He passed away a few months ago here in Las Vegas. His death went unnoticed within the poker community, until Chad Holloway from PokerNews.com uncovered the details of his passing and posted an announcement along with a feature story late last night. One presumes no one recognized Eskimo at the end of his life, nor made the connection to his many exploits and achievements in poker.
He’d become forgotten already, even before he passed away.
Like old soldiers, some poker players don’t die. They just fade away. Eskimo faded from relevance to the poker scene years ago. It’s easy now to forget his deserving place among the legendary gamblers we so often revere, those with the great poker faces masking not just the cards, but perpetual lives of isolation, and even loneliness.
If the late Benny Binion’s life was ever to be made into a movie, now with Sam Peckinpah long gone, the rightful heir to what amounts to a biographical gold mine should fall to Quentin Tarentino. If and when that movie does get made, let’s hope the masterful film director bases his first script on the new book written by Doug J. Swanson about the often comical and always curious life of the legendary casino patriarch who was loathed and feared by a few, but also widely respected and loved by far more.
Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster who Created Vegas Poker doesn’t necessarily cover much new territory, especially to those who already know of Binion’s shady past. It simply tells the story far better and in much greater detail than any other available source. Moreover, it places Binion into proper context among his peers, consisting mostly of gangsters and Mafia dons. However, instead of a fedora, Binion always wore a cowboy hat.
Dallas gambler and racketeer Herbert “the Cat” Noble in 1949
For a very long while, Herbert Noble beat the odds.
Not many did back then. Marked men with a hefty price on their heads weren’t destined for survival. Almost always, their bodies ended up riddled with machine gun bullets, filled with 12-gauge buckshot, or blown to smithereens in an explosion.
But time after time, Noble somehow managed to survive. He withstood no less than eight assassination attempts before his luck finally ran out in the worst way when he naively stuck his right hand into a wired mailbox triggering a blast that sent limbs and body parts flying and tumbling to the ground as far as half a football field away.
Noble’s nine lives earned him a most appropriate nickname. “The cat,” he was called.
1990 world champion Mansour Matloubi, watched closely by the poker press corps
If winning a major poker tournament represents the game’s greatest glory, reporting on such events can sometimes be its worst drudgery.
The best seat in the house rarely means actually being seated. More typically, tournament reporting means standing on one’s feet for hours at a time. It means arriving earlier and leaving much later than players. If you think sitting at a poker table and playing in a tournament is work, then try standing for a very long while and then running back and forth to a laptop to regularly in order to update player chip counts for what might be as many as a dozen poker tables. Most egregious of all, however — tournament reporters rarely receive much notice from anyone, except in the rare instances (relatively speaking) when some detail gets reported wrongly.
Frankly, the poker community disappoints me to a great extent — and by this I mean the players. Many are thankless and have become spoiled. I’ve worked with dozens of dedicated poker enthusiasts over the years, including many who have worked for the very biggest poker websites to the smallest foreign-language outlets struggling to survive. When these reporters initially start out, they’re often thrown straight into the fire. These young writers are almost always eager to do a good job. But they rarely get a simple thank you or a kind word from anyone. That’s even the case today. Think about it. When’s the last time you showed some appreciation to someone working hard to do a good job out on the floor, someone who is actively contributing to the game and not just its legacy, but yours, as well?