Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lappin does Vegas!

Ok I'm going to let you in on a secret. When I first encountered David Lappin after he moved back from Connecticut to Dublin at the start of this decade, I wasn't sure whether I actually liked him or not. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn't. He initially came across as snobbish, arrogant, pretentious and dismissive, but as I got to know him better I realised he was also domineering, brash, sanctimonious, obnoxious and self important. The only things he had going for him were his spiky hair and his spikier sense of humour: he was tremendously entertaining at both the best and worst of times. Whether he was picking fights with other players at the table, berating dealers, insulting floor staff, dismissing would be conversationalists  as unworthy of his time or sniffily asking barmen in working class pubs to put the cricket on the TV, he was never dull. I guess this came across in my earliest accounts of him in this blog as people started asking me about him when I travelled in Europe as if he was some exotic species, the almost extinct perhaps even mythical Lappinus Dickus. When I came to the WSOP that year I was not just asked about him but frequently accused of having invented him to spice up my blog ("Nobody could be that big a dickhead"). 

I'm not sure how long it was before I actually started liking him as opposed to just enjoying his company. I'm similarly unclear as to whether that was a result of him mellowing with age (something which has certainly happened which I give a lot of the credit to his long term girlfriend Saron who was unquestionably a mellowing influence), whether I simply became more tolerant of his excesses and his intensity, or whether I realised that behind the brash facade lurked a teddy bear who just wanted to be understood. The rock on which our friendship was built was we both saw past each other's facade and realised we had way more in common than appearances suggested (our senses of humour are particularly in sync: away from others with just each other for company we indulge an outlandish escalationist humour that would shock anyone else). I realised this at a UKIPT in Edinburgh when Dave told a group of English pros that contrary to popular belief I was not an easy person to be friends with, as I demanded very high standards of my friends and had no problem moving on at the drop of a hat if they proved unable to live up to them. Knowing when to fold has always one of my strengths: whether it's a hand faced with a bad runout or a relationship that has gone toxic. Neither of us suffer fools gladly: we differ only in the way we deal with them (Dave will eviscerate them in an argument before moving on, whereas I tend to skip straight to the moving on part). We are both brutally honest in our communications with those closest to us: if you make us angry, we won't leave you in any doubt about the how and the why. Our early arguments were quite epic: others who witnessed them often thought they were witnessing the end rather than the forging of a friendship as we attempted to rip holes in each other's viewpoints and challenged each other on every point. But this was one of the keys to the friendship; the fact that we could rip the other to shreds, survey the wreckage, and come to a joint conclusion on what we could agree on and what we would have to agree to disagree on. In Edinburgh Dave explained this saying he didn't want friends who agree with him on every point: he wants friends who will continually challenge him, and try to convince him he's wrong. This is equally true of me: to onlookers one of our arguments might look like two egomaniacs trying to convince the other he's right, and in a sense that's exactly what is happening, but the point is what not who is right. We are both looking to be convinced by the arguments of the other, and once the argument has been settled, it matters not the slightest who initially held the position we both ended up in. All that matters is that we are now both convinced of it. 

This makes us natural collaborators and explains why the Chip Race has worked. We share a lot of beliefs and motivations, even if we work in very different ways. In this, we are lucky that our differences complement each other. Dave plans and prepares everything meticulously down to the last detail, not just scripting the entire show but also agonising over the exact sequence and wording of everything. I'm an improviser: I just want the broad strokes of what we are trying to do with each piece we record, and I prefer to wing it from there rather than stick to Dave's script word for word (which he insists on writing anyway). Dave's meticulous approach means we generally stay on point and rarely meander into the woolly half assed musings you get with a lot of poker content, while my ability to improvise on the spot helps to keep the interviews fresh and flowing (Dave frequently acknowledges that the best question of a lot of interviews come when I improvise and diverge from script) and also means that if an interviewee is uncomfortable or declines to answer a question I'm invariably the one who comes up with an alternative on the spot. And the bottom line is that when it comes to the finished product we both have such high standards that we would almost certainly drive anyone else who tried to collaborate with us insane. 

Every year since I got to know Dave I left for Vegas, and found myself vaguely wondering what a Lappin in Vegas would look like. The more I got to know him the easier it was to imagine, to the point that even in his absence he brightened my Vegas experience more than many who were present, because I could imagine and laugh at how he would react to different absurd circumstances as they arose. 

This year I didn't have to imagine. Having enjoyed himself in Vegas late last year at the Unibet Open there, he decided to give the WSOP a try at last. For the first ten days of my trip we shared a small room in the Gold Coast. People who know us both predicted disaster but I wasn't worried, I've shared small rooms with David before and we can entertain each other without getting on each other's nerves, a kind of rapport we both share with very few others. 

We met up in Munich and got to the US border together. Half way through the queue we realised we hadn't filled our Customs Declarations form (no pens on the plane) so Dave scooted off to fill them up while I held our position. He came back with a few minor details he couldn't have known missing from mine. No biggie I thought, I'll just borrow a pen from the nice friendly Border agent and fill them in quickly. 

When we got to the head of the queue, the Border lady Beatriz seemed a little stressed out. 

"Are you family?"
We looked at each other before Lappin said "Kinda"

Lappin didn't argue the point leaving me to deal with Beatriz. Her mood worsened when she saw my incomplete customs form. 

"No pens on the...."
She threw a pen at me. 

As I filled up the form behind the safety of the yellow line I hoped that Lappin would find some way to charm this tough lady before I had to deal with her again. Whether he did or not, she seemed over the worst of it when I was summoned forward again, and when she wished me a nice stay in her country I felt all was right between us again. Our bags were waiting for us, and I was suddenly feeling good about my quickest entry into Vegas ever. But Beatriz would have the last laugh. She had clearly stamped or marked our forms in some way that ensured that when we presented them we were ushered aside and back, and told to follow a blue line that meandered its way into a hidden hall for more rigorous searches and interrogations. We found ourselves the only Caucasians in a line of Mexicans and Chinese (when a security guy went down the line to make sure everyone understood what was expected of them Lappin responded characteristically with a Trump impression that involved a derisive hand gesture and a "Take them away"). 

The Mexicans were travelling light: the Chinese not so much. Each of them seemed to have several hundred boxes containing the entire contents of a village, during the next two hours I found myself grateful for how good company Dave is. 

(Pic courtesy of ArtySmokes)

Lappin is a man of many contradictions. One is that while he sees himself as a cultured cosmopolitan, a literary man who will cram his blogs with obscure Ancient Greek references, Beckett and a few words that will send you to a dictionary, he deals with everyone and anyone he meets irrespective of age gender or cultural background like they grew up in inner city Dublin. He uses the street language of the Liberties like it's the form of English the world understands. He will never have anything from the menu, he would never like something in a shop, he will always do it. He'll do a few of your eggs, he'll do a sausage, and he'll do your creamy chocolate buns. He's impervious to the looks of confusion this generates, and if you ask him whether he likes something, he'll tell you it's either deadly or brutal. 

The first time we went to TGIs, he decided to do a skillet, but not to do a drink. Skillets are a thirsty undertaking, so every time the lovely waitress came to check whether the skillet was deadly or brutal, she'd ask if she could bring him a drink, only to be told he had no desire to do a drink. When she finally brought the bill and asked us if everything was satisfactory, Lappin looked her square in the eye and did the deadest of pans telling her 
"Yeah but I can't believe you never brought me a drink". 

She didn't get the joke, but it was still funny as fuck. 

Lappin did his stack in his first bracelet event within an hour, but built a monster in the Monster. Unfortunately he did most of that 80 or so from the bubble, which left him no alternative but to stall into the money. This would upset a lot of people, but not Lappin. Nobody loves a good stall as much as our Liberties barrow boy, and he's better at it than anyone else will ever be. On this occasion though, third hand in, a Frenchman at the table was onto him and determined to thwart it. 

" are stalling!!!"
A more faint hearted man might be upset by this turn of events, but not our Lappin. He saw it for what it was: the opportunity to stall even more in entertaining fashion.  He fixed our French foe with a baleful stare. 
"I don't know what you mean"
"You are stalling for the money"
"What is this word stalling? Is it a French word?"
"You are...."

More seconds wasted as our French villain struggled for alternative phrasing. 
"You are....fake tanking. You are a fake tanker"
"I can assure you I have a tricky decision. I have a big hand"
"I do not believe you. You are fake tanking"
"Dealer, can you show him my hand to show him I'm not faking?"

As an aside, Lappin had a jack and a four of different suits, but more importantly had the knowledge that the dealer couldn't show his hand to the French devil. After another good minute had been lost verifying this, Dave resumed his deliberations over what to do with Jack four off before deciding it was probably a fold. 

A few minutes later the Frenchman is in the horrors facing an all in from the only stack that covers him after a click war. A few seconds into his deliberations, Lappin is shaking his head in exasperation and pointing at his imaginary wrist watch. 

"What are you doing???"
Lappin now accuses the Frenchman of fake tanking, with predictably hilarious results that have the rest of the table in stitches. By the time the Frenchman has recovered his composure to be able to think straight again, the bubble is a lot nearer. 

The Gallic complaints continue long after he's folded his hand. Lappin eventually shoots him a grin:
"Look I was obviously joking. Everyone else at the table can see that. They were all laughing. I guess when God was handing out senses of humour you were in the line for nice teeth". 

These are but three of many of the tales I could tell you how Lappin brightened my first ten days in Vegas. I could tell you the one about Puggy Pearson's resemblance to a small boy and what his cigar looked like to Lappin in his banner in the Rio, and how Amarillo Slim fits into all of this, but it's probably for the best if I leave it to your imagination.  I will point out that by the end of the ten days all the waitresses in TGIs sounded like they were from the Liberties, they were keen exponents of deadpan humour, and every time I went in there after he had departed to do foods and people and a wedding in Italy, they asked me where that other Chip Race guy was. 

Say what you like about Lappin he does leave his mark every where he goes. 



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