• 64°

Area poker player to be featured on ESPN

Like many ladies of the South, Martha Corkins has a way making you feel glad to be country.

Her home, just a few miles from Glenwood, sits atop a hill and the fire going inside is warmth to a cold body's soul. Pictures of her grandchildren line the walls. One cheerleads. One plays softball. One is Joe Cope, a former football player for Andalusia High School who now plays at Auburn. When you leave, she offers you up a frozen container of homemade camp stew and equally edible miniature pecan pies.

She remarks about her last name.

"It's not a name you hear much anymore," she says.

Her son, Hoyt, though, has carried that name into households across America. And it's Hoyt she wants to talk about.

Hoyt plays poker.

Hoyt plays poker very, very well.

"He plays to kill," says Martha, something you'd hardly expect from this generous grandmotherly-type.

But she's right.

Nicknamed 'Cowboy' for his hat and dark shades, Hoyt has become a fixture on the World Poker Tour. He claimed a prize purse of $1 million in 2003 at the Foxwoods Resort. Dressed in black and wearing boots, 'Cowboy' Corkins did in five of the top poker players in the world with an aggressive playing style that caused one player to nickname him 'Mr. All-In.' On numerous occasions Hoyt risked his entire stack of chips, all the while staring straight ahead into the eyes and minds of his opponents. Many folded. Hoyt was the last man standing.

That tournament was featured on the Travel Channel. On March 24 and 26 (Time TBA), ESPN will air a special focus on Hoyt. Cameras from the sports network were at Hoyt's residence earlier this year filming a piece about Glenwood's native son.

Martha lines several of her son's poker trophies on the table. It was at this table, or one like it, where Hoyt and his father Bricken used to play hand after hand. Hoyt picked up the talent of card playing from his father. Like his father, Hoyt, is solemn and unemotional when it comes to playing poker, says Martha.

He honed his card skills during his youth, playing with his friends in high school and then at Troy State. Calculating numbers is what a math major does. Hoyt just used that knowledge to aid him in calculating his odds at the card table.

"Then, nothing would do him then to go to Las Vegas," said Martha. "Bricken's brother lived out there in Phoenix. His son was getting ready to go to Las Vegas to school. Hoyt thought that would be just the trick."

Martha says Hoyt and his father had a talk before he left.

"Bricken told Hoyt, 'I know you're going to want to play (cards), but you're going to have to keep your grades up,'" she says.

But the bug had bitten him. The $1,000 pots he'd played for at Troy jumped higher in Las Vegas. Despite receiving good grades and because he was doing so well with poker, Hoyt walked away from college and joined the World Poker Tour in 1989. Martha didn't find out until '91 when Hoyt bought home his first trophy.

"I would have had a fit," she says.

That was also when Hoyt wrestled with the idea of getting married. Martha says Hoyt went into the living room, lay down and rolled from one end of the room to the other.

"I kept saying 'come on to dinner, Hoyt,' but he just could not make up his mind about getting married," she says.

He did. A father of three girls, Hoyt spends most of the year traveling from one poker tournament to the next. The travel, she says, wears on him.

"He loves to come here and just do nothing," she says. "We have a four wheeler and he gets on it and just goes all over the land."

Martha says Hoyt hasn't changed over the years. She says her son was 'quiet' growing-up, often spending hours outside shooting basketball in a goal that's still standing by the house.

"I've known him to shoot basketball until two in the morning," she says. "He also loves to watch TV. That's why I hardly ever turn the TV off because when he's here it's always on."

When he's home, he also attends church on Sundays at Fleetwood Baptist Church in Pike County. Martha says when Hoyt won the $1 million at Foxwoods he donated $20,000 to the church which used the money to add a long pavilion to the structure. It's a place for the church to park its vehicles as well as hold cookouts and fellowship.

In that manner, says Martha, Hoyt also takes after his father.

"When Bricken was living he was a big supporter of the church and contributed to it," she says. "When he died we created a Bricken Corkins Memorial Fund and we give each month. Hoyt still gives money to it."

And there's always the 'friendly' poker game when Hoyt comes to town. People who've known Hoyt his entire life come and sit in on a hand with the 'Cowboy.'

Martha says Hoyt doesn't bring that image to those games. He doesn't wear the sunglasses, the black clothes, or the hat. He's Hoyt, the good, old country boy.

But his card playing is still the same.

"From what I heard he beats the socks off of them," Martha says.