I grew up in New York, so when I have some downtime I travel there to visit my friends and family. My dad lives in Yonkers now but when I was a kid he lived in the Bronx. I lived with him for my high school years because the high school that I wanted to go to was in his school district. I was a baseball player and they had the best baseball program.
Baseball wasn't the only game I played as a kid. In fact, my dad probably gave me the poker bug. He had his own poker club in those days. When he wasn't at the club, we'd play gin rummy against each other. Gin rummy was a popular game back then. It filled the same role for people that Chinese Poker does today. People would play gin rummy when they would wait for the poker game to start.
Very few people play gin rummy anymore, but my dad is still extremely competitive. It was only natural something would fill the void created by gin rummy. For him that thing was backgammon.
I don't remember how those matches started. I guess maybe at some point someone brought a backgammon set to the poker club and he learned the game. He was probably playing somebody for money. I'm pretty sure he was the one who introduced it to me and taught me the game.
Now we play backgammon against each other. Whenever I go back to New York, we have little competitions in backgammon. We play matches against each other and at the end of the match, the winner gets the bragging rights to say that he's the champ.
We're both competitive and very close. Playing backgammon against each other has become a fun, spirited, diversion that includes lots of good-natured trash-talking. At the end of the match, the winner gets the bragging rights to say that he's the champ. The trash-talking is all in fun, of course. We get into this bubble of backgammon, where we can have some fun with the understanding that nobody means any disrespect. Someone will make a move and the other guy will say, "You're really going to make me that move? Wow. You're begging for me to give you the cube because you've made such a bad move."
cousin friend Vinny
When I was a kid we played gin rummy for chores. Now we play backgammon purely for bragging rights. To give an example of how far my father takes it, my best friend from my childhood, Vinny, lives with his family in Westchester. My father is close with him too. When my father beats me in backgammon he says, "Make sure you let Vinny know who the champ is!"
I left as the champ this time around (a better result than that of my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, who were swept out of the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers). But the next time I go over to my dad's house for dinner, it could swing the other way. Win or lose, the competitive nature of the matches and the time spent with my dad make it all worthwhile.
Chad Brown is a member of Team PokerStars Pro. Read his bio here.