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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bring on New Orleans!!!

 What a week. Wow. My knee hurts. My left hand aches. I did manage to avoid a back injury. And my heart and head are now fully recovered. Going on a little 1100 mile triangle journey to pitch in and help out did more for me, mentally, than whatever I did to help out others supposedly 'in need.'

I just got done watching the Thunder (still the Sonics to me) beat the Memphis Grizzlies in 3 OT's. The way the game was going, with all the flooding and everything...I really thought the good lord was about to give the upstart Grizzlies a miracle victory to go up 3-1 in the series. Didn't happen. Tomorrow we will wish for the Mississippi to crest no higher than 50 feet...and then hopefully start to recede. Then we start hoping that places downriver 'fade the disaster' of oncoming flood waters.

I think if it just STOPS raining, they might dodge total catastrophe. They are already opening spillways to relieve flooding...all while dumping millions of gallons of water into prized farmland. Hey...its farmland or homes. And I'm pretty sure farmers have insurance. Guess we will be buying our food from foreigners this year.

On Thursday I went to the Horseshoe in Tunica...and joined up with about 15-20 of their employees. I was expecting their to be a lot of volunteers...but only two of us showed up. Jenn Gay and I. She was pretty disappointed in the turnout, or lack thereof. But in fairness...the people we had managed to get done what they needed done...building a flood wall about 300 yards long to complete a wall around the entire property. It was a good day, spirits among the workers were positive, and management provided plenty of food and beverages. And the weather was perfect. Pitching 80lb bags of sand over and over and over though, are hell on the hands. I'm ready for my left hand to stop hurting.

 After we finished our task at the Horseshoe...we drove across town to visit some critters who are always in crisis...dogs at the Animal Shelter. They have one woman running the place...and I would say at least 100 dogs. She really has her work cut out for her...and when we offered to do 'anything to help' she didn't hesitate asking us to clean out all the pens, feed and water each dog...and let them out to run and play. Jenn and I did 10 pens in all...fed and watered them...and I developed a relationship with about 6 or 7 of those awesome creatures. The woman was so grateful she had a tear in her eye when we were leaving. Which made me feel sad for her...and wishing I lived up I could go see those dogs and help that lady on a weekly basis. If you happen to live up in that area...don't hesitate to stroll over there and lend a hand. Your help is welcomed. And the dogs are so cool.

Once our work was complete...I took some time to kick back, reflect on the satisfying day...and drink down a cool, refreshing Harrah's Natural Spring water! The official drink of all Harrah's banned Monkey's around the world.

Yeah that's kind of a good-humored attempt at laughing at that which causes us misery! I haven't said too much on here about what is going on with Harrah's...for pretty good reasons. (a) I don't really KNOW and (b) I didn't want to make anything worse. But its become pretty obvious that its simply a case of two fellas who for reasons I can't begin to figure out...nor can anyone else, want to make sure they give 110% effort to make my life miserable.

Well, I was just assuming that Monkey Witch Hunter #1 would figure out a way to keep me out of the NOLA WSOP-CE I wasn't getting my hopes up. But since I have had a pretty good track record of behaving, taking care of the staff, and doing a lot of positive promoting for the New Orleans events the past four years...I was holding out hope. wish came true. In three days the news went from "It looks like you might get to play" to "You are definitely good to go" to "Now they are saying you can't play at all" to "Now they are saying you can play everything except ring events"...which became "Can't play anything" again..until finally...after the head of table games got involved, and was presented the entire 'case' against me...the case that Monkey Witch Hunters #1 and #2 have been spending (obviously) wayyyyy too much energy masterminding the past 5 months...the decision was made to allow me to play, without any conditions. Other than (of course) the conditions that would be in place for every other poker player. 

On the heels of delivering that good news to the poker room manager and tourney director, she also mentioned that after talking to their legal department about me and my 'situation' that they couldn't begin to imagine how the 'Witch Hunters' thought they were going to go about trying to exclude me from the $1m National Freeroll...since they had knowingly allowed me to participate in the earlier circuit events...thus entering into a 'contract' with me as a player...and that my qualifying for that event through participation would make it pretty hard to ban me from it. I won't lie...hearing that news made me pretty optimistic. But even more encouraging is that I get to play in NOLA...a place where I have had a LOT of big scores...and where making a big one before heading out to Vegas for the summer would sure be a nice way to get my head (and bankroll) straight before making that drive. Not only that...I always enjoy seeing everyone in New Orleans. It will be a bit different since I have quit drinking in poker...but there are plenty of places down on Bourbon Street for me to practice that 'game' with all those guys when we are away from the table. I made a commitment, to myself, to my wife...and with everyone in NOT drink at the tables this year...and I will keep it. Whether its deemed necessary or not.

Will I get to play at Rio this summer? I don't have a clue. I have run out of things to say in defense of myself. But for the first time, I think...I have a lot more support from people who matter...and I think that its starting to become more and more clear to upper management at Harrah's that maybe the problem isn't me. When you have a guy who is supposed to be in charge of running the biggest poker tournament in the world and he is allowing himself to become consumed in calling all over the country trying to get one player banned from all his company's casinos...and for what reason? Because someone put a post on 2+2 and/or Pocket Fives 3 or 4 months ago...with some quirky username...and suddenly I became the number one suspect. 

I was called by Monkey Witch Hunter #1...and accused of making the post. Understand...I was sent a link to this post by a former dealer. I read it, found it interesting, and didn't think about it again. What's the post never mentioned Monkey Witch Hunter #1...but was all about Monkey Witch Hunter #2. Why would #1 be so panicked, angry and/or concerned about damning claims being made against #2? Is there a connection? Does the one guy getting damaged somehow implicate the other guy? Why was I the suspect? And...just for shits and giggles, not that I even use those poker forums or know how to even make a post on there...but lets say I did. Why would a person suddenly freak out, pin it on a particular player (me, in this case) and start doing any and everything to see that this player never again stepped foot into a Harrah's property? Does that make sense? Would a person innocent of certain claims being made against him or her act in that fashion?, in my decision to say nothing about this the past 4 months, I have just waited, thinking that maybe whoever this 'Dark Avenger' poster was...would make him/herself known, and put the Monkey Witch Hunters into a very uncomfortable position of having to either apologize to me, or simply stop their maniacal quest to bring misery and mayhem to my poker career.

Is any of this making sense? I actually had no intention of writing about this...but I guess when I got the final 'good news' phone call today telling me I could grace the Harrah's New Orleans with my presence in my mission to win lots of dollars, climb even higher on the National Freeroll leader board...which I have probably already clinched anyway...and maybe even automatically qualify with either a Main Event ($1600) victory or a $10k Regional Main Event Final Table (all 9 get in)...I think I was buoyed somewhat when I heard, or rather was relayed the uttering of an actual table games manager, that a representative of Harrah's legal department doubted the ability of the Monkey Witch Hunters to deny me entrance into the Freeroll solely based on some vendetta borne of a paranoid conclusion based on, well...nothing of significance whatsoever, other than 'a hunch.'

To seems utterly ridiculous that two guys with such lofty positions within the organization of Ceaser's Entertainment would waste such valuable time worrying about one poker player. I really don't understand it. But now...I have 'a hunch' of my own...that maybe their own bosses are starting to get a little fed up with it. Maybe when some of the top regarded players in the world are sharing with them their high opinion of makes it a little less believable that I am all these horrible things that I am pretty sure they keep trying to force feed on their bosses. 

In my experience in take someone who is bellyaching about another person (like a fellow employee, student, teammate, ex) with a degree of seriousness the first few times they come to you with a complaint. Right? We all agree with that? Then...after you are able to observe a few 'things' about that person doing all the complaining...over time, and after continuing to get one negative report after another from this finally are able to conclude (with the aid of common sense) that the real, actual 'problem' in all of these 'situations' is the complainer himself. And before you know it...the complainer is history. So, you strategy throughout all of this with these two, to do nothing, say nothing...merely go on about my business. And I have a feeling...that the climate around me might be changing. Finally.

I welcome the opportunity to go play in New Orleans. I took today off from Event I had just gotten home from Tuscaloosa the night before. I had dirty clothes, hadn't seen my wife and 'kids' (Jasper and Mollie) in 5 days...and was physically exhausted. And really needed to run a few errands around town. Plus my new iPad 2 had arrived, and I had to set up and reconfigure my iPad 1 for Cheryl...which I am sure she will enjoy. And I will really enjoy the 10-hr battery on the iPad I am not constantly having to go recharge it in the middle of a long poker tourney. Hey man...somethings you gotta ante up for, its the price of doing business!

Pictured above here is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox. I had written about him a week or so ago...when I was feeling really sad about the tornadoes. I had called his office and spoke to his assistant about getting involved in helping out. Well, I would love to say I got a call back from Mr. Mayor and we hooked up for a Goodwill Chat...but that would be a huge fat lie! What really happened was that when Brian Hepinstall and I went to go register to be volunteers, which became a necessity after societies scumbags and thieves started coming out of the woodwork and preying upon the tornado's victims...the Mayor just happened to stop by to lend his support and see how things were going in the Volunteer Center. 

I was lucky enough to talk to 'Walt' as everyone was calling him...and was very impressed. A young guy...he came off as very honest, sincere and not like the typical slimy politician. We talked about a FEMA exercise they did over a 2-week period two years ago that was tantamount in their ability to organize and mobilize such a tremendous relief effort. He was really a nice guy...willing to talk to anyone that approached him...all while under probably the most stress in his life. What I saw while I was in Tuscaloosa was a lot of different things all wrapped up in a 48 hour period.

SHOCK:  Going into the heart of the tornado damage was utterly shocking. I could post a bunch of photos on here...but I'm sure you have all seen the pictures. Cars lodged in trees, stairways of houses that led to nowhere, long pieces of metal wrapped around trees 100 feet off the ground, homes just wiped from their with huge holes in their windshields...and orange circles spray painted on the side of the car, indicating that someone had died, probably of something being hurtled through their windshield. 100 year old and older trees that had been simply lifted out of the ground and placed on top of houses. It was on the level of the drive I made with Cheryl through Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina came through here and annihilated the entire city. But was more painful to see, because these people who died, some of them never even knew what hit them, some of them had less than 15 minutes to react...and where do you go when you open your door and its already storming? When the skies are pitch black? At least with a hurricane there is plenty of time to prepare, to get out, to save yourself. 

SADNESS:  The storm started destroying college residences...which housed some of Alabama's finest...young people with bright minds from good families...killed or injured as they were studying. It then moved on to one of the poorest parts of the cities, wreaking havoc on those already struggling to get by in this bad economy, many on welfare, most without homeowners or renters insurance. These people lost everything. Some paid with their lives. How that doesn't affect you I don't know.

HOPE:  Coming with a carload of clothes that I didn't even hesitate to donate...which, if you ask Squirrel, will come to find out that I am one of the biggest hoarders of all time. I never get rid of stuff. I didn't even think about it...just started grabbing stuff. Then I get up there...and see the outpouring of donations...and I started realizing that from every tragedy comes a kind of human spirit that makes you understand that good people really DO exist. It was pouring in from vans, loaded with food and clothing, random strangers...people with Toomers for Tuscaloosa (people from Auburn) painted on their cars coming to help. Going to the volunteer center and seeing the hundreds of people there to sign up to go volunteer doing whatever they were asked to do.

And this wasn't the only Volunteer Center in the city. There were 4 or 5 is what I was told. They were incredibly organized. And the feeling I got from these people was that nothing was going to get in the way of fighting back...rebuilding their city, saving those who were in need. I reflect back on what it was like in New Orleans after people just sat around, waiting for a handout...waiting to be told what to do, where to go. Cursing everyone for everything they could think of. Blaming the Mayor, blaming the Governor, blaming the President, resorting to crime. I think anyone with a shred of honesty would tell you that the thought of going into New Orleans for those 30 days that followed the hurricane would be scarier than walking into Fallujah, Iraq. Well, walking into Tuscaloosa, Alabama was like walking into the worlds biggest pep rally. On Saturday when Brian and I went to volunteer, it was reported on the radio that there were over 10,000 volunteers out working that day. INCREDIBLE.

SALVATION:  Not the city's. Mine. I had been mired in a bit of a funk lately...maybe for as long as a year. Winning tourneys and money was doing nothing to get me out of it, either. Oh sure it's nice to win, and be able to buy a few nice things...and keep the bills paid. But those things, in my opinion have nothing to do with your inner self. Or your true level of happiness. I was sitting around my house feeling utterly worthless. Like I was doing nothing for my fellow human beings. Soldiers are overseas being killed. I'm doing nothing. It just builds and builds. Everyone is having kids, I still don't have any. I see my wife interact with kids and it breaks my heart to think of us never having any. The things that brought me happiness 20 years ago don't even put a smile on my face anymore. So when I went and helped out in Tunica, and then again in Tuscaloosa, I was doing that just as much for myself as I was for them. It made me feel like I was actually contributing to society. Getting off my butt, getting out of the house, and helping others who are in need, it gave me a general purpose for existing. I found that its kind of addictive. I could see myself doing a lot more of this, maybe even apply for a job with American Red Cross and become a full time disaster assistance worker. Its not about the pay...I'm sure it would be peanuts. Doesn't matter. 

I am heading into the summer with a fresh outlook on life thanks to this past week. I feel really positive, and I also feel that I can put poker in its proper place in the grand scheme of life. If I run good for 9 hours, then take 2 or 3 bad beats and fail to make the money...I'm not going to lose my mind or go into a pit of depression about it. I will simply think of those people who have lost their homes and maybe their lives to tornadoes, or tsunamis, or floods...and think about what a 'real' life crisis is. I get to play a game for a living. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. It's as simple as that. The sad thing about that its kind of the same way.



Anonymous said...

Next time i play at a Caesars property, i'm going to make sure to get me some of that cool, "Banned Monkey Water".
Also, i can understand somewhat, that Johnny pussied out and is worried about his job, but what do the other 2 J-asses have against you? Did you bang there old ladies or something?

Anonymous said...

Well, I saw you at the Hardrock. Old man from ms. Played with you many times in Ms. I think its great that they are letting you play in N.O..
Please do not screw up this reprieve.
your a great talent and its great to have you in the tournaments. Remember, no drinking during the play. Also, stop talking about the two from Harrahs. Leave things alone and prosper.
Uncle Jim