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Chillin' In Tampa

07 Sep 2006

I be chillin’ in Tampa Bay, and so far things have been pretty cool…

In a previous blog I mentioned how I feel as though sometimes I’m racist towards white people. As bizarre as that is, with me being white at all, I realized that sometimes I just don’t give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

So anyway, I’m at the airport in Vegas and it seemed as though everyone and their mother recognized me. Sometimes I go to the airport and am left alone completely, but on this trip to Tampa Bay, it seemed like everyone on the plane was a poker fan.

Except for one guy. As I sat in the plane several people said things like, “I love watching you on TV,” or, “My husband just loves watching you on TV.” It wasn’t too bothersome at all, as their were no drunks on the plane. I have a pretty simple rule when it comes with interacting with people- if they are drunk, I try to ignore them. It’s just safer that way.

Anyway, finally the guy seated next to me showed up. He was a white dude, clearly some kind of businessman as he was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. He sat down next to me, and I was honestly expecting him to start bragging about how important he was, or how much money he had… but it didn’t happen.

He seemed pretty friendly, took off his jacket, loosened his tie, and made small talk with me. I noticed that when he took off his jacket that he was wearing a shirt with a logo on it, “Bio-Derm.”

We left each other alone for the most part, but after a couple hours we started talking again. He asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I played poker. He obviously didn’t watch poker on TV, but when I described to him what I did for a living he showed no signs of judgment or disdain for me or my profession.

I asked him what he did, and he explained to me that he was the CEO of a company called Bio-Derm. Basically his company makes this thing that helps with this other thing that helps doctors do certain things about certain things related to skin. You follow me?

He seemed like a successful guy, but one who was also very grounded. There was another thing he did that I found peculiar. He was watching a Lindsay Lohan movie, I think it was called, “Just My Luck,” and he was laughing at some of the silly things that the character was going through. It was all very innocent. Not mocking at all, this guy just seemed to really enjoy it.

My read on this guy was totally wrong. After a four hour flight with him, my stereotype didn’t apply to this guy whatsoever. Frankly, I was really happy to be wrong for many reasons.


So I landed in Tampa and I was mobbed at that airport as well. It was just one of those days. As I said, some days I could be in public in total anonymity, but other days, it seems like everyone in the room just finished watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN.

As I walked towards baggage claim I saw a limo driver holding up a sign that said, “D. Negraneau,” and while that wasn’t my name I figured, what are the odds? I mean seriously, what are the odds that this guy was picking up someone with the last name Negraneau?

It took about 15 minutes to get to the hotel and I had no idea what to expect really. All I knew was that it was a Hard Rock, but that was about it. Let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. The place was nice, really nice. Upon checking in I went straight to my room. Sitting on the table was a fruit basket, a bottle of chilled champagne, as well as a note from the organizers of the Vincent Lecavalier charity organization. It was a really nice touch, and I genuinely appreciate little things like that. It’s not something they had to do, but it was a very nice touch.

I put my bags down and decided to head downstairs to get a feel for the place. By the time I walked to the poker area, a few people stopped me to say hello. Then, a guy who was going to be attending the charity event the following night offered to buy me a beer.

He seemed like a friendly guy, so I decided, “Why not.” We chatted for a bit about a few random topics. One of those topics ended up turning to God and Religion. Not a topic you’d generally discuss with random strangers, but it didn’t seem awkward at all, especially since we had similar views on the subject.

He was trying to explain to me the bizarre rules of the casino. For example, there is a $2 betting limit in the state of Florida, so the games are $2 across. Kind of bizarre, betting $2 on every street. In order to circumvent that law, the casino offers sit n’ go’s where you can play for anything from $200 to $1000.

The other thing that struck me as really odd was that the slot machines were bingo slots? They were all Paramutual since the laws didn’t allow slots. We ended up getting into a lengthy discussion about what the Bible says about gambling and why some conservatives seem to think that playing poker is somehow an evil act despite no mention of it in the Bible. I won’t go into detail about what is written on the subject, but let me just say that I’d challenge anybody to show me a verse in scripture that deems poker playing to be a sin.

After a while, him and his buddy Sparky asked if I would join them in a $500 sit n’ go. I wasn’t all that gung ho about it, but it seemed like they really wanted to play with me so I figured I could kill an hour or two hanging out.

When I got to the poker room, though, I didn’t get a ton of breathing room. Most of the people there had no idea I was coming, so many of them were quite shocked. I took pictures and autographs for a quite a while before starting up.

Seated to my left were two retired NFL players. Corey Fuller, a cornerback who played in the league for 10 years, and another guy who’s name escapes me right now. On the very first hand dealt I limped in for 50 with 10h Jh. The other NFLer raised it to 100, and then Corey made it 300. Before I knew it they were both all in, with Corey’s Kings against his buddy’s Aces. A king on the flop, and he was out on hand #1.

As time went on, Corey and I got to chatting. Before and while I was playing lots of people were coming up to me asking for autographs, and I heard Corey say, “See people don’t realize, that’s a hard life. You have to deal with that all the time.” He then asked me if I was used to it, and I replied to him, “I don’t really have a choice? It is what it is and it’s to be expected.”

We got along really well and he seemed like a stand up guy. He speaks at schools to this day, explaining to me that someone came to his school one day and it hit home, and changed his life forever. He seemed genuine when he told me that if he can help just one of those kids, it’s well worth it.

He told me about the current state of the NFL, both the good and the bad. He also told me about an amazing story that I must have missed in the news a few years back. A wild shootout at his place where some hoodlums were trying to rob what they suspected was a high stakes poker game. It was pretty crazy.

Anyway, all the while I was playing in the sit n’ go and handling my own. As it turned out, me and the two guys who convinced me to play were down to the last three. In the end, Sparky out carded me and I came in second place getting back $1400.
I had one more beer at the bar with my new friends, people I literally met about three hours earlier, and then headed to my room to write this blog and get some sleep for tomorrow.

Tomorrow night I’ll be playing in a charity event for the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation, and then the next morning I’m scheduled to fly home real early. If I’m having too much fun, though, who knows, maybe I’ll book a later flight. We’ll just have to see…


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