December 29, 2011

The Feeling of Silence

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

~Lao Tzu

The fear started in July. I was back home in rural Nebraska to watch my parents serve as grand marshals of our hometown parade. My younger brother Kurt was home as well, with his wife Nicole and their two young daughters, Lily and Violet.* Kurt and I drove our parents down Main Street—all three blocks of it—while my sig other Chad helped Nicole watch my nieces wave at Grandpa and Grandma before gathering up candy thrown from the floats. Then we retreated from the sweltering 110 degree heat to enjoy a few beers in the air-conditioned comfort of our childhood home.

We talked for hours, catching up on local news, hearing plans for the farm, and reliving old family memories, while Lily and Violet played with the cornucopia of toys Grandpa and Grandma had purchased just for their visit. My nieces and parents all eventually made their way to bed, while the rest of us stayed up to talk. It was then, nearing midnight, that Kurt and Nicole shared with us their concerns about Violet. She was nearing 16 months old, but was small for her age and having trouble walking. A physical therapist was making twice weekly visits to work on Violet's balance and strength, but her lack of progress was worrisome. Yet, Violet otherwise seemed to be a healthy and happy young girl. It was probably nothing to worry about. Still, I worried, and I'm sure Kurt and Nicole worried even more.

The phone call came in November. But it was the voicemails that caused me concern. Kurt and I often go a few weeks without talking, then catch up with a lengthy call some evening or weekend. But the first week of November was different. Kurt and I exchanged messages as usual, but he called me mid-day to give me specific times to call him back. There was definitely something on his mind. So, I made the call that evening.

Part of the news was good. Kurt, Nicole, and my nieces were all doing fine. In fact, Violet had even been walking unassisted for a few weeks. Just that night she had made it all the way down the hall from the dining room to the living room on her own, under the watchful eyes of Buffy and Porter, the family dogs.

Unfortunately, most of the news was bad. Kurt and Nicole had for some time harbored concerns about Violet's slow development. Their fears dated back to Nicole's pregnancy, when Kurt had come down with a serious cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. In most adults, CMV infection has few or no symptoms, while for a few people (like my brother) the virus causes symptoms similar to mononucelosis, causing fatigue for a period of several days to a few weeks. In pregnant women, however, CMV is the "C" in TORCH—the set of infectious diseases responsible for many birth defects. CMV is a particularly nasty virus for infants, leading in many cases to physical and mental developmental deficits, while also causing blindness or deafness in some victims. Still, in utero CMV infection does not always lead to problems for the child, and in a decent percentage of cases, the child goes through life with few or no problems related to the infection.

Violet was not among those fortunate enough to roll the dice and beat CMV. Although Violet had passed her hearing and vision tests at birth and had begun walking, she had yet to start talking or even babbling. Violet went in for a battery of diagnostic tests. Hearing tests raised concerns about compromised hearing. Sleep studies indicated either seizures (a common CMV complication) or a constricted throat (due to Violet's small size) were affecting her ability to sleep. An MRI of the brain revealed calcified lesions consistent with an in utero CMV infection. Still, nothing could be known definitively.

Surgery was scheduled for a few days after Christmas. The main purpose of the surgery was to remove the adenoids that were constricting Violet's throat, to help her breathe better during sleep. However, the surgery was also an opportunity to conduct a more sophisticated hearing test that required an infant to be partially sedated. The surgery was successful, and Violet was taken to recovery to awaken and be taken home that afternoon.

The otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) approached Kurt and Nicole. "Let's go into the conference room and talk," he said.

Nothing good ever follows that invitation.

The doctor was kind, but didn't sugarcoat the news. Violet is completely deaf. Her cochlea are non-functional. Deafness is an unfortunately all too common effect of CMV infection, sometimes apparent at birth, often developing before age 5, occasionally waiting to strike even into the teenage years. Violet is yet another CMV victim.

Medically, options are limited. Insurance requires that hearing aids be tried, even when doctors know they are useless. Cochlear implants are an option, but they tend to work better for people who have had hearing for a number of years and then lost it, while having poorer results for people like Violet who develop deafness early in life. Violet has been learning sign language for a few months, but my brother and sister-in-law face a difficult decision whether to pursue her education in a deaf or a mainstream, auditory environment.

Upon hearing the news, my initial feeling was sadness. Sad that Violet will never hear birds chirping on a hike with her family. Sad that Violet will never hear Buffy and Porter bark when she comes home from school. Sad that Violet will never hear the roar of a crowd, or the whispered sweet nothings of a boyfriend. Sad that Violet will travel alone in an auditory world.

I'm also afraid. Afraid Violet won't hear a smoke alarm or a car horn. Afraid Violet's education will be stunted by the communication barrier. Afraid Violet will face social isolation.

But, after further reflection, I'm also thankful. Thankful my brother is able to support his family and allow Nicole to leave her job to be at home with Violet. Thankful government programs exist to provide physical and cognitive therapy, and eventually educational opportunities. Thankful Violet has an extended family—two sets of grandparents; an aunt, uncle, and cousins in town; and even this more distant uncle—to provide love and support.

Mostly, though, I'm hopeful. Hopeful that medical science will provide Violet with some degree of hearing, whether now or a decade from now. Hopeful that Violet has escaped other physical or mental impairments that so often afflict infants with CMV. During my Christmas visit, I saw a girl who was climbing on chairs, playing with toys, serving fake coffee to her Grandpa and Grandma, and imitating her big sister, just like any other girl her age. Violet's deafness is something no parent would want for their child, yet, in the grand scheme of things, deafness is a disability that can be dealt with. There are plenty of parents who would gladly accept deafness for their child if doing so would cure their child of more serious physical or cognitive conditions. Most of all, I'm hopeful that Violet will grow up to be as happy as she is today.

My brother and sister-in-law are both civil engineers, and have already moved on to viewing Violet's situation as a problem to manage. I think their approach is absolutely correct. Violet's deafness is a challenge, not a tragedy. Violet is a happy, outgoing girl who is doing quite well despite her lack of hearing. Certainly Violet is going to face a lot of obstacles, as will her parents and sister. I have every confidence all of them will not only overcome these obstacles, but thrive in spite of them.

Violet loves her Christmas toys, but loves her
gift box even more.

Violet takes a moment away from cooking lunch for 
Grandpa and Grandma to flirt with the camera.

AFTERWORD:  There are many worthy charities out there. But, if you want to donate to charities devoted to research about and support for victims of birth defects, please consider making a donation to one of these organizations:

* Names of my family members have all been changed to protect their privacy.

December 24, 2011

Online Poker Legalization Will Ultimately Be a State by State Fight

"All politics is local."

~Former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill

Earlier today I discussed the reasons why online poker isn't legal despite the DOJ's recent formal opinion stating that the Wire Act applies only to sports-related gambling. Essentially, because poker, like all gambling, is regulated at the state level, the DOJ's position regarding the Wire Act ultimately has little direct effect on the legality of online poker. An important corollary to this point is that the online poker legalization battle will have to be fought and won in each individual state.

I know poker players and the PPA are focused (correctly) on federal legislation to legalize online poker. Technically, Congress could use its Commerce Clause power to preempt state gambling laws and impose a national online poker system. Given that gambling issues are traditionally the province of the individual states, and given the lack of national consensus as to legalization of online gambling, a sweeping federal plan is a complete non-starter.

The best result poker players can hope for on a federal level is legislation permitting online poker on a national basis, while allowing individual states to choose whether to participate in the system. An "opt-out" system (where states are included in the system unless they specifically choose not to participate) is superior to a federal "opt-in" system (where states must affirmatively choose to join the system). For any controversial issue, it is politically easiest to maintain the status quo, as political change requires affirmative use of political muscle. So, an opt-out system is almost certain to bring many states into a federal system which otherwise would lack the political will to affirmatively join under an opt-in system (as of now, Nevada, California, New Jersey, Florida*, and Iowa are the only states which have actively explored legalizing online poker).

If federal legislation fails, then individual states will likely begin to legalize online poker on an intra-state basis. As I have discussed previously, it is likely states will adopt some type of reciprocity system to permit players from states where online poker is legal to play against players from other states with similar online poker regulations. Consortiums like this would improve liquidity and create synergy for all participating states, leading to increased numbers of players (and greater rake and tax receipts). It's also possible, even probable, that as states become comfortable with security issues, foreign players from countries where online poker is legal would be permitted to play as well (though there likely would be some tax and money transfer issues to work out on a federal level first).

The most important point to remember, however, is that whether online poker legalization occurs at the federal or state level, the online poker legalization process is controlled by each of the 50 state legislatures. The legalization process will be easy in some states. But in many states, online poker advocates will have to engage in a political battle against a variety of opponents. Obviously, the usual groups opposed to gambling on moral and social grounds will be vocal. In some states, local or tribal casino interests fearing loss of revenues may oppose online poker, and may have the money and political clout to prevent legalization. There will certainly be a few states where opportunistic politicians will shanghai the online poker issue to strong-arm political concessions for completely unrelated issues.

Make no mistake about it, the online poker legalization fight will be a long and messy process. Regardless of whether a federal or state level system develops, it's entirely possible that online poker may not be uniformly available in all of the states for several years, possibly even a decade. Professional players willing to relocate will likely be able to find a state where they can play legally within a year or so. Unfortunately, many recreational players will not have that option, and will be left to the whims of their state political process.

It's time for poker players to get to know their state legislators.

* ADDENDUM (26 December 2011):  Edited to add Florida to the list of states which have actively explored legalizing online poker. I was inspired to go back over my post by a thoughtful discussion of the DOJ opinion posted today by Shamus at Hard-Boiled Poker. Just more evidence my memory isn't what it used to be!

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Why the DOJ's Wire Act Opinion Is No Big Deal for Online Poker

"I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal. ... I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany."

~Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

The DOJ today gave the poker world a nice Festivus gift, issuing an opinion letter stating the DOJ believes the Wire Act is applicable only to sports-related gambling. Consequently, by implication it is the DOJ's position that the Wire Act does not apply to bar online poker. Predictably, the poker world overreacted, misconstruing the DOJ opinion as either conceding that Black Friday was invalid, and/or that online poker is now legal.

I'm currently on vacation for a couple of days of poker in Vegas before moving on to celebrate Christmas with my brother and his family, so I have neither the time nor the computer access to write a lengthy post. However, I'm pecking a post out on my iPhone because I wanted to provide a skeleton argument to explain the interplay of federal and state gaming laws in an attempt to help combat some of the widely held misconceptions being bandied about by many poker players on Twitter and by some in the poker media. This post is just an outline of several lengthier posts I started some time ago in my poker and the law series, but shelved when Black Friday made them somewhat superfluous. I will probably resurrect a few of them to provide a fuller treatment of the topic in the near future.

First, the good news. The title of this post is hyperbolic; the change in the DOJ opinion on the Wire Act is a big deal in two respects. First, it removes one federal criminal statute from the weapons prosecutors can wield over online poker companies. Second, and to my mind more important, it removes a potential legal barrier that would otherwise prevent states which legalize intrastate online poker from forming multi-state online poker consortiums to permit residents of states with reciprocal regulations to play against each other (akin to multi-state lotteries) in the event poker legalization occurs at the state level rather than the federal level (as increasingly seems the most likely path forward). The Wire Act does contain an exemption for transmitting wagering information from a state or country where it's legal to another such state or country, but when it comes to federal criminal law, it's better to know you aren't covered by the law in the DOJ's eyes than to have to worry about how a prosecutor or judge will interpret the law.

Now the bad news. First, the DOJ opinion will have no effect at all on the Black Friday criminal or civil cases. Those cases are based on federal statutes other than the Wire Act. Frankly, I think the DOJ knew applying the Wire Act in the Black Friday prosecution would add a problematic legal issue, so they chose to rely on other criminal statutes. Going forward, if the DOJ should choose to pursue cases against other online poker sites, the DOJ has plenty of other statutory arrows left in its quiverthe UIGEA, the Travel Act, and Illegal Gambling Business Act spring to mind.

Second, and more significantly, the DOJ opinion does not change the current legal status of online poker. Online poker has been illegal since its inception and remains illegal today.

The first step in analyzing the legality of online poker is to recognize that gambling has historically been regulated at the state level, as a function of a state's police powers. Most states banned all gambling until recently, while a few (notably Nevada and New Jersey) were far ahead of the curve in permitting some forms of regulated, legal gambling.

There are a number of federal laws that criminalize gambling related activities; e.g., the Wire Act, the UIGEA, the Travel Act, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act to name a few of the more prominent. These laws, however, are generally dependent on violations of state gambling laws as a predicate act triggering federal criminal liability. Congress could, if it wished, use its Commerce Clause power to preempt the field of gambling law (or just online gambling lawwhich it might do if online gambling seems inevitable at the state level). But instead, Congress essentially lets each state determine the level of legalized gambling it wants available to its residents. Federal law then provides the legal tools needed to apprehend criminals who try to evade state gaming laws by crossing state lines in some aspect of operating an illegal gambling business.

The next analytical step is the key to understanding online gambling regulation. Currently, every state either bans poker or regulates poker as a form of gambling. To be a bit more precise, every state either bans operating a poker game for profit or only permits such for-profit poker business subject to strict state regulations; even though the playing of poker may not be illegal in many states, the offering of poker as a business (e.g., as a casino, card room, or online poker site) is the key operative activity subject to state regulation.* Note that I said "poker" and did not distinguish between live and online poker, because most states do not make that distinction.

Now many poker players assert that online poker is not illegal under state law unless the state law specifically bans online gambling. I'm not certain where this argument comes from, but it's pretty sketchy legal reasoning. If it's illegal under state law to run a for-profit poker room in your basement, simply setting up a computer server across state lines to run your poker game online doesn't magically make your poker business legal (or beyond the law). As I have discussed in prior posts on jurisdictional issues, states have routinely exercised criminal jurisdiction over people outside the state's borders who engage in illegal conduct that affects people within the state's borders (a prime example is child pornography or solicitation). If a company uses the Internet to offer gambling within a state where that form of gambling is illegal outright or only legal subject to state regulations, then that company is breaking state gambling laws. Break the state gambling laws, and the federal gambling statutes kick in. Presto! We have Black Friday.

As of right now, it's safe to say that poker is either illegal altogether or regulated as gambling in every state. As of right now, no gaming company has ever been licensed by any state gaming commission to offer online poker (or online gambling of any kind). Therefore, online poker is, and always has been, illegal under existing state gambling laws. States that added a specific statutory or regulatory prohibition against online gambling did so to make the law crystal clear or to strengthen penalties, not because there was some online gambling loophole that made online poker legal.

In sum, the new DOJ Wire Act opinion has no immediate effect on online poker. Online poker remains illegal under state law as it exists today. However, Nevada and other states may soon begin issuing licenses permitting gaming companies to offer intrastate online poker. If and when multiple states permit online poker, then one should expect multi-state consortiums to develop to permit online poker play between residents of states with similar online poker regulations. Nonetheless, the days of unlicensed foreign companies like PokerStars or Full Tilt offering online poker are at an end. All hail the new, licensed, regulated, domestic online poker sites!

* ADDENDUM (26 December 2011):  Edited to add the second half of the sentence to clarify the distinction between laws covering playing poker and those addressing those who offer poker as a for-profit business (e.g., casino, card room, online poker site).

Also added a link in the final paragraph to a post by Shamus at Hard-Boiled Poker which has some excellent discussion linking the DOJ opinion letter to the recent Nevada state legislation setting up the regulatory framework for intrastate online poker.

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December 14, 2011

The Poker Gods Send Omens

So, as of a week ago, my Christmas plans involved port, gourmet salamis and cheeses, bad movies, and a sleepy boxer in my lap at home. My parents were headed from western Nebraska to Salt Lake City to see my brother and his family (including my two adorable nieces, ages 5 and 2). My sig other was headed to eastern Iowa to his family and their personal "don't ask, don't tell" detente where I am just the landlord for the house where my sig other lives.

Then, a cosmic convergence of omens occurred. I found out I was one round trip from making Elite status on United. I am a mere 220 points from making Platinum on Caesars' Total Rewards for the first time (screw you folks who can play in a Caesars property year round and get to cut lines with your freakin' Diamond cards). I have a handful of "use it or lose it" vacation days at work. My sig other's youngest niece demanded that he bring her "best friend" Berkeley home to play at Christmas. What were the poker gods trying to tell me?

Not fully believing the portents, I checked out Orbitz,, and Total Rewards. What to my wondering eyes appeared but an opportunity for an awesome holiday excursion. A round-trip flight from Des Moines to Salt Lake was within $30 of the cost of a multi-way trip from Des Moines to Vegas to Salt Lake. I had two free nights at Planet Hollywood or Paris to use. Could the signs be any clearer?!?

Suddenly, my sedate holiday at home has transformed into a whirlwind itinerary of two days in Vegas, followed by two days in Salt Lake with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my nieces. Not quite "home for the holidays", but still a perfect Christmas nonetheless.

Happy Holidays to all my followers, from me and Berkeley!

Berkeley bored by another Packers win.

The Packers are up three TDs. Can we play now?

How about a run? Frisbee? Heads up Badugi for rollz?

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! What?

Santa better bring me a goose and a bag of duck treats.

December 11, 2011

The WPBT Presents Food Porn

"We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink."

~ Epicurus

One of the great things about Vegas is that there are dozens of great places to eat crammed in a small area. On the Strip alone one can find excellent dining experiences at every price point and in every style of cuisine. Every trip I take to Vegas, I make it a point to treat myself to at least one meal each day that I can't experience in Des Moines. Sometimes it's as simple as a gourmet burger or top notch Mexican or Asian cuisine with a fun vibe, while at least once each trip I venture into a higher end steakhouse or TV chef food joint. There's no shame in having a cheap sandwich or chowing down at a mediocre buffet to accommodate time and travel budgets. But it's a damn shame to spend more than a day within an easy walk of so many interesting dining experiences and never veer off the fast food and buffet path.

During the recent WPBT, I got to enjoy several excellent meals. The culinary trip got off to a fast start Thursday night as I went straight from the airport to dinner at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan. I met up with a hilarious group including Astin, April, Heather, Ryan, Dan, and Stephane, with an after dinner appearance by the lovely Miss Chako. Jaleo is a Spanish tapas restaurant with some intriguing options. We took turns ordering dishes to share with the table, and I can't think of a single dud. Some of my favorites were the lobster paella, the asparagus, the grilled mushrooms, and the Iberico ham fritters. My favorite dishes, however, were the salad of grilled Brussels sprouts and Serrano ham, the endive with goat cheese, and the veal cheeks. Even with wine and cocktails thrown in, the total bill still came in well under $100 per head. Not too shabby a start to the weekend's festivities!

Stephane, Miss Chako, & April at Jaleo.

Astin tries Jaleo's amazing gin & tonic.

A close up of the world's greatest gin & tonic.

Friday was my birthday, but because I stayed up until 9:00 a.m. playing poker, I slept in until mid-afternoon. Since I was staying at Paris and had a Total Rewards coupon for a free burger, I treated myself to a burger at Le Burger Brasserie, one of my favorite solo Vegas dining locations. I went with my standardthe Saveur, a lamb burger on a wheat bun with mushrooms, mozzarella, and herbs. Tasty! For some reason, I forgot to use my coupon, so my last meal of the triplunch on Mondaywas a repeat trip for another lamb burger, this time built from scratch with pancetta, chevre, and roasted red peppers, with a side of sweet potato fries. A perfect end to a great culinary weekend!

My personalized lamb burger at Le Burger Brasserie.

Even though I was stuffed from my birthday burger, a small part of my stomach was jealous of the Friday night dinner antics of a group that included FTrain, MrChako, and culinary genius Astin. I know those three were enjoying a great meal at Raku because they tweeted a course by course rundown of the delectable dishes they were served, often with pictures. Just check out Astin's photos of the meal (here, here, here, and here) and tell me you aren't drooling just a little.

Saturday saw me waking up bright and early by 9:30 a.m., anticipating the noon WPBT tourney at Aria. My worries about pre-tourney sustenance were assuaged by a Twitter invite from Heather to join a motley crew for the brunch buffet at Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan. I think it was most of the Jaleo crew, plus Chilly, Gus, Marty, and OhCaptain. This was easily the best buffet I have ever sampled (though in the interest of full disclosure, I have never tried the buffets at Wynn, Bellagio, or Aria). There was a great spread of food, including a salad bar I breezed past on the way to a meat carving station loaded with ham, linguica sausage, leg of lamb, turkey, slab bacon, and prime rib. I also grabbed single serve pots of short rib eggs Benedict, asiago gnocchi, and bacon mac 'n cheese, along with some awesome mushroom polenta and a variety of desserts. As is the case with most buffets, there were some hits and some misses, but overall the buffet offered great variety and good value for the money (~$30, $39 with the all you can drink mimosas and bloody marys). My personal favorites were the short rib eggs Benedict, leg of lamb, and bacon mac 'n cheese. Definitely worth another visit for dinner, where rumor has it there is a made to order mac 'n cheese station.

Plate 1: From bottom right, leg of lamb with chimichurri 
sauce, egg scramble, bacon mac 'n cheese, short rib 
eggs Benedict, bacon, apple turkey sausage, mushroom 
polenta, linguica sausage, and carved slab bacon.

Plate 2:  From bottom left, mini pecan pie, 
chocolate dessert cup, asiago gnocchi, prime rib,
and mixed berry shot glass dessert.

Plate 3:  From bottom center, passion fruit fudge,
chocolate passion fruit dessert shot, raspberry chocolate
dessert shot with gold flake, and molten chocolate
brownie in caramel sauce.

Pastry and dessert case.

Gelato bar.

Gay man's heaventhe hot meat station.

Saturday night rolled around, and I found myself headed to CarneVino, super chef Mario Batali's restaurant at Palazzo, with friends Caity, Carol (a/k/a the Black Widow of Poker), and Astin (living up to his reputation as a culinary slut). CarneVino is one of my favorite Vegas restaurants (as an aside, if you're in Vegas solo, eating at the bar in a fancy restaurant is a great dining option; no need to feel bashful!). Carol happens to be connected to the manager, so we were given a little hook-up for our meal. We began with pastrami with duck egg, another appetizer I've forgotten, and a tuna tartare compliments of the chef (thank you Carol!). The tartare was amazing! For the pasta course, we sampled the duck cannelloni, the duck liver and pork ravioli, and the gnocchi bolognese (again, compliments of the chef). For this course, the ravioli stole the show. For the entree course, Astin picked a solid barolo that paired well with our grilled veal sweetbreads, grilled venison with huckleberry demiglace, grilled lamb chops, and grilled bison. Despite my solid credentials as a former farm kid who showed livestock and judged meat, I was a sweetbreads virgin, and the ones here were underwhelmingnot  bad, just not as amazing as the red meat dishes. My personal favorite had to be the venisonjust a bit gamey like a good lamb dish, but melt in your mouth tender and exploding with flavor. However, what truly made the dinner a major highlight of my trip was getting to know my companions better, where they came from, how they tick, some of their quirks, and what makes them laugh. Dinner took almost three hours, but seemed to fly by in a wink. Truly a wonderful experience that made the whole WPBT trip worthwhile.

Caity, Carol, & Astin at CarneVino.

Sunday marked the winding down of the WPBT festivities, but my culinary adventures were not quite concluded. After cheering on some of our WPBT compatriots in the Rock 'N Roll Marathon, I found myself starving and headed to Lemongrass at Aria for a late dinner with Allen, Steve, and Dave. This dinner was a real treat, as I had really not had much interaction with these three gents beyond a cursory howdy and an hour or two at the poker tables. Despite reading their blogs and following them on Twitter, this dinner was the first chance I had to get to know them a little bit as regular folks. Well, perhaps irregular folks. In any event, dinner was an hour or two of laughs, and a truly memorable evening. One of the highlights was when Steve articulated my motto for fine dining and fine livingwhen you get the chance, you might as well try something new. For Steve and me, that meant diving into an appetizer ofcold jellyfish. The dish was actually quite tasty, with a surprisingly firm crunchy-chewy texture, seasoned with a little vinegar, sesame oil, and chili flake. Certainly not anything like what I expected, but something I would gladly order again. For my entree, I went with my standard Drunken Noodle, but this time, a "6" on the heat scale went to an unexpected inferno level, causing me to break out in a sweat quite noticeable on my fuzzy bald head. And yes, my companions might have noticed. But a little ribbing fit right into the light-hearted banter that made dinner a fun way to wrap up the WPBT weekend.

Jellyfish appetizer at Lemongrass.

As much as I love poker and degenerate gambling, what makes WPBT special is the people. And this trip, food gave me the opportunity to truly enjoy those people as people, not as poker players. Poker might bring us together, but all of us are much more than poker players. I'm grateful something as basic as food gave me the opportunity to glimpse the human sides of so many WPBT folks.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

~ Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien