Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Loving Life, Defying Death

Doyle Brunson not looking backWas goofin’ around online yesterday when I saw a story about Oscar Niemeyer, the well-known Brazilian architect, who just turned 102 years old. What did it mean to Niemeyer to have reached such an advanced age?

“Turning 102 is crap,” he said. “There is nothing to commemorate.”

The article went on to clarify that such grouchiness should not be taken to indicate that Niemeyer doesn’t enjoy life -- quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just he’s too busy living to get overly worked up about yet another birthday. In addition to working on still more projects, he continues to enjoy cigars (“an old habit that I cultivate with much gusto,” he says), and at age 98 married his 60-year-old secretary.

The story made me think a little about poker’s elder statesman Doyle Brunson, who at age 76 keeps rolling along like he’s half that. I remembered a post from the first week or so of this year’s World Series of Poker where I was relating having worked a long day. As I left and was walking through the Rio hallway I heard “a faint whirring sound.” The sound got louder, then finally reached me. “I looked up somewhat woozily as the cowboy hat-wearing man on the scooter roared past, moving at what seemed to my dazed self the speed of thought itself.”

It was Brunson, of course, motoring along at three o’clock in the morning. Like I say, the article made me think of Brunson -- for a few reasons.

'The Godfather of Poker' by Doyle Brunson (2009)One was because I recently read Brunson’s new autobiography, The Godfather of Poker, in which he talks near the end about his long life.

“Different doctors have told me that my body, as badly as I’ve treated it, must be programmed to last a hundred years or more. One said 125, another said 100, so I settled on 120, which was a fair compromise.” (I reviewed Brunson’s book over on Betfair a couple of weeks ago, and wrote a bit about here, too.)

Another reason I might have thought of Brunson was because I’ve been following @TexDolly on Twitter. In between the frequent blonde jokes and, now, Tiger Woods jokes, Brunson will share other news and/or thoughts. Just a couple of days ago, he reported how he and a number of other poker people at the ongoing Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic all voluntarily had their heads shaved in support of Thuy Doan. Doan was diagnosed with cancer this fall, and after chemotherapy had lost her hair. So earlier this week Brunson, Eli Elezra, Barry Greenstein, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and about a dozen others got their heads shaved at the Bellagio as a show of support.

Also read something @TexDolly a couple of days ago where Brunson noted how the Five Diamond was about to begin. “It will shorten the days if I go deep in the tournament,” he wrote. “Getting old sucks!” (Why does it seem like Brunson is winking at us there?)

A third reason why the story of the 102-year-old Brazilian architect made me think of Brunson had to do with the fact that I spent a short time yesterday railing the pot-limit Omaha games over on Full Tilt Poker, in particular watching Isildur1 appearing to be reaching the end of the line with regard to his once boisterous bankroll.

During the period I was watching, he and Cole South were playing six tables of heads-up $50/$100 PLO, with Isildur1 buying in short at all six. South quickly stacked him at each table, and the pair moved to $100/$200 PLO, where they followed a similar sequence. They played a few more hands at a couple of $200/$400 PLO tables, but then Isildur1 suddenly left the scene. You can read more about this latest episode in Isildur1’s rapid fall here in Nicole Gordon’s “Online Railbird Report.” According to another report, the Swede, once up over $5 million, is now down something like $2.5 million overall.

Anyhow, during the hands the railbirds were chirping away in the chatbox throughout, excitedly firing their various commentaries and non sequiturs as the action continued.

And, as usual, there was that guy.

If you’ve railed any of these high stakes games, you know to whom I’m referring -- the one who gets a laugh out of typing “RIP Doyle” again and again. Usually gets a few reactions from others wondering if, indeed, Brunson has died. Finally everyone realizes the lame hoax and they get back to offering their unsolicited critiques.

One might wonder where the idea came from -- to joke about Brunson’s passing. The fact is, Brunson himself might well have encouraged such morbid-seeming goofs when back in January he made a prop bet that he would not die in 2009.

You might recall the story. A fellow named Mack Rawden wrote an article at the beginning of the year for the site CinemaBlend in which he listed the “100 Most Likely People to Die in 2009.” Haven’t checked the entire grim list, but I do see Michael Jackson included there.

Rawden also included Brunson at No. 16, and Texas Dolly responded by writing on his blog that Rawden was a “clown.” “I would like to lay 10-1 for any amount if anybody knows this joker.”

Eventually the two were put in touch, and a prop bet was arranged between them. If Brunson makes it, Rawden will donate $1,000 to the American Cancer Society; if not, Rawden gets $10,000.

Niemeyer says at the end of that article, “I don’t fear death,” a sentiment Brunson echoes both in his autobiography and in the way he lives his life. As the examples of the Brazilian architect and famous poker player readily teach us, fearing death is no way to live. As Socrates says in the Apology, “this fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom.”

No, much better to keep on building.

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