Youth is Wasted on the Young

I remember hearing that idiom on quite a few occasions when I was in my 20’s. When I use it, I’m amused by the bemusement it causes because it validates it was appropriate. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, by the time you understand the idiom, you’re no longer “young”. It’s fortunate because it means you’ve gained experience. The only source of knowledge is experience…Albert Einstein.

With these series of articles, I hope to enlighten both the young and the no longer young by sharing my experiences and knowledge that I’ve gained about the poker lifestyle and health over the decades that doesn’t seem to have been that long ago…

I have the dubious reputation of having played the most hours of live high limit. That just means that in the world of pokerholics, I’m one of the sickest. Back in the day, there was no concrete evidence that sleep deprivation was unhealthy. Of course I drank gobs of coffee during those marathon sessions that lasted at 3-5 days. I don’t even consider 2 days a session so I smile when kids brag about having played 30 to 36 hours like it’s a record.

Until California opened up other games in 1987, Lake Tahoe, Reno, and Las Vegas was the entire poker world. I moved to Las Vegas in 1982 but a group of my friends and I would get a place in Lake Tahoe for the summers. The games were only on the weekends. It would start on Friday afternoon when Neil Townsend would arrive from Berkeley. They would call our house and 3 to 5 of us would go down to start the game. Around midnight we would go clubbing which is a euphemism for drinking. Sometimes I would go back and play if the game was still good. The game would usually go through the weekend non-stop but if it broke it always started back-up after everyone woke. The players were a cast of characters. World-class pool player Cole Dixon would come up from Carson City. There was North Shore Paul, Missouri Dave, Laughing Alan, Young Scott, Cowboy Tom, Hippie Glen and Joe B. Paul was rumored to only sleep on Wednesdays.


Leon Begleries, Phil Deines, Jerry Martyniuk, Marsha Waggoner, & Ernie Haugen BBQ in my Las Vegas backyard. We would summer in Lake Tahoe out of the oppressive heat.

During the week, there was action down in Reno. I drove down one afternoon with Paul and Jack Reynolds. Jack jumped into a game and we were on the list. Paul said lets go for a drink at the Bermuda Triangle. This was a hole-in-the-wall bar across the street. It was still daylight and the contrast walking into the dimly lit watering hole made it impossible to see until the eyes made the adjustment. We took a seat on the far end of the bar and ordered drinks. When the floorman came to get us for our seats, he said he was just going to hang there a little while. When we were leaving about 8 a.m. the next morning, Paul was still sitting on the same stool still drinking and talking. Not only that, he wasn’t ready to leave. It’s one thing to play poker all night but who puts in a session in a bar? We were exhausted but we couldn’t talk him into leaving with us. What a beast?

The second hand smoke was brutal. After a session, the stench of tobacco especially in the hair was overwhelming much less on your clothes. If I wasn’t exhausted, I always had to shower after playing. We’ve known for decades that it was detrimental to health but now along with pollution, it could be worse. 60% of lung cancer victims have never smoked or had quit for a very long time. We all breathe the same pollution so the difference is probably second hand smoke in addition to glutathione deficiency.

When you’re young no setback seems insurmountable.

Then you’re beset with devastating life changing health news and mortality slaps you in the face. At 43 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Looking back, I realized I must have been diabetic or pre-diabetic for at least 10 years earlier. After we had been playing all night, around 4 or 5 a.m., Brad Abajian would say he needed energy and would eat a candy bar. I tried it and zonked out. I also noticed that if I ate too much, I would get very tired and sleepy so I would refrain from eating except for something light. Later I learned what foods I could eat and what would raise my blood sugar level.

When my triplets were 10, I realized that it was going to be a tough physical task to raise my kids and get them through college. I had neuropathy in my feet, arthritis in my knees, and malaise. Regardless, I was going to have to man up and do what I had to do.

I don’t believe in miracles but it was very fortuitous that I learned about glutathione. Actually I had heard about it a couple of years earlier and had invested in Herbert T. Nagasawa Ph.D.’s start-up. It wasn’t that I knew anything but the CEO, Scott Momii was a very good friend of mine from high school and another good friend of mine, Stephen Wolff, both recommended the investment. We got Don Zewin, another poker player to also invest. At the time, it literally sounded like Greek to me and could barely stay awake during the presentation.

Once I began researching glutathione, I was astonished. How could something this important not be taught in schools or even familiar to the average person? I then discovered this:


FDA Website

In several articles, sleep deprivation is also listed as a glutathione depleting agent. The fact that your body’s ability to produce optimal levels of glutathione declines with age compounded by my lifestyle led to oxidative stress which was the cause of my diabetes. Considering that I was in an environment with heavy second hand smoke, depriving myself of sleep, a heavy drinker, and a caffeine addict, I was fortunate to have only developed diabetes. Stephen Wolff was not so fortunate. He was a non-smoker, ate healthy, worked out regularly, and kept his body fat in the low teens. Yet at the age of 53 after working diligently all his life to raise his family and building a business worth $30-40 million he succumbed to lung cancer. Genetic predisposition accounts for only 5% of cancer. The odds were it was glutathione deficiency which led to oxidative stress which was the cause of his cancer. The science of nutrition and nutraceuticals has advanced greatly in the last 20 years. With the proper supplementation, 60 is the new 40. When you’re 60 you should look and feel as if you were 40. However, it doesn’t matter what age you are.  You can always improve your health. Chris Mullin says he feels better now at 50 than when he was 40. I can say the same thing about the last 5 years for me. I feel at least 15 years younger. I had been suffering from glutathione deficiency for a very long time.