Facing the Firing Squad: Peter Secor
Meet Peter Secor
Some of you already know Peter Secor. Most of you don’t.
So, please allow me to introduce this wonderful man to you, and tell you more about him.
Peter is known to many readers from his long association with a recreational poker group called BARGE. The group of about 200 or so people meets every summer in Las Vegas. Attendees come from all over the country. In short, BARGE is a poker fraternity. Many lifelong friendships, even marriages (and eventually divorces) have developed because of BARGE.
For many years, Peter was the group’s organizer and leader. But he’s really much more than organize and lead. I think Peter was (and is) its soul.
Peter was born in 1947 in Bay City, Michigan, an industrial town about 100 miles north of Detroit. Peter enjoyed an idyllic childhood.
“Every day, it was out the door in the morning and then back home again when the street lights came on….every empty lot in town was turned into a ball field,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Peter joined the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Germany, and later served in Vietnam. Following his years of military service, Peter returned home and moved to New York City. He took a position at Citibank as a file clerk earning the princely sum of $4,866 a year.
Next, Peter returned back home to Michigan to complete his formal education. He graduated from Saginaw Valley State University Summa Cum Laude. Next, he took a job working for Dow Chemical’s corporate headquarters as a programmer-analyst. But once again, Citibank came calling.
He moved back to New York City, where he would remain for the next 20 years. He began working at Citibank’s Money Market Division. He rose through the ranks quicly to become a Vice President, “but I didn’t like the politics of the position,” he said.
That prompted Peter to make some changes. He took a job as Budget Director at the prestigious New York Fashion Institute of Technology. He eventually retired from the F.I.T. in 2000.
In his early 50s, Peter was about to embark on what he hoped would be the second half of his life to life, and he planned to live it to the fullest.
“It was always my dream to move to California,” he said. And so, he did extly that in year 2000, where he settled down in the Bay Area.
Always deeply interested in poker, Peter took a full-time job as a prop player at Casino San Pablo.
“Not many have the chance to turn their avocation into their vocation,” he said. “Eventually I also dealt and worked as a floorman.”
This stage of Peter’s life, in poker and gaming, is best told in his words:
I learned poker at an early age. My family was all about the low stakes gamble and my brothers and I would play poker for hours. Finding like-minded characters was no problem and by my high school years I didn’t need an allowance because I was making enough in the weekly poker games to meet my needs. In those games the big winner had to pay for the pizza, so it was best to be a close second.
During my freshman year in college, I began to play a lot of bridge, sometimes accompanying my mother’s maid of honor to tournaments, since she didn’t want to fly, I would do the driving. We went from Bay City as far as New York and Lancaster, PA to play national and regional events.
Poker sort of fell off the map for me at the time. It was all bridge. When I was living in New York, I discovered the big bridge clubs including the Mayfair Club (which inspired the movie “Rounders”) and the Cavendish. This was long before poker at Mayfair. I was involved in the Cavendish club, serving on the Board of Directors for several years including terms as Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President.
I was in the Mayfair playing bridge when the first poker games began there. We bridge players were all thinking ‘Can this really be legal?’ After the death of my loving mother-in-law, who was my main bridge partner, I too started playing poker at both the Mayfair and later the Diamond Club. Two or three times a week, I would leave my office on 27th and walk two blocks to the Diamond Club to play $4-8 Limit Hold’em with an occasional dive into $10-20 game with a half-kill.
In the 1990’s, I began reading Rec.Gambling (.poker after the split) and playing poker via IRC chat where I met many of today’s current*ARGers. This led me to Atlantic City, which held a BARGE-like event back in 1996.
In the championship event at what was called ATLARGE, I overslept and missed the start of the tournament. But (Tiger) called my room and that got me down to my table. Of course, I went on to win that tournament against a tough field, including several future WSOP gold bracelet winners.
In 2001 I became an organizer of BARGE (www.barge.org) which I helped to organize for the next ten years. Those were interesting times as we balanced our income from sponsors like the wonderful PokerStars against the squeamishness of the Nevada Gaming Control Board which really didn’t know how to handle the dot.net ads coming from all over. Eventually they figured it out.
A highlight of my organizing work was getting BARGE set up as a 501 non-profit (not a charity) which makes dealing with the gambling
corporations and their overseers much easier, among other things.
In 2010, I was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, which is currently being controlled by a steady drug regimen. Unfortunately I was also diagnosed with HPV throat cancer (think of Michael Douglas) earlier this year, for which I am getting radiation/chemo treatments which my team and I expect to be fully cured by mid-January, although I may have several months of continued recovery, afterward.
What are some of the things you stand for?
Integrity, fun, social justice, love.
What are some of the things you stand against?
Trickle down anything, rights abuses, bullying, voter suppression.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
Barrack Hussein Obama. He encompasses the American dream in so many ways. Starting from nothing, he showed us that education is the path,
hard work is the way and, really, finally, every parent in America can dream “My child could become President.”
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
First, my father. Worked two jobs until he finally made supervisor at his manufacturing plant. Retired as VP and GM of the company. In context, Abraham Lincoln. His masterful reading of the political winds and his tremendous courage make him a giant. What a shame that some in this country believe that preventing others from voting is an okay thing to do.
What living person do you despise?
Not really in my nature to dwell on evil, but the Bush/Cheney combo certainly deserves it. When will we get an apology for the many many
lives lost in Iraq, for no reason?
If money were not an object, what profession would you choose?
I’ve been lucky in some ways my whole career. I was a programmer in the 1970’s, a financial systems analyst in the 1980’s, a college budget
director in the 1990’s and a professional poker player in the 2000’s. Still, I would like to play a musical instrument. So, next career — learn
guitar and sing folk songs, ala Tom Paxton.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
I have a great family and an even bigger extended family from the poker and BARGE community. It’s great to have so many friends.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
I get panic attacks. Sometimes over nothing at all. Unpleasant for all and very unproductive.
What’s the most exciting thing you have ever done?
Family events: The birth of my daughter, my marriages (both of them). Maybe not so much excitement in my life as others, but BARGE always fires me up.
What’s the most unusual time and place you have ever visited?
I was working for the Young Republicans in Michigan when Richard Nixon was doing his ‘I’m back!’ tour. He was making a speech at the GOP
convention supporting Gov. William Milliken. At some point Nixon wandered into the ready room where we high school kids waited for assignments. He sat down and talked with us for about 30 minutes. Tremendously intelligent, he wowed us all in an informal setting.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
Eeek! Only one book? “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Movie: “Casablanca.” Musician: Tom
What upsets you the most?
People who, after long discussion, agree to something, then turn around and ignore the discussion to do something else.
What bores you?
Standing in line. I will go to great lengths to avoid standing in line.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
I am an atheist. I believe this is my only go round, so I better make it count.