Larry Liebster by Larry Liebster
Introduced by Phil Simborg
Larry Liebster is a retired dentist and professor of dentistry that now lives in Las Vegas. He attends many ABT events around the US and has given freely of his time to help beginners and intermediates understand the basic odds and concepts of the game. Larry is well known for his many articles, full of humor and good will. In my opinion, few players bring more good will and kindness and patience to the game, and I believe Larry is very much entitled to our thanks for this.
When I asked if I could interview him, he said he would rather write his thoughts in his own words. (Larry obviously knows me well enough not to trust me!)
When I was approached with the idea of writing an article about me (he called it a Tribute), I balked and did not respond immediately. After thought I decided that I was honored, that I had things I wanted known about me, and beliefs I wanted expressed. I felt that anyone writing this would screw it up. If anyone were to screw it up I want it to be me. So here goes.
Born 1929, third in a family of four siblings, two older sisters. I was one of the first students in a New York City experimental program for gifted children, where from the fourth grade on I would travel an hour each way by trolley and bus. The education was fine, but its big impact on me was making a loner out of me. I did not get to have many friends in my neighborhood.
I went to an all boys high school, Brooklyn Tech. This school required the same amount of travel time by subway. There, I was on the City Championship Swimming team winning a gold medal in the City Championships. I started with summer camps, where I would go out of the city for eight weeks during the summer, when I was ten years old. Then, due to a combination of factors, the Second World War, my swimming ability, and the fact that my younger brother would be a paying camper, I became a counselor at age 14. I was to be a counselor every summer until I left for the U.S. Navy, August 1953, having graduated Dental School.
In 1956 I started my own dental practice in New Jersey. I was on the staff of three dental schools reaching the rank of associate professor. I was on the staff of Hackenack University Medical Center ending up with a 50-year watch and chairman of the Pediatric Dental Department.
I married in 1968, siring two children, an older boy and a younger girl. He now lives in Austin, Texas, married with two children. She is in Chicago, married.
I started playing backgammon at a local New Jersey club in the late 70’s. In the 80’s I started going to tournaments. I took lessons from Paul Magriel, Joe Sylvester and later on Perry Gartner. I had a girl friend in Boston, so I became acquainted with the Boston crowd, Trice, Bedell, Gurland, et al. I visited Cost Rica, London, Istanbul, and Abu Dhabi. I went to tournaments and, along with chouetting, I challenged everyone to play five money games for xxx dollars a point.
Once, in Abu Dhabi, I had an appointment book like my dental office, and went from one series of five games to the next. I remember playing a man who did not speak English, requiring an occasional translator. I remember playing a Russian in Istanbul a series of 5-point matches with his friends and a bottle of Slivovitz in the hall of the hotel at midnight. The language barrier was no problem.
Since the mid-60’s I have been playing blackjack. I am sure this has influenced my backgammon. I have beaten a lot of name players. A feather in my cap is beating Nack Ballard 11-0 in an Open match, just after he had won a big $16,000 doubles tournament. When the bots came I realized that my style was difficult to adapt.
I worked on a Powerpoint presentation studying the dice rolls, counting pips, counting hitting numbers, bearing in. Using my Powerpoint presentation I have given lectures in Las Vegas, Detroit, Chicago, New York and Peoria. I hope to win a major tournament by the time I am ninety years old.
|My Approach, My Philosophy|
Life is a participation sport. I do not follow sports or watch much TV. I play, I make up for all the years when I could not play, when I had to study. Playing reconfirms my ability to function.
Winning allows the body to flood me with Dopamine and feel great. The definition of winning varies, as a lay leader rabbi in a local assisted living I tell the congregants that they are the winners. The losers are under ground.
Winning is sometimes just being able to play the game.
Losing is also good. You have to learn to lose gracefully. As you grow older you will lose more and more. You will lose your hair, your agility, your jobs though retirement, and your loved ones. This is not pleasant. It is painful. Perhaps, playing games can acquaint you with the skill of losing gracefully.
Backgammon is the ideal game to play. I want to start a team of octogenarians to challenge similar teams of younger players. This cannot happen in baseball, football or any of the major sports, because backgammon just requires the ability to roll the dice and move the checkers.
I pity the poor retiree who wakes up and finds he does not have an activity that he can do to give him a sense of being an effective human being. Backgammon does this for me.
I have written many articles in the Chicago Point entitled “Backgammon Peeves,” pointing out the actions which bother me. High on the list is complaining, whining, kvetching. I believe in thinking positively. People who complain think negatively. We are all bombarded by thousands of situations on a daily basis.
If you put all your energy into the negative ones you will live a negative life and have no energy or desire to respond to positive stimuli. One should learn to be thankful for all the good things, and accept the bad things. Above all, we have the power to choose our response. We do not have to dwell on the bad things in our life. We do not have to passively accept what happens in our life, we can actively choose to create the life we want.
As for that loneliness, that sense of isolation, backgammon tournaments help me by allowing me to experience a sense of belonging. By coming to the tournaments repeatedly, I have a family-like feeling with all of the warmth, teasing and quips that I associate with a family function.
I am grateful for the opportunity to express myself. I am thankful to those who provide the opportunity to express myself. I am thankful to those who run the tournaments. Without these people I would have few people to play with and few places to play. Thank you all.