At this moment, I am amid hundreds of others, their conversations, the occasional toddlers’ cries, and a steady stream of updates and announcements filling the upholstered, air-conditioned space we all share.
I’m surrounded. I’m also alone.
A little while ago, Vera dropped me off at the airport on her way to work. She’ll be coming out to visit for a few days in early July. No fun to leave her, but the fact that I’m going out for just four weeks -- and she’ll be there in a little over two -- made the goodbye stuff a little easier this time.
Spent most of the morning finishing the business of packing for a month away from home. Have become increasingly proficient at paring down over the years, managing this time to get it all in one large suitcase to check and a shoulder bag to carry. Even so, as I sit here waiting, I can’t help but be stricken off and on by thoughts of having forgotten some vital something or other.
Not too worrying, though. If it’s really important, Vera can either mail it or bring it when she comes. And when it comes down to it, there ain’t all that much in the way of the stuff we pack up and carry around with us that’s really important.
Speaking of what is important, I am also starting to think about all the friends and colleagues I’ll be seeing soon. While I’m excited about seeing some poker and helping tell the story of this year’s WSOP, I’m also looking forward to all of the reunions, reconnections, and rendez-vous.
Poker does that, you know. Brings folks together, I mean. The idea came up briefly in Norman Chad’s most recent Washington Post column, although his primary purpose was to defend poker against its many detractors. The piece carries the somewhat bland title “World Series of Poker celebrates the great American game,” although you might’ve seen it syndicated elsewhere with alternate headlines like “We poker players deserve respect.”
It’s probably better to describe Chad as having taken the offensive, too, not just countering others’ criticisms but adopting that tried-and-true table strategy of being more aggressive. Perhaps he has been emboldened by that 12th-place finish in Event No. 25, the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better event.
“We’re tired of getting pushed around and treated like outcasts when we’re doing nothing wrong,” writes Chad. “Poker is as American as baseball and apple pie, and the game involves math, psychology, money management and a variety of other nuanced skills that make hitting a 90-mph fastball look simple.”
Check out the piece yourself to see how Chad furthers his argument for poker, not just promoting the game to sports’ level of cultural acceptance, but even higher.
Like I say, Chad also talks about poker bringing folks together. Early on, Chad speaks of his annual trek to Vegas. “I come here for the desert calm, the dry heat, the scent of gambling” he begins, noting a little later how he likes to “gather with kindred souls from around the world trying to outwit and outluck each other.”
That’s a big part of poker’s appeal, of course, the way it provides a means for like-minded types to find one another and connect. Same goes for the reporters, I’d say, among whom I know I’ll be finding a number of “kindred souls” once I arrive.
So I’m alone, for now. But not lonely.
Still, I have this Andrew Gold song stuck in my head. The ’70s pop star sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago, and as a result a few of his hits have resurfaced amid the chatter and noise of contemporary life. You might remember “Thank You for Being a Friend.” But the one I keep thinking of is the super-catchy “Lonely Boy,” the one with the weird, out-of-step rhythm. Another great one for the mix tape.
Like I say, I ain’t lonely. But I think I’ll spin this one anyway while I wait here by myself.