Nolan Dalla

Remembering Ross Leitz




I’m crushed to hear the news that Ross Leitz died.

I just saw this posted on social media. I don’t know the story or anything more than that, but there’s some people that you meet in life and even though you may not spend much time with them, somehow, they leave you with a profound impact as to their character, as to the people they inspire, and the genuine goodness they are.

I could (okay, I will) tell some great Ross stories from my years working the World Series of Poker Circuit.  Maybe, it’s just because we shared a love of great food, everything New Orleans (his hometown) and recognizing that life is precious and short and needs to be lived to the fullest. I always remember seeing Ross and simply feeling better just after spending a couple of minutes with him. One of the funnest nights of my professional life was a long evening-into-morning all-nighter years ago when about five or six of us and I don’t know how it happened but it was just an accidental perfect storm of serendipity where we all just gelled and it was a great conversation and of course there are restaurants and bars and wine in merriment and it didn’t matter what anybody thought politically, or what our financial situation was at the time, nor the personal problems we were having and everybody has them, it was just a kindred spirit of joy is largely due to Ross and his giant of a personality.

He was a gentle giant. Ross, thank you for leaving us with the gifts of fond memories that are priceless.

Note:  Years ago, I wrote an article on Ross who was in the middle of a lifestyle conversion to get more fit — READ HERE.

This story goes back about 15 years and you have to understand that when you looked at Ross he was a giant of a man, very physically intimidating, but actually very gentle and kind.

One night late when I was working on some assignment I think it was in New Orleans at the Bayou Poker Classic there were some people who were at the tournament and had a bit too much to drink and it was a very ugly situation. Uncharacteristic of him, Ross got involved in this argument and I could tell he was very upset and trying to restrain himself then he just finally turned loose….let’s just say it was an ugly situation. The other person was totally in the wrong and Ross was justified in defending himself and even being loud and physical. I’ve seen a fair number of fights and Ross was totally blameless in this. Casino security hauled out the other guy away because every witness came to Ross’s defense.

A few minutes later, I saw Ross was just crushed about the incident. He left the tournament and was sitting over to the side in a dimly-lit corner and was sitting there crying with his head hanging down. I couldn’t believe that this big man was sobbing in the middle of a poker tournament.

Well, since I knew him I had to go over and try to comfort him and find out what the problem was and Ross was so upset with himself that he lost control and that the situation that was already ugly he thought he made it worse and he felt so bad and guilty about it even though it wasn’t his fault. I don’t know how to describe any further but he was a person that was completely without fault here and yet he felt extraordinary guilt at his behavior and doing things that were aggressive.

Then, Ross just said something that left me crushed and in tears of my own. “I should have been a better man than he was,” he said.  “I wasn’t, and I’m ashamed of myself.”

That happened 15 years ago and I will never forget it.

Yes, Ross.  You were the better man.

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