Story-image-4The Acapulco Massacre

In the early 90’s, Phil Hellmuth and Huck Seed were on one team and “Big Al”Decarolis and I were on the other team. We had agreed to a 3 match scramble golf contract to be played at the Acapulco Princess in the spring. It was for $3k Nassau with one automatic press on each side. We also had a $3k no show and/or forfeit for each match. If one team won every possible bet, each player on the losing team would lose $45k but we had already played several matches that went back & forth so both teams were evenly matched.

Match # 1

When we rendezvoused in Acapulco, Huck had been sick for a few weeks and was down to 165 lbs. He was skin and bones and seemed to have no strength. Of course, we were very compassionate about Huck’s plight and offered to just take the $9k forfeit and buy them dinner. He contemplated the offer but finally said, “No, we’ll play”. Since it was over 20 years ago, I don’t recall most of the details of the 1st match. It seemed like it was close although we had the lead. However, I remember the match was on the line in one of the final holes. My partner was out of play and I had a 125 yard shot. For a golfer, that’s an easy shot but I wasn’t even a bogey golfer so my shot could have gone anywhere. Much to my surprise and Big Al’s ecstatic cheer, I nailed the shot and the subsequent birdie putt put the nail in the coffin for Phil and Huck.


Phil’s wife’s two lovely 20’ish cousins flew in with 4 year old Phil Jr. while we were on the course. They joined us for dinner at a beautiful Italian restaurant called Christina’s that overlooked Acapulco Bay. Dinners always taste delicious after a victorious day on the links. Big Al graciously picked up the check and we agreed that henceforth the winners would pick up the dinner tab.

Story-image-3The Palladium

It took us a while to get there on the narrow  and winding road but it was worth the trip. Located on the Las Brisas Hillside, it towers over all the other venues and has 160 ft wide windows for viewing the Bay. We partied until dawn before we returned to the hotel for a little rest before the 2nd match.

Match #2

Huck looked like he was ready to die and Phil hadn’t had very much rest either with his young son around. We won decisively again. We’ve all won playing poker and betting sports for much more money but nothing is more satisfying than winning on the golf course. It may be that the physical and mental exertion makes you feel like you’ve worked for it. The cocktails also seem to taste better, and at the 19th hole, the victors love to replay the key shots. In his gloating voice, “Big Al” said, “Well, boys, where are we going for dinner tonight?” Both Phil and Huck said they weren’t up to it tonight. After they left, Al chuckled and said, “I guess it’s just you and I partner.” We decided to go the steak restaurant at the hotel and went back to our rooms to shower.

The Steakhouse

Just as we were about to start eating, the two young cousins came in with Phil Jr. Surprised to see them, nonetheless we asked them if they were there to join us for dinner. They politely nodded yes and sat down. Over the course of the dinner conversation, I mentioned that we had been surprised to see them because Phil said he was exhausted. The cousin that was attending college now confessed that they hadn’t really wanted to come to dinner because they didn’t know us. She said, however, that Phil had forced them to come because we were picking up the tab. I said, “Now it makes sense because Phil called me and asked me where we were going for dinner. I told him and when I asked him if he was coming, he said no he was too tired. He still wanted to get value,” and then Al and I started laughing. I’ve heard of rain checks for dinner but never a proxy.

Match #3

Our tee-time was at 11 am but we had agreed to meet at 10 on the driving range. Al is one of the most punctual persons I know, so I knew something was wrong when he wasn’t already there by the time I arrived. I tried to reach him repeatedly but it was almost 11 before he finally answered. My worst fears were confirmed. Stricken by Montezuma’s revenge, he said he was too sick to get up. “Could we get a later tee-time?” I asked Phil and Huck. “Nope.” “Can I scramble my own ball?” “Nope.” So I went back to the phone and told Al that I was going to have to tee off without him but he would need to join us ASAP as I had no chance playing one ball against a scramble. He told me he would try to make it down.

What transpired on the par 5 1st hole is one of the most hilarious, unbelievable, and unique experiences that I have ever had. I teed off first and was 200 yards right down the middle. That was as well as I could have hit it. Huck and Phil both sliced their tee shots into the banana groves. The only difference is that Huck is left-handed so his ball went to the left. Phil’s drive was shorter so we went to look for his ball first on the right side. The 5 minute time limit had almost expired when his ball was finally found. 25 yards into the bananas, there was almost no shot that would make very much forward progress. We now drove over to look for Huck’s drive. For whatever reason, whether it was a lost ball, out-of-bounds, or unplayable, they went back to play Phil’s drive. Phil tried to slice it out and failed. Attempting a hook, Huck ended up across the fairway in the same banana grove as his drive. They managed a decent 3rd shot and now after over 20 minutes had gone by; it was finally my turn for my 2nd shot. I hit it to about 100 yards from the green. Their best 4th shot was over the green, and I hit the green lying 3. One of them hit a very good chip to 7 ft. I knew a two putt would lock up the hole and I putted to a gimme par. As I picked up my ball and walked toward the cart, I had expected them to be right behind me but their muffled voices indicated otherwise so I turned around to see them crouching down to read the putt. I deduced that they hadn’t realized that they were putting for bogey so I recounted their shots to make sure. Meanwhile, they made the putt and started high fiving. “What are you guys doing? I made par,” I chuckled. “So did we,” they said. To make a long story short, they bet $500 that they had made par also. That was the first and only time that I ever won money on a hole after it was over.

The hole had taken almost an hour to play and although I can’t be certain, I think I was 2 up when Al finally joined the match on the 3rd tee. The length of time it took to play the 1st hole and my surreal play enabled me to stay in the match until reinforcements could arrive. Better yet, I was up 2 with the auto press working and now with a partner, the 6’6” duo appeared to be in trouble. No one in the world can act so incredulous to needle his opponents and make them feel so sheepish than Big Al. He loves to ask the same question repeatedly and feign disbelief each time. “What? You won $500 after the hole was over?” “What? They forgot to count the shot from one banana grove to the other banana grove?” “You say they were slapping high fives after being shut out?” “No, you’ve got to be kidding?”

With the sweep complete, he dubbed the trip “The Acapulco Massacre”.

“Big” Al Decarolis would move on to play some of the biggest golf matches in the world including Michael Jordan.

This was the highlight of Yosh Nakano & Big Al as a team.  They will forever be remembered in Poker Golf folklore as playing a whiff in a 25k scramble match against Chip Reese & Doyle Brunson.

This was the highlight of Yosh Nakano & Big Al as a team. They will forever be remembered in Poker Golf folklore as playing a whiff in a 25k scramble match against Chip Reese & Doyle Brunson.