Anyone that knows anything about my background in Madison knows that I started my journey in Madison and college with gambling in poker games in dim lit pool halls and community dens in dorm halls. I couldn’t get enough - I risked financial aid checks, rent, food money, just for the thrill of seeing if I could walk out of a casino or bar holding thousands of dollars in cash. Somewhere along the way, my fortunes and failures ended up crossing paths with one of the most unique personalities anyone could ever meet.
Mark Kroon, owner of Player’s Sports Bar and Grill in Madison, self proclaimed ‘kind of a big deal’ is a fixture of the once dominant poker community in the midwest. Famous from the online poker site UltimateBet and known as “P0ker H0” from his online poker handle, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that plays cards in Madison not familiar with Mark. I got involved with Mark through poker and drinking at his bar and slowly we became friends because of all the shenanigans. Lots of whiskey and Texas hold’em has been shared between the two of us as well as many a late night blackout story and ridiculous bets. I won the sweatshirt off of his back one night playing poker - we were both drinking and he dared me to call his ‘all-in’ and I did and won, so, dejected, he took off his sweatshirt right there and gave it to me - I wear it to the bar sometimes when I need a laugh to remind him that he isn’t always the best at gambling.
Mark is notorious for drinking and making outrageous suggestions/bets and what I’m about to tell you is really a common occurrence when you are out with Mark. It started as a drunken ramble that Mark is famous for; “I bet you can’t go a whole year without drinking! There’s no chance! I’ll do cartwheels naked up and down the bar! I bet you you can’t do it. I’ll buy you into the main event of the World Series of Poker! $10,000! You can’t go a year without drinking!”
And from there I thought about and said to myself, I don’t really need another reason to quit drinking for awhile and evaluate my well being but if there ever was a reason, it’d be to show Mark Kroon, the master enabler of shot taking and trouble making, that I could go a full year without wandering the streets of Madison drunkenly.
I never honestly thought that Mark would honor something he didn’t remember ever offering but I used it as an opportunity to motivate myself to not have to drink anything for a whole year. No one was making me not drink, it wasn’t required, but how good would the story be if I didn’t drink all year and got to play in the main event of the World Series of Poker! It’s been somewhat of an ongoing joke for everyone but I owe the man many a thanks for being the person that I got to use as a scapegoat to not having a drink all year. The help of having something to fall back on for the motivation was something that many people might not understand but I am forever grateful for the friendship and all the free money from stupid bets I’ve ever gotten from him.