Why Poker?

Over the years I have had many people ask me why I chose poker. Well, the truth is there isn’t just one answer to that question.
First you have to answer the question, “What is Poker?”
When you type “What is Poker” into your search engine (in this case Google) you’re given the generic definition:
noun: poker
1. a card game played by two or more people who bet on the value of the hands dealt to them. A player wins the pool either by having the highest combination at the showdown or by forcing all opponents to concede without a showing of the hand, sometimes by means of bluff.
Well that’s a pretty bland answer, but it is an answer. The problem is that there is so much more to it than that… And it gets ever harder when you have to break down poker into it’s subcategories (5 Card Draw, Stud, 7 Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Razz, Omaha, etc.,). So to avoid all that I’m just going to tell you that to me poker is Love. Yes love in it’s own sense of the word.
My friend Scott Sommerdorf asked me a similar question in an interview for the Salt Lake Tribune and their new “I Love…” video series, (there is a link to this in my “about” section but here it is again for quick reference http://www.sltrib.com/home/2483977-155/i-love-video-series-poker-gives) and my answer just barely scratches the surface of what poker is, and what it is to me. I doubt that I will truly offer justice to what poker actually is here today.
To scratch the surface I’m going to start with a story. It was early May of 2000, and I was in Las Vegas to pick up a friend who was coming into town for his bachelor party. Little did I know that this trip to the airport would set into motion a life change people only write stories about… (We’ll use the name Matt for this story to respect his interests.) I pick Matt up from the airport, and after we got his bags all loaded into the rental, he mentions that he has us seats reserved for a small tournament down on the old part of the strip. At this time in my life, poker was just an excuse to get the guys together for some drinks and bragging rights, and maybe take home a few extra bucks here and there. At this point I don’t have a clue what I’m getting myself into. So we pull into the parking lot of a little casino called The Lady Luck (may she rest in peace), and unload our gear. We got checked in and had a few drinks to catch up a bit. The tournament he’d gotten us into didn’t start till 8 that night so we had some time to kill, but we were itching a bit to get in some of the Vegas table action. Our tournament was at the famous Horse Shoe Casino so we decided that was as good a place as any to start. As we walk in from the valet, one of the guys reaches over to shake my hand and offer us some good luck, he shocked me. Not one of those mental shocks, but a literal shock! As I recoiled my hand, he expressed his apologies, and stated, “You never know, maybe I just filled you with some luck!”
Thinking nothing of it, we continued on our way to the Blackjack table. We find a table that has no one there but the dealer. So we sit and exchange our cash for chips. The dealer yells out “Changing 100!” so the manager on the floor comes over and shakes our hand welcoming us to the table. (I wish places still did this kind of thing… I feel like the customer service part of the industry has really diminished). First hand in I get dealt a “Blackjack” and Matt gets 2 face cards. Dealer busts, so
we both get paid. Second hand in I get 9-2, and Matt get 19. Dealer is showing a 4. So I double down, and Matt Stays. Dealer turns over a king and the next card is a queen. The dealer busts again! We turn my card over, and I was given a 9. So we both get paid again. This goes on for the next 10 minutes where neither of lose a hand. We had no idea that this was unheard of, we were just amazed at our luck! As always, it was time for them to change the dealer, so we took this as a good chance to move on our way. As we stood up, we counted our money and I was up to $350 and he was at $290. As we were parting we waved to our previous dealer and thanked the manager and went about our business. So we headed to the poker room, beers in hand. As we walked, for some reason what the valet had said to me resurfaced as a thought … Maybe he was right! Luck might be with us!
Fast forwarding a bit to the start of the tournament, I’m seated in the 7 seat. First hand in with the button in the 9 seat, I look down at A-A. This tournament started us with decently small stacks, I’m guessing we each had 1200 to start with. First player to act raises to 200, second player calls, third and fourth players fold. I call. The 8 seat was empty and the 9 goes all in over the top. Small blind folds. Big blind Folds. Back to the original raiser, He calls, as does the other player. So now we have 3 players all in and I have A-A… Well most people who’ve been playing this
game for a long time would jam right away knowing that its exactly what they want. I take a second thinking about it… More than anything I’m thinking about the guy in the valet… Finally I call… Players turn over K-Q, A-Q, 7-7. Flop comes out 2-2-7. Ah crap! The guy flops a full house. There is literally only one card left in the deck that I can win with. The turn is a J. So at this point I stand up, finish my beer, and begin to offer my goodbyes to the rest of the players. The the dealer lays the final burn card, and to add more drama to the situation, slowly turns over the
river card. Not realizing what has happened, I glance over and see the last Ace in the deck laying there. The table goes crazy. The guy with 7-7 is going crazy laughing as well. No one expected it, especially not me. So the result is I win the first pot of my tournament life, and as luck would have it, in the end, … my first casino tournament win. Not a bad start to the weekend. That first win has been cemented in my life, and is a constant reminder that luck is an important factor in this
As we left I looked for the valet driver who may or may not have been my luck charm that night, but he had already gone home. I left him a $100 tip and a note to thank him. The note said, “Thanks for the Spark!” That tournament made me $2500 which I split with Matt, on the way to an awesome bachelor party weekend!
It would be another 3 years before I sat at another poker table in Vegas. Many things changed after that day. I soon moved to Salt Lake City, got into the cell phone industry… Met my wife, and didn’t really have all that much time to explore poker.
Early in 2003 I met Randy, who at that time was the owner of Utah Amateur Poker League. He invited us out to his game, and Jeff (business associate) and I saw it as a prime opportunity to jump in as a sponsor and maybe sell a few plans to some of their players. The moment I walked in the door it all came rushing back to me… I needed to sit and play some cards… I needed the luck… I needed to feel the chips in my hands… I needed to play poker.
Fast forward to today. I currently own an entertainment company with a good friend and fellow poker enthusiast. Both of us share an accomplished poker resume and spend most of our time dealing cards to help players get better. I currently feel like I’m living a dream. What better life is there than to bring one of my true loves to other people and share their love for it?
So when you ask me “why poker?…” I say “because I love it.”
There are so many different things about the game that I love I could go on for hours here. So to quote my own words, “I love the education of the game. I love playing the game. I love the manipulation of the game. I love teaching the game. I love dealing the game. I love running the tournaments. I love being the jovial guy in the room. I love being the guy that everybody knows.”
I love poker…I doubt that really answers your question, but at least it begins to give you some understanding as to why I’ve chosen poker…
Scott Sommerdorf   |  The Salt Lake Tribune Piper Down Co-Poker Director Les Pendergraft interacts with players during a tournament at Piper Down, Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune
Piper Down Co-Poker Director Les Pendergraft interacts with players during a tournament at Piper Down, Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

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