EPT London: Generation gap

October 02, 2009

“That’s dumb.”

The sexagenarian woman stood with her back to the elevator wall. She stared with a grandmother’s eye at the young man on the other side of the lift.

“To lose all that money, it’s dumb,” she said.

Philip Byers didn’t scowl. He didn’t smile. He said, as matter-of-factly as he could, “I don’t intend to lose it.”

The scene played out this morning as Byers, a PokerStars Passport winner, rode down the Hilton Metropole elevator and toward the Kings Suite of the hotel’s West Wing. He would be sitting down for the equivalent of a $10,000 buy-in poker tournament.

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The generation gap was wider than the elevator floor. Like Byers, a Texas kid with a Texas Tech education, the lady was an American. She stood with her husband and two over-stuffed suitcases. Their dress and baggage implied a golden years vacation. Byers, on the other hand, did not have the holiday look in his eye. Across that elevator was a chasm of generational misunderstanding. The couple could very well have saved for years to afford a European vacation. Byers was likely spending more on a tournament entry than the couple had on their entire trip.

“And,” said Byers without a hint of contempt, “I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t afford it.”

And there it was, a sort of key to the poker player’s hieroglyph.

The lady–the one who declared the $10,000 risk undeniably dumb–couldn’t conceive of spending thousands of dollars on the turn of a card. Byers’s look suggested he couldn’t conceive of working an entire lifetime to save the same money he’d spend on a tournament.

The worldwide work ethic changes across each country’s border. In America, the people of that couple’s generation worked hard all week, for all of their lives, saved what they did not have to spend, and looked toward that time in their life when they could rest on the years of work now behind them.

The lady of that generation was looking at something that came after her time. Whether it was the investment gurus of the 80s, the dot-com kingpins of the 90s, or this fascinating subset of go-go-gadget-poker players from the new century, the work ethic that supported decades of Americans has changed. It’s not something easily understood by the vacationing couple.

There was a moment of silence as the couple let Byers’ explanation sink in.

He didn’t intend to lose. He wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t afford it.

When the couple walked out of the elevator a minute later they were surrounded by dozens of Philip Byers. In their standard uniform (hoodie, headphones, sunglasses) marched an army of people that was the complete antithesis of how the couple expected the world worked.

Just before the elevator doors opened and widened the generation gap to the point of ripping, the woman looked at Byers and with half a smile asked, “So how did you learn to play poker?”

Byers, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world, said, “On a computer.”


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