My brother and I, as you know, have always loved movies and when we were younger and still lived at home he and I would go out and catch a lot of them or even go to "Block Buster" and rent them! (Hey kids, before I-tunes and Pirating peoples artwork/creative properties on the internet, there were places called "video stores" where you could get "rectangular" shaped boxes that had little movies living inside them...It was a magical and mysterious time of great wonder) When you see as many movie as we have over the years you become a bit of critic and some movies are better than others... But every now and then a movie will change your life... In 98' that movie was Rounders starring two up and coming actors, Matt Damon and Edward Norton. It was one of those movies we didn't know much about going into see it, but we were more than pleasantly surprised. It is, of course, about playing poker, but not just any poker, No Limit Texas Hold em'.(I would explain it, but you'd get pissed off and punch your computer screen.) It centers around a guy named Mike working his way through law school playing cards... when we meet him he goes bust and loses his whole bank roll. BUT like many of the best stories he over comes his own demons and other adversities to do something great and live his dream. Now, my brother and I weren't really super interested in cards until we saw this film... The problem was, we were the only people we knew who were wanting to get into playing. So sometimes we would play each other. And we had fun, but we would always talk about how cool it would be to have a group of guys to play cards with.
It was around 2005 or so and I had been dealing w/ my own personal demons, which involved breaking up being hard to do, college drinking, art school and lack of motivation/depression. Somehow, my brother and I ended up starting a weekly poker game w/ some of the new friends we had made and old ones too. At the time, I was a very different person and even more shy than I am now. I was taking a summer drawing class w/ Hali my then friend and now girlfriend, when one day this brooding redhead dude and I started talking about stuff... I knew this guy from my illustration classes and we had talked before about comics and whatnot, but I couldn't tell if this dude was a dick or if he was just more shy than I am...( he's both... mostly a dick ) So when he engaged me in conversation w/ a smile of his face I was pretty shocked, and somewhere in our yammering we started to talk about poker. Doug aka: "Conan Doug," aka: "Old red," aka: "Big red," as I would come to know him had a weekly poker game every Sunday night, and he invited me to come. To a normal person this would be great news... I mean I had a potential new friend, a poker game and an excuse to drink a few beers. (Few meaning 11) But I didn't really know this dude... He was brooding in the corner of illustration all the time... he could be some sort of sicko.(I was right about that) But some how I ended up going one night and I met some pretty great guys... Like Ben aka: "pappy," aka: "Six Flags," aka: "Bluff master," which for the record, is the worst name ever to have at a poker table.... and who can forget old Matt Thompson aka: "the Juice" aka: "Thompson" aka: "All in," which again is an awful name for sitting at a poker table. We all instantly clicked and they made me feel like I had been sitting at that table w/ them for years... Course that could have been all the beer too... everything just seems a little better w/ beer.
Kevin and I had gone from no poker games in 98 to having two a week and eventually more in 05. But the best part was making these new friends. We took things so seriously in those days, tempers flared and we would literally sit around a table for 8 to 10 hours for a 50 dollar pot... and the best part is that 10$ of that would go to second. I would get home at 6am after playing on a Sunday and even my own weekly game that all these guys started to attend, started to get out of control at times. It was pretty intense, but more than anything it was fun. I have seen or at least listened to movies like Whites Chicks w/ the Waynes brothers and so many other horrible movies Doug made all of us watch. We talked about sports, superheroes, movies and anything else you could possibly imagine. I think every time we sit around card table eventually we will start talking about "messed up movies" that we can't forget... And we always-always end up taking about Requiem for a Dream, which is one of the absolute most disturbing films ever made! DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM! Unless, you are trying to quite heroin, prevent someone from using heroin or you simply want to destroy someones life!!! Poker isn't just about cards it's about friendship, respect and laughs! Every time I have ever been at a game I will, at some point, laugh extremely hard at something that is said or a story that one of the guys tells. (Unless Doug says something... then everyone pretends they didn't hear) It is great fun!,
So how is this important to things that I make, my artwork? For one, Doug is one of the best artists I know and we both have helped to push ourselves into the creative directions we want to be in, which is comics. Doug is an awesome colorist and draftsman and when he and I get around a poker table, eventually we will talk about comics and our passion for them.(and all of the other guys are annoyed and keep saying call or fold, dumb asses!!!) One of the big things that cards has helped teach me is patience. It is never about the sprint... it's about the marathon. At a card table if you can make good decisions and hang around long enough amazing things will happen... I know for a fact this is true in life... If you "grind" it out and keep focused on what you want, it will happen. I have seen it in cards and I have seen it in life. We have this illusion of control in our day to day lives, but there is one thing we actually do have control over, US! Ourselves... We have the ability to make or break ourselves w/ the way we think, the way we act and the choices we make. These are some of the things that I have learned while being alive, but somehow they become more clear at a poker table on a smaller level. The last thing that truly helps my work is the great friends I have made through playing cards. Doug and Thompson have become two of my best friends and I love them dearly. We don't see each other near enough, but even if it's been awhile, we pick up right where you left off, like you saw each other yesterday. I don't know where I would be had I not met these guys when I did?
Poker is a very special thing that is fun, challenging and social. It has given me a lot over the years and taken some of my money too. But more than anything it has given me great friends, patience and introspection. And some great insights into movies we seem to discuss every time we see each other. So Guys if you are reading this lets get a game together again one of these days, and exclude Thompson:) I even have new friends to invite into the circle!