The Old Guy With The Semi-Afro

Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas.
The last time I was in Las Vegas was sometime in April of 2000. I had to Greyhound it back to Charlotte, North Carolina, and settled up where I had lived downtown with a few hours to spare.

I walked around the downtown casinos, mainly because I didn’t know if and when I’d head back again. I made a point to stop inside Binion’s Horseshoe casino, because I had just missed the start of the World Series of Poker by a few days.

Mind you, this was a few years before the series of tournaments they hold each year was immortalized by ESPN and the “poker boom” that came with it. I stood and watched the action from the rail for a few minutes, and noticed this older gentlemen with a bit of hair on him. It almost looked like the Afro hairstyle that was so popular in the 70’s.

Heading east, I wondered to myself, “Who the heck wears his hair like that?!?”

Fast forward a few years. I’m back in my home area of Tampa Bay, and ESPN is airing the World Series of Poker that Chris Moneymaker won. One episode introduced most sports fans to the successful but enigmatic Phil Hellmuth, but I recognized one of the men at the table who had the semi-Afro at Binion’s.

It was T.J. Cloutier, who not only was a top tournament player, but an author of a poker book or two in his day. At one time, he held the all-time record for the most tournaments win on the poker circuit, but I’d have to think someone has that eclipsed by now.

It was one of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments in my life, and I have my share of those.

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