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Bikers and Bear Claws

Posted by on May 27, 2023 in Blog, Las Vegas | 0 comments



This just happened Saturday afternoon on the west side of Las Vegas.

Marieta went shopping at Smiths grocery store and right next door is the Black Bear Diner at Sahara and Durango and, of course, I can’t resist their fresh daily homemade mini pies.

So, I told her I’m going to go get some pies while she does the shopping and as I walk along the strip mall there’s four guys all camped there with a bunch of gear and two of them are sleeping underneath the shade. I’m figuring they’re homeless people because they looked to be worn out by life. Way too tan. Long beards. Soiled clothes. Sometimes I do this, and when I got to the Black Bear Diner I said give me a couple of bear claws out of the cooler which are excellent and I’ll give it to the homeless guys.

Next, I came out with a few pies and the bear claws and handed them these big cold delicious bear claws and told him how good they were at the Black Bear Diner and they looked at me kind of funny. I guess people can be pretty cruel and not very generous and this was something that weren’t used to. One guy took the pastries, opened them up, split then into quarters, started eating them and thanked me. I thought — well, that’s a nice thing to do and it really didn’t cost me very much money and I went in shopping at Smiths.

About 20 minutes later, we were done shopping and I came outside and as I’m loading up the car I noticed these four guys were all gearing up to go. They all had Harley Davidsons! I mean, those bikes are like $30K or $40k a piece. I just looked over at them and thought — well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

I snapped this photo of the bikers after they wolfed down my bear claws.

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Every Picture Tells a Story — Larry Grossman in Las Vegas (2007)

Posted by on May 27, 2023 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, Sports Betting | 0 comments




“Larry Grossman hosted the Las Vegas radio show ‘You Can Bet on It’ for 20 years. We owe Larry a deep debt of gratitude for entertaining us and making us all wiser.”


If I had to pick the very best and most accomplished interviewer on the subject of gambling and/or Las Vegas, my choice would be easy:  Larry Grossman.

Larry hosted an afternoon radio show called “You Can Bet on It.” Radio might not seem like as big a deal nowadays, but back then before social media and the internet, Larry’s program was the best source of gambling information in Las Vegas (maybe anywhere, for that matter). His show was listened to by everyone connected to the Las Vegas gambling scene. I think it ran for around 20 years, before Larry finally retired around the time this photo was taken, in 2007. So, hosting five shows a week, that’s thousands of radio programs — and memories. For gambling aficionados, the interviews and guests and stories were/are as good as gold.

On his show, Larry interviewed anybody and everybody connected in any way to gambling, sports betting, poker, and the history of Las Vegas. As guests, he grilled everyone from the mayor to mob hitmen — politicians, poker players, and even pimps. His guest list was incredible. Larry had people on his show who wouldn’t talk to anyone else, but they opened up to Larry. That’s how respected he was.

Indeed, Larry was blessed with a rare gift to get the most out of the people he interviewed. Part of the reason was the show ran for a full hour, so he had time to dig deeper into fascinating subjects. Unfortunately, so much of media today is comprised of sound bites and memes. The attention span of most listeners and readers is short, and getting shorter. Larry’s show had depth because he was a deep thinker. That’s what made him so popular with this audience, and made him a “must listen” if you were part of the Las Vegas scene.

I appeared on Larry’s show as a guest on three occasions. But I learned much more just by listening, both when he was on the air and off,  I most enjoyed spending time with him when the microphone was quiet. Larry was (and is) a very private person. He rarely called attention to himself in any way, instead preferring to let his guests and the topics be the stars of his shows. Still, I can’t help but fondly remember hiking with Larry at Red Rock Canyon and spending time as his home in Summerlin. That was a rare invite and a special place.

Speaking of Larry’s home, it is the greatest “man cave” I’ve ever seen. It’s better than any museum. Larry has drawers and file cabinets and walls and boxes and closets packed with memorabilia. I could spend hours with Larry giving his tour, telling amazing stories, and talking with him about the old days of Las Vegas. I could still listen to most of those interviews, which remain a time capsule and a treasure trove.

Las Vegas and the gambling scene suffered a loss when Larry decided to end his show and retire. Reasons included-hanging demographics. Shifts to social media. The devolution of substance for style. Maybe even some burnout. Nothing has replaced it, nor filled the void, Come to think of it, Larry’s shoes (and knowledge) are impossible to fill.

This photo was taken in 2007 inside a Las Vegas sportsbook. I haven’t seen or spoken to Larry in several years. I hope he reads this. Moreover, I hope he’s happy and doing well out of the spotlight and finds life just as interesting without the daily grind of being a public figure. Whatever and wherever, I think we owe Larry a deep debt of gratitude for entertaining us and making us all wiser.

Link:  Larry Grossman’s book, You Can Bet on It.


Note: We held a garage sale recently and I’m going through lots of stuff, including old photographs which I’ll be sharing in the coming days and weeks. My philosophy is — a photo does no good tucked away in an album or stored inside a box. A great photo should be shared, especially when it tells a story. Quoting Rod Stewart, “every picture tells a story (don’t it?).” This is Day 4 of the project.

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Every Picture Tells a Story: First Interview with Doyle Brunson (2000)

Posted by on May 26, 2023 in Blog, General Poker, Personal, Travel | 0 comments




“A photo does no good tucked in an album or stored away inside a box. A great photo should be shared, especially when it tells a story.”


I’ve interviewed (the late) Doyle Brunson 15 to 20 times, including multiple occasions on camera and in front of live audiences. But the very first time I interviewed the legendary Brunson was unexpected, and quite intimidating. It happened in the first month of the new millennium in the year 2000, in of all places — Mississippi.

How the “Jack Binion World Poker Open” came to be is a gritty backstory all its own, born at a time way before the poker boom, when the game was perhaps at its lowest point. The Binion Family was bitterly divided. Patriarch Benny (and son Jack) had created the World Series of Poker 30 years prior, but the daughter/sister Becky inherited control and then mismanaged poker’s world championship to such a degree that her brother Jack was fed up and had enough, and decided to launch a new premier annual poker tournament that was to be televised on ESPN. I’m one of the few people around who at various times worked for *both* sides of the blood-feud rivalry.

From the moment the doors opened, the annual Jack Binion World Poker Open was a smashing success (credit the management of Ken Lambert). It was held over a three-week period in early 2000, and then every January thereafter until Jack Binion sold off his interests in the Horseshoe properties. The Horseshoe (and adjacent Gold Strike) casinos in Tunica, Mississippi were the new hosts, which were glittering towers out on the middle of nowhere in what was the poorest county in the United States (Tunica, MS), located about 30 miles south of Memphis. This seemed like an absurd place to hold a nationally-televised poker tournament. Surreal even. The highest cash games in the world were played next to flood basins and cotton fields, and that’s precisely what happened. It’s numbers were even bigger than the WSOP.

I was writing for Card Player magazine at the time, and the casino people must have liked my stuff because

I was offered the “job” to fly in, stay on their dime, and write all the official tournament reports (credit to Mark Napolitano here). Compensation: $5,000 cash, free room, free food, transportation — to watch final tables, hang out with the biggest names in poker, and write about it. Not a bad gig back in 2000.

Two weeks into the tournament, before the Main Event started, ESPN arrived. They planned a one-hour prime-time telecast. This was before networks carried any poker on television. It was also at a time when poker had a lot more “characters,” which isn’t the case so much today. So, it was the only *poker thing* on TV, which made it a huge focus of attention within the poker and gambling community.

Doyle Brunson was boycotting the WSOP (he skipped playing for four years), and was 100 percent loyal to his longtime pal Jack Binion. That made it a given Brunson would arrive in Tunica for this special televised event, which added even more drama to the spectacle. While ESPN was setting up, Brunson walked in, and someone on the crew decided on the fly this was the perfect opportunity to get him in an interview on camera. The trouble was, nobody was around to do the actual interview. The crew didn’t know anything about poker. So, I happened to be standing there and the director came up and said, “would you interview Doyle?”

I was like, “whaaaaaat?” (I’d never interviewed him before).

“What do I ask him?”

“I don’t know, you’re the poker guy.”

So, with that as my “rehearsal” and my cue, ESPN did a two-camera set up, tossed me a hot microphone and I got to interview the most famous player in the history of the game for half an hour (most of it was not used in the telecast). Looking back, it was probably good I had no time to think about it in advance and get nervous, which created a more relaxed exchange.

Someone snapped a photograph of the moment, but I forgot who it was. I also have no idea why B/W film was used. This was the start of a great relationship and in the years to come, much bigger things. I worked the first 5 or 6 Jack Binion World Poker Opens, and loved the excitement in a place that had no other reason to be exciting, except for the people and the poker. Of all the events I attended and worked over the years, those days in Tunica were my favorites.

So, that’s the story, or at least part of the story.

Okay, one more story from that same trip:


I have tons more stories from those days and nights in Tunica. One night, we were playing at the Horseshoe (after tourney ended, which were held next door at Gold Strike). I played a lot back then and was sitting in a $20-40 limit game (booked a $4,000 win-biggest ever at those stakes….the games were insane!). The tables were all scrunched together. My chair back was right up against Bobby Baldwin, who was sitting in some nosebleed game with several million dollars on the table). An argument broke out over some misinterpreted action, and the entire room just came to a standstill. I forgot who was in that game other than Baldwin, but it was an all star lineup. They argued back and forth and the shift manager had to go into surveillance and look at the tape. So, the cards and chips are all piled up which was like a mountain of chips (there was probably $3 million on that table). The players got up and milled around on the break while they were looking at the tape upstairs and Baldwin is standing over my shoulder watching me play $20-40, which maybe had pots averaging $300-400. I was on a huge heater, like I said, and had racks of red in front of me. Baldwin eyes my stack and says, “you ought to be sitting over in this game, partner.” I think I mumbled something back like, “I’m about $46K short of your buy in.” The floorman comes back and declares to the upset losing player, “the action is binding….you owe the pot $313,000!” I leaned back in my chair and whispered to Baldwin. “I think I’m going to stay over here for now.”



Note: We held a garage sale recently and I’m going through lots of stuff, including old photographs which I’ll be sharing in the coming days and weeks. My philosophy is — a photo does no good tucked in an album or stored away inside a box. A great photo should be shared, especially when it tells a story. To quote Rod Stewart, “every picture tells a story (don’t it?).”  This is Day 3.

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Every Picture Tells a Story: Constanta, Romania / Black Sea Coast (1990)

Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Personal, Travel | 0 comments




Today’s photo was taken 33 years ago. It’s special to me, for several reasons. First, this was the first weekend vacation Marieta and I ever took together and was way before we were married. We drove from Bucharest to Constanta, Romania on the Black Sea Coast.

It was supposed to be hot that time of year, but the weather was miserable. It never got above the 50s and rained all weekend. So, we had to stay in the hotel (that was actually kinda’ a lucky break for me, but I won’t go into details). One afternoon, we visited the beach but it was still way too cold to swim.

Constanta is Romania’s only major port. Most of the resorts are south of there, stretching all the way to the Bulgarian border. If you were to look behind me and travel those waters another 150 miles or so, you’d be in Odessa, Ukraine (while living in Romania, I never did visit there).

Gee, I’d love to be this age (and weight) again!


Note: We held a garage sale recently and I’m going through lots of old stuff, including photographs which I’ll be sharing in the coming days and weeks. My philosophy is — a photo does no good tucked in an album or stored in a box. A great photo should be shared, especially when it tells a story.  This is Day 2 of the series.

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My Thoughts on Memorial Day Sales

Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Blog, Politics, Rants and Raves | 1 comment



Why are we okay with Memorial Day sales?

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Is anything still worthy of our respect?

Is everything about ways to maximize profits?

I wonder, does anyone understand the REAL meaning of “Memorial Day?”

I find Memorial Day sales repulsive. Memorial Day should be the occasion to remember and honor the dead. It’s our nation’s annual tribute to the armies and navies of men (and women) who gave the ultimate sacrifice — their lives. These were REAL HEROES. Memorial Day is NOT a time to pimp discounts on used cars and mattresses.

I’m posting these thoughts a few days early so over this coming “holiday weekend” you might pay closer attention to exactly *who* is disrespecting our nation and using dead heroes as marketing props. Don’t blame us liberals or the Left this time. No, it’s CAPITALISTS. It’s CORPORATIONS. It greedy profiteers who use every occasion no matter how sacred to pump the portfolios of shareholders. It’s businesses — big and small. This is *their* shit show. Not ours.

Next Monday, most of us will do other things, like winding down our mini-vacations, hosting outdoor barbecues, drinking beer, and watching ballgames. Hopefully, we will also take a few minutes to remember that the day is actually meant to remember the brave who made all of this possible.

Using “Memorial Day,” a solemn remembrance of the dead as a marketing gimmick should ignite a national outcry. People should be outraged. But for whatever reason, they’re not. You won’t find a single story on this on any conservative websites, which are obsessed with tossing phony gas bombs and igniting culture wars. Meanwhile, the real disrespect comes from insatiable 24/7/365 greed.  We’re so punch drunk and silly stupid on capitalism and corporate profits, that we’ve lost all sense of perspective. Now, we even dishonor the dead.

Capitalists, have you no shame?


Note 1 :  A Google search using “2023 Memorial Day sale” netted 407,000,000 hits. 

Note 2:  Maybe some company can use this image to make a few extra sales and boost profits:

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Every Picture Tells a Story: Marieta Dalla in Philadelphia (1998)

Posted by on May 24, 2023 in Blog, Personal, Travel | 1 comment




I snapped this photo of Marieta on a street in Philadelphia’s Chinatown district about 25 years ago.

We had just eaten on a rainy afternoon and I turned with a camera and caught her at the perfect moment. Just when I snapped the button, one of those ugly old car boats zoomed by and created a really cool blurred background effect.

I’m maybe the worst photographer on the planet, but then sometimes luck prevails.


Note: We held a garage sale recently and I’m going through lots of old stuff, including photographs which I’ll be sharing in the coming days and weeks. My philosophy is — a photo does no good tucked in an album or stored in a box. A great photo should be shared. And, this is a great photo. First in a lengthy series. Quoting Rod Stewart, “every picture tells a story (don’t it?).”

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