Janeen and I are back in Brooklyn, home from our honeymoon. All tolled, between our wedding and South American adventure, we were away from home for about three weeks–a long time for us. My devoted readership undoubtedly wants to find out what we were up to!
Alas, I have no desire to write about the whole thing right now. But as a special favor, I am going to try and create a piecemeal recap by doing entries every couple of days. Being that this is supposedly a poker blog, I will start with something tangentially related to my career.
It wasn’t long after our engagement in February that I was made aware of one of Janeen’s lifelong dreams: to appear in the New York Times’ Sunday wedding announcements section. Until February, I had lived out my sad little life blissfully unaware that this all-important section of the Sunday Times existed. As a matter of fact, the allure of the Sunday New York Times has always escaped me. Back in my single days (when I prowled the internet for my prey, a diversion that eventually led me to Janeen), I poked fun at how many J-Date profiles included a reference to “cuddling in bed, reading the Sunday Times on an autumn morning” in their “perfect relationship” essays. As it turns out (at least, or so I’ve heard), much of the civilized world really does read the Sunday Times in bed–an activity that ranks just above Chinese water torture on my personal list of preferred leisure activities. To the average educated Joe, fifteen hours of pro football is somehow less interesting than the Sunday Times. Who knew?
As the months passed and our wedding approached, I dutifully took a look at the Times’ wedding announcements section to see what all the fuss was about. Based on strength of Janeen’s desire for our names to end up in there, I had presumed that Times-worthy weddings would be some seriously high-falutin’ shit, but they’re not. It says “Weddings/Celebrations” and then there’s about thirty or forty entries, some of which get extensive writeups and some of which don’t. I found a smattering of the semi-famous and extremely accomplished–like bigwigs in the publishing and advertising worlds–but mostly I saw your basic white-collar schlubs marrying other white-collar schlubs: lawyer marries teacher, advertising VP marries hedge fund guy, chemist marries doctor, etc. Sometimes there were little unexciting blurbs attached. “Michael and Sarah met at an accounting conference in Phoenix Arizona, where they made a happy discovery: they lived on the same block on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.” Didn’t seem like such a big deal to me.
Wrong! Janeen was quick to correct me: it’s quite hard to make it into to the Times, very few couples’ applications are accepted, and it would be the greatest thing ever if we made it. Okay! My beloved fiancee was really gung-ho about this so I was totally on board. I imagined Janeen and I forty years from now, opening a dusty scrapbook and showing our grown children the moldy, yellowed Times clipping, with Janeen chirping pridefully about what an honor it was. I resolved to help any way I could in our effort to become sort of famous by appearing in the Times.
When our wedding was only two months away, Janeen did her homework on how to prepare an application for inclusion in the Times’ wedding announcements. It wasn’t much: some biographical info and a close-up picture (“make sure your eyes are aligned horizontally”). I did my part, describing myself as a “former attorney, now accomplished poker pro,” and Janeen sent it off.
Then came an exciting development! It turned out that Janeen’s brother and sister-in-law both knew people at the Times. One of them was tight with the wedding announcement writers. Someone took a look at our application and emailed some good news to Janeen: that “it shouldn’t be a problem.” We were a shoo-in. This made Janeen very happy, and I was happy that Janeen was happy. On November 9th, 2008, all those couples who really do read the New York Times in bed could have this wondrous exchange:
“Hey honey, look at this.”
“Look, a poker player married a legal recruiter. They’re from Brooklyn, but the wedding is in Chicago. She has curly hair.”
But trouble lied ahead. As our wedding day approached, there was no word from the Times. Janeen began to sense there was a problem. On the Tuesday before our blessed day–deadline day for submission and approval–Janeen had her brother poke around for some info. Then the crushing blow was delivered: The Times considers poker a sport, and it only accepts the wedding announcement applications of “highly ranked” professional athletes. Since I was not “highly ranked,” we were denied inclusion. The writer explained that this was the decision of the editor and that there wasn’t anything that could be done unless I could somehow prove my worthiness of inclusion based on the standard of being “highly ranked.”
As you might imagine, this left me feeling really indignant, but I hurriedly collected links to everything on the internet evidencing my success in poker: my Pokerpages profile, articles about my tournament wins, a list from 2006 showing that I finished in the top 50 in the world in tourneys with buyins under $1000, even discussions on this website about how much I’d accomplished. It failed to impress. A guy who grinds out a living at poker isn’t good enough for the Times, you’ve got to be Phil Ivey. We were out.
Now I felt indignant, wounded and disappointed. Disappointed not for me, but for Janeen. Anyone who knows me knows how integral my pride is to my persona. The entire process of switching careers was an arduous undertaking for me. The absence of a safety net in my chosen profession is a constant challenge. Summoning the courage to forfeit the comfort and economic stability of my old life in exchange for a much more uncertain existence ranked as greatest accomplishment of my life to that point. Actually succeeding in my new venture made it even sweeter. Now Janeen and I were being told that I wasn’t good enough; the things I’m proud of accomplishing in my life were completely lost on the Times. The worst part was that we’d be assured of inclusion had I never bothered with the poker. It hurt a bit. Had I chosen the path with the safety net and continued with my old career, I’d have been rewarded with a little blurb in the Times; another attorney getting married, and my fiancee would be ecstatic. Instead, even with our inside connection, we were out because some editor at the Times (that bastion of liberal enlightenment) felt that I was not qualified for his wedding section. I guess he was convinced that I was just a random unemployed guy who likes poker.
Memories of the worst beat of my poker life came home to roost, too. I thought to myself that had any card other than a five fell on the river when I was heads up for that bracelet we’d have made it. If “poker pro David Zeitlin” wasn’t good enough, “WSOP bracelet winner David Zeitlin” probably was. I apologized to Janeen, who assured me that she didn’t want the Times if the Times didn’t want me.
Then there was a sudden unexpected glimmer of hope. Janeen’s brother’s connection was obviously a good one. The writer at the Times was really trying to come through for us despite her editor’s ruling. On Tuesday at around 3:00 we received an email from her. She was convinced that she could get us more than included in the section; she could get us top billing–the lead story couple with the long and glorious entry–if we could provide her with an angle: a compelling story about my change of careers and how it affected our relationship, or a description of what a loving relationship with a poker player is like.
“Maybe there had been a struggle between David and Janeen’s mother with respect to the poker?” she asked. Um, no–there was never anything like that at all. But I was willing to type up some bullshit for the cause. “Oh, by the way,” said the writer, “the deadline is in a half hour. See what you can email me.”
Working furiously (literally and figuratively), I concocted a story about winning both Janeen and her mother’s heart and proving myself in the poker world. Janeen’s brother chipped in with the true story about meeting me and conducting a quick cross-examination on me. The emails arrived before the deadline, but our fate was sealed for good when the editor (allegedly) had to leave the building early that day. Our last ditch effort was for naught. Add “feeling jerked around” to indignant, wounded and disappointed.
The writer apologized to us for not being able to come through. I apologized to Janeen for being the reason one of her dreams could not become reality. She did a good job of convincing me that she wasn’t that upset over it, and we moved on, hoping that it wasn’t a bad omen for our wedding weekend.
Why let all that bullshit I typed up go to waste? I now present to Janeen (and the rest of the world) our wedding announcement, which I will publish myself, right here. The New York Times can eat a dick.
Janeen Berkowitz and David Zeitlin
In his career as a professional poker player, David Zeitlin routinely makes dangerous high stakes split-second calculations. In her career as a legal recruiter, Janeen Berkowitz has a discerning eye when it comes to selecting candidates for positions at her prestigious law firm. In a decision that wasn’t nearly so difficult for the two ex-lawyers, Janeen accepted David’s bid to marry her in February of this year.
David’s unusual career was initially a hot topic. “When I first met David, he was an attorney with unusual career aspirations. He was appearing in court every day and playing high stakes poker in New York’s card clubs a few nights a week. My friends and I initially referred to him as ‘Gambler McShady.’ The connotation wasn’t entirely positive,” explains Janeen.
“I told Janeen about the poker on our very first date,” says David. “I’m not sure if she knew what to make of a successful Jewish ivy-educated lawyer who had his sights set on a career as a professional gambler. I was making quite a bit of money on the side playing cards recreationally, and in January of 2006, after giving about three months notice at my job, I officially made the jump and joined the pro poker tournament circuit. Within a few months I notched my first six-figure cash by winning a pretty big tournament, and I’ve never looked back. I make a better living doing this than I ever did as a lawyer. And needless to say, being your own boss and making your own hours is a very nice perk.”
“It didn’t take me long to realize that David was talented, driven, and quite serious about his new career,” says Janeen. “He was a good lawyer, but he’s a great poker player. He found his calling.”
“I travel with him whenever I can–It’s a lot like the golf or tennis tour, I’d imagine. I’m his rooting section. I know all his opponents’ wives and girlfriends, too. If you had told me two years ago that I’d be part of a tight-knit community of poker players’ wives, I’d have said you were crazy. But I really enjoy it! David’s a self-made man and I admire that. I am so proud of his success as poker player.”
The couple were wed on November 8 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. They reside in Brooklyn and are both really cool. Too cool for the New York Times.