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Daniel - Poker Journal

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Meeting Andre Agassi

08 Jul 2007

It was really strange. After a full day of doing media for PokerStars I had an appearance to do at the Red Rock at about 10:00pm. It was a paid appearance for a wealthy investor who was celebrating his 50th birthday. His wife threw a monster surprise party for him, and the icing on the cake was a quick lesson from me and a buy in into the WSOP tomorrow.

Well, as I prepared to enter the private room at T-Bones, sitting at the table next to it was Andre Agassi and a couple of his friends. I noticed him immediately, but never even considered saying hello, not for a second.

We were there for a few minutes and finally Agassi looked over at me and said, "Hey man, you're a stud. The way you break people down is amazing." I was shocked. Literally shocked. I didn't think for a second that he recognized me as we'd been standing there for close to 5 minutes.

Anyway, I've always been a huge fan of his. Before him, it was Boris Becker, but once Agassi came on the scene I was a huge fan of his flair and style. That was also when I was in my Jennifer Capriati phase. When I was 16 years old I was totally convinced that I'd eventually marry the then 14 year old Capriati.

Agassi seemed to be pretty interested in the poker world, not so much the actual game but the way in which poker players made a living. It was a totally surreal moment for me. I've met celebrities before, and as awkward as I usually feel in those situations, this particular encounter reminded me a little of my Jamie-Lynn Sigler debacle! Agassi was larger than life to me for so many years and in a bizarre way, I've patterned my poker career after his tennis career.

Just days before, I was in a room full of stars, but this was very different for me. First of all, I felt uncomfortable during the Darfur celebrity event. I knew several of the celebrities from prior meetings, but I've always felt extremely awkward in those types of situations. Let me put it to you this way:

Recently I've met a few up and coming poker players from Johnny Lodden to Justin Bonomo, or Alex Jacob to Paul Wasicka. I'd heard a lot about how talented they were and wanted to meet them. In this type of scenario I felt totally comfortable saying something like, "So you are the famous Johnny Lodden? I hear you are quite a monster player?"

That's comfortable and makes sense as it's highly likely that he is aware of who I am it wouldn't be odd. However, for me to walk up to someone like Andre Agassi or Adam Sandler for example, would just be strange. These guys are legitimately big time, and I'm a freakin' poker player! I'd never assume that they know who I am, but if they did and said hello, all awkwardness is lost.

I actually met Charles Barkley years ago, before poker was blowing up on ESPN. I didn't say a word to him. At the charity event he recognized me and we chatted for a bit in the Poker Royalty suite. I really don't feel "big time." A lot of other poker players seem to feel comfortable in those situations, but it's not something I'm comfortable with, and frankly, I don't think I ever will be. I'm ok with that, and that's just part of who I am.

Maybe it's silly, I dunno, but it's just the way I am. I met Paula Abdul on a plane once and didn't even think to bother her. She said hello, and I took it from there.

It's not a self-esteem issue, but maybe more so an understanding of how often they must get hassled and the last thing I'd want to do is hassle them, regardless of how much I admire them and/or their work.

Anyway, I was happy that Agassi called me over to the table as he's someone I've always wanted to meet. Had he not called me over, or we never had someone introduce us, chances are, I never would have had the opportunity.

I've got a long list of people I'd like to meet, but it's just not my style to search them out and say hello. For example, as a kid I've watched every episode of the Montel Williams show with my mother and he was sitting in a green room with me two tables over. I admire his work, but didn't have the balls to go over there and say hello. I know, I'm a punk.

I wouldn't say I'm uncomfortable at all about the attention I've received due to the poker boom, I really don't spend too much time thinking about it. I don't really feel any different, but it's obvious to me that people see me very differently. You'd have to be really stupid not to realize that.

This may be totally out of line, but I think that when you start to really feel like a "superstar" or that you are somehow "more" special than others, you can easily lose touch with reality. That's not a good thing. In fact, I've personally seen fame totally destroy people that were once really nice, grounded, people. Not the kind of people I'd want to associate myself with.

I have met some really cool people too, though, that don't seem high on themselves at all. Totally grounded, and people I feel totally comfortable around. Agassi, definitely belongs in that group, totally chill guy. I wish I could have hung out longer, but I'm sure our paths will cross again in the future.


WSOP: In case any of you are wondering, I'm totally stoked about the WSOP and the fact that I was able to play on day 4. I felt as though it was really important for me to play Monday because I needed more time to rest my mind for this long and grueling event. You will NOT see me anywhere near the strip tomorrow, instead, I'll be hiding out at home... watching Rocky.


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