Rest in Peace Doyle Brunson, the “Godfather of Poker,” who died Sunday at 89.
Daniel Smythe did a nice job with his obituary on Monday, as did others. I started writing his obituary a few times just to have one in the can in case he passed (yes, papers have such things for the old celebs), but I never got it done. It seemed gruesome to me.
Like a lot of remembrances about someone famous, this isn’t really about Doyle, but about me. I only got to meet him once, at a press conference at the 2006 WSOP, and this was my first assignment after working a year from home for Card Player Magazine
I had my new shirt I bought at JC Penny’s and another bad haircut in a long-line of bad haircuts. I was to cover a presser about, of all things, Pamela Anderson getting into the online poker business with PamelaPoker.com, a sister site to his own sort-of-terrible DoylesRoom.com, and also part of Doyle’s online poker network.
I step into this small conference room and it’s packed because, as a gimmick, Pam and Doyle would be “married.” Pam wore mostly white, with a diamond-studded veil and a bouquet of pink roses. Doyle wore what seemed to be the same suit coat he had on in those pictures by Ulvis Alberts in 1980.
The last real thing I covered was a school board meeting and “Inside Edition” wasn’t there for that. But they were for this, along with other national tabloids and news sources.
I was told when and where to show up — an interview with Doyle and Pam was secured. I had no idea how, since there were so many people, but I listened to the press conference, scribbled in my notebook, watched as Pamela threw a bouquet of pink roses over her shoulder (a guy with a goatee caught it), and then it was over as they listed the organizations that had a pass to back stage to face-off with the stars.
After the host said “Card Player,” I was shuffled through a set of curtains to a room where Doyle and Pam sat on a couch. A lady barked out orders to the invited press while someone poured a tableful of flutes bubbling with Cristal champagne.
Being nervous as hell, and in the back of the line waiting my turn, I grabbed a flute and brought it to my lips.
One of Pam’s body guards, who was only about 4-inches taller than me (but was as round as a bowling ball), stepped up out of the corner and says: “Yo dog. That’s not for you, dog.”
I held up my notebook and camera (which was my own busted-up digital camera) and begin to say “I’m part of this,” but he never lets me. He just repeats “that’s not for you, dog, I don’t care, that’s not for you, dog,” until I put the flute back in with the 50 or so others.
One of my biggest regrets in that job — and I have so many — is I didn’t chug it to see what would have happened.
Instead, I waited my turn to talk to the weird duo while the young lady in charge barked out orders, giving the reporters about 5 minutes to chat with the stars.
Pam wore a see-through top and her nipples were right there. Doyle wore a a suit and his trademark 50-gallon hat and a smile like he ate the canary.
I totally forgot what was said when it was my turn, only that I think I pretty much ignored Pam while asking Doyle a few very stupid questions. They both were nice, courteous, and patient.
Then I needed to grab a picture, but my old camera had a design problem. You’d turn in on by sliding open the front and the lenses would squirt out. You’d slide this shut to turn it off.
But a colleague at the local paper I worked at before Card Player dropped it the one time I lent it to her and bent it. The mechanism was tricky and if I didn’t hold the camera quite right and accidentally touched the little door that covered the front, the lenses would pull back in like a scared penis and it would power off.
So, with my notebook tucked under my arm and a line of reporters dying to drink some of the champagne we all had to walk by, I asked them to pose.
Pamela pressed tight and draped her arms around him and Doyle, the good Christian man, smiled and blushed while the camera, over and over, went to sleep.
Each time I’d say sorry, reboot the banged-up Canon, pull it up to my eyes, and watch it shut off again. Over and over and over.
The grease film of sweat that used to come with being put on the spot coated me, and I joked about the camera, but I couldn’t get it to work right and each time I reset it and have them pose, the whirl of the gears pulling the lenses back inside churned my stomach with absurdity.
The young lady who was in charge of getting the media out of there as soon as possible hopped from foot to foot like she had to take a piss.
As soon as the flash went off and I thanked them, I was shoved through the curtain and back out into the halls of the Rio, honestly wondering what the hell happened, stunned but happy I got the picture and the stories, both the one for the magazine, and one I’d carry for me and my friends.
I should have chugged that champagne, though.
If I did, I bet Doyle would have laughed as the bowling ball man turned me into a soft pretzel.
It would have been totally worth it.
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