match


"This is getting ugly."

That was the only quote I wrote down over the next half an hour. It came out of Dean's mouth as Cuban...well, rained on Premier. Dean was some friend, I tell ya.

The rest of the notes recorded the first match.


O--Jumper from the paint
R--Top of the key
S--Standing on left foot
E--Bank shot


H--Three pointer
O--Standing on left foot

To be fair, Premier was hitting his fair share of shots, but Cuban was a clutch monster and answered nearly every time. To be even more fair, in a re-match, Premier held the game much closer, including hitting a shot bounced in the paint and into the basket that temporarily set Cuban on his heels.

In the end, though, Cuban emerged the victor, albeit a little more sweaty that his opponent.

Dallas Mavericks owner - Mark Cuban
Cuban from the three point line

Dallas Mavericks owner - Mark Cuban
Cuban, off his left foot

Dallas Mavericks owner - Mark Cuban
Cuban from half court

Dallas Mavericks owner - Mark Cuban
Cuban's killer jumper

Online poker pro - Premier
Premier from the freethrow line

Online poker pro - Premier
Premier's jumper


The thing about all this is, Premier never stopped smiling. He knew with a pretty good degree of certainty that he could crush Cuban in a poker game of H.O.R.S.E. Premier had just made the 17-hour roadtrip for nothing but the opportunity to compete with a true competitor. There's something to be said for that.

By now, Premier is probably sleeping off the drive back to Ohio and resting up for another one of his marathon sessions at the PokerStars tables. Currently, there's no word on whether Cuban will accept a heads-up challenge from the youngster.

Mark Cuban and Premier

Dean, Brad Willis, Mark Cuban, Premier, Scott Yeates

Coming soon: Greg Raymer takes on the Dallas Mavericks and goes to center court at American Airlines Center

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news