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The Odd Couple of Poker – Part II

by Max Shapiro |  Published: Jan 22, 2014


Max ShapiroIn part I, I described how two top-name but personality-opposite poker characters — the happy-go-lucky Raymond Davis and the deadpan-serious Allen Kessler — got together and have intermingled ever since. Kessler has the bigger single cash — $276,485 for second in a WSOP stud eight-or-better championship event — but Davis holds the record for the most Facebook posts. If he were paid a nickel a word for every word he put up, he’d be richer than Bill Gates. He posts about sports, poker, women, bawdy jokes and descriptions of his bowel movements…but mostly jibes at Kessler.

Once at a tournament table with Barbara Enright, Davis boastingly posted her remark that she thought he was the second-best player she had ever seen and when he asked who was better than him, she answered “Phil Ivey.” In fact, her joking response was “everyone else.”

Davis says that he has been backed by some of the biggest names in the business, including the likes of Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Ted Forrest, Jerry Buss, Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Lisandro and Victor Ramdin. “But I never asked Allen for backing, I figured that if he would turn down backing Ivey, that I was drawing dead. He did stake Shannon Elizabeth, though. She must be one hell of an actress to pull that off, probably the role of her life.”

Davis says Kessler thinks women are negative. ”Imagine how much you spent on women, Ray, would you like to have that money back?” he quotes him as saying. I say, “Not really, had too much fun spending it!”

One year Davis finished sixth on the list of best dressed poker players and claims that Allen threw a fit for not making the list. “Yea,” Davis says he responded, “How could they ever overlook those designer casino clothes you’re always wearing? But all in all, I like the guy. He’s kind of weird, but aren’t we all in some way?”

Davis says that as the relationship grew, he decided to put their friendship to the ultimate test by borrowing money from Kessler.

“This seems like a simple test, but we are talking about Allen Kessler, a guy who wouldn’t loan mother Teresa two cents if she asked for it. So I asked him one day for $500. He stared at me in silence for about two minutes. The look on his face was priceless and it was hard for me not to bust out laughing. He reaches in his pocket and hands me $500. After that I saw very little of him and finally ran into him at the WSOP where he invited me to eat with him at the buffet. When we get there, he pulls out like 50 different coupons from all kinds of casinos.”

After eating, Kessler wanted to split the tip and Davis pointed out that when you invite someone to eat, you should pay everything. They argued and Davis suggested taking it to mitigation, called, and they took it on the site’s court show. They argued and then Davis offered to take Allen to a strip club and buy him $500 in lap dances to make it even. He wouldn’t agree, but the court judged it a fair offer. “Allen kept saying he would do it within a year, that was two years ago, and when I bring it up, he says forget the eight dollars you owe me.”

Davis is pretty sure he’s never gotten the best of Kessler. “He’s hustled me out of about $4,000. Once, after busting out of a tournament at Commerce Casino, I was ready to fly back to Vegas when Allen offered to drive me. When I asked what the catch was, he said I just would pay for the gas.” When they met in the morning, Kessler had a map on the seat. When Davis said that he knew the way to Vegas, Kessler told him they had to make a few stops along the way because he had promotions at various casinos. Davis says they ended up going to nine casinos, most of them out of the way, and Kessler threw a fit at one of them because he was supposed to get a toaster and they had run out. “Allen was furious! I had to calm him down and remind him he had won a $4,000 jackpot in their casino. But the toaster was so much on his mind he couldn’t think straight and at one point I had to tell him he was driving on the wrong side of the road. Finally after 13 hours and $150 in gas money, we arrive in Vegas and Allen wants to drop me off at a casino instead of driving me home!”

A lot of people, Davis continues, feel sorry for Allen and think people get the best of him, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. “If you see Allen fighting with a bear, help the bear!” Davis says his battles with tournament directors are legendary, and he even managed to change procedures at the WSOP, explaining that they used to give $10 paper food comps for each entered event. “Allen went to the window a week before the WSOP started and signed up for 50 events, receiving over $500 in food comps! A few days later he unregistered for all events. Obviously, the cashier doesn’t ask for the $10 food comps back, so he got to keep them, then got more when he registered again. When the WSOP staffers found out they were furious! They had a meeting to decide how to rectify the situation, and after three hours decided to do away with paper comps and just put them on players’ cards. So now we get $7 instead of $10, and we can all thank Allen for that.”

Kessler denies the story, and a when I checked with a WSOP exec, he agreed it wasn’t true, so take your pick.

Davis says that Kessler lives in a world of his own, his life consisting of poker and only poker, playing well over 300 tournaments a year — “the ultimate tournament grinder. He is negative in no-limit, but his mixed game is top-notch.” Davis says he himself doesn’t like to travel to play poker if it’s not in Vegas or L.A., but he respects the way Kessler wants to live.

He also said Kessler had more “shining moments” at the last WSOP when he interrupted Jack Effel during a bracelet ceremony (“It was one of the most shocking things I ever saw”), and when Daniel Negreanu was yelling at the top of his lungs, “Where are you, Allen Kesser? I am going to kill you!”

Meanwhile, Kessler keeps grinding away at poker while Davis keeps people laughing with his endlessly entertaining quips on Facebook. One was that he’d rather watch paint dry than watch his friend play poker.

In conclusion, Davis says: “I always said characters are not only good for poker but for the world, and me and him definitely fit the bill.” ♠

Max Shapiro, a lifelong poker player and former newspaper reporter with several writing awards to his credit, has been writing a humor column for Card Player ever since it was launched more than 20 years ago. His early columns were collected in his book, Read ’em and Laugh.