U.S. Chess Life online ran a story about IM Greg Shahade who was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. His sister WGM Jennifer Shahade had won $8,000 and both Greg and father FM Michael Shahade were on the tables. After the WSOP, Greg was contacted by “Danny” who set up a chess match with a friend for high stakes. After long negotiation and some reservations, Greg changed his flight plans and entered an match arrangement for $50,000 (not including side bets). His opponent? A self-described player who was 21 years old with money to burn… but the there was a catch. They would play three games and Greg would give rook odds!
I personally do not gamble nor do I endorse it, but I have been witness to many sessions where amateur hustlers make bets of anywhere from $5-$100 a game. It is a fascinating spectacle, but involves lots of tension and ill-spirit. These hustlers are mostly between 1900-2200 strength and would beat most unassumingly players off the street… except for that roaming IM from out of town. However, if the stranger is too strong for the hustler (or the games are too competitive), they’ll quit. It’s called “opportunity cost.” They’re trying to make money, not improve their chess.
Despite the Asa Hoffmans and Walter Brownes of the world, hustling chess is not exactly a lucrative lifestyle… but playing a few games for $50,000 may appeal to those who are tired of playing $400 entry fees for a infinitesimal chance to win $15,000.