In this week’s Confessions series, Lee Davy talks about his experiences at Dusk till Dawn and, in particular, the influence that Rob Yong has on the game in the UK.
Poker saved my life.
I was drinking myself into weakness and shame; talent hid in a box. I was a shill. I felt ill. I was living life in a medically induced coma.
I would wake with a headache, stare into the mirror, watch the red tributaries roll out from my personal balls of Mars heading to my aching skull.
It was like a broken boomerang that only went one way.
Tuesday nights was different. It was poker night. There was no sense of creeping hypothermia around the poker table. There was joy, abundance and life. I felt alive. I felt free. It was my community.
We talk about the poker community all of the time, but what do we truly see?
“He is the Robin Hood of Poker,” says Willie Tann in a conversation about Rob Yong.
There is warmth in Tann’s handshake. There is a deep and ancient understanding of the game. You feel it as lifelines touch lifelines. I love watching him pottering around like Mr Miyagi.
A man comes to the table and jokingly pokes fun at Iaron Lightbourne.
“That’s right, pick on the little black boy,” Says Tann, “18-years old and you pick on the little black boy.”
Lightbourne can’t stop laughing.
They are playing in the £2,200 Main Event. There is a great atmosphere. But all the noise is coming from tables disassociated with the big buy-in. It’s coming from the local pub league tables. They are playing for peanuts.
There is a poker pheromone-induced insanity. People rarely sit. They stand like high towers emerging from the knuckles of poker tables, giving the world the finger.
It’s not about the money.
It’s about the honey.
“He won’t call. His balls are too small.”
The big Italian places his thumb and forefinger into the air and then squeezes them slowly until they touch. The Spaniard’s face reddens. It’s like magic. Fingers are applying the tourniquet from across the table.
The Spaniard doesn’t have many chips. There is a premonition of poker death in the air. It’s macabre. It’s uncomfortable. It’s also riveting. The Italian continues to poke and prod.
The tourniquet loosens.
The bulging veins vanish.
Women dressed in black buzz around the room pollinating each table with an exuberance that seems out of place given the hours they work.
In the toilet sits a man. Alone. Staring vacantly into urinals watching pubic hair races. He jumps from his stool, grabs the mop and starts cleaning. There is pride in his work.
What goes through that mind?
What are his dreams?
The hand is dead.
The dealer shuffles, cuts and then deals a flop.
No cards for the players.
Everyone looks at him and laughs.
There is no need to in a place like this.
I see the same people every day. There is a ripening rapport. They play poker; they bust, but they never go home.
This is home.
There are punters. They sit at the Roulette table. They have systems. They sit at the Blackjack table tapping and talking.
The voyeurs join them. Standing at the roulette wheel perfectly positioned to see the croupier bending over to change the life of someone for a nano-second. A hit of life.
Her legs are long. Her sheen is shiny. Her heels bring a perversity to the minds of men. Only here does it feel like a cattle market. The Spaniard should come if he wants to prove the Italian wrong.
This is grassroots poker.
This is the community.
The Robin Hood of Poker is in the VIP room. Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and the rest of the gang surround him. He is lying on the couch stroking his dog. They are brainstorming the next promotion.
I know this is a business.
I know it needs to make money.
But when I watch Rob and his team talking about how best to market the word ‘numpty’ as rainwater drips onto the table from a leak in the roof, I know that this is not about the money.
It’s about the people.
When I stopped drinking, I lost my community.
I felt like someone had hacked away at a big part of my life.
I was in a social bubble of boredom population me.
It was lonely, lifeless and languid.
My mood bordered on depression. I didn’t know what to do. I felt cynical and jaded. I could no longer hear the tiger’s roar. It sounded like a meowing cat.
Where would these people be without the Robin Hood of poker?
Where would they be without the men and women in tight pants?
This is their home.
This is their life.
This is poker.
And this is what saved my life.