Thursday, June 10, 2021

Miami Don, the Mookie, WPBT and Poker Blogging: When We Was Fab

One of the things I like about Facebook is that is lets you know when your friends have birthdays. It is sad to say, but I have several Facebook friends who have already passed. Rather than delete them off my friends list, I keep them as a remembrance. Today, I got the notice that it is the birthday of "Miami Don" Wade, one of my old guard poker blogger friends. In a sense, the loss of Miami Don reminds me of the loss of regular contact with my old poker blogger buddies. We were a disparate, yet cohesive group.

I began this blog over 15 years ago, partially to play in a tournament series reserved for poker bloggers only. This was during the heyday for poker in general and especially for online poker. I was one of many players of the "Moneymaker Generation," a group of players that became excited about and began playing poker after Chris Moneymaker's amazing win at the 2003 WSOP Main Event -- his first live poker tournament and one in which he won his seat in an online satellite.

Prior to my blogging, there had been some professional writers who actually covered poker events, with many having their own blogs. There were a few waves of new bloggers, and I was pretty much a "C Lister" - one of the late comers compared to many of the others. One thing the bloggers were great at was hosting private online tournaments. I heard of one on Wednesday nights called "The Mookie." I played in my first Mookie on Oct 18, 2006 and went out in 54th place (out 0f 60 players) when I was all in pre-flop with K-K vs 10-10. A 10 on the river sealed my fate. I played one week later and ... I won!
"Wow," I thought. "This weekly tournament might be easy pickings." That win really began my association with that particular blogger community. The players were good, we had tremendous fun, and we sometimes got some awesome perks from the relationships some bloggers had with major poker sites like Full Tilt Poker. There were lots of fun things about the group, including great encouragement to "drop the hammer" - chase people out of a pot by betting big or going all in with 7-2os, nicknamed "The Hammer." Also, similar to todays poker streamers, we had a private radio broadcast of all the Mookie tournaments. Led by Joanne and Ben, two players out of Canada, and their buddy Ian, a stalwart Detroit Redwings fan with whom I clashed time and time again (because I was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, u see), the broadcast team played music, reported on the tournament while in progress, and generally spewed out fun times. However, I think that many would agree that the best broadcasts were when Miami Don was their guest. He had a wicked sense of humor which became more so as his drinking progressed throughout the show. Sometimes my wife or kids would come running into the bedroom (where I played online poker) to see why I was in such hysterics! Damn, but those were some awfully fantastic times. No matter what I had going on, I almost always made it home by 8:00pm on Wednesdays to play The Moookie. Oh, and as an aside ... I didn't win my second Mookie until July 1, 2009 -- over two years and eight months after my first! The third actually came just four weeks later.

For many years, this group of bloggers played an in-person tournament in Las Vegas in early December -- called the WPBT -- the World Poker Blogger Tournament. Although the tournament was deemed important, especially for bragging rights, the weekend largely consisted of typical Las Vegas debauchery. It would be accurate to say that significant amounts of alcohol were consumed, weed and other drugs were present, all forms of gambling were experienced, and there may have been a story or two regarding prostitution and/or sex. People did their own thing with some of their online friends, including trips off the Strip (I once took a few friends to the Pinball Hall of Fame and a cemetery), dinners at nice restaurants, or other Las Vegas activities. If you played in the tournament, you were encouraged to bring a bounty with you to be given to whomever knocked you out of the tournament. Once I and another player knocked Wil Wheaton out of the WPBT. His "bounty?" An uncashed slot ticket worth only a few cents. I believe he also signed it with the following sentimental message: Suck It!

It was great having this group of poker friends located all around North America. I found that out when some tough times came, particularly when my then 15 year old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was a very difficult time for my family, and my poker blogger buddies were there to support me when I needed it most.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The bomb was dropped on Black Friday -- April 15, 2011, when the federal government decided to take on the largely unregulated online poker world. For the people in the United States, online poker slowed to almost a complete stop. The big boys, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, were in the crosshairs. United States v. Scheinberg alleged that the "defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering to process transfers to and from their customers." (quote taken from Wikipedia).

Many of the old guard poker bloggers stopped writing in the blogs. Interest in the meager online poker options greatly decreased. The WPBT still had robust gatherings for a few years, but then things trickled to a halt.

Over the years as many of the poker blogs died out, the new kids in town -- poker vlogging and Twitch streaming -- became popular. Blogging has become a dinosaur -- a mammoth from times past that isn't around much today. Ummm yes -- I realize there are no more live dinosaurs around today outside of Hollywood. There are still some bloggers who write occasionally. The list of blogs on my main page is really outdated. I deleted many years ago, but kept some of the links. I think it is time to update so my blog is accurate.

So what was the purpose in this post? The anniversary of Miami Don's passing always reminds me of what I great time I had with my friends in the poker blogging community. I am still friends with some and am friends with many on social media, although the interactions are generally initiated by a birthday notice or in case of some sort of personal hardship or tragedy. Although we rarely communicate, the feelings I have for many in this group still run deep. They had a significant affect on my life and, more importantly, were good friends. I certainly miss that.

Being an old, retired guy now with FINALLY some time on my hands, I invite any of my old poker blogger buddies and current poker blogger friends to comment on this post. Let me know how you're doing, show me you're still around. Can this actually become a one-off place for everyone to reconnect?


Blogger Rakewell said...

I'm not dead yet!

But I haven't played poker in maybe 2 years.

El Grumperino

2:09 PM  
Blogger Mr Subliminal said...

Got hit hard by COVID-19 last year, used my "one time" and am still kicking.

Have yet to play live poker since March 2020.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Lester said...

Thinking back I lost my desire to play poker whenever it was that my daughter graduated from college in Wisconsin. The couple of times a year that I would pick her up for college for a six hour drive home I would spend the night before in the Wisconsin Dells and play poker at the HoChunk casino. Even manage to do a meet-up with Lightning and had some fun watching him win many pots while I was mostly card dead that day. The icing on the cake was my working my ass off to win two Saturday night No-Limit Holdem tournaments on the Golden Nugget free poker site. You had to have accumulated a certain number of free dollars to buy into the tournament that ran 6 or 7 hours and had 150 to 180 players. Top three got two nights hotel plus food vouchers and some free play. I won (first place) twice in Oct-November and planned a February trip in 2013 to cash in on those sweet prizes. But worked sucked so bad I couldn't get the time off and my winnings expired. As did my desire to play poker. Up until they eventually blew away that Golden Nugget online poker site and replaced it with its next generation I was in their Online Poker Hall of Fame as "LaLaLaLESTER". If I lived across the street from a poker room I am not even sure if I would play....

3:55 PM  
Blogger 23skidoo said...

Great post, It's good to 'see' some of the friends we made on the internet tables every once in a while. Great post, I wasn't a big fan of Don's until I met him in Vegas. As Waffles said to me, he's really a big softie. Thanks for bringing up the memory.

10:25 PM  
Blogger AyeCarambaPoker said...

Still here but no travelling means no poker or drinking shenanigans

All work and no play makes AC a dull boy!

2:26 AM  
Blogger skippob said...

Avid reader, keep it up,

5:58 PM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I do value the good old days! It's good that you're still keeping poker sharp!

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Wes said...

I still check by blogroll often in the hopes more such as you will be posting again. Those were great times

10:24 AM  

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