"There is no life like the life I've lived. You're free like a cloud floating up in the sky," said Doyle Brunson at the New York Festival's, "High Rollers Steak Dinner" late last week. Sporting his trademark cowboy hat, the Texas legend and several pros entertained more than 100 people, who shelled out $200 a plate to spend time with the poker legends and enjoy some of the best food in town from Gallagher's steakhouse.
Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, and David Williams joined the crowd of poker enthusiasts in kicking off the festival, which is in its sixth year. The festival features three days of interviews, panel discussions, readings, and musical performances with appearances by writers such as Stephen King, Pulitzer winners Michael Chabon, Jhumpa Lahari and Edward P. Jones, former Cars lead singer Ric Ocasek and Ani DiFranco are also scheduled to appear.
Brunson and crew spoke of the dramatic changes that have taken place with the game they love. "It's like hitting a lottery. We've got more tickets than everybody, but you've still got to hit," Brunson said in his speech.
Possibly driven by an open-bar, the enthusiastic crowd was thrilled by the collection of poker players' thoughts on the game that has made them stars in their own right. The audience responded with both applause and cynicism to the comments of some of the game's best.
Hellmuth, a.k.a the 'poker brat,' drew possibly the most dramatic response of the night while commenting on how poker helped with the social skills of teenagers and young adults. An audience member responded with, 'That's insulting' and true to Hellmuth's outspoken style, the nine-time World Series of Poker winner responded, 'I'll debate you any time, baby.'
While Hellmuth and Brunson spoke of changes in the game, Lederer commented on the increasing number of sponsorship opportunities that have come to the game over the last several years. 'I feel like this is the time to take care of some of the business opportunities,' Lederer said in response to the question as to why he doesn't play in the big-money cash game at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas.
At the end of the evening however, it was the elder-spokesman Brunson who summed up what it takes to live the life and mentality of a poker player. 'Money's just a tool to the real gambler. It doesn't have any value, except for what you can buy and you don't even miss it until you run out.'
Ed Note: Doyle plays at... Doyle's Room where else?