Written by David White
Like a lot of people in the early 80’s I lost my job because of the oil embargo. I looked for a job for a year and a half with no luck. One day I had a job interview and on my way, I had to drive through a parking lot with lots of potholes. I arrived at the interview, the guy pulled out my resume and said oh yea– you’re the guy that has been making all that money. My last job at the time was as executive assistant to the President of an oil field construction company and I was making around 50M. Now I’m interviewing for a $16,000 a year job and this interviewer has no interest in me. I was pretty put out and said to him–well if you won’t hire me for this job how about hiring me to fix all those potholes. Can you do that he inquired and I said, “yes”. Well, that started the whole thing. I quickly asked some asphalt people how to fix the holes, borrowed some equipment from a friend who had closed up his business and started patching potholes. One of my first jobs was at the Super Bowl and I was struggling quite a bit when Conrad pulled up–He had been at the back of the lot, drinking beer and watching me. He said–you will never get this done, he left and arrived back shortly later in work cloths and helped me finish the job.
Most people in the repair businesses had expanded their companies during the boom of the late 70’s, mostly through debt and couldn’t afford to do small jobs as that wouldn’t service their debt. People would see me working and would ask if I knew someone who would paint a door or patch a roof and I told them I could. That was in August of 1983 and I started Whiteye Enterprises, Inc., a full-service maintenance company. The company was in business for 35 years, employed hundreds of people, had offices in Midland, Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, San Angelo, Austin and San Antonio. Just as my cheerleading experience, it was quite accidental how my asphalt career came about. I opened my mouth, popped off, got hired and then had to put up or shut up. It became a huge break for me. I enjoyed all I learned about maintenance during the 35 years, all the great employees and customers I had.
The Lord has blessed me in many ways and I pray that I am a good fiduciary of his blessings. The story of me going from patching pot holes to becoming the owner of a very successful maintenance and construction company that endured for 35 years is only half of my story.
The other half of the story is my desire to be a professional poker player. My motivation was the large amounts of money available for a knowledgeable player.
Now for the rest of the story….
When telling stories, one sometimes forgets segments that are relevant. My love for poker didn’t start while I was sweeping hanger floors and as a mail boy for West Texas Flying Service, picking up and taking mail to John McElligott’s sweet mother in 1959 at Terminal Texas. My poker ambitions are rooted in a family game called Tripoly that I was introduced to around the age of 8. Tripoly is a board game that combines a form of hearts, rummy and poker. The poker part is what really attracted me. I played the game through grade school and then in junior high I discovered a regular poker game. I quickly adapted to the game and enjoyed it through high school. As I recall, David Holloway had a regular game at his home. I remember the main form of the game we played was “2 or 22”.
After high school, I spent a year in Dallas working for the Republic National Bank as a bond teller. The next year I went to Texas A&M. At A&M I quickly found a poker game that went on every day. At that time, I had a job washing dishes at North Gate and didn’t have much money to play on. As fate would have it, I met a boy named Robert Solomon from Silver Springs Ma. Robert was an exceptionally bright kid, loved poker, wanted to make money, but was not very good at it. He eventually quit playing (he hated to lose money) and would just watch the game. One day he came up to me and after saying he thought I was one of the better players in the game, he offered to back me for a percentage. I accepted and was able to increase my playing time on Robert’s bank roll. We had a very good year.
The summer after that year at A&M, I was back in Midland and met and married my first wife. I quit playing poker for a few years, worked hard, and we had two kids. After seven years of marriage, we got a divorce. The main reason was my lack of maturity causing lots of issues. We still have a very cordial relationship to this day.
The next three years I spent drinking a lot, playing pool, playing poker and generally just being a wasted human resource. It wasn’t until I met and evidentially married Gretchen that I finally got a grasp on life and relationships.
Everyone grows up at different times–I guess it was my time. I contribute all of my success in Whiteye and poker to my Lord and my lovely wife, Gretchen. She has been my biggest supporter for what is now 50 years. We also have one child together. I could not have done it on my own. I got a job, started a career and worked poker into my schedule where it wasn’t all consuming. Gretchen understood the importance of poker in my life. I was in a very good marriage and a good place in poker when I discovered the pro tourney circuit in the mid 80’s.
All the time I was building Whiteye Enterprises, I was traveling nearly every month to the next tour stop. When I started in the 80’s, there was only one tourney a month, 4 in California, one in New Jersey, one in Tunica Miss., one in New Orleans La, one in Durante Okla. and four in Las Vegas. I would work very hard all month and then fly off to the next tourney. Now a days, there are 20 or 30 tourneys every month in the US, not counting many more in foreign countries. I then would work hard all week and fly off to a tourney each weekend. I have played poker with most all of the great named players over the last 30 years with mild success. I discovered , somewhere along the way, my original money pursuit had changed over time to what I consider my best accomplishment–meeting and befriending people from all walks of life that shared my love for the game. Although I don’t travel anymore, I do play poker almost every day since retiring in 2012 and moving to Las Vegas. I play, not for the money necessarily, but for the comradery with the other players. If your travel brings you to Vegas, give me a call (432-661-4594). We are always good for a free meal. Because of our age, health and the covid, we don’t travel much, only an occasional trip to Midland. Our three kids and 6 grandkids still live there.
Of note, I have been very active in an organization called “Poker Gives”. This is a non-profit started several years ago by a group of professional poker players. Our group caters to the homeless and battered women and children in Vegas. There is always a need-just like your “What’s in the Water” college fund.
Although I have spent a lot of time over the years playing poker and am quite proficient in all forms, I will end this with a few words of wisdom, “Don’t quit your day Job”-unless, of course, you get out of poker what I did–friendship and comradery. If you do play poker I quote a great poker player, Mike Sexton (dec.)–“May all your cards be live and your pots be monsters”.
Dave now that’s the story I wanted to hear. I will soon have a medical license in Nevada to assist those addicted to opiates and nicotine. You will certainly be My first contact for renewal of our Midland Friendship. I like you stumbled into the medical profession and now help thousands of addicts and truck drivers get medical advice and help.
We look forward to it John
What a great story. Good luck to you. I was class of 51. fell into an opportunity to go to Annapolis. I couldn’t keep a job, I had a new one every 2 to 3 years. I never found out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I retired as a Navy Capt. 32 years after graduation. At 88 I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Fred Underwood MHS 1951
seems we all have a predetermined path–just don’t know it at the time.