Pages Menu
TwitterFacebooklogin
Categories Menu

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Blog, General Poker | 1 comment

Remembering “Uncle Krunk” — Poker Loses Another Colorful Character (Robert Panitch 1952-2015)

 

a35d04d32c814a3006860c6f0fad20e6

 

I just learned Robert Panitch passed away.  He was 63.

That name probably won’t resonate with many people.  Mr. Panitch was better known as “Uncle Krunk,” an oddball nickname given to him by some younger poker colleagues who traveled around the country with their cranky elder, attending various events along the national tournament circuit.  Seemingly weird and often grumpy, the “Uncle Krunk” moniker associated with Mr. Panitch gained a notoriety and hilarity all its own when his fictionalized Twitter persona became a sort of alter ego, often firing out riotous commentary about the contemporary poker scene.

However, as with many seemingly funny people who appear to be “different,” behind the crotchety mask was a deeply caring man with his own private set of circumstances and personal problems which where largely hidden away from public view.  Beneath the brusque exterior was a man with valiantly unwavering devotion.

The first time I met Mr. Panitch was at a World Series of Poker Circuit event in 2008, which was played in Hammond, Indiana — just outside his hometown of Chicago.  Mr. Panitch came into poker in his mid-50s and made his first final table appearance  As I was about to introduce him to the crowd, I asked for clarification on how to pronounce his name correctly.

“You can say ‘PAN’ can’t you?” he asked.

Yes, Sir.

“You can say ‘ITCH’ can’t you?” he asked.

Yes, Sir.

“Now put the two words together — ‘PAN-ITCH.’  There, that’s not too difficult for you, is it?”

No, Sir.

As I said, if you ever met or played poker with Mr. Panitch you probably remember something unusual about him.

Take for instance his strange eating habits while sitting at the poker table.  Mr. Panitch always carried a knapsack louded with various snacks tucked inside plastic baggies, and he nibbled at them constantly.  He consumed vast amounts of nuts and fruits and granola bars over the course of a day, which come to find out was part of a special diet.  When I reluctantly asked him once about his eating all the time, he informed me that he had health issues which required him to eat certain foods for their nutritional value.  He must have downed 10-15 snacks a day, but never seemed to gain a pound.

However, the most peculiar thing I remember about Mr. Panitch was his apparent repudiation of all forms of technology.  Once, when he qualified to play in the WSOP National Championship (in 2013) I asked Panitch for his e-mail address.

“I don’t have an e-mail address,” he snapped.  “I don’t use it.”

I’m not sure if he even owned a cell phone.  Mr. Panitch’s grumpy old man ways and “get off my lawn” crankiness was certainly no act.  He was the real deal.  Accordingly, a group of younger poker players somehow took this persona and created a Twitter account in his name, along with his photo, affectionately named “Uncle Krunk.”  While Mr. Panitch had nothing to do with either setting up the account nor any of the content, the Twitter posts made the semi-pro poker player famous for a time to the point where he enjoyed a cult following.

“Uncle Krunk” posts became laughably obscene, often spewing profanities, and yet he was almost always dead on accurate with scathing commentary about other players and the wackiness he and others observed at various tournament stops around the country.  The anonymous account set up with Mr. Panitch’s persona became a sort of inner demon and the collective consciousness of all tourney grinders, forced to put up with the incessant tanking of their opponents, poor hygiene, inane table chatter, and the innumerable challenges of trying to support oneself by playing poker.  “Uncle Krunk” became a lovable devil.

The real Mr. Panitch seemed to take it all in stride.  Eventually, he became aware of his notoriety as many players mistakenly thought those were his posts, and actual thoughts.  To the very end, Mr. Panitch played the cantankerous role to perfection, although a select few who got to know him better came to realize there was something far more interesting and commendable about this man beneath the surface

Mr. Panitch was indeed a caring uncle to several nieces and nephews, in the words of Chad Holloway, who recently wrote a nice tribute to his passing, which occurred on May 1st.  He was also a loyal son and brother to the other members of his close-knit family, perhaps confirmed best by the selfless act of taking care of his elderly mother for many years before she passed away just a few years ago.

With his death, poker has lost yet another of its most colorful characters, his memory now made all the more vibrant by finally realizing that behind the surly exterior at the tables we often witnessed was actually a deeply devoted and sensitive man who will be missed, but not forgotten.

 

Read a more comprehensive feature on Robert Panitch here at POKERNEWS.COM

Special thanks to Rex Clinkscales for the post on Facebook which announced Robert Panitch’s passing.

 

Read More

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Blog, Essays, What's Left | 0 comments

Remembering Christopher Hitchens, Who Died Three Years Ago Today

 

17/11/05-CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS-Christopher Hitchens, a controversial British-born, U.S.-based journal

 

Christopher Hitchens died three years ago today.

His life spanned 62 immensely productive years.  One presumes his words and ideas shall endure for a considerably longer time.

Even after his death, Hitchens remains a giant force of intellect worth re-acquainting ourselves with regularly, and not just by those who share(d) his views.

Read More

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Blog, General Poker | 8 comments

Joe Sartori (1959-2014)

 

joe-sartori

 

Even if you didn’t know Joe Sartori by name, you still knew him.

He was the kind of guy who was always there for everyone.  He was the person who watched over those he cared about.  Some people in life are just like that.  They’re called guardian angels.

Joe was steadily dependable, unwaveringly so, always there when you needed a favor or just a helping hand.  He never took credit for anything, and even displayed an endearing social awkwardness when receiving praise.  He shied away from the public spotlight, and instead was seemingly far more comfortable with trying make others look and feel good.  He was a doer, not a talker.  He believed in actions and results.

Joe was a gentle soul, who worked hard, and loved life.  He was best known for his tireless and often varied work within the poker industry.  He started out at Palace Station and later the Palms, in Las Vegas.  Joe also worked at Casino Morongo, near Palm Springs.  For the past two years, he worked exclusively at the television show, “Poker Night in America,” owned by Rush Street Gaming.

Yesterday, Joe passed away at the age of 55, which goes to show that life just isn’t fair sometimes.  Most of us never had a chance to say our goodbyes.

Read More

Posted by on Sep 13, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Music and Concert Reviews | 0 comments

Tom Schneider’s Moving Musical Tribute to Lou Gehrig

 

lou-gehrig

 

By now, we’ve all heard about the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.”  Some of us have even taken the plunge.

Poker pro Tom Schneider did more than just that.  He wrote and performed a song tribute to the late baseball legend.  Inspired by greater awareness about ALS — also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — Schneider was motivated to do some research and learn more about the baseball player, and the man beneath the famed pinstripes.  The result of that inquisitiveness is the song, posted below.

I’m impressed by Schneider’s willingness to do something like this, which takes guts.  During a recent film shoot for “Poker Night in America,” where Schneider performed a few songs on camera, I was surprised to learn that the four-time WSOP gold bracelet winner only started playing the guitar about three years ago.  Now, he’s writing songs and inspiring others.  That’s pretty cool.

Here’s “Lou,” co-written with Rob Heath and performed by Tom “Donkeybomber” Schneider.  It’s combined with a wonderful video montage to Lou Gehrig.

 

Lou Gehrig tribute – “Lou” by Tom Schneider from Tom Schneider Music on Vimeo.

 

Trust me, click the link.  It’s worth three minutes of your time:  LINK TO “LOU” BY TOM SCHNEIDER

 

Read More

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, Travel | 0 comments

Remembering the World Trade Center Before 9/11

 

wtc4

 

Introduction:  Today marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11.  This seems to be a fitting occasion to look back and remember the World Trade Center before they collapsed on that tragic day.  Marieta and I visited the World Trade Center a few times.  We even went to the top of one of the towers about a year before the tragedy.  Today’s essay includes some photos which were taken during those times.  This is all that remains of those fond memories.

 

Note:  For a broader perspective of what I witnessed at the Pentagon on the day of 9/11, read this personal recollection posted at my site two years ago — REMEMBERING SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 AT THE PENTAGON

 

They were colossal even by New York standards.

The twin towers, so utterly unremarkable in design, yet so grandiose by sheer size and scope, weren’t just windows to the world.  They were extensions of our national character and pillars of America’s unequivocal stature as a global superpower.

Within sight of those two towers, the Statue of Liberty is often said to symbolize our national identity.  But the unruffled lady bearing a flaming torch is more of an ideal, really.  Rooted squarely within the planet’s financial epicenter, the World Trade Center arose as the true manifestation who we are and what we’ve come to represent as a nation, as an economy, and as a people — imposing, bold, excessive, and unapologetic for it all.

Which is precisely why they were such inviting targets on that fateful day no one saw coming.

 

wtc1

 

The view from the top of the towers looking east towards Brooklyn was breathtaking.

Visitors rode express elevators from the ground floor to the observation decks.  One was inside.  Another was on the rooftop, outside.

 

wtc2

 

That’s Marieta off to the right of the frame.

Here’s another angle, of the view looking east, but angled more towards the south.  If you look carefully, you can see the tip of Manhattan Island starting to curve around, there off to the right side.  The World Trade Center was only a block or so away from the shore.  In fact, landfill was added to part of the outer perimeter which allowed traffic to move more easily.  A park was also added near the waterfront.  Of course, that’s all gone now, or at least it’s been transformed.

 

wtc3

 

When we stepped inside Windows on the World, the famous restaurant perched on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower, this was the view looking out towards Hudson Bay.  There in the center of the photo where the golden sunset radiates off the water, is Liberty Island, which provides the base of the Statue of Liberty.  You can barely see her proudly standing there in the glow of the sunshine.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The twin towers standing so close side by side meant you could sometimes see people over in the other building.  Those working in offices.  Maintenance people.  Company executives with corner offices who by the very definition of where they worked had “made it.”  All strangers.

Watching someone over in the other tower, catching their eye, and waving was pretty amazing.  Seeing them wave back was a real joy.

I wonder what happened to some of those nice people who waved.

 

wtc5

 

The first thing that hits you when you step outside onto the observation deck at the World Trade Center is — the wind.

It’s windy.

Not like a breeze.  Not even gusts.  It just blows…..hard….all the time.

We went outside on a perfect day.  I can’t even imagine the difficulty of what it must have been like to do construction or maintenance work on the roof of these buildings.  The wind was brutal.

Here’s the view from the outer observation deck looking directly north, uptown on Manhattan Island.  Oddly enough, when being up this high it’s so far up one might lose any fear of heights.  It’s almost like flying.

 

pict16

 

I did not shoot this photo (above).  It shows the brave rescue workers a short time after the twin towers collapsed.

Just about everyone connected in any way to the events of 9/11 had an opinion on what to do with the now-sacred site.  In the end, rich and powerful financiers do what they always do, which is to tear it all down, haul it away, and rebuild again.  The land beneath the bodies and rubble was far too valuable to be left simply, as is, which would have been the most appropriate tribute.

At the very least, part of the iconic outer skeleton of World Trade Center should have been left intact, and then other buildings could have been built around it.  Something, at least, should have remained of those fallen towers, to remind us.  Something tangible.  Something people can see, and touch, and remember.

Now that those two platforms of such wonderfully unique perception are gone, we can no longer gaze out, reflect, and enjoy.  The purgatory between earth and sky stands no more.

 

article-2365931-1AD74C5F000005DC-452_634x948

 

Postscript:  So, whatever happened to all the twisted steel and broken glass, and all the other remains from the 9/11 crime scene?  Most of the debris ended up across the bay in a landfill on Staten Island.  Here’s a video clip about what has become of those remains:

 

__________

 

Read More
css.php