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December 17, 2021

Mike was happy to meet real pokerparty player Telly, famous for starring in the TV hit show, "Kojak", at the time and many major movies, including The Dirty Dozen. Mike said Telly sat behind him watching him play for seven hours... and he never moved, as Mike would allow him to see his hole cards to learn how the game should be played. Mike was impressed how cordial and polite Telly was at all times, as fans continually asked for an autograph or to have their picture taken with him. Later in life, Mike would go to dinner with Telly, or go on a cruise with him, and Mike said, "Telly never turned a fan down for an autograph or picture even though he was one of the biggest TV stars around! I learned a lot from Telly on the right way to treat fans, not realizing then, that I would have to ever deal with signing autographs or be asked to have my picture taken with a fan who watched the WPT on Television. Back in those days at the Dunes, we were 20 years away from what is referred to as the partypoker boom. Unfortunately, Telly Savalas passed away a few years ago, but he touched my life in a very positive way I'll always be grateful for." Getting back to Telly's story at the Dunes in the early eighties, the next night Telly entered the room to play for himself.

I happened to be there myself and witnessed how well Telly was doing in the game after his one lesson from Mike. You could see some of the pros in the game were starting to get annoyed, as Telly would win and scoop another gigantic pot, with a big smile on his face. That's when an incident happened, as one of the steaming pros leaped to his feet and bellowed out, "I know why they call you Maggot now!" This of course, was a reference to that psychotic character Telly played in the popular movie, The Dirty Dozen.

Telly was so easy-going and laid back in his demeanor and personality, he just laughed along with the rest of the table when the player tried to insult him, and he just kept on winning the rest of the night. Telly glanced over at Mike in the game in his own way to say thanks, as they both smiled at each other. The key year for my brother that helped him make the transition from player to entrepreneur was 1996 The first thing that happened was when the Main Event ($5,000 Buy-in) at the Four Queens was about to begin. Mike was on the rail, when Scotty Nguyen walked over and said, "Mike, aren't you playing in this?" Scotty said, "Here, take this $2,500. My money is lucky money." Scotty looked around and got two more players to put up the rest of the entry in just a few minutes, before the Main Event got under way. Mike was entered now and had a 25% free roll! Mike is one of partypoker's best players short-handed and it seemed like he was short-handed from the time they got down to three tables. Somehow he got down to the final table. I remember bringing our dad down to watch him play at the final table. It was amazing how Mike would have to go all in several times just to survive.

Mike managed to get heads up, and made a great comeback to capture first place and the title! Linda Johnson, who was the publisher of Card Player Magazine at the time, then asked Mike if he would write a guest article on his win. The article Mike wrote was interesting, articulate and modest, giving credit to Scotty Nguyen for the chance to play. Linda loved the story, and immediately offered Mike a full-time writer's job with Card Player, and he subsequently wrote a column every two weeks for eight years. The name of his column was Inside Professional Pacific Poker.