Stu, Doyle, Johnny, Dan, Phil… and Billy
There’s a new champion every day now. Some great, some good and some that would send you back to buying lottery tickets with new fire in your belly. That’s why there is a game. Over time, you can work out which is which. Some guys get lucky once, the true greats write history. The stats never lie but sometimes they don’t tell what really happened.
I went to Binion’s the other day to play their pot-limit omaha tournament. I always go to Binion’s when I’m looking for a bit of inspiration. It always works. You can just feel the history and what it all means. I didn’t see any ghosts there but they are there all right. Binion’s is where I first met and played with Boston Billy. Boston Billy was from Colorado, but that’s ok because Miami John is from New Jersey and Missouri Dave is from Tahoe but nobody seems to care. Billy was a real tough pro who you could do without in a game but his dry wit more than compensated for his lack of value. You’d expect Billy to make good money every year by being a good pro but I, for one, didn’t know that this man would produce a performance that stands up there with all the great achievements in the history of the WSOP. It happened two years ago when Billy was 70 years of age. He came through 1500 players in a three day $ 2000 no-limit event to make the final table. He was never going to win that one because some kid had his name written on the bracelet. That didn’t bother Billy and he immediately signed up for the next day’s 2000 runner $ 1500 no-limit event when most guys his age would have been taking a well deserved break. I first noticed Billy in this event about three tables out. He came to my attention mainly because the guy beside me, a nice kid from the internet, told me some old guy was asleep at the next table. Billy woke up in time to find and raise with AQ and some young internet star whom all the young guys seem to really rate came over the top with a big all-in raise with A2. Billy called and was almost asleep again when they shipped him the pot. The kid beside me was in a state of shock and told me how bad a call Billy had made. I told him that Billy didn’t play much on the net so he didn’t know he was supposed to pass against this guy. I was wasting my time. The next day, I was drawn beside Billy at the final table. Billy looked pretty good for a guy on the 6th day of his marathon. I know I was supposed to be concentrating on winning a bracelet but I just couldn’t help myself and I spent the first hour having a chat with Billy. A stream of guys half his age came by and went out of their way to wish him well. I asked him what was going on. He told me he taught a lot of these guys. Being Irish, I asked how much he charged. “I just take a piece, it’s better. Think about it.” The game went on around us and some of the guys didn’t notice we weren’t on TV and acted accordingly, but that gave us more time to chat. Billy was talking about the marine’s, the CIA and dealings involving guns and the Irish in Boston. He said he’d tell me the full story over a beer some day. I suggested we have that beer in Dublin. Billy said he’d very much like that but something in the way he said it gave me the feeling that it just wasn’t going to happen. Billy got a bit unlucky, took it like a man and wished me luck. It was to be the last thing he ever said to me because Billy only had a few months left and knew it. The record books will coldly show the back to back final tables. They won’t say anything about the sheer courage of a dying man who achieved more in six days than most people in a lifetime. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Just as well the final tables weren’t in November.