Poker has been good to me, as well as life. It has been enlightening and profitable.
As I became more and more of a “local” in the Laughlin poker rooms, I was included in conversations, both positive and negative, which taught me a bit about my fellow locals, as well as giving me insight into the backgrounds of many people I saw everyday.
Sometimes, the people we play poker with are the sole reason that we continue to play.
Once in a while, someone crosses our path who makes us enjoy what we have more than we do day by day. That week I had gotten to know some people who have made me smile and love my life a bit more.
I spoke about Troy in the past. Troy was a very good player. He was in his mid sixties and retired to Bullhead City from LA. Troy played in mid to high limit games in LA and learned hold’em as soon as it was legal in California. He actually dropped down several limits until he got down to the 4/8 game. He kept a hotel room at the Commerce until he could beat the 4/8 game, then started moving back up. He has played quite a bit of no-limit and high stakes hold’em. Now he chooses to play the 10/20 game at the Belle every Saturday. Troy was usually the best player in the big game. The first time we played together, he stayed out of my way. The second Saturday, he outplayed me a bit and I got caught up in some of his traps. The third week we played together, I adjusted to his play, and he backed off, choosing to stay out of my way again. Saturday (October 11, 2003), he had once again adjusted and used a few tricks to outplay me.
Troy was missing most of his left hand. His story was that when he was in the military, they sent him to help work on the Panama Canal. He was a diver. His partner and he went to the bottom of the canal on some mission. Something to do with the locks. Anyway, a huge fish bit him in the side. He tried to fight off the fish, and the fish bit off his hand. His partner helped him fight off the fish. He had a stump and partial fingers. He thought it was funny and made jokes about it. He chidingly flipped off players with his little middle-finger stub. We all thought it was hilarious and not even the most uptight of the old ladies got offended.
A low limit player at the Belle was missing both of his lower legs. He had prosthetics and wore shorts, lol. The prosthetics matched his skin tone. I think that is pretty cool.
Lots of players were in wheelchairs, for whatever reason. The poker room was always very accommodating to them, as well as the other players.
One night I met Jason Schechterle.
There was a big cop convention in town at the Ramada. The Ramada doesn’t have a poker room, so about ten cops came over to the Belle to play. They wanted a table they could all sit at, but didn’t mind others playing as cops came and went. I was seated at their table later in the evening.
No one could miss Jason. He had no real face. He had no hair and some of his fingers were missing. His skin is patchy because it has been grafted back on over the years. His ears were burnt off, and he had obviously been built a new nose. His eyelids were made out of some kind of tissue other than eyelid tissue because they were very thick, fatty, almost like lower lips, not like an eyelid. One of his eyes doesn’t get vision, I believe. Thumbs have been sewn on each stump of a hand, and looked like they work a little bit, but not like regular, human thumbs.
Jason was hard to look at, which is why no one could miss him. But no one cared. “Can he play poker? Will he play 72o to the river? Can I check-raise him?” That was the only thing anyone thought about. Poker, not appearance. I heard bits and parts of his story during the next few hours. It is quite a story. If you want the background, you can go here.
Jason was a cop again. I guess it is something he never thought would be possible after this horrible accident. But it happened, he persevered. No, I don’t think he could hold a gun. But he was working. He was not at home contemplating suicide or refusing to be seen in public. I know it must hurt, he was such a good-looking guy. But we are all handicapped, we are all deformed, whether those deformities can be seen by others or not. I truly believe that.
I looked at Jason and talked to him more and more as we played. He was in the six seat, I was in the ten seat. I could stare him in the eyes. They were the same, gorgeous eyes he had before, so what has changed? I am glad that I met him. And miracle of miracles, he could actually play poker better than all of the other cops combined. He wasn’t the fish :)
God bless you, Jason. Keep on keeping on.