Preface from the Author:
Before reading my articles, I feel as if I should clear a few things up. First of all I promise that you, as a reader, will receive no strategic content whatsoever; if that’s what you’re looking for, then it’s time to open up a Todd Anderson or Matt Nass article.
Second I promise that my stories will promote alcoholism, chauvinism, social hazing, while at the same time offending various races and cultures; these attacks are in no way personal. They are just the views that I have formed that are a result of my personal experiences and looking at life through an alcoholic haze.
Basically, if I get threatened to get stabbed and introduced to corrupt cops in your country, I won’t have nice things to say regarding it. Some of my articles have upset my readers, but after they contacted me on a personal basis, and I explained myself, they realized it was all in good fun — well except for that one guy who threatened to stab me via Facebook message.
So if this doesn’t sound like something that you’re interested in, feel free to hit that back button at the upper left corner of your browser; otherwise sit back and enjoy.
And for those of you who have to fill the void in your life created by living in your parents’ basement, never excelling at Magic despite devoting copious amounts of time to it, and having the farthest you’ve been with a girl being a hot-and-heavy Chatroulette conversation, go ahead and pour yourself a big, tall glass of hatorade, and feel free to slam me in the forums.Â
This story begins at Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur. For this Pro Tour, I would be staying with Gabriel Nassif and Matt Sperling. This was before Sperling and I had ever really become acquainted. We both got in a day earlier than Nassif, so we had a good chance to hang out and get to know each other. Up until this point, our only interaction was at PT Kobe when Nassif introduced me to his friend (barn) Matt Sperling. This was well before he was a mainstay on the subject of forum flamers and Top 8 near-misses. He seemed pretty different from Nassif’s other friends (barns), the Frenchies — that was to say he was a normal human being when social situations were considered.
When I got to KL, we met up at the hotel. Sperling informed me that we were paying an extra $15 a night for the room because he randomly upgraded to a suite when booking, hoping for extra floor space or a couch. I replied I didn’t care because Papa Hat was footing my portion of the bill anyway.
You see, despite my significant success at Magic and my minor success at poker, I’ve always…how shall I put this…followed the MC Hammer money management plan. Essentially, if I won a PT, and I found a Bengal tiger or solid-gold parachute pants, they would be mine whatever the cost because, hey, anyone can get robbed and have their money stolen, but good luck trying to take my solid-gold parachute pants when I have my pet Bengal tiger by my side.
*end side note*
Anyway, it just so happened that the suite entitled us to free breakfast and an open bar from 5-7 pm every day. I assumed this would mean some 5 o’clock vodka and Smirnoff ices.
Since we had some time to kill before inspecting the open bar, Sperling and I visited the local zoo; we saw some monkeys and flamingos but no Kird Apes or Wild Nacatls. Ah well, I guess the Engineered Explosives I had brewing inside me courtesy of the local cuisine we had for lunch would go to waste.
Then we went to the next logical place after the zoo — no not the bar, the counterfeit black market, of course. It was a venerable cornucopia of second-rate, knock-off designer apparel. I took what ringgits I had, the local currency that is, and proceeded to make it (stone) rain on this bazaar (of Baghdad). I came away with a new pair of shoes and a messenger bag. Sperling came away with a new wallet. After all of this excitement, it was almost 5 pm, so it was time to return to the hotel and inspect this so-called open bar.
Now if I told you that the highlight of my day wasn’t getting my picture taken with a monkey or exploiting the benefits of child labor in the form of a messenger bag for 5 USD, you’d probably call me crazy. Well that is where you would be wrong my friend; you should’ve called me an alcoholic.
I walked into the complimentary open bar for the hotel residents staying in the suite, and I saw this beautiful scene play out before me: open tables, Sam Adams bottles, black label Johnny Walker, among many, many others. I had no idea that so many of my truest friends would be here to greet me halfway across the world from my home. I was like a 6-year-old child on Christmas morning, staring at all of my new toys wondering which one I should play with first. After some test runs, I found my favorite, Black Label on the rocks, quick and to the point. It was like an alcoholic punch line. At this point, I came to the realization that Sperling wasn’t just some Nassif barn who couldn’t hold his own. He was a Nassif sidekick, aka an equal. To this day, paying the extra $15 a night has been the best play I’ve ever seen at any Magic tournament in my life.
After we get sauced up, we headed to the site to register and slam the player dinner. Blah blah blah…awkward convos with Euros…blah blah blah….0-3 Day 1. And here we were desperately hoping our new partner in crime, Sperling, would pull off the miraculous 3-0/0-3 to miss Day 2, so I’d have a drinking buddy to hit the open bar at 5 pm.
Long story short, Matt and I ended up back at the hotel with a stomach full of Johnny. Since everyone else we knew was still in the PT, we headed to the closest bar and proceeded to drink enough to forget that there were such things as Pro Tours and Magic: The Gathering.
Saturday, we woke up to an empty day and an empty wallet. Hoping to fill both of these, we bet a buy-in from Papa Hat and signed up for the 2HG iPod tournament; in honor of our excessive spending on counterfeit goods and alcohol, we named our team “ringgit chewers.” A short 0-2 drop later, and 5 pm couldn’t come soon enough. We railbirded some matches, got some cab money from Papa Hat, and headed back to the open bar where the sand turns to gold and the water turns into Johnny Walker.
After we got some winning juice in us, we decided to return to the tournament site and to try to find some poor, hapless bastards that we could relieve of some ringgits via money drafting. Once we arrived, we picked up Nassif as our third and searched for opponents. To expedite this process, I decided to be as loud and obnoxious as possible so the marks would be drawn like flies to honey, unable to resist my drunken siren’s call.
Now before I go further into this story, I feel as though I should describe to you the art of the hustle. Long before I earned a dollar on the PT and long after I stopped earning dollars on the PT, I learned how to pick up some extra bucks by hustling money drafts. The two most common methods to do this, assuming you’ve already found a mark, are to enrage them so they will go to unimaginable lengths just to see you lose and to feign ignorance so they just see a large dollar sign when they look over the teams.
For this particular hustle, I decided to go with a combination of both. It has been widely known on the PT that I have a — how shall I put this — high opinion of myself regarding the game of Magic: The Gathering. Call it my curse, call it my gift, call it the truth, but whatever you call it, just know that when you talk a big game, there’s always a long line of people waiting to mana screw you into forking over a twenty.
Enter LSV, perennial Mr. Congeniality on the Pro Tour. But if you pulled back this curtain and saw who the Wizard really was, you would know him as a cutthroat killer, willing to banish Paul Cheon to an island so he could be top dog. He deserved to be taken down; this wasn’t just for the good of my wallet. It was for the good of the community. But how to hook him in? All I had to do was run my mouth, call him a mongoloid, offer to play for 40 (double the normal stakes), and let him smell my breath (which was potent enough to bottle and sell to Nucky Thompson).
The plan worked like a charm. LSV saw a couple of drunks and a Frenchman and quickly rounded up The Doctor and Durdle McBurdle “PTQ Champion” to be his teammates. Unfortunately, they managed to eek us out in a close 5-4 victory coming down to the ninth match. My window was closed, hope was lost. Surely LSV wouldn’t run it back after Sperling and I had a draft to sober up. I had to think fast.
So during the last match, I start bitching about how Durdle McBurdle mana screwed me and how he topdecked Nassif. I called them lucky and made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they didn’t deserve this win and should walk away immediately. After the final points of damage were done to seal their victory, I laid it on thick, insulting their heritage, play skill, and fashion sense. I could see that LSV was wishing that he had a mute button for me, so I gave him an option to shut me up, “Run it back for a hundy?”
A snap call from LSV, and the draft was back on.
Now if there is one thing that I’ve always possessed during my career, it was the ability to whip myself into shape when I was at rock bottom and my back was against the wall to rattle off some wins to get a Top 8 and replenish my drinking fund.
Well my friends, I was sobering up, and my pockets were empty going into this draft. A normal person wouldn’t try and wrestle a $100 bill from three wounded wolverines (the real ones, not those p**** U of M kind), but for some reason, LSV thought it was a good idea to wrestle drinking money from me, Sperling, and Papa Hat.
Papa Hat isn’t the big drinker, but he knew that if we lost, he would have to cover my end of the draft and then ship for me to go out boozing; suffice it to say this was “a big game.”
*end side note*
The draft itself was fairly anticlimactic; we demolished them 5-1, and as LSV was handing over his $100 while shaking his head, he just looked up at me and said.
LSV – Are you a hustler, Heezy?
Me — C’mon LSV man.
LSV – Are you a hustler?
Me – Hey, you don’t want to pay me — keep it, forget it. I don’t want no bad feelings. If a guy loses…I lost. I paid. I don’t know….
LSV – Are you a hustler, Heezy?
Me – What, you wanna quit?
LSV – **** you kid. Double it again.
We ran it back for the outstanding debt between us ($60), and we crushed them again. It’s like there was an inverse ratio between my blood alcohol content and my bankroll; as one lowered, the other climbed. For a second, this made me contemplate giving up drinking and just trying to concentrate on succeeding in Magic again.
Nah, I just needed some more drinks to banish these blasphemous thoughts from my head.
We decided it was time to celebrate, and I gave Sperling some of the winnings to go buy some booze from the grocery store around the corner. He came back with a bottle of rubbing alcohol that had a label on it called “Captain Hook’s Rum.” Since the picture on the bottle had no resemblance to Dustin Hoffman, I was a little hesitant to believe that this was “official” Captain Hook’s Rum. One sip was all I needed to figure out that no amount of Coke could mask this taste, and it was 50-50 that you would go blind if you drank the whole bottle. For some reason, this was no deterrent to Sperling and Jelger as they decided to try and kill the bottle; halfway through, Sperling held up the bottle with a glazed look in his eye and said, “I don’t often drink rubbing alcohol, but when I do, I prefer Captain Hook and Coke.”
The rest of the tournament was more of a drunken haze, but one thing remains clear; on that day I not only took LSV’s bankroll and self respect, I took a look deep into his soul. What I saw there, he wasn’t the dastardly nemesis that I had painted out to be earlier. Deep down inside, LSV was a good, generous person who liked to donate $20 to a down-and-out alcoholic’s drinking fund, and that is what he has been doing at every tournament we have drafted against each other ever since.
For LSV’s side of the story, click here!