June 05, 2024

High stakes and higher learning: How Tiger Jam amplifies TGR Foundation’s impact

As an alumna of TGR Foundation’s programs, I was invited to attend Tiger Jam 2024. I knew I’d be sharing about opportunities and experiences provided to me through TGR Foundation, but what I did not expect was a unique invitation that would lead to an unforgettable victory.

It was clear from the moment I hopped off the plane that I had arrived in Vegas. We were welcomed by slot machines lining the airport halls and a wave of heat the moment the doors to the outside slid open. Brandon Layman, a fellow TGR Learning Lab alumnus, and I went directly to the Shadow Creek Golf Course.

With DJ Sugar Ray spinning beats, the crowd engaged in lively conversations. They were joined by Tiger Woods and Collin Morikawa for a golf exhibition, where they recounted memories while taking swings. Carson Daley, Ninja and a few other guests joined in on the fun during a live Q&A. Shortly after, Brandon and I were invited to recount our own journeys. It has always been a surreal experience to greet Tiger because of the impact his Foundation has had on my educational journey. The resources provided by the Foundation such as mentors and college application preparation were invaluable.

With enthusiasm for attending another of Tiger Jam’s festivities that evening, Brandon and I walked to the far end of Aria’s casino floor to enter the venue of Poker Night: The Alibi. I took a look around and was amazed by the number of people who were present in a community effort to support TGR Foundation and the students it serves. The guests included world-renowned poker players such as Maria Ho.

Before taking the center floor to deliver a speech regarding the transformative impact the programs and resources of TGR Foundation had on my life, I took a moment to meet the highly successful and inspirational people around me. One individual I had the privilege to speak with was David Gitter, President of the World Poker Tour Foundation. As I got to learn his story, including his involvement within TGR Foundation as a mentor to other Earl Woods Scholars, we began brainstorming an idea to have a workshop for students to learn how poker skills can translate to business and life.

As someone who had never played poker before, I thought it would be educational to learn a new way of thinking while also applying the lessons to real-world scenarios. Following several meaningful conversations, Brandon and I took the mic. Because I became more familiar with some of the guests that day, I felt more connected to the energy in the room as I shared my story. After finishing my speech, all that was left for that evening was to enjoy the poker games happening in the room…or so I thought.

A gentleman appeared in front of me once I had sat back down and asked a question I needed repeated twice to make sure I had understood correctly. “One of our players wasn’t able to make it unfortunately, but he wanted us to ask you first if you’d like to take his place at the table,” said the gentleman. Not only had I not played poker before in my life, but I didn’t even know the first thing about the rules. I communicated my hesitancy, and he assured me I’d have help figuring out the game. Although fear began to kick in, I accepted the invitation with a creeping excitement of the opportunity to play alongside some of the best players in the world.

At that moment I heard a familiar voice behind me volunteering to support me. I turned around and saw David Gitter taking a seat behind me. From understanding what a good hand and bad hand entails to the ranking of each hand, David patiently taught me the game. Slowly, I began to pick up the rules and strategies. I was escorted to the furthest table in the room where Maria Ho, Collin Morikawa and seven other players were seated. Introductions were given and the game began. Seconds after sitting down the dealer looked at me to make my move, but I was frozen, unsure of what I had to say or what action to take. No one knew it was my first time playing poker.

Two hours later, I found myself in one of the last two seats at my table. To my surprise, I ended up winning at the table and moved on to the final table. I accepted as much advice as I could retain in the period in between games and replayed advice in my head as I settled into my chair. Through the challenges and fears I faced during college and my career journey, I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable. From interning in Australia for a summer during my time at Claremont McKenna College to my current role as marketing manager at my alma mater, I have always had TGR Foundation and members of its community in my corner. The guests at Tiger Jam have only added to the invaluable support I have through TGR Foundation.

The game began and not too long after I had a difficult decision to make: follow a safe strategy my new poker mentors had provided or take a risk on a hand I sensed could lead to something great. With a queen and king of the same suit in hand, I decided to go in. Flop. Turn. River. As each one passed, the roars came before I could fully take in what I was seeing: a royal flush. I had gained the confidence to apply what I had learned in the first game to take calculated risks at the right moments. However, taking risks was not new to me. During my job search process in my senior year of college, I chose to take a risk and move across the country for a job offer in New York City. My decision led me to become more independent and opened my perspective on life. My royal flush served as a reminder that one is often rewarded with growth when stepping into uncertainty.

I continued to stay focused and apply my learnings to place third at the final table. I immediately walked over to David to thank him for teaching me what he could in our limited time. This moment only capitalized on the fact that TGR Foundation has an incredible community of supporters and mentors ready to help students in a moment’s notice.

The following day, many of my conversations began with individuals coming up to me saying “I heard about yesterday evening!” This shared experience was a testament to the opportunities TGR Foundation creates for students and alumni like me. I am proud to have accepted an invitation to an experience that placed me out of my comfort zone but more immensely grateful for the support of TGR Foundation and events like Tiger Jam that make it possible.

My conversations led me to hear the stories and backgrounds of many people present. At the Tiger Jam reception on Saturday night, Brandon and I were invited to speak again about what it has meant to be a part of the Foundation. For me, the greatest impact has always been the people, including Tiger.

Through the staff, who have an unyielding commitment to the students who walk through the doors of the TGR Learning Lab, the programming available to students continuously expands and grows in power. On the evening of day two, I ran into Frank W. the poker player seated to my left at the final table, who shared his story and offered life and career advice. It was clear to me that Tiger Jam brought together a group of individuals who have a passion for giving back and making a difference.

They say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” but I’ll be taking the advice and memories from Tiger Jam 2024 everywhere I go.

Learn about TGR Foundation and its mission to empower students to pursue their passions through education at TGRFoundation.org.