Ty Gonsalves is getting over his jet lag.
The Los Alamos native, and current Arroyo Grande resident, is back from a weeklong trip to Australia where he won the first-ever 2-man PokerSort World Cup championship in Toowoomba, Australia.
“It was awesome,” said Gonsalves. “The Australian riders were tough. They’ve had 2-man Ranch Sorting for years. PokerSort was just a new variation for them and they were extremely good.”
In a traditional 2-Man Ranch Sort, teams have to work with 10 cows, moving them from one arena to another while sorting the cows into a specific numbered order.
In 2-Man PokerSort, cowboys are working with a herd of 28, each wearing a specially designed giant playing card, but they only have to move five while trying to make the best poker hand possible in 90-seconds or less.
“Our U.S. team had six riders from California, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Louisiana. Ty was our representative from the western states,” said Poker Rodeo Association (PRA) co-founder Stephen Dunham. “We ran close to 400 teams over a three-day period and it all came down to the final round. Ty was riding with the top riders in the country against the best from Australia. He came into the final round as the No. 1 guy and won with a score of 1,490.92. He beat the first place Australian rider, Clinton Hall, who posted a score of 1,435.55.”
“I got a royal flush — diamonds,” said Gonsalves. “It was a real privilege to ride with American Quarter Horse Association sorting champions — they are all such accomplished riders.”
The World Cup final was a round robin competition. Each of the six American riders had to ride in 11 rounds, partnered with the other five Americans and all six of the Australians.
“They were the best riders from New South Wales and Queensland,” said Gonsalves.
The scores were cumulative so having just one or two good rounds wasn’t enough to win the title.
“Having everyone partnered up with all the other riders in a round robin format is the truest way to ascertain a rider’s skill level,” said Dunham.
While the Americans came into the World Cup with more experience in PokerSort, the Australians had the home arena advantage.
“They didn’t have to travel nearly as far as we did just to get there. We had to fly from Los Angeles to Sydney and then take another plane to Brisbane. Then we had to drive another two hours to get to the fairgrounds,” said Gonsalves. “And we didn’t bring our horses or saddles. We had to ride a different type of horse — they use camp draft horses — and they are different from the quarter horses we are used to. They also have different saddle. Australian stock saddles that don’t have a saddle horn. But being able to compete with their style of horses and saddles was really cool.”
The U.S. team didn’t have to spend all its time at the arena.
The PRA made sure there was plenty of time to soak up some Australian culture.
“We went to the Sydney Opera House, took a cruise down the Brisbane River and went to the Queensland Beef Expo which is a lot like our Mid-State Fair,” said Gonsalves.
The PRA also paid for the cowboys’ wives to make the trip.
“My wife Hannah loved the sightseeing. We got to do a lot of fun things, met some great people and make some lifetime memories,” said Gonsalves. “She had a blast.”
“We all had such a wonderful time,” said Dunham. “They had radio and TV there for the whole thing. We were greeted by the mayor at the welcoming reception. After the finals, the bleachers emptied out and the fans poured into the arena to be part of the awards presentation. It was a tremendous success. I’m sure we’ll have many events in Australia going forward.
“It was such a great demonstration of sportsmanship. It was very encouraging to see two cultures and two nations come together with such an awesome display of sportsmanship and horsemanship.”
“My favorite thing? Well it certainly wasn’t the plane ride,” said Gonsalves. “But the people we met over there, the friendships we made, that all made the trip special. That’s the cool thing about the rodeo community — years from now you can call the people you met on your trips and they’ll welcome you with open arms. But the very best thing was winning the World Cup championship. That was a long way to fly to not bring back the trophy.”
The PRA is already planning additional trips for next year.
“Australia is just the first of many countries that are interested in hosting PokerSort championships,” said Dunham.
“It’s still up in the air but they are in talks to hold PokerSort championships in Australia, Italy or Brazil,” said Gonsalves. “Wherever the PRA decides to go, we’ll be there.”
Before heading off overseas again next year, there is still one major American competition remaining on the 2017 calendar — the National Finals in Guthrie, Okla., at the end of November.