What with the dazzling lights, scores of groupies and enormous sums of money, poker has a good claim to the title as the new rock ‘n’ roll. But as far as Micah Raskin is concerned, there’s no need for the “new” version at all: he has brought plenty of the real, old-style rock ‘n’ roll with him to Italy.
For the past few days in Sanremo, as Raskin has emerged from the pack and ploughed into the deep stages of this event, it has become increasingly obvious that he has two very distinctive supporters following his every move. They are his brothers, the identical twins Roger and Logan Raskin, better known as the musicians “The Raskins”, who also happen to be on a European tour.
The Raskin twins have been playing to packed theatres across the continent for the past two weeks, but during this trip to sleepy Sanremo have been happy to allow their older brother the limelight as he goes in search of his first major poker title.
“We have a life too, but we just want to be there when it happens,” said Roger, sitting alongside his brother in the stalls in the Casino Sanremo theatre. “It’s important for Micah, if he does make that magical run, he wants his family around him. He would like to have his brothers there to witness it.”
Micah is no slouch at the tables and has accumulated more than $1.4m in winnings since he decided to play more regularly at the major tournaments worldwide. But as yet the outright win has eluded him, and his brothers say he is now committed almost entirely to snaffling a top prize.
“He hasn’t had that elusive title yet and it’s killing him,” said Logan. “He’s entered 45 major events, probably more, and all of his friends who he travels with, they all have major titles. He needs it.”
The three brothers talk poker consistently throughout tournament downtime, and the support the twins offer is both spiritual and strategic. Micah was down to his last 40,000-odd yesterday, after perhaps misplaying a hand against Yevgeniy Timoshenko, and the three brothers got together during a break to get Micah’s mind back in the right shape. They sat outside from the casino, held hands, and refocused.
“I said, ‘Micah it’s not inconceivable that you can come back’,” Logan said. “It’s happened.”
Something seemed to click as Micah went on an unstoppable surge, finishing the day with more than a million in chips. The rush has continued in the early stages of day five as well, and he has more than tripled that already.
The Raskins were born and raised in Queens, New York, to a family of entertainers. Their mother, Judy Lee, was a jazz singer who worked with the likes of Billy Holiday and Sara Vaughn. Their father Tommy was a Broadway actor, with credits in West Side Story, Oklahoma and South Pacific.
But while Roger and Logan inherited the showbiz gene from their parents, Micah took his father’s passion for poker. The three boys all learned the game from Tommy, playing in the basement for loose change or money earned from paper rounds. The games usually started in a friendly fashion, but would often spiral slightly out of control.
“Those family games were just brutal,” Roger said. “I remember Micah and my dad going at it. We were young, 10, 11, 12, 13. Logan and I, we’re pretty mellow guys but all of a sudden we had this quiet family game and we’ve got Micah pulling out his bankroll, we’ve got my dad pulling out his bankroll.”
Logan added: “Normally the game would end with someone flipping the table. A Jewish, New York family? Forget about it. Typical Queens, New York family. We were very loud.”
According to his brothers, Micah was always known even at that early stage, for his thirst for risk-taking. He still runs a successful business in New Jersey, but has also played high stakes blackjack for quite some time before turning to poker. These days, he is working on curtailing his instincts for action and is playing a far more disciplined game, especially after previously losing big chip leads in major tournaments in the very deep stages.
One hand, at the NAPT event at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, is still a discussion point. Sitting second in chips with 19 players left, Raskin attempted to bluff Chris DeMaci off a full house – the only player who could (and did) felt him.
“He just played overly aggressive and he was representing a hand that the other guy had,” said Roger. “He went all the way with it, he went to the felt with it. It knocked him out, crushed him.”
That is now consigned to the history books and Micah is now travelling much more often, including to Europe, as he continues that search for poker glory. With his good luck talismans on the rail in Italy, this would seem like a great time to go all the way.
And if he doesn’t, there’s always the family to fall back on. “He’s a good brother,” agreed Roger and Logan. “We’re all really close.”
Keep an eye on the live tournament reporting from EPT Sanremo for all the news from the tournament floor.