Sunday 7 January 2007

Poker for all. New Year - 2006

Poker for all. New Year - 2006
By Mick McCloskey

Another year has slipped by and, for some people, it’s the time to reflect on what has happened in the previous twelve months and to make plans, and perhaps resolutions, for the coming year.
My own reflections on the past year include my meeting a guy in Las Vegas a few days before the start of the main event of the World Series of Poker. His name was Billy Rockwell. I had entered a small no limit tournament in Binion’s (Horseshoe) Casino and had taken my seat for the start of the event when Billy turned up to take the seat beside me. The first thing to grab my attention was that Billy had only one, apparently lifeless, arm. This observation was borne out when his girlfriend proceeded to remove Billy’s shoe and sock. He planned to play cards using his toes! As the game started, it was obvious that Billy had done this many times before. He had a large coin or medallion which he placed on his hole cards, for protection. He also had a little wooden wedge which he placed up against the edge of the table. He was then able to push his cards, one at a time with his toes, up the wedge so that he could peek at the corner of the card, without exposing them to the other players. He was able to do all this while remaining seated in his chair. He was also able to separate and put his chips into the pot using only his toes.
We got talking and he told me that he had almost died in a motorcycle accident when he was a teenager. The result of the accident was the loss of one arm and total disability in the other one. He was wearing a branded shirt and cap and, it turned out, that he had obtained sponsorship, from an internet poker site, to play in the WSOP main event. A shrewd move by the sponsor as Billy was almost guaranteed media coverage whether he did any good in the tournament or not. This was borne out when I was reminded of our meeting when I was watching the television coverage of the WSOP recently. There was Billy getting his 15 minutes of fame on network tv. He had managed to make it through the first day before getting knocked out on day 2. Not a bad achievement considering the huge field he had to survive. It was an achievement in the first place that he could overcome his physical disability to play the game at all. I have seen other Billys, mostly in the USA, who have overcome enormous physical odds to sit, or in some cases lie, down at a poker table to play and compete in the game we all love. So the next time you are tempted to whinge about a bad beat, or have to listen to one, just think about Billy and others like him. It might put the whole thing into perspective. And just remember that Billy, I’m sure, has his share of bad beats. His consolation is probably the fact that he is in a position to be there at all, to take them.