Back in 2006, the closest legal poker room to Chicago was thirty minutes away in Gary, where land-based casinos were illegal, but gambling cruises were fine. The Majestic Star was a casino boat that never left the dock — with the exception of monthly lifeboat drills that were mandated by the United States Coast Guard.
One night my friend Andy Alexander I drove to the Majestic Star to play $1/$2 No Limit. At the table we met Josh Golden, and had a conversation that went like this:
"I live in Chicago."
"Where in Chicago?"
"Oh, I live in Bucktown. What part are you in?"
"West of Western, on Campbell."
".... where on Campbell?"
"2121 N Campbell."
"I'm 2211 N Campbell."
Josh ran a small web development firm called Table XI that had a cool brick and beam office in the soon-to-be-very-cool West Loop. Every other week Josh ran a two-table tournament out of that office. I ran a weekly cash game out of my basement and lived a block away from him. We started playing cards regularly. A year later, he hired me. I've basically had two "real jobs" in my career: I was at Table XI for seven years. I've been at Twilio for eight.
Between our two games, there was a core group of guys. For five years that core group played monthly, if not weekly. One by one though, we started getting married, having kids, and dispersing outside the city. The game got a little less frequent, and eventually petered out to annually at best.
But in April of 2020, when we were all stuck inside and terrified, Josh rebooted the game. We played every Saturday over Zoom for the first few months of the pandemic. It was the only social time any of us were getting. We didn't leave the house, but we had a bona fide Guys' Night every Saturday.
It's hard to overstate how important those nights were during that time. Someday I'll write more about poker and the importance it's played in my life, but suffice to say that this game, and this group of men, has been one of the most influential forces in shaping the trajectory of my life. Sharing so many late evenings with longtime friends during the riskiest time of our lives was a gift.
The Zoom game tapered off to bi-weekly when Summer of 2020 came, and basically died off again once vaccines hit. But it ran again tonight, for the first time in months, thanks to Omicron and the holidays.
Here's a few photos from the last times we played live.