Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Ballad of Eskimo Clark.

I don't listen to modern country music, but I don't get the impression they're much on "story songs" these days. A lot of country hits in days gone by were mini tales of some real or imagined event, like Johnny Horton's "Sink the Bismarck" and Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John." The saga of Eskimo Clark at this year's World Series of Poker is the kind of thing I could imagine being made into one of these songs.

Paul Clark is known as Eskimo due to his supposed resemblance to the logo of Alaskan Airlines, although he's originally from Louisiana. He's won 3 WSOP bracelets to date, but his quest for a fourth at this year's edition just might kill him. Last week he collapsed during the Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event. Initial reports speculated on a heart attack, and many blamed the hot conditions inside the tent his table was located in. Yesterday he collapsed twice during the $1500 Razz event, prompting paramedics to be called in during the second incident, although Clark convinced them to let him continue playing. Some sources are claiming it's the result of low blood sugar, but others are saying that Clark is having strokes, and the fact that one side of his body went numb during the second incident yesterday sounds like evidence of a stroke to me. Clark has signed a waiver absolving the tournament of liability should he suffer permanent damage.

Clark made it to the end of the event, coming in third, with Katja Thater winning. But at what cost? Is winning a fourth bracelet worth the health risk to Clark? He thinks so, but it seems like obsession taken too far to me. And even if he is able to compete in further events and does win a bracelet it's gong to be overshadowed by his collapses.

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