A Tale of Two Brothers
by Adam Slutsky | Published: Nov 14, '12
Ten NLH tournaments in succession, each more than 200 players strong, with many touting themselves as professionals. Five of the ten events resulted in cashes, with four final tables and one outright victory. Not bad, right? Heck, I’m reasonably certain any poker player the world over, pro or otherwise, would gladly accept those stats.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a back-story that will put the preceding feat into perspective and also set the tone for the overall thrust of this blog. So if you’ll kindly bear with me, I’d like to take you on a quick journey back in time.
The year is 1987. I’m 18 years old and my brother, Sande, is 10.
In the winter, my friends and I would often go skiing at Hunter Mountain. Being the good big bro that I am, I usually took Sande along. Now for those who are unfamiliar with Upstate New York skiing, Hunter Mtn is tantamount to a religious experience, especially if you’re an above average skier. The upper end of the difficulty spectrum features a handful of double black diamond trails — ultra steep, wicked icy, covered with man-sized moguls — that will instantly separate the capable from the broken legs. Trust me, people have died on these runs. Yet these are the runs where my friends and I spent the bulk of our time, ripping down the slopes, popping monster back-scratchers and daffies off the oversized bumps, doing all we could to look like schussing bad-asses.
But as bad-ass as we all thought we were, midway down each run a pint-sized figure would blur by us, catch air off the biggest jump, do a gravity-defying trick that made our aerials look downright pathetic, and then beat us to the bottom without breaking a sweat. This went on the entire day. What’s worse, we all worked hard on the slopes, thinking through every leaned edge or pole placement.
For him it was second nature. Relaxed, smooth, precise. Elegant and aggressive at the same time. It was almost fun to watch.
Almost! 18-year-olds continually being shown up by a 10-year-old ain’t an easy pill to swallow.
When the snow melted, golf was the dominant sport and the Hudson Valley region had many great links to choose from. Despite being mediocre at best, I spent three years on my high school’s varsity team and was a consistent starter. Still, on my best days, when every shot went straight and long, and every putt dropped, I couldn’t beat my little brother’s worst round.
While I would agonize over every shot as if it were a chess match against Bobby Fischer, Sande would just walk up to his ball and, with a metronome perfect swing, do exactly what he wanted to each and every time.
Again, it was fun to watch but it also made my stomach turn. Little brothers aren’t supposed to show up their big brothers on a constant basis with that much ease.
Years later, when Sande got his license, I had already been driving for quite some time. By then I had also received many hours of high performance driving and racing instruction and had managed to lay down some impressive times on road courses around the country. So when my brother and I decided to take Bondurant’s four-day Grand Prix course together, I figured I’d finally be able to show him up.
All the instructors were amazed that this was Sande’s first taste of wheel-to-wheel racing. In fact, during one stint, had he not spun in the scariest and most difficult section of the track (everyone else braked whereas Sande kept his foot on the gas!) he may have notched a track record.
Fans of The Brady Bunch will remember an episode where middle-sister Jan angrily blurted out “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!” after her older sister received all the accolades at their after-school job and even resulted in Jan getting axed. Well, “Sande! Sande! Sande!” He was the talk of the track.
By now you’re undoubtedly wondering how all this translates to poker. Allow me to explain…
At an age when other kids were playing Little League, I was playing poker in the card rooms of my family’s Catskill Mountain resort hotel against players five and six times my age. Between the poker, a football pool I started in 9th grade, and my family’s horse racing interests it was obvious that gambling was in my blood.
So it’s only natural that my brother, who shares my bloodline, also had a passion for gambling and, like me, poker was his favorite. So, once again, ever the good big brother, I figured there’d be no harm letting Sande mix it up with my friends and I whenever we played.
Well I’m sure you can guess where this is going.
And you’d be correct.
By the end of the night, Sande was usually among the winners, oftentimes having cleaned us all out right down to the lint in our pockets. Granted, we’re not talking big money (games were $0.25/$0.50 back then with pots seldom exceeding $20) but the precedent was set.
Fast-forward a decade and a half. I bought a house in Las Vegas with the intent to play poker seriously.
But it was immediately apparent that I didn’t have what it takes.
I did okay but that’s about it. Without my literary career, no way could I sustain myself and I don’t think they’d hand out food stamps to aspiring pro poker players. So I sold my Sin City abode and moved back to Tinseltown to do what I know.
And goes the saying: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write.
Drum roll please…
Two weeks ago, after much contemplation, Sande decided to put all his chips in one basket (figuratively and literally).
Since college, no other career pursuit has captured his interest the way poker has. So, after playing semi-seriously for the last couple of years, Sande elected to concentrate his efforts and try to make a real go of playing professionally. That is, his sole source of income would be derived from what he could earn on the felt.
Sande elected to kick off his professional poker adventure at The Venetian’s Deep Stack Extravaganza series and, as I mentioned, in ten consecutive events he’s cashed five times with four final tables and one win.
Is this a sign of things to come?
Does this mean he’s got the chops to make it in the ultra-competitive world that is professional poker?
Again, who knows?
What I do know is that it’s a solid start and, if nothing else, it’s a serious boost of confidence for a “newbie” coming into a dog-eat-dog arena that requires hefty doses of skill and balls (and a little luck thrown in for good measure) just to break even.
Granted, these weren’t $5K or $10K events but, in terms of statistics, the buy-ins are irrelevant. Sande cashed in half of the events he played and that’s really the only number that matters.
Fully accepting my “place” in Sande’s pro poker endeavor (and in the world of poker, in general), I’ll be the (annoying) fly on wall, chronicling the good, the bad, and the ugly… The occasionally untracked rollercoaster ride that is the life of a professional poker player. And I won’t pull any punches either, no matter how much I might prefer to do so at times. No, you’ll get the straight skinny regardless of what occurs.
If Sande makes bank in some hefty cash game or makes a great play to win a major tourney, I’ll tell you. If Sande takes a bad beat and goes on tilt or donkeys out of an event he should have cashed in, I’ll tell you. If Sande goes busto and winds up selling bodily fluids just to buy ramen noodles, I’ll tell you. And if Sande gets drunk, picks up some tranny hookers, and gets robbed and winds up handcuffed to the bed in some cheesy by-the-hour motel, I’ll not only tell you — I’ll take photos and post ‘em on the Web for all to see!
Hopefully you’ll find these posts entertaining and, quite possibly, insightful. And please, if you have any questions or comments, DO NOT HESITATE. I’d love to hear from you.
Finally, just a quick and demonstrative THANK YOU! to all the men and women who have served (and those currently serving) in our nation’s armed forces. You’re the reason we get to do all that we do in a safe and free country.
So, until next time…