‘Don’t underestimate this guy’

‘Don’t underestimate this guy’

Tenafly's Peter Rustin wins mayors' poker tournament

Mayor’s gamble pays off . . . for charity.

Thanks to Mayor Peter Rustin’s sister in Arizona, six local charities, including Kosher Meals on Wheels, are going to share a $10,000 jackpot.

Mr. Rustin is the mayor of Tenafly, and his winnings come from the New Jersey Mayor’s Poker Tournament at Bally’s Atlantic City.

As he tells the story, Mr. Rustin, who plays poker occasionally for fun but does not consider himself a particularly stellar player, had not heard about the game, which the casino sponsored as a salute to the state’s recently passed law legalizing on-line gambling.

“My sister told me about it, and I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Mr. Rustin said. He researched, and found that “There were only five other mayors signed up for it.

“I liked those odds.”

The game itself was in person but on line nonetheless. “Instead of sitting at a table and having the dealer give us cards, we sat at a table in front of a laptop. Three mayors – two tables.”

Mr. Rustin was not very familiar with on-line poker. “It had been illegal in New Jersey for years, and I hadn’t played it that much before, when it was legal,” he said. The contestants were given time to practice, and he found that he took to it. “When you play, there are tells,” he said; players often react to the cards they are dealt, and a good reader of body language can learn a great deal from them. “There are no tells when you play by computer.”

The only other mayor from northern New Jersey was Jersey City’s Steve Fulop. “He was the first guy to be knocked out,” Mr. Rustin said.

Mr Fulop was rueful about his loss. “As the #1 loser in the tournament, clearly I don’t have a poker face,” he said. “I hope to be a better mayor than poker player.

“Peter dominated the tournament from the beginning. I will be the first to say I learned don’t ever underestimate that guy.”

Mr. Rustin enjoyed the game. “When you play poker, it is good to be skillful but it is better when you have the cards,” he said. “I was getting the cards.” At the end, his only opponent was Mayor Joe Accardi of Roselle Park; at one point Mr. Accardi was ahead, but then Mr. Rustin was able to pull off his win.

“I was on cloud nine when I left,” Mr. Rustin said. “I was there for three hours – and drove for four hours, two there, two back. And now I will be able to provide a significant donation to these charities.

“Over the course of a year I am solicited by these charities, as well as others. I do what I can for them – but here was a chance to do more.”

The charities are Kosher Meals on Wheels, Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels, the Center for Food Action, Bergen County United Way, and the Community Chest of Englewood and Tenafly.

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