In 2009, Justin McElroy, reviews editor for the now-defunct gaming blog Joystiq, contacted Gearbox co-founder Randy Pitchford asking the story of how Gearbox got its name for a puff piece series about different companies' names. Pitchford proceeded to tell an extraordinary story about how he and Valve co-founder Gabe Newell mistakenly boarded a cruising river boat together in New Orleans instead of a crossing ferry, and ended up getting into a high stakes Texas Hold 'Em poker game.

The stakes in particular were over the name "Gearbox", which he claimed came about from him and Newell discussing potential names for their up-and-coming game studios, and "realizing that something cool for a video game studio would have something to do with engines and machinery." Pitchford thought that the name was "sticky and simple and gears are cool things that have both an art and a precision to them and it's generally a nice, short but really cool word." Whoever knocked the other player out of the game or ended up with the biggest stack would win the Gearbox name. The stakes were higher for Pitchford, because according to him the other co-founders would have ditched him and shuttered the game studio entirely if he lost.

After four or five hours of play, Pitchford, being an avid poker player while Newell was not, found the right opportunity to turn the odds in his favor, leading to him winning the match, and Gabe Newell had to settle with Valve. Pitchford assured McElroy there were no hard feelings between the two as Gearbox would later work with them on future expansions for Half-Life, and the article was published and further corroborated by fellow outlet Kotaku.

However, later that day, McElroy was contacted by a spokesperson from Valve, who informed him that Newell and Pitchford first met after Valve shipped Half-Life, making the story impossible. Upon this discovery, both outlets later contacted Gearbox, and a spokesperson confirmed to them that the story was fake. Pitchford then explained to a reporter at Kotaku that the intent of his "Tall Tale" was to entertain and not to mislead, and promoted the original articles on his Twitter account as such.

It's currently unknown how Gearbox actually got its name, or if the inspiration for the name featured in the story is true while the poker game surrounding it is fabricated.
Contributed by MehDeletingLater