Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

The Road Warrior Thunders Back at Mad Max's Dome

by Andrew N.S. Glazer |  Published: Oct 25, 2002


Ever since my dear friend (and no matter what you read from here on out, that characterization is accurate) Max Shapiro dissembled a bit (a polite phrase for "lied his ass off") in his official report for The Bicycle Casino's Legends of Poker media tag team event, the Poker Pundit and the Read 'Em and Laugh guy have been playing a fun game of "tag, you're it."

When played by juvenile delinquent adult Card Player columnists, though, "tag, you're it" means "Let's see who can write the most obnoxiously funny things about the other guy." Unfortunately for me, I had made a classic poker error. I was playing Mad Max's game, humor, instead of my game, poker. I felt like the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

I tried to explain this to Max, but he said he didn't know what "proverbial" meant, because he had never had to use any words in his column other than "Big Denny," "the other guy picked up the check," and "I'd never lose a tournament, except for all the bad beats I take."

I told Max he was selling himself short. "You've used lots of other words, Max," I said. "You've written the words 'Ralph the Rattler' at least 500 times."

"Five hundred times!" Max exclaimed. "Wow! That's even more than 25."

As the reflection from Max's dome temporarily blinded me, he had me on the ropes again. I was confused. "Well," I started wittily, "I guess that's right. How come you picked the number 25, though?"

"It's a really, really big number," Max explained. "I remember once I had a chip that was worth 25 dollars, and when I cashed it in, it was worth so much, they gave me 10 rolls of nickels for it!"

I really shouldn't pick on Max, because every single time he covers a tournament, he gets more than 40 percent of the hands right, and no one has batted .400 in the major leagues since Ted Williams hit .406. For example, he said something right in the first column he wrote in this misanthropic exchange of ours, and I freely admitted that to him.

"Gee, thanks, Andy," he said. "Big Denny once tried to hit Ralph the Rattler with a baseball, but he missed the damn throw, too."

I tried to explain to Max that he was missing the point, but his eyes glazed over as he started talking about how he had missed the free throw in the big game when he was in high school, the same year Michelangelo hired him to help move his ladders around while he was painting the ceiling of what Max called the Cistern Chapeau (Max remembered that he craftily walked under "Big Mikey's" ladders so that he didn't get his hat wet with paint). I wasn't sure if Max thought he was covering a final table, had been sniffing paint, or had eaten some funky mushrooms, so I figured I better get straight to it and explain how he had been right.

"Remember when you wrote that if a bomb went off in our neighborhood, three of the world's best poker writers would get knocked off all at once?" I asked. Max remembered! "Well, you were absolutely right," I told him. "Michael Konik, Greg Dinkin, and I all live on the very same street in Hollywood, Vista Street.

"What's really amazing about that coincidence," I continued, as Max's eyes started to water and he went into a pout even better than Walter Matthau managed in Hopscotch (the best movie you've never seen - rent it sometime), "is that Dinkin, Konik, and I are all cut from a slightly different bolt of cloth than most poker-playing writers. We all have lots of interests outside of poker. Konik is a true Renaissance man, Dinkin seems pretty close to one himself, and while some people think I'm more of a dilettante than a Renaissance man, I have done lots of different things in my life.

"I mean, I've been a tennis instructor, a sports editor of a couple of papers, a lawyer, a radio play-by-play guy, a professional backgammon player, a college professor, a manager of a small business, a law school professor, an entrepreneur, a COO of a big division of a big business, a master chef, a certified masseur, and a professional poker player. I've written, produced, and starred in a couple of one-act plays. I set two show records in two days when I was on the ESPN sports trivia game show Dream League. I know how to cut roses so they'll live longer. I once even went almost 30 minutes without mentioning a bad beat. It's amazing what a guy will do to get laid," I concluded.

"But … but … what about me?" Max asked. "I live just two blocks away from you. I was talking about you and Konik and me when I wrote about the three great poker writers all getting taken out at once. I don't care if Blinkin Dinkin just moved into the neighborhood. I was here first. You Vista Street guys act like you're the Three Musketeers or something."

Max was on a roll, and since the last time he'd done that was when he had that job evicting widows and orphans during the Great Depression, I wasn't going to deprive him of his moment in the sun. "Well, Mr. Can't-Hold-A-Job, let me tell you something," Max said. "If colleges had been invented back when I was in school, I would have gone to college and learned stuff about stuff, too. I can be the Fourth Musketeer, because my dad gave me a musket when I turned 100, and I used it to defend this great country of ours in the American Revolution. I'm as much of a Renaissance man as any of you punks. In fact, I'm much more of a Renaissance man than any of you, because I was born during the Renaissance."

I've known Max has a tendency to exaggerate ever since he bragged about doing something 12 times the night he and Barbara Enright first got together (although I was a little disappointed when he told me it was using the rest room), but something about this story rang true. "You really fought in the American Revolution?" I asked him.

"Yup," Max said. "I was at Valley Forge with General Washington. I saw Oklahoma Johnny Hale walking down the street, and it was so cold, he had his hands in his own pockets."

I really do love Max, but I'm so worried about what he may come back with in his own column that I think I'm going to yield. You're the funnier man, my friend, and I know better than to try to play the other guy's game. The only time I can get people laughing as hard as you can is when they watch me playing for high stakes, or possibly if they overhear me asking someone out. So, lay off me next issue, and go back to your aged, I mean timeless, humor. Then I can get back on the road, looking for instructive tournament stories, instead of trying to figure out how the hell you can get away with writing Big Denny stories 25 issues a