Most of the following is old news. But the point is that Max is one of my very favorite poker friends and human beings. I will be adding to this post when I get the chance, because this was simply the beginning of my friendship and relationship with Max. I have not met any other poker person who gives so much back to the world.
It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times:
In the past two weeks, I have met some of the most kind people that I’ve ever met in my life. I want to write about Max Pescatori.
Max Pescatori was one of the nicest people I met through the event at the Orleans. He always had a quick, easy smile, yet was ruthless on the table.
Max was very good about giving me quotes and little interviews during the tournament. He didn’t seem upset or hasty even after busting out. He was easygoing and pleasant.
Sometimes there are up-and-coming players who bug the pros. The pros can get exasperated by their persistence in questions, especially at the worst times, like in the middle of a hand or giving away their name to the other players at the table, when they might not want to be known. Max was never this way, treating everyone with common courtesy and kindness.
Other pros have problems with begging railbirds. You win a tourney, so suddenly everyone wants to be your “friend.” Certain pros have stopped responding to new people, simply because they’re afraid of being hit up. I have experienced this myself, being new in the tournament world. I have found that there are big names who keep their distance from me. Not because they are aloof or think they are superior to new players, but because every time they open up, someone hits them up for money. Again, Max couldn’t have been any more kind or friendly to me and some other unknowns at the Orleans.
I noticed that Max could have stopped coming to the events at any time, given the way he was treated.
For example, on the first day, the NLHE event for $1000. Max showed up about eight minutes late. He figured that the tournament would be upstairs, given that the other big Orleans events were upstairs, so he went there first. When nothing was going on upstairs, he tried to find out where it was being hosted, but was given the runaround, like so many other players. When he finally reached the buy-in desk, it was eight minutes past noon.
Bryan immediately began yelling at Max. He said, “You’re going to have to get here earlier if you want to play!” Max was taken aback. What casino starts threatening their customers who are eight minutes late for an event? And Bryan was vehement, not saying this in a nice way whatsoever, but in a very confrontational, threatening manner.
Max tried to explain the situation, but Bryan kept cutting him off, yelling at him for being late. He told Max he wasn’t going to accept his buy-in if he was late again. He told him to get to the Orleans on time, or just forget it, and some other very rude things. Max could tell this story better than me, as he was the recipient of such anger, but I was present, and I did try to report Bryan for such abominable behavior on the part of the Orleans. Naturally, I was met with apathy and hostility, as the Orleans didn’t want us there in the first place.
On another occasion, a player was worried about his room. The Orleans did their very best to make sure the players were unable to book a room. At one point, a player was told to move out of his room, that they needed it for a real guest, a wanted guest, not a scummy poker player. Max was buying into an event and suggested that the player just leave his luggage in his room, they would find a place for other guests. I agreed that I had done this in the past, and never had a problem. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Bryan started yelling about Max giving this advice. He didn’t address me, but seemed to single out Max for his anger and aggression. He refused to even treat Max like a human being, but decided to talk about him in the third person, like he was a dog not even worthy of Bryan’s notice.
Even after this horrible abuse by the Orleans staff, Max kept coming back. He knew he was giving up bigger prize pools. He knew that he was being abused, but he wanted to help the festival get off the ground, and he came back, although it was a -EV situation for him.
I remember one night when Max made the money. Somehow he found out that I wasn’t being paid for my writing. I have no idea how he found out. It could have been me. I always answered honestly when someone asked who I was working for, and if I was being paid.
Anyway, somehow Max found out I wasn’t being paid. He came up to me after the tournament was over and tried to give me money. I was shocked. I didn’t want to take it, at first, but I was so honored and overcome with emotion at the same time.
He must have also spread the word, because suddenly other players started approaching me, giving me money. I am not an emotional person, I do not cry except in physical pain, but this was the most heartfelt I have ever been in a poker situation. I cannot tell you the absolute joy and honor it brought to me to meet a class act like Max Pescatori.
Another time, Max was still in the PLO event at the WSOP. They were down to two tables. Shorthanded tables, at that. Max was doing well. We talked during his breaks and he promised to call Charlie (a dying fan of his). He also asked if he could stake me halfway in the 1k Stud 8. Since the structure was such a crapshoot, I let him. I usually won’t allow anyone to buy any part of me (greed), but we were only starting with 1,000 in chips, and the first level was 30/60. Theoretically, we could be all-in on the first hand.
Later I remember Max busting out of an event, going home, getting a hardcover SSII and returning to the Rio to force everyone to autograph it on a Saturday so that he could send it overnight from the post office before they closed.
Max was one of the first people I honed in on at the Rio to see, when I returned. I knew he was on the second day of the PLO event, and I wanted to make sure he was still in the hunt. Max is much better at playing tournaments than most people assume. I see his name skipped over time and again during the coverage of big events. It isn’t until they get down to the money that anyone stops to write, “Oh, yeah, and Max Pescatori is still in, too!”
Even on CardPlayer, where Max submitted columns and is in the top ranked 30 of all of the players in the world, he is barely mentioned in the updates.
I think this is part of his play. He doesn’t quite stand out, he doesn’t smack you upside of the head a la Phil Hellmuth, until he is stacking all of your chips! He has that John Juanda type quality.
So Max was in the money, for his third time since the beginning of the 2005 series. Quite a feat, if you consider that if you make day two or day three in these events, that means you are missing events in order to play the subsequent day!
Max was down to the wire, there were two shorthanded tables remaining, and the blinds will eat through a player quickly. Players need to raise the pot, or close to it, once per round in order to stay ahead of the blinds. They rarely like to get involved in big pots. In PLO, it only takes one loss to be eliminated quickly.
I had followed Max’s progress online Monday night. He was almost eliminated several times. At one point I was afraid he was going to get blinded out if he didn’t make a move. I believe they were at the bubble, the average stack was like 40k, and Max only had 5k. But Max is never going to get “blinded out,” he is too intelligent for that, and before I could hit refresh again, he was back up to 30k. The bubble came and went, and Max was still there, while other “brand name” players were shaking their heads and walking away defeated.
The next day I found Max going strong, but didn’t want to take away his concentration, so I gave him a little squeeze and moved to the rail quickly. As soon as he got a second, he came over. Being Max, the first thing he asked about was my health, and how I was coping. I knew he’d been asking about me, via Pauly. Max is always concerned about someone else, and blows things off, like how well he is doing, how he is such a champ, how generous and kind he is to everyone.
People have the wrong impression about Max sometimes. I remember my first impression. I was one of the sheep, forming a bad image of him in my head.
Max was at the Four Queens Classic. I’d busted out earlier in the event and was just slightly watching the final table. The final table included Max, and I believe he’d gotten there as the chip lead.
The irony of this final table was that he was playing my best game, Stud. I am very protective and judgmental when it comes to Stud. Max was leading the field in “my” tournament. One I’d just busted out of. I was 17th, I believe. I was never at Max’s table.
Max has a way of downplaying his Stud game. Well, any game, really, but definitely Stud. He says it’s his worst game. Well, put it this way, if I played his “worst” game as well as he plays it, I’d have lots of bracelets on my wrist!
I was playing in some side games and/or satellites while Max was at the final table. He seemed like he was always in one argument or another. He wouldn’t make a deal, he wouldn’t do this, he wouldn’t do that. I could sometimes hear him across the room (a room with about 100 tables, and I was on the far side, if that tells you anything).
Lots of people were shaking their heads and acting annoyed with Max. I came to the conclusion that he was a bully and a loudmouth. Bad assumption. It was a premature view that I held until the WPPA debacle, when I found out who Max really is.
Anyone is welcome to go back and read some of the outstanding kindness that Max showed me during the two weeks I spend in Orleans hell. I won’t go over it again, because there is nothing I can add to it.
Since that time, I have been friends with Max. I told him repeatedly that 2005 is going to be “The Year of the Max.” It proved correct.
The fact is that Charlie passed away. The fact is that Max once again made the money (this time in O8).
Max is the most generous, kind human being I’ve found in poker. He ranks with another dozen or so as the very elite of poker humanity.
When Max busted out of the $2500 LHE event, he called Charlie. He then immediately got a copy of the SSII in hardback and went back to the Rio in order to have as many of the authors as he could find who were still in competition. He had them sign it, along with having a poster made of Doyle and himself, signed, and then hightailed it to the post office to send the package overnight to Charlie.
I may be getting some of the fine details screwed up here, but the gist of what he did remains correct.
Not many of the top players feel “giving” enough to call a dying player when they have just busted out of a big event. Not many of them run around in the Vegas sun and traffic for someone they don’t know. Not many want to go back into the fray which just busted them out, in order to seek out participants still in competition. Not many want to stand in line at the USPS in order to make sure something is sent overnight, even paying the hefty fee of overnight delivery on a weekend.
But to Max, you know what this was? It was nothing. He sees it as absolutely nothing, the very least he could do. That is Max in a nutshell. He gives and gives, and then says, “It was nothing.”
And that is why Max is a hero, the very elite in the poker world, and one of my best friends.
Max Pescatori had a phenomenal year in 2005