It’s all about the hair, baby

Thursday, July 29th, 2004, 12:22 pm

I need a haircut. For most people that’s no big deal–you go to the barber/stylist, he/she does his/her magic and you’re done. For me that’s not so simple. I have a long history of horrible haircut experiences, the last of which has made me consider the possible connection between, of all things, hair and poker. Let me explain.

The day before I started my new job I decided to get shorn. Now, my old and trusted barber, Tony, is located in a part of the city where I used to live. It’s about 30 minutes out of my way to go to his little shop. No big deal, but I should be able to find a barber in my area who can do a decent job. Right?

So far I’ve had no luck. I should say, mine is hair not easy to cut. I have razor-straight hair, with about 7 different cowlicks. My hair also grows in several different directions, meaning that the slightest miscalculation can lead to a cascading series of tonsorial disasters. Folks, I have had me some BAD haircuts in my time. And I’m very leery of trying out someone new.

I tried both barbers at the bottom of the hill I live on, and found one totally unacceptable (he used a razor to cut out my rather large ears, making me look like the lead in the play, “Hey, Look at the Big Dork!”) and the other was barely adequate, OK in case of emergency. I went to a hair salon in the shopping center near my house and barely escaped with my life. The woman spent nearly 40 minutes scowling and snipping and scowling some more, obviously flummoxed about what to do next. I think I said 10 times “That’s fine, that’s just how I want it” in a desperate attempt to get out of her chair. I went to Tony’s the next day and had him hack off the damage done.

See, I go to Tony’s, I’m in the chair 10 minutes. We chat about sports, he knows what I want done, and I’m on my way. My hair doesn’t look spectacular, but it’s pretty doggone good. He’s just too far away now. So while I was doing some shopping the day before I went back to work I decided to snoop around the area and choose a place to get snipped.

What percentage of the American workforce is involved with cutting hair? 30%? 50%? It seems like nearly every storefront that isn’t a pizza place has a barber pole. I perused the area, and decided to go to Supercuts, which is a chain that may have shops in your area. I’ve had moderate success with SC before. There was one near where I used to work, heartily endorsed by a co-worker who had a thing for a borderline jailbait girl who worked there. I went there and, alas, did not get to enjoy this hottie’s (haircutting) servies, but I got a non-disasterous haircut. So, what the hell, let’s try another one.

What should have immediately alerted me to the danger was that the oldest employee in the place was perhaps 21 years old. Every girl standing behind a chair and the girl at the counter were just that–girls. I’m a big booster of capitalism, but I think even Adam Smith would argue that a business that relies on a gaggle of girls barely out of their teens chatting and gossiping all day is not a good thing.

I was introduced to Nicole, who was pretty and wearing a pink A-line skirt. She looked 14. I looked longingly at the exits before putting myself into her hands. The diamond nose ring she wore did little to mature her in my eyes. I explained in general terms what I wanted, and she asked me what size clippers I preferred. Tony asks me this all the time too, and I forget every time. “Uh, 2 1/2?” I said.

Nicole frowned. “We only have 2 and 3 1/2…” she said, and before I could say that maybe I was mistake she went around and asked every other girl if they had a 2 1/2 attachment. This did little to inspire confidence in her skills, but I calmed myself that maybe she was just doing her absolute best to provide good customer service.

She returned, I advised her that the other attachment would be fine, and she went to work. Now, other times when my hair has been cut the cutter glides the sheares through my kitten-soft locks and they fall away as goose down to the earth below. Nicole seemed intent on driving the plastic attachment through my skull. I had to brace my neck every time she made another pass through my amber waves. “Now I know what sheep go thru,” I baaed to myself.

While she sheared we chatted, and it turned out that Nicole lives just a half-mile away from me. We agreed that it’s a nice place to live, agreed that the weather outside was nice…it was all very agreeable. Thing is, I was rapidly approaching panic mode. Nicole put away her buzzsaw and went at me with her scissors, wetting down my hair with a spray bottle. She proceeded to part my hair down the middle instead of on the side. I haven’t worn my hair parted in the middle since 1988, and even then my hair didn’t like it much. No stylist has used this technique before, and I wondered if she’d either forgotten already what I used to look like or was taking it upon herself to improve my appearance.

This wouldn’t be unprecedented–I might still be parting my hair in the middle and looking ludicrous if a woman at Penn State hadn’t, without my consent or prior knowledge, cut my hair one afternoon and put my part back on the side, where it belonged and so sorely wante to be. I owe that sainted woman so very much, though at the time I think I just tipped her a few bucks. She remains a very, very special person in my life.

Back to the action. I rather nervously advised Nicole that, um, I do part my hair on the side. She smiled and said she knew, she just needed to part it that way to scissor it. I smiled back and started pestering the Virgin Mary with prayer.

When she was done I felt an all-too-familiar combination of relief and horror. Relief that it wasn’t TOO bad–I wouldn’t be going to work wearing a baseball cap or, God help me, bald–but it was still pretty sketchy. Another potential replacement for Tony crossed off the list.

Why, you are doubtless asking yourself and any passersby, do I bother telling you about my goddam haircut? Because, dear reader, in the 3 weeks following said haircut I went on an unprecedented tear at the tables. I made more money in those three weeks than I made in the previous three months. I don’t think I’ve had two losing sessions in a row in that time. I don’t think I’ve had two losing sessions period. I am on fire.

So, is there a connection between my rather haphazard haircut and my recent poker success? More to the point, is there a connection between those who might be called hair-challenged and poker success. After watching some poker on TV recently I think I might be on to something. Or just on something.

I watched Thomas “Thunder” Keller both during his WSOP victory and when he played at the Plaza. I can’t say that I found his bleached blond locks and “I’ve been inside winning poker tournaments all summer” pallor a good match. He was involved in one hand with recent WSOP bracelet holder Annie Duke, who was as usual perched upon her chair, leaning over her cards. Her hair fell over her eyes, and then formed a screen obscuring her entire face. An interesting way of hiding your eyes and expression, but it gave Duke what my wife would call a “Cousin It” motif. Not flattering no matter the circumstances.

Paul Phillips also appeared in the Plaza tournament. When we first saw Paul he was well-coiffed and debonair, but in his second WPT event he’d shaved his head, inducing Vince Van Patten to dub Phillips “Mini-Gus”, a reference of course to the smooth-scalped Gus Hansen. One can only hope that Phillips is in the middle of litigation against Van Patten for such an insulting nickname. But when we saw Paul at the Plaza his hair was dyed the same violent fucsia as his T-shirt. Is Paul Phillips trying to become the Dennis Rodman of poker? He’s appeared on the WSOP coverage in a hat, a good sign I think. I just don’t want to hear that Phillips married Carmen Electra and got his scrotum (or worse) pierced.

Paul Magril, aka “X-22”, the math and backgammon whiz who played in last year’s Reno WPT event (quack quack!) looked like his hair had been cut by a weed-whacker wielded by someone with depth-perception issues. Phil Laak, aka “The Unabomber” (he’s called that because he wears a hooded sweatshirt at the table and resembles the FBI composite sketch of said Unabomber and not, and I want to stress this, NOT because he kills people by mailing them letter bombs) lowered his hood long during his WPT triumph to show off spiky hair that looked as if it had been dyed not with Clairol #106 but with some kind of solvent used in the tanning of animal hides.

Daniel Negreanu also apparently bleaches his hair, which, combined with his darker blond goatee, multiple ear piercings, and often manic table demeanor, makes him look like the Eurotrash henchman of some James Bond villian. What I would give to watch Negreanu, in white dinner jacket, play baccarat heads up with Pierce Brosnan (or, now that Brosnan has hung up his Walthier PPK, with Clive Owen, my own choice to be the new Bond). It’d probably be the first time 007 would have to hitchhike home from a casino.

So I do have some evidence to back up my ludicrous claim. But there’s also no denying that hair has a powerful place in male mythology. Samson was the epitome of raw physical strength–until that bitch Delilah chopped off the hair that was the source of his power. The Spartans, perhaps the most feared warriors in history, elaborately dressed their long hair before going into battle. Take the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans and assorted allies held off hundreds of thousands of Persians for nearly 4 days, in the process killing tens of thousands of King Xerxes’ best troops. After four days of horrific struggle, during which the narrow pass known as the “Hot Gates” were turned into a glimpse of Hell, the Persians finally found a way round the pass and surrounded the remaining Spartans. Exhausted, certainly suffering from a myriad of wounds and injuries, and knowing full well that they had no hope of victory or of surviving this day, the Spartans still took the time to perform their typical pre-battle rituals. The Persians no doubt looked on with awe as these fearsome killing machines spent a few of their last moments doing their hair with all the fuss of a girl about to go to her junior prom.

So, do I get a haircut and risk ending my hot streak, or is looking sleek as an otter worth the risk? I think my play tonight has answered the question for me. Last night I won about $40, with the cards hitting me in the face, and I started to think that maybe some 1980’s heavy-metal poodle hair might be a good look to try out. But tonight I’ve taken it in the chin, dropping aboout $30 thanks to two tough hands where I made top two pair on the river, only to find that the river filled the other guy’s straight. The $30 I lost actually equalled the bonus I got from Empire, so maybe my usual bad luck working off my bonuses cancelled out the hair luck. Then again, I just lost another $15 when this moron playing 2-4 offsuit killed me. I think that made up my mind. Gonna be visting Tony tomorrow.

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3 Responses to “It’s all about the hair, baby”

  1. Felicia :) Says:

    We must have the same head of hair. I have a billion cowlicks and my hair grows one way in particular spots, while the rest is growing the other way. I either have to have it very long, so that the weight pulls down the cowlicks, or very short…a buzz cut.

    Luckily both of my parents were cosmetologists and knew exactly how to cut my hair. I never knew how lucky I was. Now I cut my own, mostly using a 3/4″ guard for the top, and tapering down from there to a 1/8″ guard. It’s still a mess.

    Great post.

  2. NemoD Says:

    i’d rather go to the dentist that get a hair cut. i don’t think i’ve ever had a haircut i’ve liked.

  3. Dr. Pauly Says:

    1. Can you set me up with the chick that cut your hair?

    2. Great post.

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