I don’t know why it happens, but for some reason we humans tend to
get much more emotional as we get older. I’m not sure if it’s biological or
psychological, but I am convinced that it occurs.
The events of Sept. 11 brought that home to me in a very dramatic way.
To be honest, the event hit me, as it did everyone else, like a ton of
bricks falling right smack on the top of my head. I thought that after a
couple of weeks of tears and anger, I would be able to go on with my life.
Perhaps if I were younger, that might have happened, but for this old
guy, it just wasn’t that easy. In fact, it took me almost a month after
Sept. 11 to make my first tournament, and by the end of the year I had
played a whopping five tournaments.
After a few weeks, my wife began urging me to get out, but I saw no
reason to go do something that I did not have my heart into. It was just
that after watching the horror and heroism played out over and over on
television, the thought of playing poker seemed silly. I became depressed
over the fact that suddenly my work, playing poker, seemed so
meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
I wanted to do something heroic, as so many had done in New York City
and Washington DC, and in the skies over Pennsylvania. There seemed
to be nothing that I could do other than donating my money, giving my
blood, and saying some prayers.
Eventually, I quit dreaming of all the things I could never do. I began to
realize that even though I could not run into a building to save other
people and would probably never have the chance to rush hijackers on a
plane, maybe I still could be brave even if I was just in my own little
world of poker.
Even though my occupation as a poker player is not one in which great
acts of heroism are called for, and sitting at a poker table is not nearly
the same situation as any of those faced by the thousands of victims on
that fateful day, there are times when someone in some way, shape, or
form is trying to hijack the game. Of course, he’s not trying to blow the
other players up, but in some perverse way there’s a hijacking of the
table, and here, too, someone must bravely stand up to him.
In order to embark on this new path of bravery, I knew the first thing I
must do was renounce my membership in the “old school.” That is, you
keep your mouth shut unless it affects you. You don’t rock the boat and
you don’t fight city hall. You just go along with everything and remember
that “nobody likes a troublemaker.”
You see, over the years, to get along with everyone and to be perceived
as a nice guy and not a troublemaker, I joined the old school. Therefore, I
have let things slide on many, many occasions. I have seen players
abuse dealers, viciously berate other players, bend the rules, break the
rules, and be just plain obnoxious. To keep my membership in the old
school, there were even times when I quit a game, not wanting to fight
other players or “city hall.” Sadly, the only times I was brave were when I
was angered by being personally attacked.
So, now that I am no longer a member of the old school, my aim is to try
to be brave. That means that I will speak up when I see something
wrong, even when I am not personally involved. I will call the floorman
over when some bully is berating the dealer or others in the game, or if
some big lug has had too much to drink and is being obnoxious and has
everyone at the table afraid to open his mouth. Or, when the floorman
comes over to the table to make a decision, I will be brave and tell him
what I saw instead of adhering to what the old school taught, which was
“mind your own business.” I will speak up if I see someone “shooting a
shot,” bending or breaking the rules, or slow-playing a friend or possible
partner in a tournament.
I may get banged up by the “old schoolers” and I may lose some friends,
but maybe if I and the rest of the players act brave and stick together as
the passengers on a hijacked airliner would, we can conquer some of the
injustice in poker.
Lastly, let me commend those who are already risking the wrath of other
players and management by being brave and speaking up when they see
injustice and wrongdoing. I’m proud to join your ranks, and wish it hadn’t
taken some horrific tragedy to learn this small lesson.
For what it’s worth …
By Vince Burgio