Even as a 12-year-old, Erik Seidel could pull a nice little bluff. Like the night he got a chance to make a few bucks appearing on the old network television show "To Tell the Truth," pretending to be the youngest of all comic book illustrators.
Until that evening, what Seidel knew about comic books was that he had enjoyed reading them.
But illustrating them? Please!
Normandie Casino exec Robert Turner marvels at how a life can hang on the threads connecting it to unexpected moments.
There he was . . .
A young man, not yet out of his teens, working in a men's store in Huntsville, Ala., when a customer invites him to a poker game, a 50-cent game is what it was. Sounded like fun. Turner showed up and sat through the evening only to later decide he had probably been cheated.
A funny thing happened to Vanessa Rousso on her way through law school. She discovered poker.
Not that she was a stranger to the appeal of competitive game playing.
Competition ran in the Rousso genes. Her father is a chess grand master. There was always a lot of backgammon, gin and assorted card games in the household. "We are a very game oriented family," is how the 23-year-old Rousso puts it, but no one else in the family plays poker the way Rousso has come to approach it.
Chad Brown began playing poker in New York City's Italian cafes. "I wasn't doing it for a living then." He says. "I was doing it for fun and winning on a regular basis as I worked at becoming an actor."
Later, he moved his acting career to Southern California and was ready to get a job as a waiter or bartender - "you know, the kind of thing actors do as they're waiting for that big break" - but, surprise, surprise, he discovered there were lots of legalized poker casinos.
Brown recognized an opportunity and decided to follow its scent.
They call him "The Magician," as though there might be something magical about 28-year-old Antonio Esfandiari's speedy ascent to a high profile among the men and women tracking opportunities across the landscape of big time poker. Good timing and skill are more likeit.
He has more than $2.3 million in tournament winnings alone over a period of about four years.
Joe Sebok's made it look easy, earning nearly a million dollars in tournament prize money deciding to play poker professionally. His fast start included a pair of final table finishes at the 2005 World Series, winning $109,000 in two hold 'em events. It was the first year he participated in poker's biggest party.
Fast forward to the present and we discover he's still doing well. This past October he won $267,295, with a first place finish in a hold 'em tournament at the Fiesta al Lago.
At the 2006 WCOOP on PokerStars, pros Chad Brown and J.C. Tran took down different events to win a coveted bracelet. Among the list of 17 winners in 18 different events (Kyle Bowker won two this year) was a mild-mannered Duke University student double majoring in biomedical/electrical engineering named Jason Strasser. Although he's just 21 years-old, the young gun has been playing against some of the toughest competition in the world over the past few years.
"It really is amazing what life can do," Mori Eskandani was saying. The Las Vegas-based poker professional says it again, punctuating the thought with a soft chuckle and a raised eyebrow look that seems to say, you just never know. "It really is amazing, when I think about where I was, and where I ended up . . ."
And the acquaintance for whom he is in the process of poking through a collection of life-altering experiences, waits to see where he is going to go with it.
Danny Robison's an every day regular in the stud game at LA's Commerce Club Casino. He'll occasionally take a break from the Commerce to join Hustler publisher Larry Flynt's big poker game where the limits can get up to fourand eight-thousand. And on Wednesday night at the Commerce, the 61-yearold Robison never misses the Bible study group that is a must with this self-described born-again Christian, who says he has given up drugs and booze, but not poker.
Eighty-one-year-old says a man is never too old to think big. He wants to keep it that way.
And so the Hall of Fame poker player who spent years working in the coal mines of his native West Virginia is looking forward to the Heavyweight Championship of Poker Dec.18-23, at Sam's Town in Las Vegas.
Participants will be putting up $100,000 buy-ins. That's a big number, he concedes, explaining that he expects to help raise his $100,000 by selling shares.