What I Saw

In my never dying quest for new story ideas I was given the topic of all the weird things you have seen over the years playing poker. What follows is a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences of my time as a poker player.

The best thing I have seen in my time as a poker player is the public acceptance of poker into the mainstream of America. I have watched it with my own eyes and it is real. I am sure this is not what everyone expected me to write. Do not worry; I will write about the things you want to know.

The good things I have been lucky enough to experience in my poker career include playing with some great people. Bill Gates the richest man in the world once played $4-8 limit Hold’em with me. I recently played the Ante up for Africa tournament and Don Cheadle and George Lopez belong on the list of good people. I spent some time with the late Stu Unger and I have to say it was a privilege. Many poker professionals, movie stars and professional athletes have sat at the poker table with me. I have made many friends through poker and I would say that has truly been a blessing.

The wild things of the poker life include numerous beautiful women that I met through poker. Over a hundred boob flashes and counting. This total of course includes all flashes while driving to and from poker tournaments. A double inverted BA from the opposite sex on the golden gate bridge is probably a once in a lifetime road trip memory.

I met a man named Chris Sinclair that I really will never be able to describe fully in just a story. Chris is a fun guy to play poker with and if even half of things he has told me about are true he has lived a full life. “Sex is a poor mans polo”, is the most famous quote I attribute to Chris. From playing poker like a wild man to playing $5000 one spot keno tickets all night long Chris was spectacle to behold. He once bought 200 pizzas from Dominoes and had them delivered to the Peppermill tournament as a sign of protest that the dinner break was not observed as planned. I remember Chris renting out an entire bed and breakfast for the entire week of a poker tournament and it was a good thing because I found myself needing one of the rooms. Chris definitely had a unique view of life and I am thankful that he shared some of that with me on the three or four occasions we found ourselves in the same poker room.

The ugly things I have seen in my poker career include many situations where I was very uncomfortable. The most memorable was at the Peppermill tournament when a player had a nervous break down or some sort of psychotic episode at the table during the tournament. My understanding was he had missed several margin calls and was essentially financially ruined, owing more than he could ever pay. He was drinking and cussing very loudly. He began to cuss God and challenge God to strike him dead on the spot. To say he was suicidal was probably not giving his level of despair enough weight. His rant was mildly incoherent and seemed to be directed toward God. After about 20 very tense minutes and a hushed room observing this crazed man and his ramblings, he pulled out his chair and climbed up on it and began to rant even louder with even more swearing. Security finally arrived and escorted him out of the tournament area. That was very difficult to watch.

The bad things I have watched at the poker table include general bad behavior, fights, arguments, and name calling. This is particularly ugly when it involves spousal abuse, both verbal and physical. I would add dealer abuse to the bad category as well. The thing that stands out in my mind is watching people with a gambling problem deteriorate right in front of my eyes. They come to the poker table for the first time as successful well to do people and sit down and destroy themselves at the poker table. I have watched people lose the family fortune. I have seen people driven to steal and embezzle from employers to cover poker losses. Business owners have taken company money and lost it to the point that the business failed due to the poker losses. A rail bird desperate to get together a buy-in once offered sex for as little as $5. This was a prim and proper lady just a few years before. To watch a person destroy their life by losing every dollar they can get hold of at the poker table is really a bad thing. Along the same lines I once played in a game where a cocktail waitress that served the poker room would not wear any underwear in an effort to increase her tips. I remember players would drop $5 chips on the floor and she would bend over and give them a close look at her kitty. If the chips were $1 she would just squat down and pick them up without the show. I have heard the service was increased to the next level for $25 chips. These are oral tales and I have no way to know what goes on behind closed doors. This was a very sad thing to witness.

A good story goes back just a couple years to the Mirage poker room and a little known MMA fighter named Michael Bisping. Michael had won the ultimate fighter reality show and was in town to promote a fight as it was a UFC weekend. I think it was Rampage Jackson versus Forrest Griffin weekend. Michael and I ended up on the same $1-2 NL table. The game was good and Michael had his British accent and was playing pretty loose just like a tourist. I believe Michael was having trouble with chip handling and always called all bets by making stacks of two red chips of $10 and counting out the amount ten dollars at a time even if it meant 24 little stacks to get $240. He was rather slow at it and quite contemplative before putting his chips into the pot. At least two of the players were being rude to him and badgering him pretty good. I knew that things were escalating and these young kids were probably about to get beat down. Michael was losing his temper and flaring back at them and basically telling them it was his money and he could play it any way he wanted. “Piss Off!” I am sure I was the only one at the table who realized who this Brit was. Thankfully Michael took the high road and just picked up his chips and left. I was sure proud of the way he handled himself. While he can come off as a jerk most of the time, I do believe he is a good guy and does not mean any real harm.

These are just some examples of things that made an impression on me as I traveled through the poker world.

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