The views expressed here are from an ex-poker dealer that could step back into the box at any point in time — or not! Sometimes funny, sometimes cold and cutting, sometimes just tossing out a little bit of wisdom I learned about myself while pitching tickets and playing poker for over 30 years, this is an ongoing walk-through of what it's like to sit in the poker dealer's chair – the box.
Introducing Michael Craig to the Corporation
I went into super search mode to find most of the following information which I knew was saved on hard drives and in my email folders. In the last edition of The View from the Box, I mentioned receiving my first email from Michael Craig (MC), the author of The Professor The Banker and the Suicide King, and while this may sound as if I'm tooting the "Linda-horn" and I'm not, he would probably never have managed all the information and the intro that got his foot in the door if not for Moi.
After my first email exchange with MC, where I basically told him to buzz off because I wasn't going to help him write his book, we became email buddies, and then phone buddies, and then as the wheels of life grind forward, we became confidants in the biggest game I've ever dealt and had privileged information to. And if you doubt that his introduction and background for "The Richest Poker Game of All Time" came from me, simply check the first page of his "Acknowledgements" in the book, I'm listed right behind his wife. And true to form, even with all the emails, the phone calls, the exchanged information, my last name is spelled incorrectly. Go figure!
MC was looking for an 'in' — a way to start talking to members of the Corporation and because we talked on the phone a lot of nights (early a.m.) when I got off work, he knew I was the dealer in the Howard Lederer instructional poker videos and that I had been able to recommend a few players to Rick Bierman (the man behind Lederer's videos and the poker camps — and that is another story, Kids, but it will have to come later), and MC wanted to be in the player's seat to have an up-close-and-informal intro to Lederer.
MC never got a shot at the Lederer videos but another door opened in a rather surprising twist and that was the beginning of one of the biggest rides anyone has ever taken through high-stakes poker action in a front row seat without having to fade a buy-in or wear a dealer's shirt.
I went in to deal my regular Friday night shift at Bellagio in the middle of May, 2004, and somewhere in the screaming noise of the night, Michael Berk, (yuppers, the king of Baywatch fame) came up to me on one of my breaks and wanted to know if I would play in a video he was filming - a live tournament with 10 players and a video tournament. David Sklanski, Mike Matusow, and Todd Brunson would interview each player, no matter what place the player finished. I thanked him politely but told him, "No," because I would have to be there on my day off. I also told him I knew a few people that were interested. He gave me his phone number and told me they needed to get in touch with him right away so he knew who he could count on.
I asked my good friend, Sylvia Hart, she did go to the shoot but I don't believe she got nearly as much out of it as MC did. I also asked Diane, a regular that I had dealt 7 card stud to since the Mirage days. I don't know if she went or not. I called MC on my break and told him he had to call Berk immediately and make sure he was in.
WOW! Did he get in! I got a long email about the whole shoot. Most of the email isn't necessary to put into print here so I won't, but a few parts of it are funny, entertaining, and very pertinent to MC's getting into 'the circle.' BTW, the video is titled On Line Poker (2004) and you can find it on Amazon if you want to pick it up.
Thanks for hooking me up with Mike Berk and this project. It was long and exhausting and there was a lot of wasted time and sitting and standing around time, but it far exceeded my expectations as far as how I wanted to use it to further my writing.
I expected that I was a glorified extra (maybe not even glorified), there to give the experts something to talk about. They actually seemed to CARE about the players in this thing, though. Everybody acted like it was real important for us to try to "win" our session and get the prizes (that I'm sure we'll never see anyway). They could just as easily have set up the hands for us and told us the decisions to make so they could stimulate a particular discussion between David, Mike, and Todd. Instead, they insisted on it being an honest competition, which created a lot of logistical problems for them
In addition, I figured that during breaks and delays (about 90% of the time I was there, and I was there today from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.), the experts and the other "somebodies" would be off in some private place. Nah, we all hung out together. No one pulled rank or even acted uncomfortable hanging around with each other. People just walked up to Todd and asked him questions about The Big Game. And he was fine with it.
Mike M was a psychopath. He mentioned some kind of binge behavior from the night before and, after having his face made up, collapsed on the couch. I mean COLLAPSED, like Jimi Hendrix did about five minutes before choking on his own vomit.
And Todd was a character, too. I told him about my book and he launched into this rap about how underappreciated and underpublicized the high-limit players are, compared with the tournament players, who aren't in the same league. I'm sure a lot of people would be bothered by his self-righteousness, but this fits the message of my book, especially the message I want to SEND to potentially uncooperative high-stakes players. Todd was an easy sell. He later came up to me and gave me his phone number and said I should call him I didn't even have to ask.
Thanks so much for getting me into this. It's typical of the help you've given me since the first time we made contact. I don't know how I'm going to repay you, but I have to think of something.
End of email
Before I jump further ahead in the time capsule, I need to backtrack to 2003. I officially met Craig Singer, Andy Beal’s sweater, on May 1st, 2003, when I visited with Andy and Craig for a brief moment before I dealt the game. Over a period of time, when Andy played and Craig sat with him, I stopped and visited with both of them for a brief moment in the buzz of the busy room.
Somewhere, close to the middle of May 2004, (about the same time MC was stepping into the high limit circle), I approached The Big Game to say hi. After all the buzz was over, Craig asked me if I would like to have a drink with him when I finished work. I hem/hawed around that I had a date to workout with someone at 3:30 AM and thanked him for the invite - begging for another time. When my butt hit the seat of my next game, which was right next to their table, I almost slapped myself off of my seat, This was the biggest game in the history of the poker world and I had just turned down an invitation to have a drink with someone that had a ring side seat.
I immediately called Carmen Bates (the high brush) and asked her to tell Craig I would meet him. We met and drank wine until the sun came up at the piano bar at Bellagio. We even saw Andy walk by in the casino on his way to...who knows where...about 5 a.m.
Life is just an incredible story. We met more than once, simply to talk about poker, how Craig became involved with Andy, the Big Game, ourselves and lives, and our own interaction with poker. We became friends. We did stay in touch while I was still living in Las Vegas and met for dinner/drinks/conversation when Craig came to town. I was even elevated to wonderfulness when Craig brought his family to town and introduced them to me at Bellagio one night. Awesomeness! The fact that he intro’d me to them and the fact that the whole family was wholesome and great together was pretty cool for me.
I got a phone text in December, 2013, from Craig Singer, he was enjoying reading The View from the Box about the Beal games. Nice!
There’s more but you’ll have to check back.
I am soliciting dealers to join me in this great adventure of writing a history of poker from the dealer’s side of the table. A brief sketch of the details are listed in Table Tango, (my blog) in this post, if you would like to find out more information. I would love to share comments from readers but at this time there is no convenient system installed at PokerWorks to handle this. Send me an email – info(at)pokerworks.com — if you want to be one of the contributors to this section, and in the meantime, I’ll work at finding a way to enable a comment section.