Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blog-A-Day Countdown to 2012: The Meltdown of a Fellow Blogger

I am really enjoying being at home.  Hanging out with Mom and being on the farm is such a welcome break from casino-life. I expected just a few days into this to want to be back on the road ASAP, but the truth is.. two more weeks doesn't feel like or sound like enough time. I'm sure after the holidays I'll be rearin' to get back to work.

It doesn't matter how many amazing sights you see traveling..
Home is always so beautiful. <3
I'm waffling about the blog post I've just typed out below. I make it a point to never write anything overtly negative about coworkers, players, casinos or events. It just doesn't serve much of a purpose, and it generally leaves a bad taste in SOMEONE'S mouth. This blog post is about a fellow blogger, and a lot of my perceptions will come across as negative. I'm going to go ahead and publish this though, simply because his blog speaks for itself.. and absolutely nothing that I've written isn't demonstrated daily in his blog.

Blog Countdown to 2012: #12
Tony Big Charles' Big Meltdown

If you're here, you're a blog reader. So you'll understand when I say I have a list of blogs I stay perpetually glued to. My list includes a lot of the ones you all likely read as well.. Monk's of course, Kai's (though he never, ever updates it). A girl I worked with in my early twenties who is absolutely CONVINCED she is dying of some catastrophic grouping of diseases and blogs EVERY single detail of her impending demise. (Doctors continue to tell her she's batshit crazy, but she's convinced all of them are wrong, perpetually.. but I digress). I would link to hers, but she damn near banned me from exercising my voyeuristic tendencies once before for kindly suggesting she see a shrink. I learned my lesson. (And how to get multiple IP addresses so I could continue to lurk) Oh the pains I go to, to feed my need for information.  Anyway, I have a different reason for reading all of them.  Some are train wrecks in slow motion, while others are humorous.. informative.. insightful and even brilliant. I probably read 20 different blogs a day, plus a daily browsing of all the blogs on the Gulf Coast Poker Network.

The blogs on this site are solid gold. And not just because I'm on there!

This year I met a rather unusual blogger, while out in Vegas. His name is Tony Big Charles, and yes, I realize I am probably the last blog reader on Earth to not know who he is. His blog, aside from being one of the most well read in poker, is an anomaly.  It's painstaking to read. Mind numbing, and sort of like shooting yourself in the foot with a nail gun over and over again. And yet, I can't stop checking it... Two, sometimes three times a day. To understand why, I must first tell you a bit about Tony. I should also mention that it isn't always the blog itself that keeps me glued, but the comments from other readers. Pure f'ing comedic gold, his commenter's are.

Taken from All Vegas Poker. Mr. Big Charles himself. Looking rather tired.
Tony Big Charles is a poker player. Actually, that's probably a loose interpretation.  He's a gambler who also plays poker. He blogs about the trials and tribulations of life as a sort-of-homeless low-limit grinder. I don't mean your typical low limit grinder either.. I mean, literally.. he plays $1/$2 and below. $2/$5 if he's REALLY feeling froggy, and usually only in extremely short burst.

Tony defines himself as autistic, and as a natural card counter. He has a penchant for slot machines and an insatiable lust for that which eludes him most... Women. My description of Tony might make it sound like I don't like him.  Which really isn't the case at all.  I'm not sure how I feel about Tony.  He makes me sad, mostly, but you can't stay sad for long.. because 99% of the woes that plague him are self-inflicted.

I met Tony while dealing at the Riviera, during my brief stint passing through there. He was in the 7 seat, and I was struggling during my first or second shift dealing, ever.  The players were talking about his blog, and with me being the only female at the table, he honed in on me and asked where I was from. I told him, and he said "Oh, I read a blog by a girl from down there. From Tunica!" I knew instantly he was talking about me, but I was so focused on remembering to burn and turn without looking like a rookie that I didn't make much mention of it. He managed to put two and two together a few minutes later. "You're that girl! You're that girl blogger. I didn't know who you was, but now I do."

Really, our association had begun much earlier. I'd written a post about sex and the female poker player. Something about a genitalia buffet. I'll link it so you can read his comment.  Me being a relatively pleasant southern gal, when he shared with me his story of a lifetime of loneliness, I offered up that I was certain there was someone out there for him.. and that perhaps I would someday introduce him to the beautiful female poker players down here in the South.  Of course, this is before I knew him in person.. and I made the offer without ever expecting to be called on it.

Hey, I have Claudia Crawford down here in the South to count among the poker players..
And she's gorgeous! But already attached. Sadly.

Here we were, Tony Big Charles and I in Vegas, at the same poker table.  He immediately launched into tales of paying girls $100 to sit behind him and rub his shoulders.  Stories of hookers and degenerate females trying to take his money.  Anecdotes I wouldn't have believed, if I wasn't hearing it myself. Without stopping for a breath, he shared personal stories from my blog.. which granted aren't too personal if I'm typing them up for the world to read.. but not necessarily something I'm prepared to discuss while wearing my "Dealer" name tag.  I was literally just trying to not drop the deck, or push the pot to the wrong person.

It was socially awkward, and I escaped rather quickly. Happy to have it behind me, and certain it'd be the last I'd see of Mr. Big Charles.

Fate wouldn't have it that way though, and as I made my way towards Reno to deal my first even on tour, Tony also decided to relocate. For the entire duration of the event. This wasn't a weekend tournament either.. but a month long extravaganza where we'd spend many hours within three feet of each other, every single day. 

Suddenly it felt like the SMALLEST little city in the world.

I'd deal to him, listening to how he interacted with others (with about as much grace as a cat trying to swan dive), and then I'd go back to my hotel room and comb through his blog with the intensity of a college student cramming for finals.  It became a quirky obsession that I learn about the different blog readers leaving comments, and whether they were pro-Tony or anti-Tony. Either rooting for his imminent failure or for him to be a success story.. rags-to-nicer-rags if you will.

Each day I would awake with new-found commitment to sharing a kind word with him, or genuinely befriending him.. the altruistic nature I want to believe I possess superseding the superficial, and allowing me to make a connection with someone who clearly, so desperately needs a real friend. And then he'd blurt something out, while I'm shuffling, about my personal life and proceed to tell me that a decision I'd made was stupid or didn't make sense. I'd forget, of course, my humanitarian plight and instead fantasize about strangling him. Momentarily. It always passed.

Tony's story is overwhelmingly sad and inspiring. Both for the wrong reasons. I am unclear on all the details but the cliff notes include years of homelessness, mixed with a few rousing tales of sleeping on the roof of casinos and camping in sleeping bags outside Foxwoods.  One girlfriend, who he met in a mental ward of some nature, that he managed to procreate with.. before she left him for a "black guy". He seems to have a general distaste for "black guys", perhaps because of this.  He gave his son to his Mother, the child's grandmother, to raise.. and appears to have very little involvement in either of their lives. He now bounces around hotels rooms, primarily between the IP Vegas and the 4 Queens or CircusCircus, with his entire net worth stuffed into his sock. This, dubbed his "sock roll", is public knowledge as he updates daily exactly how many pennies he has to his name.

This picture actually comes up when you google Sock Bank Roll. Apparently, it ISN'T such a bizarre concept. Weird.

He says he's essentially scared of his own shadow.  He lives in perpetual belief that someone plans on shanking him in his sleep, and that monsters lurk under the bed. And yet, any girl can come along and con him out of limitless amounts of money in exchange for attention or a little physical affection.
Tony seems sometimes, to be so overwhelmingly helpless, while at the same time being perfectly capable.  He blames others for every bit of misfortune that comes his way, and expects his "friends" to take responsibility for every need he has.  If he can't figure out how to operate a can opener, he asks his readers if someone can please explain it to him. If he goes on tilt and loses a bunch of money in the video poker machines, it's a readers fault for telling him about a promotion.  He constantly asks for advice, and when honest advice is given.. he picks and chooses what he likes about it, argues with those trying to help him, and generally disregards all of it. For someone who has so little, he has an enormous sense of entitlement and very little about his nature that shows true kindness or generosity towards others.

And yet, through his blog, I have been absolutely awe struck.. time and time again. Among the following and loyal readers, I see the tireless efforts of others to help him. To do HIM kindness. To shepherd him when he's wayward. Granted, he has a healthy crowd rooting against him.. but what really strikes me is the hearts of those who repeat, like a broken record, kind words urging him to succeed. Readers who have given him rides, and second hand clothing. People who have shared their time when he's been in a bind. Virtual friends who overlook the negative and pray for him. Poker players who wouldn't hesitate to beat him out of a healthy pot, should the opportunity arise, check on him and respond to him on a daily basis; simply because they are called to care about another human being who perpetually teeters on the brink of self-destruction. A lot of them, much kinder and more patient than myself, serve as a reminder that I shouldn't be so quick to judge and instead, more apt to care.

I write this now, because for a long time, Tony has been beating the odds.  What started with just a couple hundred dollars, he managed and grew to over $15,000.  He'd been successfully living on the road for a few years without any major hitches, and seemed to be thriving in a world that's hard for someone without obstacles to overcome to make it in.  As much as some of the things he says and does grates on my very being, I was proud of Tony. I found myself slowly falling into the Pro-Tony camp.. the silent, and sometimes not so silent, readers who really wanted him to succeed. To find happiness, find peace and maybe someday find a woman who doesn't smoke crack or turn tricks, to settle down with.

The fireworks BEFORE the nuclear fallout. The worst may still be yet to come.

Then, like a time bomb tends to do, it all exploded. In a matter of just a couple of weeks.. without explanation (though not without foreshadowing), Tony went on life tilt. As one reader put it "Tony hit his panic button".  The sock-roll fell from $15,000+ to under $8,000.  Then to $5,500 or so. He left Reno, almost in an emergent state.. paying over $800 for a cab ride to Vegas. Rumors, just tonight on Twitter, suggest yet another melt-down. Tony is nearing broke, and he is out of options. After doing so well for so long, too. There is no doubt that slot machines and tilt-gambling are the culprits, and that Tony and Tony alone is to blame.

I find myself firmly in the Pro-Tony side of things right now.  I feel bad for letting his social awkwardness get to me and the times I've cracked up over a witty insult left on his blog.  He's an odd critter for sure.  One that can be rude and hurtful with the things he says, and has little to no regard for the majority of the people in his life. His contributions to the online poker community have been tremendous, though not always for the reasons I think he anticipated, but I want more than ever for him to come out of this tailspin and get his life on track. He has always been open and honest about his gambling problems, and I think it's somewhat disheartening to see the grip our industry can have over one's soul.

I don't have a clear cut solution to the problems that Tony's dealing with. The short and sweet answer would be.. "Quit gambling. Get an apartment. Get a job." But I feel like Vegas has it's talons in his heart, and he'll never be free of the destructive tendencies he exhibits. So, with that in mind, I don't have a way to close this blog on any sort of positive note. I suppose I'm just sharing my thoughts and inviting you all to read along with me, if you like. If you don't already. He is a living example at times, for everything in the casino industry. The opportunities it can provide the disciplined, and the far more common destruction that can befall those who lose control. If you're the praying, or charitable type.. I'd invite you to keep him in your thoughts, that someday he'll find a modicum of sanity and stability.

I am certain Tony will read this.  I'm not certain how he'll take my perspective, but I know he'll appreciate that I didn't mince words over it. He too chronicles his every thought on a public forum, so he understands what he's opening himself up to. Nothing I've said here, is a unique or foreign concept when talking about Tony Big Charles.  I'll give him credit for one thing though.. his blog has me hooked.

Hope you pull out of this one, TBC.

Edited to Add: In an odd twist of events, within an hour of finishing this blog post.. Tony has decided to delete his blog, twitter and facebook and "disapear" in order to break his gambling demons and start anew. This hasn't actually happened yet, but he posted about it on his blog (link above). Tony, your blog will be sorely missed by a good many of us.  Best of luck to you in trying to get back on your feet. Something tells me we'll hear from you again.. Blogging is as real an addiction as any other. Take Care.


  1. hmm why does ur blog show zero comments, while josies has over 27 comments? do u edit and block most of them?

    and i almost did NOT see this blog. i seen ur latest blog, and only made it back one entry to this one because u posted in it ud wrote about me in ur previous entry.

  2. actual roll only $4100 thats why im so worried. i wonder how often someone has blogged about me somewhere ive never seen? probably a lot.

  3. I delete some, screen others.. and sift through a lot. I didn't allow comments for a long time, and have just started to. I've never wanted the blog to be more about the comments than the actual content. But I'm getting over that.

    And if you google your name, you'll see what people have written about you.

  4. Just a few comments as I've hung out with Tony a few times in Vegas. Alot of his problems do stem from his autism something he has no control over. I think it makes it harder to get a grip on his machine addiction. He is a survivor tho. He's been down lower before and made a comeback.

    He can come across with some inappropriate comments he's said them to me a few times too. It's amazing tho how many hateful comments he receives everyday. I've seen some horrible ones before he deleted them. There's a few weirdos who constantly stalk and harrass him as he's an easy target.

    I'm sure he appreciates your comments and help even if he doesn't say it. He's really not the bad guy a lot of people think he is.

  5. Nice, Intelligent, Interesting Blog Post

  6. Tatude,

    I completely agree with you. And I understand. It just isn't always a bed of roses.. hanging around Tony. I'd like to be his friend, and I've made a so-so effort at it so far. I am going to make a newfound effort though in future meetings with him. Thanks for reading, and for writing. :)

  7. WEC,

    Nice to see you!! And thanks! :)

  8. Well after my little mini-drama with TBC on my blog a while back...you kind of 'prettied' him up in yours. Well done...knowing what I know of the guy, you really clobbered the nail. One of your better posts, Jen.

  9. Excellent post about Tony. well done!

  10. I think it's somewhat disheartening to see the grip our industry can have over one's soul.

    Nice post, although I'm not sure I agree with the above. People who are addicts will find something to be addicted to whether it's gambling or drinking diet cokes.

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