First the bad news: Kent Goulding is back in Washington.And now the good news: he's not traveling to Monte Carlo this weekend.
Goulding is one of the world's best backgammon players, a consummate gamesman who honed his talents in Washington, left to make his fortune as a high-stakes stock options trader in Miami, and-to the chagrin of local backgammon players who dread seeing Goulding's name on a tournament player's list-just moved back to town. But to the delight of the international backgammon set gathering in Monte Carlo today for a week of big-money play, Goulding is staying home.
The gamesman is a skinny 27-year-old ( he avoided military servicd because he didn't weight enough) who used to play chess while his peers cruised for burgers. When he did something wrong or my opponent did something I did not understand.I actively seek to find that something out."
He had a knack for the game, and he think he's the only player who has twice made it as one of the final eight players at the last three world championships. Last January in the Bahamas he narrowly lost the $70,000 purse when New York's Paul Magriel beat him by one point.
"if I wasn't married, I'd do nothing but my work and play games," says the man who has played Monopoly for real money (10 cents of real cash for the play money). "to my wife, all these games and games-playing are on her time."
He handily won the only tournament he entered (in Baltimore) since his return to the Washington area. "leave the U.S," he says with obvious delight, "and there are bookies at every corner at a backgammon tourament. . . . I feel right at home; it's just another variation of a game I play all day long."
Goulding knows all about the money a backgammon hustler can make on tour, playing high-stakes side games with wealthy fans. But perhaps because it's too easy, he eschews the practice. "to make money is to find your marks and play," he says matter-of-factly, "and at this point, 99 percent of all players are marks to me."
Was in the eighth grade, Goulding was recruited to play on the Walt Whitman High School chess team. Today the Kensington home he and his wife just purchased is littered with games (from Candyland to go, and Oriental game in which "the finest Caucasion players regulary get the bejeebies beat out of them by Orient grandchildren," says Goulding). He works in a den in the company of two computer display screens, the better to keep a wary on the stock market.
Along with a partner based in Miami, Goulding spends each business day buying and selling options on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. The two men own three seats on the exchange, and in the volatile world of betting on a stock's rise or fall, three traders who work for them are kept busy wheeling and dealing according to a system known only to Goulding and his partner.
"at first we'd just hold the bags out and trucks would pull up and dump money into them," says Goulding of the time in early 1977 when he began studying the options market. The Chicago market was new, and savvy investors could do well. "Now we actually have to work for a living."
If he chose to, Goulding could play for a living.
I went to college at Carnegie Mellon Universiy in Pittsburg studing both chemistry and math," says Goulding. "I left because I was studying very, very hard, but not school. It was chess. Chess to me was like drugs and beer were to my contemporaries. Depressed? I'd just ran off to a chess tourament. People used to tell me how intelligent I was, how I could do anything, but I waas depressed."
He moved back back home with his parents. (Now divorced, Goulding father is a vice president at the American Petroleum Institute; his mother is an interior decorator.) He picked up some money selling books on chess tournament. He learned backgomman, and he approached the game the same win-or-die way chess masters play their games.
"At backgammon, of course, you don't have the control because of the dice," says Goulding. I'd feel guilty when I lost, and tired to keep that attitude. When I lose it's because I CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Bill Snead