Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is the de facto face of professional golf, and has been for, at least, the last fifteen years. He is the easily the most recognizable player in professional golf. Anyone who has played a round of golf with him knows he is a master at the game. While his name was associated with major scandal a few years ago, Woods has eagerly tried to rebuild his reputation in the world of professional sports.

Born in Cypress, California in 1975, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was the only child from Earl and Kultilda Woods marriage. Introduced to golf at a young age, Woods appeared to be a prodigy at the game. He officially debuted as a professional golf player in 1996, and has never looked back. He has won one hundred and five tournaments, which include seventy-nine PGA Tour tournaments; this also includes the fourteen championships he has won. The status achieved by such success, though, was only surpassed by the scandals he has become associated with.

Perhaps the biggest scandal to hit Woods was in 2009 when revelations revealed that he had engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. The fallout from this scandal resulted in lost endorsements, Wood’s wife, Elin Nordegren, and intense scrutiny from the public and the media. While some of his fans disappeared because of this scandal, Woods has worked to rebuild his reputation and his game.

Yet, this scandal also highlighted what had been touched on by a few reporters a few years before; Tiger Woods liked to gamble at casinos.
Norm Clarke reported back in 2009 that by the time Woods was in his late twenties he had already moved beyond the status of an amateur at the casino tables. In fact, he was twenty years old when he was caught playing blackjack on a riverboat in Bettendorf, Iowa while he was playing the Quad Cities Open.

Once Woods went professional, he began playing high stakes tables in Las Vegas with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. He also has, or had, a one million dollar limit at The Mansion, and used it quite often. However, Woods is no pushover, especially when it comes to playing blackjack. On several occasions he has taken home one million dollars in winnings from the “high roller” tables in Las Vegas; one story goes that Woods lost three hundred thousand dollars playing at The Mansion once, went to his room to rest up before taking a flight out of Las Vegas, but returned to the tables and won back everything he lost.

While some critics have latched onto Woods gambling as a vice that complemented his infidelity, looking back long before that scandal broke it is possible to see that most people did not think anything of it. Back in 2003 there was little concern about Woods’ time a the blackjack table; when writing about it back then, Jeff Powell wrote, with regards to Woods’ gambling pastime, “America accepts that its celebrities, especially when they are as generous to deserving causes as Woods, enjoy the right to spend their money exactly as they want”.

This is a very different view than what many people had in 2009 after Woods infidelity broke. It is true that many people were very accepting of Woods gambling hobby; he was a great player, and with endorsement deals that paid forty million dollars a year losing a million at a blackjack table did not seem to make headlines. But after the news of his affairs broke, some people starting arguing that the “High Roller life” had encouraged this.

The stereotype of this “life” is that casinos encourage — mostly by giving the night off to — female staffers to be on the arms of anyone playing at the “High Roller” table to encourage him/her to keep playing, and to keep the money on the table. Norm Clarke quoted a staffer who said that “The girls were always getting gifts and big tips from [the clients at the High Roller tables, like Woods]. The girls were workin’ it. That’s been going on forever in [Las Vegas], and it’s not going to change”. Such statements as this imply that playing high stakes blackjack carries the risk of being sucked into a scandal.

The implicit suggestion is that Woods’ high stakes gambling hobby turned into a lifestyle that derailed his marriage, and tarnished his professional golf career. This is something that could be debated for some time to come, but what many have observed now is that Woods is actively trying to regain ground in the world of professional athletics.