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Since last we spoke Pt.4 A text from Phil Laak, my weird dream, and a declaration of thanks.

Oh boy, did this blog collect dust!

I began parts 1-3.5 in late 2016 with the intention of summarizing the after-effects of my best year on paper ( 2014 ), touching as briefly as possible on a forgettable 2015, and finally offering up a, fresh at the time, 2016 WSOP postmortem. 5 years after the fact it’s tough to know how to approach continuity, and even more difficult to access a reasonable enough recall in an effort to try. I’m flirting with a few approaches for the restart of this journal, however ultimately I think I’d just like to continue to touch on some of the highs and lows of the last few years, and share some of its experiences along with the perspectives I’ve gathered and headspaces I’ve been in. I think this will be a good jumping off point.

A text from Phil Laak:

Poker honestly wasn’t an activity that interested me to begin with, but when I haphazardly began learning the game and watching some of the shows in 2005, my favorite players were Phil Laak and Marcel Luske. I related to their space-cadet nature and found them entertaining. I played with Laak for the first time in 2014 during the WSOP, and we had a few pleasant exchanges.

Sometime after the Series I had a strange dream. I should note foremost that I don’t know anybody who values the conventional nightmare more than I do. At one point I had a journal filled with pages of notes from messed up dreams that were intended to turn into some kind of story or music video. The dreams I absolutely could not fucking stand all involved waiting tables. I had served in various restaurants for 10 years or so, and 100% of all of my serving dreams have consisted of me taking a table’s order, and never ever finding my way back with what they’ve asked for; it fills me with extreme amounts of anxiety.

Anyhow, my dream: Phil Laak sees me in the Rio hallway and invites me to a big dinner party he’s hosting at his and Jennifer’s place after WSOP ends. I show up at this colossus of a house, and there is nobody in sight. I wait around for a bit, before eventually hiking up a long burgundy staircase, where I hear mumbling coming through the nearest door; it’s a kitchen in full swing. I ask one of the servers where the guests are eating, when a Sous Chef starts shouting in my direction “Where the fuck have you been!? Put this on and grab a tray.” He hands me a white button down shirt, some black pants with an apron, and reality sets in.

Of course…

Why would I be a guest??

Of course.

Of course Phil asked me here to wait a goddamn table.

I change into my uniform, grab a tray of hors d'oeuvres, and head into the dining room, which I’m sure you can guess is just unmeasurably wasteful. Behind what looks like a very successful hunt on the Oregon Trail are Phil and Antonio bullshitting with their closest neighbors. I start walking over, hoping Phil will see me, ask why the fuck I’m holding a tray, and have me join them. Instead, he thanks me so much for helping the staff, and Antonio wants a side of Ranch.

I speed-walk dejectedly back into the kitchen, and start opening cooler doors looking for the dressings. There are guns in all of the drawers. I walk inside the cold-storage fridge and its just meat and more guns. I’m freaking out, and all I can think about is how pissed Antonio is getting waiting for me to bring him his Ranch. I finally wake up.

I text Phil this dream and he laughs.

Sometime towards the middle of WSOP 2015 I get a text from Phil asking me to give him a call during next break. Slightly paraphrasing: “Brandon, Jen did an analysis of your dream. Essentially, you’ve had some mainstream success within the poker industry, and now that you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ve found yourself underwhelmed and saddened by many of your experiences relative to your expectations.”

Wow, fucking spot-on. But how awesome are Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly!?

The poker world is filled with many truly genuine, kind, and interesting people. I feel extremely lucky to have crossed paths with the majority of those I have come into contact with, and I’d like to acknowledge that. People have been very generous with their words about my character, and a few still think I’m halfway decent at poker somehow. Thank you for that, and thank you for bringing your light into an environment where lows act as a necessary constant.

Much like how we often times are so emotionally invested in a tournament that anything falling short of first place is disappointing, for me, my interactions with people who fail to meet my standard of human decency unfortunately tend to overshadow the silver lining of the majority good. I would like to believe that I don’t need to channel these interactions to put on the appropriate game-face. I think they just let me down way more than they should, and I try converting their actions into extra doses of motivation independent of my competitive drive. My state of mind heading into WSOP 2016 harbored a lot of resentment ( some stemming from myself ), and a willingness to remind the poker world that I intend on being a problem at the tables.

Probably a good thing for the sake of brevity, since we’re playing catch up, that I don’t remember much of the first few weeks aside from recalling being frustrated and annoyed that Daniel Alaei, who I respect and enjoy, had drafted me in the 25k Fantasy League, and I had thus far been a non contributor in points for our team. I remember getting a helpful pick-me-up from John Monnette while sitting in the Thunderdome during one of our breaks, a short time after he posted back to back final tables, which was greatly appreciated.

Soon after, a consistent string of cashes flowed in. Nothing crazy, but enough to keep morale up and add some always welcome missed event refunds onto the spreadsheet. I final tabled the $1,500 O8 where I made an incorrect exploitable fold against the one guy who I hadn’t seen bluff all tournament until then ( timing! ), and a bad river check that cost me. I had to settle for 5th and probably didn’t deserve better.

It feels wrong to gloss over the more pivotal aspects of my poker career, and I don’t want this entry to get chorishly long, so I’ll cut this off here for now, and use my remaining words to once again thank those who go out of their way to selflessly share their warmth with those of us who hurt for it. Thank you for reenforcing the notion that it’s ok to anticipate the best in people, be any form of vulnerable, and project your good intentions onto others in place of spite and resentment. And if you’re able to throw a well-timed needle in there every now and again, then more power to you.

<3 Brandon

pictured in order: Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly x3.

middle section: Carol Fuchs, Joey Ingram, Ali Nejad, Jack Brennen, Matt Ashton

lower section: Matt Vengrin, Norman Chad, Eric Rodawig, Steve Albini, Andrew Kosinski ( Nitty Kitty ), Devin Dixon, Russ Arbuthnot, Tim Midyett, Jason Gola, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Abrego, Peetie Sweetie, Talal Shakerchi, Alex Wilkinson, Martin Bradstreet

bracelet photo: Kenny Shei, Andrew Rennhack, Andrew Kosinski, Zach Ralston, Marc Booth, Steve Albini, Matt Ashton, Stephanie Vino

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