Larry's wife, Annie, the reason he's in RI
They met in college in the mid-’70s. As he tells it, he had been pursuing a PhD in ancient history until he found that, once he had it, he'd be lucky if he ever got the chance to use it the way he wanted.
He had already spent a summer working on an archaeological site on the Greek island of Santorini, and that's what he saw himself doing with his life. But field positions were rare, and even teaching jobs were scarce. He decided to do something else. When the family business hit a snag, he went home to help and discovered he had a knack in that area.
Annie was suddenly single and needed a new career, as well. That's how they both wound up at Syracuse at the same time: Two non-traditional students (code for being a lot older than the rest of the student body), Larry working on an MBA, and Annie working on being a lawyer.
They were strangers living in the same building until one day when she decided to rescue an abandoned dog. It was sick and needed a vet and she had no money. She knocked on Larry's door and promised that if he paid for the doctor, she would pay him back no matter how long it took.
"Well," Larry says, "I'd seen her around. I figured her for a determined lady. Even in the middle of winter, with deep snow on the ground, she'd get to class every day. She'd just wrap plastic bags around her shoes to keep her feet dry. I could tell that here was somebody who meant what she said.
"So, yeah, I went to the vet with her," Larry laughs. "We kept the dog. He got better. We've been married for 33 years and adopted more dogs, each new one to keep our older ones company. So everything's worked out."
They each finished their degrees and went to work in their respective fields. They moved a few times; by virtue of his education and experience in both the arts and business, he landed some interesting jobs – one on the State Arts Council in Ohio, for instance. But when Annie landed a position in the Rhode Island Attorney General's office, they buried the anchor here. Larry became director of the Warwick Museum, as well as holding other high profile jobs, before semi-retirement, then full retirement at the beginning of this year.
Annie left the AG's office after 18 years, but she has never shared Larry's fascination with doing things like Texas Holdem tournaments. She doesn't even like to watch him play.
Larry doesn't claim to have any special power to "read" people. But he does think it's something he began learning a long time ago, and continues to develop. Cards help.
"I started playing cards with my father. Gin. He taught me how to read bits of information from the person you're playing with by the way they do certain things. When they organize their cards, for instance, most people do it in descending order, left-to-right, in their hand. When they pick up or discard, if you watch what they're doing with each card it helps you play your own hand," Larry explains.
"My great-uncle and a cousin were both professional gamblers – successful ones. They both taught me a lot, too.
"Card players' mannerisms are called 'tells.' Texas Holdem is a betting strategy game, so any bit of information you pick up from your competition can give you an edge.
"Players are very conscious about tells – they try to not show anything," he adds. "Look around the table and you'll see the hoodies and the dark glasses, all meant to cover a tell. Someone will sit completely still with no emotion or expression showing at all; they won't take a chance on giving anything away. Someone else will be moving all the time, talking and laughing. Having a good time."
That can also make tells harder to spot, he says.
Larry picked up pub-poker a couple of years ago. He'd played Holdem before, in real money games at casinos. He still does once in a while, at Foxwoods and elsewhere. But with the EPT tournament play, he gets to do something he enjoys, in a very competitive atmosphere, but ... "without risking losing your house payment, or your house. Or your car," he laughs.
"I like competition. I golf," he said, adding he has a 16 handicap. "I bowl," 190-plus average.
When he plays chess, he plans three or four moves ahead.
"I like to do things that I can concentrate on, and get better at. Competing lets me gauge how I'm doing. I think competition is the reason a lot of people show up at these events," he said.
Right now, Larry is qualified for the semi-finals for the $50,000 National Championship in Las Vegas, and he needs just one more win to advance to the finals.
I called Larry a couple of days ago to tell him I was just about ready to file this story, and to find out what he was up to. He said he was flying down to Maryland in the morning for a long weekend of golf – he can do a lot of things like that now that he's fully retired. I asked him if he thought he'd play any poker while he was away.
“Oh," I heard the smile in his voice, "I can always find a game."