June 11th 2016 was one of the best nights of my life. It also was one of the worst.
That night I won my 1st, and only, WSOP bracelet, by winning what was then the largest non-holdem live field ever. The $565 PLO, with the winning hand of: Ah7hQs6s
Not long after I won the flip to win, the worst mass shooting in US history occurred at a gay night club in Orlando. (Now 2nd worst, with the worst being in Las Vegas, while I was at a different concert a mile away.)
To the gay community, a gay bar isn't just a "bar". It is a sanctuary from a hateful and judgemental society. It is a space where you can express who you are, and who you love with the peace and security of knowing that you are around family. They are often the only community centers for many LGBTQIAA+ people, especially those living in the type of place I grew up in. I am lucky to even live in a country where gay bars can exist, as in many countries it is illegal for them, or me, to exist.
So, when I woke up the next day after winning, instead of being elated and replying to messages; I instead read in anguish about the pulse shooting.
That's why I knew I had to say something, especially when given a platform and opportunity to do so.
Link to speech:
To me, poker is about being able to compete, no matter who you are, or who you love. While it it can be a brutal game and industry, it is also wholly accepting, and allows everyone to express themselves in whatever way they desire.
This aspect of poker is one of the things I appreciate the most.
This is also in part why I have always been very out and proud. So others who are stuck in difficult situations can see someone they relate to is having success, and maybe I can inspire them to try to achieve their own dreams.