Those were the words of Erick Lindgren as he spoke to the PokerNews sideline reporter, Kristy Arnett, in the wake of his triumph in Event #32: $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NHLE). When he said the words ‘my wife’ he struggled to maintain his composure as his body took his breath away, sailed saline to his eyes and made him choke for air.
Erick Lindgren is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Haralabos Voulgaris thinks he’s a ‘piece of shit,’ half of the poker community think’s that he is a lying cheating scumbag, his wife Erica loves him to his core and his little boy Jake thinks he is the most important man in the world.
We all judge and we all create a vision of who we believe people are. These views are based on whatever ideology we hold true in our own lives. I have never spoken to Lindgren but I have been in his shoes. You may be laughing right now. After all E-Dog reached a level of debt that hit $10 million at its height. But it’s all relative. He was on the verge of struggling to pay the mortgage and so was I.
Gambling is one of the most amazing forms of entertainment on the planet, and some people are blessed enough to make a career out of it. But it is a form of entertainment that teeters on the brink. Alcohol, cigarettes and sugar are no different except these vices are seen through rose tinted glasses. Each one is viewed as a controllable substance that is just ‘a way of life,’ but in reality you are never in control of either of them. They own you and you don’t even know it. The same became true for Lindgren when it came to football.
As a gambler, once you start losing, you need a plan to start winning. In a way we are all the same. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, if you need more money you will look to your career to create it. For a lot of people it’s what you know, what you are trained for and the quickest way to earn back what you owe. For Lindgren, gambling is his job. It’s what he knows, what he has trained to do and it’s his quickest way to earn the money that he now owes.
What’s that? You don’t believe me?
I am 38-years old and I have earned just over £1 million in my lifetime. Lindgren has earned £872,000 by playing poker since checking out of the Morningside Recovery Center where he was receiving help for his gambling compulsion. Where else is Lindgren going to earn money like that? If he listens to his detractors and allows shame to stop him from playing how can he pay people back? How can he repent?
We are too quick to judge situations and people that we do not understand. As a writer I am as guilty and fallible as the next guy. But how many of the people who have called him a scumbag have been unfaithful to their wives and girlfriends, and have told themselves that they cannot come clean because it will hurt their feelings? Drenched with sorrow and regret that they can do nothing except live in fear that the truth will never surface? How many of them have lied, stolen and done immoral things? How many of them get blind drunk and shout at their friends and partners? How many of them have taken drugs? How many have broken the law?
We are human and we are instinctive screw-ups. This is how we move forward through life. The more screw-ups you make the better you become. Erick Lindgren is a better man because he lost $10 million. You can see it etched all over his face. How difficult do you think it is for him to sit down in the middle of a poker room knowing that everyone is judging him. That takes balls.
Neil Channing may not have accrued debts of $10 million, but he knows what it feels like to owe people a lot of money.
“The amounts he owes are going to take a lifetime to pay working a $40,000 a year job, so if he owed me I would rather he gambled and stayed in action. At least you have a shot.” Said Channing.
What happens next in Lindgren’s life is exceptionally important. His recovery period is a very complicated process. Alcoholics do not go to rehab to learn to control their intake because alcohol is uncontrollable. Lindgren is trying to do that with gambling. He calls it his ‘degenerate gene’ and he is trying to kill it whilst continuing to gamble as a profession. This is going to be a very difficult mountain for him to climb. It’s vital that he has a plan to pay off his creditors and has regular communication with them. He owes $3 million and that is going to take an exceptionally long time for him to pay that off, but with a runner up spot in the World Poker Tour (WPT) $25,000 World Championships, at The Bellagio, and now his second WSOP bracelet win, at least he is heading in the right direction.
A few days ago I was highly critical of Caesars Entertainment for providing their customers with free alcohol as a strategy to get them intoxicated so they will lose more money in relation to the lifetime ban dished out to David Diaz. Today, I am going to be highly critical of the poker industry as a whole. The same people who playing sticks and stones with Lindgren help create the very mess that he found himself in. People need to stop looking at the heads of the ugly weeds and instead focus on the roots that lay hidden beneath the earth. You can chop the head of Lindgren if you want, but poker is like Hydra and for each one you severe two more grow back. Shouting abuse at Lindgren doesn’t solve this issue, but looking inwardly at yourself and how you operate within this community will. Stop making unsecured loans to people and start managing your finances more diligently. It is difficult to comprehend the fact that Chris Ferguson paid Erick Lindgren $2 million twice by mistake. But the mere fact that Ferguson was sending him $2 million in the first place, and that he could actually make that mistake, speaks volumes of the way that some quarters of our community operates.
Just look at the Erick Lindgren winner’s gallery on PokerNews. With the exception of a few shots of the dealers, there is only one other person in the shots and it’s his wife. Nobody will know that man more intimately than her. If she can give him a second chance then so can I; and so should you. After all, you never know when you’ll need it yourself.