Sometimes, someone else’s needs are greater than my own.
— Mark “Old Bear” Hughes
You probably don’t know Mark Hughes and that’s a shame. Trust me. This is a man you want to know.
Mark Hughes, a.k.a. “Old Bear” is one of the rarest of people. I don’t agree with a thing he says or believes in for the most part, politically or spiritually speaking. But I enjoy his company immensely and look forward to seeing him each time beyond compare.
A few nights ago, we dined together at world famous Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Before I tell you more about that experience, allow me to let you in on how I came to know “Old Bear.”
Like me, Mark is a member of the BARGE poker community. BARGE is an eclectic group of a few hundred individuals from all over the country who gather annually in Las Vegas (and elsewhere) in order to play some poker together. But the real mission is really to drink, dine, socialize, and reconnect with old friends — and make some new ones. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BARGE
Maid’s carts outside my hotel room door at the New Orleans Sheraton
I sympathize. I really do.
Working as a hotel maid must be a brutal job. It doesn’t pay shit. You’re forced to clean up other people’s filth. I can’t even begin to imagine the nasty things you see every day.
That said, I do have one simple request.
QUIT WAKING ME UP EVERY FUCKING MORNING AT 7:20 AM!
Really, is that too much to ask?
I know. Such an asshole. I fork over $235 per night and expect a good night’s sleep. How dare I.
Well, I’ve had it.
Benny’s Bullpen at Binion’s Horseshoe — site of the WSOP 1998-2004
Writer’s Note: This is the fourth in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after.
CLICK HERE — Introduction
CLICK HERE — PART 1 (War of the Binions)
CLICK HERE– PARTS 2 AND 3 (Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe / The Sit Down)
CLICK HERE — PARTS 4 AND 5 (Send in the Clowns / The Decline and Death f the World Series of Poker)
Part 6: Friends of the Family
Hidden within the shadows were the shadiest of characters.
Personalities seemingly fit for a Martin Scorcese movie dotted the landscape, seemingly without purpose. No one — not even full-time staff — knew who they were nor what they did. Flocked in cheap suits, they often appeared half-shaven and wore dark glasses. You’d see these creeps around the casino at any time, day or night. Just standing. Just watching.
Once the WSOP began, we began seeing these shadowy types around the tournament area and poker room with much greater frequency.
They hung out for hours at a time, then disappeared. Then, they came back again, or were replaced by someone else. They never spoke to anyone. Once, I managed to get a name. He curtly identified himself as “Slimer” providing no additional comment. That’s right, his name was Slimer — as in “slime-er.”
You couldn’t make up that name.
At some point, Nick informed me that he liked to use “spotters” inside the casino. They were supposedly hired to spot known cheaters. It was made rather obvious that I wasn’t to ask any more questions. We were given explicit instructions to simply leave them alone and let them conduct their business.
We pass by strangers every day.
Most of the time, like ships in the night, we don’t even know they’re there or who they are.
I wonder how many times we’ve stood beside truly remarkable people, extraordinary individuals among us — those who have witnessed incredible events in history and may have even shaped the world in some way — and didn’t even know it.
It probably happens more often than you think.
I’d like to tell you a brief story about someone special I met today. But the surprise isn’t so much in the identity of the person. It was the immense personal reward I gained by reaching out, taking the initiative, and simply being curious. That’s the real blessing of today’s story. I think we need more of that.
It all began with a simple elevator ride at the Sheraton on Canal Street, in New Orleans.
Photo Credit — David Milton
Writer’s Note: This is the third in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after.
CLICK HERE — INTRODUCTION
CLICK HERE — PART 1 (BEFORE THE STORM)
CLICK HERE — PARTS 2 AND 3 (DAY ONE AS DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR BINION’S HORSESHOE
Part 4: Send in the Clowns
Binion’s Horseshoe was freak show.
Not a day passed without a “you’re not going to fucking believe this” moment.
A typical work day: Vagrants wondering in and out, crashing on the furniture inside the sportsbook. Nests of hookers at the bar. Cowboys shouldered up next to gangsters wolfing down hot pastrami sandwiches and guzzling Dr Brown’s cream sodas at the Horseshoe deli. Fistfights. Drunkeness. Card cheats. The mentally ill. Drug dealers and junkies. You name it — you saw it at “the Shoe.”
One of the most detestable of all the regulars was a crusty curmudgeon named Sam Angel, quite possibly the most repulsive person to have ever lived in Las Vegas, and that’s really saying something. A part-time pawnbroker and full-time hustler, Angel was the devil in disguise. By the time I had the misfortune to know him, Angel was pushing 80 years. His pot belly hung over his britches. Half the time his fly was open. Once, a bystander whispered to him about it and Angel said he didn’t care.