I won’t disrespect the dead by naming names. Names don’t matter. Just one word matters for this discussion… “Nemesis.”

I had a nemesis… All the way up until a few days ago, I had a nemesis. Then he died in his sleep. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.

Who the fuck has a real-life nemesis?

Underground poker is a funny thing. It’s not like poker night with your buddies. It’s serious shit. There are gangsters, farmers, pimps, housewives, drug dealers, and businessmen. There are 19-year-olds and there are 80-year olds. Happy people and sad people. There are lots of unintelligent people and lots of geniuses. One of the reasons I love poker so much is that everyone is welcome at a poker table.

My nemesis and I met at a poker game. I never was able to learn much about him. I can list everything I know about him this quickly…

  1. He was in his forties. I think.
  2. He was unhealthy. Sadly, many poker players are.
  3. He loathed me. From the moment he first met me at a poker table, he seemed to hate that I existed, and he had no trouble telling me that.
  4. He loved to tell me just how far the depths of my stupidity reached (always, of course, as I pulled his stack of chips toward me).
  5. He loved to break poker etiquette and do things just to drive me crazy. In poker, there’s some shit you just don’t fuckin’ do, even though technically you can. He did all those things, and I only ever saw him do them to me.

And that’s it. That’s all I know about him. Well, that’s not true. I’ve heard some things about him, too.

  1. He once knocked a one-eyed Armenian out cold when the dude wouldn’t stop unleashing verbal fury on one of our mutual friends.
  2. My nemesis once came up to me off the table and attempted small talk. It was awkward. I was told afterward, “that’s {NAME}’s way of trying to make things right with you.”

I didn’t like the guy, but he had plenty of friends in the scene. Some of my good friends straight-up loved the guy. Before he died, they would tell me all sorts of reasons he wasn’t as awful as he seemed. From what they told me, he was actually a pretty damn good guy off the table.

I always tried to believe them, but it was hard. He was my nemesis, after all. He was the one guy I hated sitting at a table with, but loved fucking-up when he did sit down. His abuse was so constant, and had been happening for so long, that it almost became humorous to me…

Almost.

I remember once I did the one thing I hate more than anything. I called him stupid. It was the only time I ever said anything truly disparaging to him, and I didn’t like myself for doing it. I don’t even remember what sparked it, but I guarantee he did something to outsmart me.

Poker is an emotional game sometimes. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes people get upset. They say things they normally wouldn’t say. They lash out. They get defensive. They call names. In life, I hate name calling. It’s so childish and destructive. At a poker table, though, because I understand the emotion… I don’t care if people call each other motherfuckers, shit sticks, or the worst player on Earth. Just don’t call each other stupid.

My nemesis wasn’t stupid. I honestly don’t know how smart he was, but I know he wasn’t stupid.

Nobody is stupid. Everyone alive is a genius in some way or another. Einstein was right on the money when he said, “everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” By the way, it’s up for debate whether Einstein was the source of that. Let’s go with it.

Anyway, this isn’t about that. It’s about my nemesis. And how awful he was when he was around me. And how I seemed to bring out the worst in him, and I know that at one point he brought out the worst in me.

I never knew why the guy disliked me so much. Maybe it was because… Eh. I’m not going to put myself through that unnecessary torture. Who gives a shit why he didn’t like me. It’s really none of my business why.

I do know that I ended up with a good portion of his money most of the time we sat at the same table. The very last time we played poker, he just demolished me over and over and over again. Is it weird that I’m thankful for that? Something deep inside me likes that the last time we saw each other, he won. He fucked me up real good. It’s all he ever wanted to do.

I honestly think the last words he ever said to me were, “I’ve gotta beat you once in a fucking while, Pearce.”

Well, nemesis. You beat me. Rest in peace. I hope you were as good a guy as your friends always told me you were. Sorry I called you stupid. You were a pretty good poker player. Just not as good as me.

And with that, the last jab is officially mine.

Dan Pearce