Jerry Buss tournament + Joe

This was submitted by my friend Ida:

This post has been a long time coming. Despite copious notes, I don’t know where to begin to describe the experience of observing a poker tournament. Everyone appears solemn with their poker faces, but on rare occasions you’ll catch a player goofing off or cracking a joke. Or even a greater rarity is when a poker player suddenly thrusts back from their seat, hovering in suspense until the last card on the table is turned over. As a newb, I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse or gain some insight into what makes a great poker player. Instead, I learned that skill plays as much as part in the game as Lady Luck.

I observed my first live poker tournament at the Jerry Buss and Frank Mariani 8th Annual Charity Tournament. Some of the numbers I picked up during the night were as follows:

Entries: 107

Number of chips: 2,461,000

Prize pool: $93,090

Number of players paid: top 18

First place prize: $27,460

Amount to raised for charity: $10,700

Charity: Lakers Youth Foundation

Another interesting number I picked up was $200. This was the amount sitting in the swear jar at the time of my “interview” with the tournament director. The swear jar collected $20 bills per player in penalties handed out for cursing or inappropriate behavior. The money in the swear jar also went towards the charity at the end of the night.

On this momentous night, I also had the occasion of meeting Joe through Steve. The best description of Joe would be a seasoned poker professional with the fiery combination of Italian and Irish blood. Before we were introduced, I sensed a great poker presence existed behind the solemn exterior of this older gentleman. He came onto the poker scene before it was “legal”, long before it was popular. He knew all the old-timers, including the youthful, ninety-something-year-old Dirty Wally (no one could explain this moniker, no one knew Dirty Wally’s last name, and they could only speculate about his age).

Joe’s favorite phrase that he repeated several times during the night was, “I could tell stories to make your hair curl.” Joe’s childhood was spent near the Jersey shore. I could easily imagine Joe having grown up in the era of Mafia legends like Al Capone and Bugsy Moran or the infamous John Dillinger. And now that he’s settled here in California, he no longer plays tournaments any more. Instead, he stands in a corner of the room observing all the players, in the manner of a farmer admiring the fruits of his labor. With hands on his hips, he seems satisfied with the yield of his fields. He leaves the playing for the young people. He’d rather have a full night’s rest so that he can play at the park with his grandson in the mornings. However, he still comes out to the poker tournaments to see how much and how little his world has changed.

I got the best quotes regarding poker players from this retired professional. According to Joe, “The players are just people sitting in chairs. They’re all the same. They’re from all walks of life—millionaires and bums sitting at the same table—waiting for their hand.”Dirty Wally + Joe

Leave a Comment