Sometimes your job is simply to report, other times you play the role of psychiatrist. Then there are those other times, when you have to do both.
I’d never met Boutros Naim before. We’d never spoken, I’m fairly certain I’d never written about him, and he would certainly have no clue who I was. As far as I was concerned he was Mr Poker Player Man, unless he did something spectacular, or won something. But when he saw me coming in the opposite direction, as he staggered up the steps outside the tournament room that lead outside towards civilization, he latched onto me like as if he was about to fall.
The stairs outside the tournament room leading out into the light
His eyes were wide open like he’d just witnessed something awful, and that he knew he could never un-see. He reached out to me as the friend he so desperately needed, and my mother would think bad of me had I walked past a man in his hour of need.
“I had aces!”
Naim said this with his arms outstretched. For a moment I figured he’d got the wrong man. Then I realised that I could have been the tooth fairy, it didn’t matter, he would have approached anyone in the same way.
“I had aces,” he said again. And so, treating him like a man who had witnessed great psychological trauma, I let him talk.
The story was a familiar one. Evidently he had raised and got two callers. The flop had a queen and a ten on it he said, and another card that he couldn’t remember. After some action a player with chips (possibly Patryk Slusarek) put him all in with his queen-jack. Naim naturally called.
“The other guy had jack-ten,” he said, and then he looked off into the distances. It’s possible he couldn’t even see me, and was actually talking to himself, or the ghosts of poker past. “He rivered a straight! I had aces. What was I supposed to do? Fold them?”
I wanted to tell him he would feel better soon, but I didn’t want to lie. He hadn’t blinked for a few minutes now, so I could only guess that the image of that flop burned into his retinas.
“I had aces yesterday and the same thing happened,” he said. “He had ace-king. Runner-runner king! Ha!”
I was glad he was laughing, which let’s face it is all you can do in these spots to stop yourself crying in public. I tried not to laugh though, just in case.
“I’m folding aces from now on!”
And with that he moved on, out of the tournament, out into the world. He seemed ready. I’d done my best. There will be more like him to come.
Godspeed Mr Poker Player Man.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.