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Another Vegas Light Goes Out But The Laughter Lives On

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Jan 08, '21


A few days ago, I called my friend John Sheffield, better known as Vegas legend Scof. He told me he’d had an operation due to cancer. I panicked and asked if he was in hospital. When he asked if I had any more fucking stupid questions, I thought he’d probably be fine. Sadly, I was wrong and he left us a few days later.

Scof had been battling cancer and a dodgy heart for a decade without cooperating too much with the medical profession. One doctor told him that if he quit smoking, he could have two beers per day. Scof asked if he could have fourteen on Mondays instead. You get the idea.

A couple of years ago, Mick McCloskey, a good friend of Scof and Fiona’s, told me he’d met them in Vegas and Scof was in bad shape. He couldn’t even drink a second beer. Bad shape indeed. So Philip, Karen, Mary and I decided to go over for a weekend to say goodbye. Scof and Fiona met us at the airport at about 9 p.m. and took us to Caesar’s and came in for a quick drink. Six hours later, we had to ask Scof to go home as we wanted to get some sleep!

Philip was wondering if Scof was indeed sick and suggested he just didn’t want to drink with McCloskey but I told him they’d been friends for twenty-five years, and anyway Scof had never been particular about who he drank with. The following evening we met up with Mike Sexton who was in great storytelling form. Little did we know that Mike would leave us before Scof did. Or that we’d be seeing Scof a few months later at the Irish Open. I’m sure there’s a life lesson there somewhere, but I’m just not smart enough to figure it out.

Scof was a gifted athlete and attended college in Tennessee on a basketball scholarship where he led the team on court and off. The off-court activities were hilarious and relentless. A few years ago, we were chatting in the Rio and he told me he was going home to watch his old team play a team who had inflicted a heavy defeat on Scof’s team several decades ago. I asked him later how the game went and he didn’t know as he’d turned it off when the commentators referred back to the blowout Scof had suffered. “Why can’t the bastards just let it go?”

Scof arrived in Vegas in 1965. He brought with him a pool cue, a razor sharp mind and a wit that Runyon would have immortalized. There’s no end to Scof stories (many unprintable) as Vegas went from being owned by the mob to corporate ownership, but some of the funniest are from his Binion’s WSOP days.

One day, the players called him over to the table to complain that the dealer had been drinking before work. “Good,” said Scof. “You should see the way his hands shake if he hasn’t had a few drinks.” Another time, a dealer called him down to complain that one of the players had called him an ass-hole. Scof said to him that these players had been playing for forty eight hours and were very tired, so if one of them called him an ass-hole it was probably just a lucky guess! 

Scof loved to tell the story about Jack Binion visiting the office and finding several decks of marked cards set aside from the rest of the decks. When questioned about this, Scof told him they were for the razz game, that every time they sent out a new deck to that game it was marked within a couple of hours so why bother?

Friendships with the Irish and Brits from those days stood the test of time. Kev and Leona, Mad Marty and Katherine, Véro and I, Surrinder, Frankie Knight, Scott, McCloskey. The list was endless. Oh yeah, he even married Fiona! With Scof around, laughter was never far away. Behind the sarcastic, fatalistic exterior he was a thoroughly kind and fiercely loyal friend. Except that time in Paris he insisted on referring to the French as surrender monkeys every twenty minutes which I could have done without!

There are zillions of Scof stories, though one of my favorites involved a trip to a Reno WPT in 2006. Scof and Fiona were there before I arrived. I think Scof had had a relapse and was working. We were joined by Ireland’s Fintan Gavin and his wife, another Fiona. On Day 1, Fintan and I made the rookie error of leaving the bar during Level 2, which inevitably led to us being knocked out before dinner. So, Scof took the lot of us to visit Carson City, which was like going back a century or two. We visited a bar and finished up drinking with a bunch of cowboys. It wasn’t the first time we drank with cowboys, but these guys were the real deal.

The beers took longer than expected, and by the time we went back outside it was snowing pretty heavily. We headed to Tahoe to find shelter for the night, as Carson City seemed too much like Brigadoon for our liking. In Caesar’s, the Fionas and I hung back as Scof and Fintan sorted out rooms. That didn’t seem to be working out too well, as we heard Fintan tell the guy behind the desk that the general manager wouldn’t be pleased if he didn’t get us rooms as we were an Irish TV crew in town to make a travel show in which it was planned Caesar’s would feature prominently.

I must admit this was news to me, but it certainly lit a fire under the chap in reception, as he miraculously found us rooms and, after a little prompting from Fintan, gave us complimentary tickets to that evening’s Comedy Show where they moved people around to provide us with a front row table. It seemed a little funny that the real comedy show had just taken place at the front desk. To finish off the evening, Fintan and I decided to teach the locals some of the finer points of holdem. That involved Scof sitting behind Fintan feeding him cash, which he converted into chips which he then gave to the locals. I got the idea and gave them some of my money too. Then, they left. Ungrateful bastards!

We left early the following morning, as we had decided against talking to the general manager after all. But the show wasn’t over yet. Fintan told Scof that he would be running the Irish Poker Championship a few months later and that the sponsors would love to have big name Americans in attendance. He told Scof that he could get him a free entry and an all expenses paid trip, if he could look after that end of things. To my surprise, Scof didn’t foresee any problem from his end. He was banging on about the legend Karl McKelvey, his buddies and various Vegas names and within minutes the deal was done. I’d never heard so much bullshit over a couple of days in all my life.

In the end, Scof came up a little short of target. We could see him and Fiona in Dublin ok, but there were very few other American players there. None to be exact! To be fair, he was great craic and highly entertaining at the bar. Even if no one knew who he was. I was quite surprised Fintan didn’t tell them he was Doyle!

In 2018, 6 months after he was supposed to be at death’s door, he and Fiona showed up at the Irish Open. With them was Karl McKelvey! “I told you he’d come,” said Scof. I politely pointed out it was twelve years too late, that it was a different event and a different sponsor. “No one is perfect,” was the reply.

Rest In Peace Scof. And don’t tell Mad Marty you are there.

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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