Monday, August 27, 2018

Sunglasses, Smidge and Uber

A lot of poker players these days look the same, dress the same, talk the same, play the same and act the same. But then there are the exceptions: the free spirits unaffected by peer pressure who are happy to plot their own course. One such player is Padraig O'Neill, known affectionately to his friends as Smidge (although Mrs Doke for a long time insisted on calling him Smudge, and it almost caught on). 

So I'm sitting in the Brasilia room of the Amazon playing the WSOP marathon and in the distance I see the familiar and distinctive shape of Smidge. His characteristic stillness and silence at the table, his distinctive stare down and facial expressions. But something is different: he's wearing sunglasses. Sunglasses! I know he's been mainly grinding online cash this past year and may feel a little out of touch with live tournament, but..... Sunglasses?!?!?  The trademark of the inexperienced recreational terrified he's giving off tells. 

I start looking forward to the break so I can take the piss out of his sunglasses. However, I get sucked into the last hand before the break and it extends well into the break. Smidge walks by and I nod at him. No acknowledgement from Smidge. He just keeps walking with that distinctive Smidgey trudge of his. Smidge is not an unfriendly man, so either he didn't see me through those stupid sunglasses, or he's so ashamed to be wearing them he's hoping I won't recognise him. 

I get back from the toilet race at the break barely in time for the first hand, so decide taking the piss out of Smidge and his sunglasses will have to wait til the next break. This time, I fold preflop so I'm able to get up and walk over to Smidge's table. It's his turn to be embroiled in the last game so I stand watching him play out the hand with all his customary betting motions, facial expressions and checking action. 

I remain convinced I'm watching Smidge until he takes off his sunglasses and starts talking Korean to another spectator. 

This year I took a lot less Ubers in Vegas than last year. There also seems to be a new culture where drivers are less keen to converse. Maybe this comes from most passengers not wanting to talk but whatever the reason, it meant I didn't gather enough material this summer to write another Uber blog. 

The one notable exception was that I got picked up one morning by Frank, who had picked me up twice last year and was one of my favourites with his natural enthusiasm and apparent joie de vivre. He remembered me, and  seemed a lot more muted this year, less happy with his situation, but we got off to a good start talking about water sports. Turns out his wife is American champion in one of the more obscure ones ("It's not as big a deal as it sounds. Only about 100 in the whole country do it". I told him the same was true of my ultrarunning accomplishments). 

At this point an ambulance sped by, siren blazing. 
"There goes the roofie patrol"
I had nothing to say so I said nothing 
"Man if girls would just watch their drinks better there'd be a lot less of it"
Growing increasingly uncomfortable at how the conversation had apparently turned to victim blaming for date drug rape, I remained silent. 
"I pick them up most days from the hospital near you. Good looking girls. They really should be more careful"
My desire to talk to Frank had by now entirely evaporated. I was afraid we might get on to mass shootings next, and find out it was mostly down to people not being vigilant enough looking out for bullets. 

I got out of Frank's car a little sadder. It was like seeing your favourite uncle for the first time in ages, but he's wearing a MAGA cap. 



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