Let’s first examine the meaning of OUTSIDER shall we?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary's first definition of "outsider" is as follows:
out·sid·er noun (/ˌoutˈsīdər/)
1. a person who does not belong to a particular group
Well, there it is. You don’t belong to a particular group. Yet, at one time or another we have all been “outsiders”. We started at a new school, we are dragged to a social gathering on the coattails of a significant other, we walk into a job interview, all examples of being on the outside looking in. This can be very intimidating and depending upon interactions from this moment on, it sets the tone for
the rest of your association with that particular entity. This is a time when we feel most vulnerable and probably tend to hide behind our most comfortable habits: being shy, being loud, being quiet, etc.
I know, I was once a Barge outsider (i.e. Virgin, Newbie, etc...). I attended my first Barge in 2001 with Dave Lawful, then my supervisor, because we both loved poker and he wanted me to experience this thing they call BARGE. I was just starting my journey into casino poker and had never played a tournament in my life. We arrived at Binion's where BARGE was being held, and the first thing I see is an almost full poker room.
It was loud, people were laughing, people were talking about all matter of subjects, from “Hey, how’s the family?” to the relative merits of string theory. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and every once in a while, there would be a slight pause in the conversations as they checked their cards, folded, called or raised, and then went back to their discussions. I went up to get my BARGE badge with Dave and was introduced to a person that I can now call one of my best friends, Peter Secor. Peter is one of the “original” BARGErs from back in the day when it was a small number of people who gathered in Vegas every August to blow of some steam and have fun.
Peter, to me, is the quintessential BARGEr. He is personable, funny, smart, and plays one hell of a game of poker. Anyway, Peter welcomed me to BARGE and we have been friends ever since. I got into a low stakes cash game, 3-6 limit, and sat down. Everyone at the table introduced themselves, and thus began my first BARGE experience. I won’t bore you with the details but I will provide some insight into what BARGE is to me.
BARGE, first and foremost, is a gathering of very disparate folks with a single common goal, to have fun in Las Vegas.
This fun takes on multiple forms, some during the BARGE list of sanctioned events and most, decidedly not. The sanctioned events are mostly in the form of tournaments for poker, video poker, black jack, the symposium (Mostly a board of directors meeting with light food and drink. May include some gambling-like activities), and the banquet. There's usually more unsanctioned events at BARGE, some of which are the Golf Death March (playing golf in Vegas in August), the sushi outing, the various smokers and non-smokers and of course, my favorite, Karaoke.
Secondly, BARGE is a community.
All sappiness aside, I have come to know and care about many members of this community and they care about me as well. An example of this for me was during my first Barge, I lost my wallet. As my wife can attest, I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached and that is why she has attended every Barge with me since my solo excursion in 2001. Anyway, unbeknownst to me, my friend Dave had just casually mentioned this at one of the cash games. A Barger, who shall remain nameless, started to take up a collection to help me get through the rest of the week as I had later found my wallet, sans the cash. As it turned out, I was able to get through without the financial assistance but I was overwhelmed by the generosity they showed a newbie, outsider if you will, and I will be forever grateful for that.
Finally, BARGE is what you make it.
I never felt pressured to do this or to play that. BARGE, at its core, is just a series of opportunities. There are opportunities to play tournaments, opportunities to play casino games, opportunities to make new friends, opportunities to hang out with old friends. There is no judgment, you are welcome to come and go as you please but just remember that you are ALWAYS WELCOME.
After my first BARGE I was hooked. I was no longer an outsider, I was part of the BARGE community and all that entails. I look forward each year to trekking to Vegas for BARGE and me and the wife use that time as one of our yearly vacations. Hopefully, I have given you a feel for what you can expect at BARGE. Now, I would like to provide some pointers for the BARGE first timer that may help you overcome your feeling of "outsiderness".
- Read all you can about Barge. All information about BARGE can be found at www.barge.org. There is a very detailed description of the long and storied history of BARGE in all its gory detail.
- All BARGErs wear the customary BARGE Badge. These badges are created for you by the organizers and you can only get one if you have signed up for BARGE at www.barge.org. Signup opens up around the May-June time frame each year, watch the BARGE Email list
for more details. These badges are how we identify other BARGErs, both old timers and new comers. When you arrive at the host casino, please come up and introduce yourself to anyone wearing said badge. If not, the Welcoming Committee, of which I am a member, will seek you out and introduce you anyway so, you might as well do it yourself.
- BARGE your way is the best way to go with your first experience. Some, like me, jumped right in and try to fit as much BARGE as possible into the time I had available. Others pick and choose their BARGE experiences. Whatever fits your comfort level, GO FOR IT!
- Try to sign up for as many “unofficial” BARGE events as possible. These are usually low key, adhoc mixers which sometimes focus loosely on an interest the folks have (Escape Rooms, pinball, paintball, strip clubs, mini golf, Sushi outing, local attractions like the Mob Museum or Neon Graveyard, etc ). These events ideas show up on the BARGE Email list
(another reason to sign up for the BARGE Email list) starting in June or July when BARGE sign up opens. There is usually a single person or groups that are the defacto “organizers” that answer questions and get head counts for these events. Then you just show up at the designated place at the designated time and off you go. These are a great way to meet other BARGErs and maximize your fun quotient.
- Get a copy of the BARGE-At-A-Glance (BAAG) schedule of events. This can be found in several ways. You can find links to it on the BARGE Email List, at www.barge.org and sometimes you can find a stack printed out at our host casino. This is as comprehensive a list (date, time, location) that you can find for both sanctioned and unsanctioned BARGE events as well as many of the local daily tournaments around Vegas. It's definitely a must have for any BARGEr.
- Sign up for and post any and all BARGE related questions on the BARGE Email List
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of the members will be glad to answer your queries.
- The Barge Welcome Committee usually holds a mixer for all first-time BARGErs to help ease them into the BARGE experience. Look for it on the BARGE Email List.
I have always thought of BARGE as the world’s largest home game. So sit down, have a drink, play a little cards, relax and enjoy yourself!
As Peter Secor says when asked about BARGE "There are no strangers here, just friends you haven't met yet...".
Hope to see you at Barge.