Golf is so annoyingly Republican.
It’s an arrogant game played by rich people. It’s a criminal waste of precious water and land. It’s a firewall intended to preserve oligarchy. And it relies on minimum-wage making Mexicans to do all the landscaping and maintenance.
I despise golf. I hate private country clubs even worse. But this bitter resentment has nothing to do with politics. It’s because, when it comes to golf – I fucking suck.
Yesterday, I was granted a rare invite to play a luxury golf course called “Cascata.” Think of it this way. If Shadow Creek is the Maserati of golf courses in Las Vegas, then Cascata is most certainly the Lamborghini. This resort is so exclusionary that no signs are posted outside showing the way. It doesn’t advertise. It doesn’t have to. Cascata is the golf course for super high-rollers.
Carved into a rocky mountainside, the course is nestled unassumingly between Henderson and Boulder City. Walk-ins are not welcome. The greens fee is $350 per round — and that doesn’t include the cost of a mandatory caddy, which adds an extra whack to your wallet.
My misappropriated invitation came courtesy of two close friends — namely Marissa (probably best known as the tax accountant for many of the world’s top poker pros) and Matt Savage (international tournament director extraordinaire and TDA co-founder). Maryann Savage (Matt’s lovely wife) also blessed us with her presence. And of course, there was that costly caddy.
And so my story begins.
Writer’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part 1 can be read here: THE AFRICAN INTERVIEWS (PART 1)
Each of us has our own secrets. Things we’ve done we later regret. Moments in our lives we’re not proud of.
I’m about to tell you one of mine.
There are two kinds of jobs. Some which you apply for. Others that come to you, seemingly out of nowhere. They just happen.
This one just happened. It came to me unexpectedly — and to this day — I have no idea exactly how or why.
My home telephone rang. The voice on the line identified himself as someone who worked for the South African Government. It was a friendly voice. Cordial even. He knew I was unemployed and looking for a job.
Being out of work sucks. I’d sent out several resumes. However, I don’t ever recall applying with the South African Government. It’s pure speculation now, but perhaps a generic advertisement was placed in the “Help Wanted” section of The Washington Post and then someone plucked my resume out from among those that responded. Who knows?
South Africa was undergoing changes that were truly revolutionary. The repressive state policy of Apartheid was taking its final deep desperate breaths, but was by no means expunged. If anything, those who benefited most from the old order were still in power. Although the government did transform itself by official decree in 1990, most of those who still worked in South Africa’s foreign service (and related intelligence agencies) were holdovers from the bad old days. No doubt, these were some real ball busters. A government doesn’t simply change all of its personnel overnight and it took many years to ultimately make South Africa and its diplomatic corps far more reflective of the actual racial and cultural makeup of the nation.
Working with so many wonderfully dedicated professionals is a great privilege. Those you see in the photo above aren’t just my co-workers. They are dear friends. They are like family.
Over the past nine seasons, the World Series of Poker Circuit has grown from just five locations in its first year, to 20 stops this current season. More stops are expected to be added in 2013-2014.
Here’s a note of thanks to these tournament professionals, who I consider the very best in the business. In the photo above, see (left to right): Me, Kurt Dau, Allen Ray, Dennis Jones, Jordan Cutter, and Charlie Ciresi. In front (left to right) are: Jami Walters, Joanne Douglas, and Jessica Hudson. This photo was taken last week at the conclusion of the first-ever WSOP Circuit stop held at Cherokee, North Carolina.
Several other executives who work the WSOP Circuit regularly are not pictured. I’ll try and post more photos of these fine people from the upcoming WSOP in Las Vegas. Also, note that the current season comes to a close next month in New Orleans. I’ll be spending nearly three weeks there, my favorite American city. The WSOP Circuit in New Orleans runs May 8-24 (which includes the WSOP National Championship).
I’d also like to acknowledge all the extraordinary poker dealers who travel around the country with us going to each WSOP Circuit stop. Believe me, it’s not easy living in a hotel room more than half of the year and playing all of your own expenses. If you’re a poker player, please acknowledge these fine people in some way next time you see them. Even a kind word of thanks means a lot at the end of a long day.
Remember — it’s New Orleans in May. And then, the big one returns again to Las Vegas this summer.
Writer’s Note: Today and tomorrow, I’ll be sharing three stories. Each shares a connection to Africa. They’re all deeply personal. And until now, I’ve never written about or told any of these stories before.
Out of Africa
Question: What’s the world’s second most-populous continent?
If you saw today’s headline, you probably guessed it. The answer is Africa.
More than one-billion people live in Africa, which is more than the entire population of Europe. There are two-and-a-half times as many Africans as North Americans. Imagine 25 Californias. That’s Africa.
Africa also happens to be the second-largest continent in the world. It has one-fifth of all the land mass on earth.
There are 54 African nations and I’ll bet most people can’t pinpoint more than a small fraction of them on a map. I had this deficiency once too (and still do), as you’re about to learn.
Indeed, of all the places on Earth, Africa is the least understood, the most misunderstood, and the littlest-known in every sense — politically, geographically, socially, culturally, and historically.
Practically no one amongst us knows anything about Africa or its people, and this includes many otherwise intelligent people who know considerably more about every other region of the world.
It seems that even among intellectuals, Africa is forgotten.
The best wine tasting event in Las Vegas for the money is undoubtedly “UNLVino,” held in the springtime. This spectacular wine festival takes place over four days and nights, culminating in an extravagant awards ceremony on Saturday night, held this year at the Paris (Las Vegas).
Marieta and I had the opportunity to attend a special tasting afterward, which was open only to those who work in the wine trade (it’s a long story). Our special tasting took place from 11 pm until 2 am, which gave us three additional full hours to sample many of the best wines from around the world.
Sampling every wine and liquor available would have been next to impossible, and if you did so, that intoxicating experience would undoubtedly have been followed by an epic hangover. But if you’re going to drink more than you ever have before, then this is the place to do it.
The tasting consisted of about 90 to 100 suppliers, each pouring an average of 4 to 6 different wines. So, if you add up the math — that’s like 500 different bottles. Then, there were vodkas, tequilas, bourbons, scotches, and some new aperitifs I was not familiar with (but begged to be sampled — and surely were).
Samples included everything from the elegant Gevrey Chambertain (my favorite wine in the world — see photo above) to special-recipe Patron margaritas spiked with orange juice.