"Hold'em Up" at the Aviation Club
by Josh Arieh
A Poker tournament that was more that a game, it was survival!
Lets set the scene first. It's eight am local time in Paris; we are scheduled to FINALLY come back home on the 11 am flight to Atlanta . Erick Lindgren and I have this bright idea of playing all night so we can sleep on the nine-hour flight back to the States. My wife (Angela) and my daughter (Sierra) are expecting me to arrive back at the hotel at about 8:15, so we can get to the airport in plenty of time to deal with the international travel B.S.
I quit the game I am playing precisely at 8 am. There are two other games going on in the cardroom, one with the likes of Phil Ivey, Berry Greenstein, and Erick Lindgren. I take care of my business at the cashier and go to tell Erick that its time to get out of there. He tells me he is going to play until his blind and quit then (playing at 800-1600 euro, it's smart to get all the free hands possible).
As I stand patiently behind Erick, I start hearing dishes breaking and a ruckus in the hallway about 30 feet from where I am standing. I peep my head around the corner and see a gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet escorting a dealer down the hall, straight towards me, towards the cashier. At this point, I saw my entire life flash in front of my eyes, I just knew I was dead. Everyone hit the floor, ducking and trying to find the furthest spot from the gunman possible. I was able to get into a distant corner, which was about 30 feet from the gunman. He began to yell things in French, which is not good because all I know is, polle vu englay? It was the first time in my life I wish I had taken Beginning French for 3 years in high school the way I took Spanish (I finally passed when I was a junior!!) Later I found out that the gunmen was saying, "MORE MONEY!! MORE MONEY!!!!"
After about 10 minutes of this, I think I had prayed to every god in the universe and had apologized for all the wrong I have done in my life. The gunman seemed to be taking forever. Didn't he care about being caught? Did he have lookout people all the way down the famous Champ Elysees?
I started thinking about the window above me, and if I would be able to make a safe landing from what would be about a 25ft jump. For those that have never had the privilege of going to the Aviation Club, let me tell ?ya a little about it. It is on the second floor of an old building and there is only one way in and one way out. If the robbers take too much time, there will be a stand off with the French police and they will not be able to leave the card club. All that is going thru my head is that the Americans are going first. By now I am in the fetal position behind a stack of folding chairs just praying that I will be able to see my wife and kids again. My heart is racing a million miles a minute and I keep saying to myself: "let the voices go away, please go away". I honestly thought that I was going to die in there if they took any longer. The gunman was conversing with his accomplice who had a shotgun to the bouncer's head near the front door.
Finally, what seemed to be an eternity was nearing the end. The voices began to disappear, all my prayers were being answered. I was going to see my wife and kids after all and I wasn't going to have to jump out of a window to do it. But wait! There it was again, that voice was back - I'm a dead man!. My worst fears had come true: the police were out front and these idiots took too long getting the money from the cashier, they lost track of time and now that the police were here?we were are all going to die? I knew it was just a matter of seconds until I heard the first gunshot.
Fortunately, none of my fears were realized. The voices disappeared again and they were gone for good. About two minutes after they had left, someone said it was okay and we could all get up. The site of 30 people, all safe after thinking they were going to die, is a sight for soar eyes. We were the 30 happiest people in the world, all knowing that the worst was over and that we were safe. We were held for about 30 minutes to answer a few questions, but were released with plenty of time to catch our flight back home. I have never been so happy to see the smog of Atlanta in my whole life. I can honestly say that it was nice to be home!!!
Hopefully, I won't be writing about such grim matters in future columns. I want to give you a lighter look into poker, possibly introduce you to important people in the poker world that you may not know, and give you a closer look at some you do already know from television.
In the midst of all the chaos, there is no group of people I would rather be in this situation with than a bunch of poker players. When all the chaos started there had just been a flop in the 800-1600 game that Lindgren, Ivey and Greenstein were playing, so to say the least the robbers interrupted their game. Ivey and the boys have some sort of way of betting on the side if certain hands win each pot. While I was in the fetal position praying for my life, Ivey was under the table calm as can be and, turning to Lindgren and Greenstein said "Boys, I wanna' double up this hand"...... this isnt right, I'm praying for my life, and Ivey is under the table cracking jokes-how cool is he?
Josh Arieh has accumulated lifetime tournament poker winnings of over 3 million dollars, Josh has been featured on ESPN, Fox Sports and The Discovery Channel. Josh also runs the website atlantapokerschool.com . His current project is putting together a very personal poker school in the Atlanta area that will cover all aspects of No Limit Hold ?em, and all aspects of being a professional player.
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