Poker Night in America made a first-time visit to Philadelphia this past weekend. The ever-expanding and constantly improving Sugar House Casino hosted three fun-filled days of high-stakes poker action, which were filmed for the popular weekly show on the CBS Sports Network (tune in Monday nights). This series of shows is expected to air sometime next fall, during Season 3.
Here are some of the highlights of what happened at the poker table during our production:
Introduction: There’s been a whirlwind of media coverage recently about former poker pro Alex Jacobs, and his six-day run on the television game show, “Jeopardy.” No doubt, Jacobs put on an amazing display of intellectual prowess and challenged conventional game strategy about how “Jeopardy” should optimally be played. However, Jacobs’ success wasn’t the most impressive performance ever by a poker player. In this column, I’ll introduce you to who someone who was even more memorable. His name was Eddie Timanus, and chances are, you’ve probably never heard of him. Until now.
One does not expect to encounter someone who is truly amazing in a $5-10 Limit Omaha High-Low Split game, and certainly not in the poker room at Bally’s in Atlantic City back in 1997.
As I took my seat, I noticed another player in the game who had a friend brushed up closely behind his chair, whispering cards into his ear. Normally, this would violate the “one player to a hand” rule. However, something here was quite unusual. The player was blind.
Playing hold’em, which requires memorizing two hole cards and then connecting one’s hand to the five board cards would be challenging enough. However, the added complexity of remembering four hole cards, plus the five board cards, along with all the suits, and then figuring out if there’s an eight-low qualifier for the low hand would seem to make playing Omaha High-Low Split far more difficult, if not impossible. Try it sometime. Close your eyes and imagine.
What follows are ten things I learned about Ireland during my visit that surprised me most. Brace yourself. This isn’t a cheerful travelogue nor a tourist postcard:
1. Abortion is illegal.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland. The only exception to this national law is in cases which save the life of the mother. No exceptions. Severe birth defects, rape, incest — all of these deplorable circumstances require the mother to bear the child. I don’t know why I was shocked by this. After all, this is an overwhelmingly Catholic nation (although the church’s influence is clearly in decline — more on that to come). My presumption was that virtually all of Europe was intransigent when it comes down to a woman’s right to control their own bodies and make choices for themselves. It’s hard to believe this is one issue where the United States is actually ahead of places like Ireland, which continue to impose severely restrictive abortion laws.
Now, a few consequences of these restrictions. One does tend to see comparatively more public facilities around the country to care for those with the most deformities. Since many more children are born with defects, it becomes incumbent upon the state to care for them. Another consequence of the Republic of Ireland’s abortion restrictions is the booming medical market across the Irish Sea over in England, which is accessible via a few hours ferry ride. Thousands of Irish women travel to England each year to terminate pregnancies (England’s abortion laws are similar to the U.S.). Finally, Northern Ireland allows for abortion, provided certain medical criteria are met.
The bottom line is — Ireland is very much a 1950s nation on the controversial topic of a woman’s right to chose.
Not the Las Vegas Strip. Not the Manhattan skyline. No man-made object can possibly surpass the splendor of nature’s abundant power and beauty. Borrowing a famous line I once heard somewhere — You think a tall building is impressive? Try making a butterfly from scratch. You can’t.
I was introduced to the magic of gardens by two very special people about five years ago. Marieta and I traveled to London. However, we also spent a week wandering around in the English countryside, in Cornwall. We were the guests of some dear friends — Des Wilson (the poker author) and his lovely wife Jane.
One afternoon, Des and Jane took us out to an traditional English garden, which was more of a huge estate surrounded by thousands of unusual plants and animals. Once there, I couldn’t believe was I was seeing. One doesn’t associate England with being a nature’s paradise. But it was, and still is — at least when it comes to flora and fauna. There are dozens of gardens sprinkled throughout the entire country, all worth visiting, no doubt. Perhaps the best destination of all for greenery is the famous Key Gardens, located in south-central London.
This past week, Marieta and I were in Ireland. We noticed, much like neighboring England, Ireland is absolutely filled with gardens in just about every part of the country. These estates are usually free and open to the public.
Zoos are sure fun to visit because you get to see lots of really cool animals. But they’re also a glaring and ugly reminder of our own inhumanity towards nature. Being an animal rights activist and then visiting a zoo is sort of like admitting pigs are intelligent and then ordering a full slab of baby backs.
I’m as guilty as anyone of hypocrisy and the double standards within most of us. Worse, even — because I’m aware and troubled by it, yet do little.