Interview: Shibas playing poker — Gabriel Ramos's dogs at the WSOP

Jon Pill
Posted on: October 18, 2021 12:20 PDT

Gabriel Ramos has had a pretty good WSOP so far. He final tabled the $1,000 Super Turbo, took 15th in the $1,000 PLO event, and cashed in two other events. Anyone watching Ramos progress through the series will have probably spotted that he does not play alone. Ozy, Ramos's Shiba Inu will occasionally climb into Ramos's lap and lay his fluffy head down on the elbow rest.

"Ozy loves to curl up by my feet," Ramos explains. "He’s so quiet most people don’t even know he’s there until he pops up on my lap and rest his head by my chips. This is typically when everyone’s cameras come out as he looks so cute."

If you pop your own head beneath the baize for a moment, you'll also be able to see Summer, Ramos's other Shiba lying by his feet. Ozy has been with Ramos since 2011, but Summer joined the poker team more recently. It's like the dogs playing poker paintings have comes to life.

"After about a year of training Summer, I gifted her to my mother," Ramos explained. "Both dogs adored my mom, and she was always so helpful to me in raising them. Sadly, my mother passed away last October and it left my family devastated. I’ve had Summer with me ever since."

"The go-to guy for Shiba Inus"

Ramos isn't a mere fan of Shiba's. His love of the breed led him to become "the go-to guy for Shiba Inus in North Carolina."

He got Ozy back in 2011 and things escalated from there.

"My girlfriend at the time got custody of the Shiba Inu we had together after we broke up," Ramos explains. "I just had to get my own. It was one of those 'funny how life works' moments because I’m so blessed to have Ozy. I started traveling with Ozy to Shiba Inu meetup events in other cities. Then I decided to start my own meetup group in NC."

"This NC Shiba group still gets together monthly and has over 100 Shiba owners."

Gabe Ramos and Ozy contemplate their hand. (Image source: Chris Wallace)

Who let the dogs in?

Summer and Ozy have visited casinos all across the continental U.S., where casinos are pretty dog-friendly, according to Ramos.

"Everywhere I opt to take my dogs welcome them with open arms," Ramos says. "Including the Rio and the WSOP. It certainly helps that they are trained service and therapy animals. And that they are in the top 1% as far as behavior."

Their behavior is certainly impressive. Shibas have a reputation for almost cat-like independence. But both Ozy and Summer are calm and quiet, despite the bustle in the Rio.

It also probably doesn't hurt that, as Ramos puts it, "their appearance melts most hearts on sight."

"Ozy truly is a one-of-a-kind Shiba," Ramos says. "Given what I’ve learned and observed of the breed I don’t think I’ll ever have as special of a dog as he is. And I’m very impressed with how quickly Summer got with the program in her first year of traveling."

Event 7 Day 2 Gabe Ramos Summer and Ozy (Image: Haley Hintze) Event 7 Day 2 Gabe Ramos Summer and Ozy (Image: Haley Hintze)

Emotional cues

Some studies have suggested that dogs can smell out human emotions. I asked Ramos if Ozy had been trained to sniff out tells in other players. But he tells me that Ozy is a much better thermometer for his own mental state.

"Emotional cues are huge with Shiba Inus," Ramos says. "Ozy is incredibly in sync with my internal state. I constantly have to be aware of how I’m feeling or acting while I’m around him. I liken our relationship to that of Daemons from the fantasy novels: His Dark Materials."

This made me chuckle as my SO has made the exact same Philip Pullman comparison about her own Shiba.

"For whatever reason, Ozy starts to shiver when he hears F-bombs. As long as we’re not seated next to Phil Helmuth, we’ll be ok!" he jokes, referring to Phil's recent outburst.

"Phil's actually an incredibly nice person," he adds.

Gabe Ramos and Ozy WSOP 21 Event 07 Dealers Choice (Image: Haley Hintze) Gabe Ramos and Ozy WSOP 21 Event 07 Dealers Choice (Image: Haley Hintze)

World Series of Pets

I ended the interview with the most important question of all: What is Ramos' policy for when folks want to give Ozy and Summer skritches during a tournament?

"For the most part, people are considerate when it comes to approaching my dogs. Ozy loves to get his head rubbed and welcomes strangers. Summer requires a more delicate approach since she is shy.

"Neither like their paws or tails touched," he adds. "But both love treats and scooping pots."

From day one of the WSOP, Jamie Kerstetter kicked off "the World Series of Pets" on Twitter. So far the competition for POY (Pet of the Year) is a two-dog race.

Featured image source: Chris Wallace