Poker Legends and the Game of Life

Apparently a big chunk of this article was cut off. I have no idea why, but it may cause a change in the company I use for printing. The full version appears here.

By Matthew Doyon

Emerging from a field of thousands of contestants, there were only two players left. And only one of those two could make history. It was November 2008, and the main event of the World Series in Las Vegas was coming to a culmination. The World Series of Poker, that is.

Neither one of the final two players left in the poker main event contest was American. On one side of the table sat Russian Ivan Demidov, and on the other side sat Austrian Peter Eastgate. Both men had outlasted over six thousand other players to earn a place at the final table of poker’s grandest stage.

The World Series of Poker is a group of poker games that is held every year in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the not so distant past, this event was attended mainly by professional players, celebrities and maybe other well-to-do persons who simply enjoyed bumping elbows with the poker pros. An amateur player aptly named Chris Moneymaker quickly changed all of that.

In 2003, Moneymaker came out of obscurity to beat hundreds of professionals, win the main event, and become the poker champion of the world. There were around eight hundred entrants that year. The year after this “no-name” became world champion over twenty-five hundred people paid the ten thousand dollar entry fee and joined the game. Since then, the number of entrants has always been comfortably over five thousand. Poker is no longer a professional gambler’s game. It is now the game of the “no-name”. And the no-names have won every year since 2003.

And so, in 2008, Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov sat at a table, each poised and hoping to claim the coveted title of poker’s best player. Demidov and Eastgate had about an even number of tournament chips. But in the next to last hand, Demidov bluffed off most of his chips to Eastgate who had made a lucky five-card flush.

In the final hand, Demidov, made two pair. He had few chips left and needed to act. From across the table, Eastgate coldly stared him down. Instead of looking up into Eastgate’s scorching eyes, Demidov simply focused. This intelligent young Russian had made it this far by remaining thoughtful and making wise decisions. A little luck hadn’t hurt either. And so thinking that he probably had the best hand with his two-pair, he said the two most famous words in Texas Hold’em poker, “All in.” With those words, Demidov effectively shoved his remaining chips into the middle of the pot and sealed his fate.

Texas Hold’em is a game that is played with each contestant using two hidden hole cards and five community cards to make the best possible five-card poker hand. In this situation, and unfortunately for Demidov, Eastgate had made a five-card straight with the same community card that had given Demidov two pair. Eastgate quickly called Demidov’s all-in bet with his made straight and after one more benign community card was harmlessly turned, the game was over. Eastgate won over nine million dollars. In addition to that, he had become the first Austrian and also the youngest poker champion of the world at age twenty-two. He would earn the name “Icegate” for his trademark stare. This “no-name” is now and forever a poker legend.

Poker was once a game played purely by gamblers and professionals. It was illegal in many places and the players were regarded as little better then criminals. In these days, poker has become a game that anyone can play. In any given hand, anybody can win. It is an underdog’s dream. And poker, just like life, involves both fate and good decision making. With good decisions, you can possibly cut down on the role that fate plays. John Wayne, one of the game’s biggest fans, once said, “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.” But then again, in life, your wise decisions may or may not always help you in the end.

And so it goes with poker. It’s a game in which you can make the best decisions and still lose. It’s a contest in which you can be stupid and still somehow win. It is a competition that takes into consideration the controlled human element, and yet somehow always involves dumb luck.

And life, like poker, demonstrates the odd relationship between our freedom of choice and the irony of fate. That is why it is such a great game. The game of life, I mean. The game of poker is great too; and if you don’t believe me then just ask Chris Moneymaker, or if you prefer perhaps, Peter “Icegate”. Life is an underdog’s dream.

The Liberal Cup and Shaw’s Lodging

By Michael Hawkins

There are some downright awful businesses out there. Most big box stores fall under this heading. Then there are smaller businesses like T’s Golf in Manchester. But one can only stand reading about these sort of disgraces for so long. It is far better, indeed, to read about the good places.

One such place, without any doubt, is The Liberal Cup. It has the best food, the best environment, and a great owner: the squash is amazing, the people are great, and the owner, Geoff Houghton (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is not a personal acquaintance), has an incredible business sense about him. There isn’t a thing I don’t like about the place.

The only establishment, I think, that can rival the Cup is Shaw’s. No, not that Shaw’s. This one is located in Monson and offers more than groceries.

Located in a town through which Appalachian Trail thru-hikers must pass, Shaw’s ( is made for the hiker. After walking the 100 Mile Wilderness, I stopped here with friends. We found ourselves stuffed with the most satisfying all-you-can-eat breakfast ($7) we’ve ever had.

And the owners, my goodness. Dawn MacPherson-Allen and Susan Stevens bring an environment that is like visiting an almost overly hospitable relative. At no point can anyone feel like this is a business; Shaw’s is like a home.

The world needs more places like The Liberal Cup and Shaw’s Lodging.

Arguing From Consequence

By Michael Hawkins

It is a systematic lie you’ve heard about Hitler and evolution. He did not use evolutionary science to justify his beliefs. Indeed, the man was a creationist. The following is a quote from Mein Kampf.

“Walking about in the garden of Nature, most men have the self-conceit to think that they know everything; yet almost all are blind to one of the outstanding principles that Nature employs in her work. This principle may be called the inner isolation which characterizes each and every living species on this earth. Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a fundamental law–one may call it an iron law of Nature–which compels the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind.”

He believed in “kinds”, a term as poorly defined in his time as it is by modern creationists. He fully rejected evolution, just as did one of his biggest influences, Houston Stewart Chamberlain. In fact, Chamberlain believed evolution would be judged as men of his day judged (and still judge) alchemy.

Of course, the fact that Hitler was a creationist says nothing of creationism. An evil man believing something does not make it false. And this is where a point must be made. Public creationists such as Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Ben Stein, and those who work for AnswersInGenesis will willfully make fallacious arguments trying to link Hitler to evolution. They suggest – coyly as ever – that evolution is wrong because it leads to bad things. Of course, they would never be so direct in their coy creationist lies, but it is the obvious implication. They seem to have no idea that an Argument From Consequence is entirely meaningless.

But, for a moment, pretend it does matter; pretend the argument actually makes sense. Hitler never used evolution for his hatred anyway. Indeed, he couldn’t! Writing in 1945, he says, “We use the term Jewish race merely for reasons of linguistic convenience, for in the real sense of the word, and from a genetic point of view, there is no Jewish race.” Insofar as there is no good biological basis for races, he was correct. (However, concentrated populations will tend to share traits. Ashkenazi Jews, for instance, have increased odds of getting breast cancer.)

At best, Hitler and his Nazi party used a distorted version of Social Darwinism, which itself was a distorted version of Darwinism. Indeed, the basic concepts behind Social Darwinism existed long before Darwin even hit the scene. Out of unfortunate convenience, its supporters brutalized real science when they got the opportunity.

It is the firm hope of this writer that nothing as ugly as creationism could possibly be true, but that isn’t good enough. It is through evidence and NOT using red herrings that such a case must be made. Creationists would do well to understand that. Of course, then there would be no creationists.