The Bluffer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early 90’s, I occasionally played in a monthly poker game. The regulars were all guys; mostly lawyers; mostly working in the entertainment business. One of the regulars was a guy named Joey DeMarco.

Joey was working in business affairs at Fox (and later, Fox Searchlight) and was a rising star at the studio. Although the location varied, I seemed to play most often when he hosted the game. Joey lived in a large house on Stone Canyon near the Bel Air Hotel. Despite the impressive zip code, the decor was decidedly single straight guy with a set of weights and a bench press prominently on display in the living room of the 1940’s ranch house.

The vibe was more “Lord Of The Flies” than a friendly game of poker and on the nights in which I played, Joey dominated if not controlled the game. He clearly knew the odds of each hand and usually did quite well against the rest of us. Joey often had the cards to beat; and when he didn’t, he was quite good at bluffing. Even when you were sure he didn’t have the cards, you dare not call him on the bluff. He was so good at it, that you usually doubted your own judgment.

I negotiated against Joey only once and it was years after I stopped playing in the game. Given past experience, I braced for what I thought was going to be an aggressive negotiation with a formidable alpha-male. He surprised me by being straightforward and fair from the very start. Joey didn’t try to dominate or bluster through the open points and we “got the deal done” in short order. Later, I learned that the tone of his negotiations was more the rule for him than the exception.

Joey died two weeks ago at the age of 48. Although it’s doubtful that I will ever be as skilled a poker player, I will aspire to be just as good a negotiator as he was. Joey epitomized skilled negotiating without the need for hostility or dominance. For him, the best negotiating didn’t need to feel like negotiating at all and it was OK if everybody left feeling like a winner.

Still, every good negotiator needs to be prepared for any contingency. I missed the funeral but was told that his poker buddies placed four playing cards in his grave: an ace-king suited for high hand and a deuce-seven for the bluff. Just in case.

  • katherine stephens

    Wow…what a eulogy…what a guy…what a loss..what a gift you received from Joey having lived

  • Wow…what a eulogy…what a guy…what a loss..what a gift you received from Joey having lived

  • Kate Willard

    Really touching – sounds like he was a really special man. I’ve always thought the way someone achieves immortality is by touching people’s hearts – it sounds like Joey achieved that.

  • Kate Willard

    Really touching – sounds like he was a really special man. I’ve always thought the way someone achieves immortality is by touching people’s hearts – it sounds like Joey achieved that.

  • Agree with the previous commenters. However, it also sounds like the guy had great perspective. What I mean is, he could be a tough, domineering sonofagun at a poker game. After all, the point there was for someone–one person–to win. But he knew that business isn’t about any one person. Rather, there’s always so much more at stake and the best people work hard to do good deals for their companies because that’s the long term perspective that’s required when vast corporate resources and reputations are on the line.

    Thanks for sharing this story, since it illustrates something that we should all keep in mind.

  • Agree with the previous commenters. However, it also sounds like the guy had great perspective. What I mean is, he could be a tough, domineering sonofagun at a poker game. After all, the point there was for someone–one person–to win. But he knew that business isn’t about any one person. Rather, there’s always so much more at stake and the best people work hard to do good deals for their companies because that’s the long term perspective that’s required when vast corporate resources and reputations are on the line.

    Thanks for sharing this story, since it illustrates something that we should all keep in mind.

    • Rob,

      Well said. I agree with your take entirely. Many thanks, Peter

  • Stephen Kaufman

    I’m sorry for your loss………….”sometimes a cool hand is better than no hand at all”
    George Kennedy…….”Cool hand Luke”

  • Stephen Kaufman

    I’m sorry for your loss………….”sometimes a cool hand is better than no hand at all”
    George Kennedy…….”Cool hand Luke”

  • Rob,

    Well said. I agree with your take entirely. Many thanks, Peter

  • Beautiful eulogy! It demonstrates how impactful seemingly mundane events can have in one’s life. One just needs to be able to see the significance.

  • Beautiful eulogy! It demonstrates how impactful seemingly mundane events can have in one’s life. One just needs to be able to see the significance.