When we all met 10 years ago – first on the internet, soon after in “real life” – it was clear we collectively had fewer years ahead of us than behind us. We weren’t young. And poker, after all, wasn’t the only vice we shared. But in an unofficial poll, Randy didn’t make anyone’s top pick in the pokerboyz’ dead pool. As someone who loved the ponies, however, Randy may have preferred to go off on long odds.
Randy was as entertaining as he was entertained by the world. He made me laugh, which is an unusual talent for an economics professor. He claimed he was socially challenged. I thought he was charming, disarming and refreshingly earnest. And I always looked forward to his company during our annual/semi-annual poker trips.
There is no denying that many social situations made Randy anxious. On a cold January morning in Biloxi, he stood out on the frigid pool deck, reluctant to get into the warm waters of the Beau Rivage’s hot tub. When asked why he didn’t jump right in, he said he wasn’t sure of the protocol of getting into a hot tub when there was only another male in the water. The fact that the male in question was his good friend “Idoru” was immaterial. We giggled uncontrollably as he tried to explain himself. He knew we would. It’s why he told us.
I once witnessed Randy interact with an obviously disturbed man on a bus. Randy listened to the man’s semi-rants and chatted patiently with him for the better part of 20 minutes. When we got off at our stop, however, Randy bolted off the bus like a yearling out of the gate and ran all the way to the hotel door. When I caught up to him, Randy said he ran because he was afraid the guy might follow him. When asked why he talked to the guy if he thought he was such a nut job, Randy lectured me on the importance of being polite.
We referred to Randy as the “grandmother” of the pokerboyz. He drank warm milk before bed. He was indeed polite and considerate. He drove like an old woman. He liked Michael Buble. Despite these milquetoast qualities, he could be an aggressive mofo at the poker table.
Randy – known initially to me online as rggator – loved Texas Hold’em but was even better at Omaha. He would always tell people how much he detested the four card variant, which only proved he was an Omaholic to the core. Omaha players are notoriously fatalistic about their game – although maybe a little less so than lowball and seven-card stud players.
A few of Randy’s economics students noted that mentioning an affinity for poker wouldn’t hurt you when it came to grading. Many students said he was a hard teacher. Randy insisted they attend class and forbade cell phone use during lectures. The nerve, apparently. Other students mentioned Randy’s love of the subject and his willingness to spend time after school to help them.
Poker and economics appealed to Randy’s libertarian bent. They were worlds he understood: risk, odds and probability, utility, opportunity cost, and personal accountability. He loved structure and relied on routine.
But about a year ago, Randy’s tidy world changed. An accident at the gym nearly severed his foot. Instead of enjoying his daily bike rides along the beach, he toiled with reluctant insurers and lawyers. He had to opt out of our May trip to Vegas because his condition was deteriorating. (Idoru had this video made on the Vegas Strip for Randy to let him know – in pokerboyz fashion – that he was missed) Another surgery loomed. Randy began to fear he might lose his financial and physical independence.
Randy left a list of all his accounts and passwords taped to his computer. He had his ex-wife pick up his two cats for a few days. He wrote a lovely letter to his girlfriend Cherie. Randy died on June 19, 2011.
Sometime in the coming year, Randy’s picture on a popsicle stick will travel to Vegas, Biloxi, Tunica, or some other poker Mecca. Drinks will be drunk. Stories will be retold. Cards will be shuffled up and dealt. And through the laughter and the tears, the pokerboyz will be — as we are now — inconsolable to find a seat open at our table.