I've never told this story in its entirety. I never will. Even if I someday abandon my 80% rule, some things about my entry into the world of the poker media will never see print. Discretion may or may not have anything to do with valor, but it certainly plays a role in the friends you make and the friends you keep.
Nonetheless, there is somebody who played a huge role in my new life who needs mentioned today. He played one of the major roles in getting me where I am--wherever that is. Sometimes I don't know whether to thank him or curse him for that, but I know I can always count on his as a friend.
In December 2004, I was getting ready to go to Vegas for the first WPBT Holiday Gathering when a comment appeared on a post in this blog. It came from someone purporting to be Lee Jones, noted author and poker room manager for the then second biggest online poker site in the world. He had a proposal for me.
I went to Vegas with this in mind and was nervous as hell. I stood with my cell phone in the lobby of the Excalibur hotel--of all places--and talked to Lee for the first time. His offer: blog the 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and get paid for it. I didn't tell him I would've done it for free. Lee was candid enough to tell me I was their second choice after Wil Wheaton, who had quite unexpectedly recommended me for the job (something I've come to think of as akin to Kato Kaelin getting a job because Robert Redford wasn't available, but still). Lee was kind enough to not assume he could get me for pennies (in retrospect, he did--I wouldn't work for that kind of money again unless it was backstage as Norah Jones' finger masseur). Lee asked for an e-mail and a few other particulars.
I didn't have a laptop with me, so I sent everything from the Excalibur's television internet service. Somehow I ended up with the job. While on the week-long freelance gig, Lee established himself as a guy I could trust. Toward the end of the week, I saw him in frequent conversation with people I'd come to know as important within the company. At the end of the week, Lee pulled me aside and asked, in essence, "How'd you like to do this all the time?" After a few more words of advice, Lee sent me on my way. Two weeks later I'd quit my job in television and was looking for my lost luggage in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Over the past three and half years, I've seen Lee in more places than I can count. Several conversations stand out--one overlooking a nightclub floor in Monte Carlo in which he summed up the poker boom and our place in it, and one just a few nights ago in Monte Carlo are a couple that stand out.
Lee told me a while back that his time with PokerStars and time with the European Poker Tour were about to come to an end. It was not completely unexpected, but it still made me sad to see him go. Lee is always good for a calming word, solicited advice, and the occasional unsolicited entertaining opinion. He's a helluva teacher, too. It's amazing to watch players seek him out at live events. He's become an icon without trying to be.
That's what makes the next step in his life so cool. Lee is headed off to be the COO of CardRunners.com and will be responsible for the daily operation of the company. I'm impressed as hell with the young men who hired Lee. At a time in my life when I was spending three or four nights a week in a bar, these guys have put together an exceptionally cool company.
So, it's not a goodbye to Lee, but a good luck. There was a time in my life where I would've written nice things about the guy because he was an important person in poker. Now I can write this stuff because he's a friend. He's moving just 45 minutes north of my house and I hope to get a chance to sit out on his porch and pick a little before my life takes me elsewhere (if you didn't know, Lee plays some mean bluegrass and puts my abilities to shame).
So, thanks, Lee. You're good people and deserve every bit of success that comes your way.