It was a mildly chilly night in Monte Carlo, but the northern Europeans and those who live on wind-slapped islands were smelling summer. We, a large and eclectic group of poker players, writers, and marketers, sat at a cafe table overlooking a croaking frog pond and man-made wetlands area.
At the table were two Germans. One, Jan Heitmann, was making the guys jealous and the girls swimmy with an impromptu magic act. Beside him sat Geoge Danzer. His is a familiar face on the European Poker Circuit. In fact, I thought that (and the fact he was sitting right beside me) was the only reason I knew who he was.
I'd forgotten about Dmitri Nobles.More in this Poker Blog! -->
You might have noticed we've been making a few changes around the site. We've added a section for The Nuts on the left and added some bio and about information in the "Players" section. After reviewing Luckbox's new bio and the YouTube video inside it, I remembered why I knew George Danzer. If Danzer knew I was great friends with the reason Nobles won that hand, he might not have been as friendly. It's a good thing Danzer was on walkabout when Nobles sprang from the table and yelled for the Luckbox.
Regardless, the KK vs A8 hand vs Nobles is one of the top reasons George Danzer's face is familiar to many folks. So, as expected, the story came up at the table. A friend of mine commented to Danzer that his behavior following the beat was just about as good as could be expected. Danzer, at least for one ugly moment on television, set an example for a generation of poker players.
It's been nearly two years since that sickness and Danzer barely seems like he remembers it. He does, of course. How could anyone not? For the stoic German, though, the emotion he showed on TV was as much as you'll ever see. A lot of us could learn sometime about how to take a beat and be over it so fast.
Danzer is planning a return to the WSOP this year, but first he's setting out on a personal journey. With only his backpack, Danzer is going trekking into the wilderness for a month. He'll be by himself.
"Like Into the Wild," he said.
We can only hope it ends better for Danzer than it did for Chris McCandless. Danzer's intention is to go into the WSOP with the clearest head he can.
Here's to hoping he can avoid the likes of the Nobles'-style beat. If anything, Danzer can feel good Luckbox is sitting this year out.<-- Hide More
At 5am, I was sitting in a place called the Blue Gin Bar drinking a 1664 beer and wishing I'd never even heard of a place called Monte Carlo. It was a place that a hundred people would've paid to be sitting and I wanted little more than to put the entire Mediterranean coast behind me. It's one in a long list of things about the poker world that don't make sense.
I was sitting between two fellow writers, both of whom I respect a great deal. After a drink, one of them said, "Did you hear about Brandi Hawbaker?"
I hadn't heard a word. I'd been living in my own little bubble for the past nine days. I barely knew my own name, let alone that Hawbaker was dead.
Suicide. It's one of those things that makes too much sense to consider. How likely is it that someone so fragile, so needy, so imperfect, so completely fucking used by a community of people would kill herself?
Right. Surprise, surprise.
Now that the SEO-palooza surrounding Hawbaker's death has reached the point that it's no longer as valuable to trade on the name, Brandi Rose news has hit the wane. I personally had just one experience with Hawbaker. I didn't know her. I can't claim to have treated her any better than anybody else in the poker world. I didn't know anything about her except to know she was the poker community's train wreck--the one who gets rolled by the old fucks, tries to fuck the young fucks, then gets what's she's been giving and gives what she's been getting. She wasn't the first person it happened to, and she won't be the last. But, as the world turns and the light guides us through the soap operas of the internet poker rags, she was a star. She was the young and the restless. She was the person who made every other person out there feel better about themselves.
I am no exception.
Church is an odd place to learn about poker, which is why I don't go except for weddings and funerals. At the last wedding that saw me sitting in a pew, the priest commented on our throwaway society. Like our constantly obsolete computers, our petrol-sucking bottles of water, and our tired old cliches, many of the people in our lives are disposable. Our celebrities--especially the ones we manufacture for the sole purpose of destroying--are merely there for our short-term entertainment, money-shot porn without all the messy clean-up.
Last year's World Series of Poker took a hole out of my soul that I'm not sure will ever get patched. It wasn't just watching Hawbaker whore herself out for buy-ins. It was watching Vinny Vinh get pushed into tournaments and disappear from tournaments--a real fear and loathing that looked more like Russian Roulette than poker. It was watching Paul "Eskimo" Clark nearly die at the table three or four times, then piss himself at the final table while his "backers" waited for their few thousand bucks. Poker has never called itself a nobleman's game, but sometimes it's nice to know we live and work in a world that isn't so overrun by disgusting people.
In a consumer society, poker players and their hangers-on are never more at home. They find something they can consume and they use every possible ounce of it, before briefly mourning its passing and moving on to the next consumable. There must be some karmic reckoning for me, for you, for everybody who is wallowing in public disingenuousness. We all suck.
Poker doesn't pick people. It's the other way around. There is nothing tying any of us to the game or the community. It belongs to no one and that's probably why it and its people wander so far from normalcy and decency. It's anarchy with just an ounce of control. It attracts people--me included--who like that edgy feeling of being right on the precipice of disaster.
Hawbaker, sick as she was, picked poker. With apologies to D.H. Lawrence, it's a jungle where wild things really do feel sorry for themselves. Redemption only comes in the destruction of others. Many people survive spiritually because they can see the dividing line between reality and the game. The people who don't are the people who die and the people who kill.
It's not the grace of God that saves us. There but for dumb luck go you and me.
If Hawbaker's death is even a glimmer of truth...if there is a God, he doesn't believe in poker.
B-roc looked at me last night from his spot in the box.
"I'm not sure Canada is right for you. Long winters, cold weather. Not sure..."
He let the sentence hang there, a perfect joke and follow-up to my latest self-deprecating comment. It had been a rough few weeks at Gucci Rick's and I hated myself as much as usual. I use self-torture as a comedic device, a poker technique, and yes, a defense mechanism. Sometimes I really do hate myself. Saying it out loud dulls the anger's edge.
Today, I started to wonder whether that Otis should play poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I am naturally skeptical of people who go out of their way to tell me how good they are. I figure if you are taking the time to tell me how good you are--at poker, knitting, sex--you're wasting time you could be using to show me. Maybe it's my Missouri upbringing, but I don't give a damn what people say most of the time. I'm moved by what people do. Talent, like character, is defined by action.
I watched a rather candid interview with Tiger Woods this morning. One of the first things he said that struck me revolved around if it is at all possible for Woods to look at himself as others see him.
"I'm in the moment," he said. Then, as if he'd just realized it himself, he added, "I am the moment."
What impresses me about Woods is not only his ability. It's his ability to not stand on every street corner and tell everybody how good he is. Moreover, it's his abilty to believe in himself with 100% confidence, but not let that confidence get in the way of his ability.
In the middle of a bad run--a slump, a middle finger from Mistress Variance, mound of bad beats as high as your ass--most people take one of two roads. They either kick and scream about how their ability is not yielding the appropriate results, or they fall into an introspective and self-abusing hole. I, if you've not yet caught on, fall in the latter category.
I aspire to Woods' brand of confidence. No. I don't aspire to that. It's more than that. I have to achieve it. You should, too. Success, it seems, is the ability to believe you can without letting that confidence get in the way of actually doing it.
To be sure, there are people who defy this axiom. There are people who find success without finding the perfect balance. But I wonder whether those people will ever be considered great.
I don't necessarily seek greatness, but I am in search of the confidence that greatness requires. As Wood's says, "I will be better tomorrow than I am today."
In a series of questions toward the end, Woods is asked a series of questions. Kobe or LeBron? LeBron or Michael Jordan? Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods?
Woods, without much hesistation, but also without an ounce of cockiness, picked himself. A pregnant pause hung in the air, as if to ask how anybody could be so cocky.
Woods barely smiled as he said, "You have to believe in yourself, don't you?"