Lloyd Pierce Hosts First-Annual Spades Tournament
By: KL Chouinard
If you're trying to gauge how serious Lloyd Pierce is about the card game Spades, don't base it on the fact that he has played it for as long as he can remember. And don't base it on the fact that Pierce has wanted to hold a Spades tournament in Atlanta from the moment he became the Hawks head coach.
Instead, base it on his relationship with his partner.
"No lie. My wife and I have it in our vows. We spoke about being spades partners in our vows at our wedding. It's serious."
So when Pierce did hold his first Community Spades Tournament in Southwest Atlanta, he made a point of finding like-minded players to fill out the 68 teams. The people that he did not want were the ones who said that they knew how to play spades. Instead, he wanted the ones who were offended that he would even dare to ask such a question.
"If they looked at me funny, those are the types of people that we want."
The participants at the William Walker Recreation Center consisted mostly of local spades players, plus some season ticket holders and special guests. The event was billed as a way to engage families and the local community, and that sentiment was evident with everyone in attendance, including a few Hawks players.
Pajama-clad, eight-month-old Tobias Graham toddled around card tables between rounds while smiling and having his outstretched arms guided from above by his dad (and Hawks forward), Treveon. Guard Brandon Goodwin beamed over his selection of a partner.
"My Auntie. She came down here from South Carolina for the weekend, so I decided to bring her out here and let her whip up on some people real quick," he said with a laugh.
Pierce touched on the sentiment of the game more directly.
"It symbolizes the importance of bringing community and bringing family and keeping family together. At the very end of the day, no matter what the date or current situation, you can sit around – whether it's around drinks or food – you can sit there for hours and enjoy your family and that's what this is about."
Like Goodwin, Pierce grew up playing the game with aunts and other family members.
"That's kind of the growing up process. I have aunts that are serious about spades. When you're a kid playing, like, if you sit with my aunt and renege on a bid, she might not talk to you for a couple of days. We were on a cruise, and I don't know who she was playing with, but her partner reneged. She didn't talk to that person for the rest of the cruise."
Hawks forward John Collins attended without a partner. He had planned on playing with his uncle, who ended up not being able to make it. The Spades tournament had an UNO tournament running simultaneously in an adjacent room for any kids who attended, so Collins headed next door to play UNO. The only problem? When Collins walked into a room full of 12- and 15-year-old kids, those kids no longer wanted to play UNO. They want to get up close, talk to Collins, tell him jokes and share a laugh. Then they wanted an autograph. The UNO had to wait until after he left.
On the Spades half of the building, there was a fair bit of chatter about the rules. Card players who grew up in the South, like Norcross' Brandon Goodwin, were quite comfortable with the joker-joker-deuce-deuce format. Pierce and Graham, on the other hand, grew up in other parts of the country and adjusted to the format on the fly.
"I've never played with the twos being high cards," Pierce said with a grimace. "I learned about it this morning. When my wife and I were driving here, we were going over strategy in the car. There are 16 spades now and that's how you have to look at it. I'm trying to be a man of the people and that's the Southern Rules."
State Farm sponsored the event, and it is one that Pierce hopes to turn into an annual gathering.
"The plan is to grow it and to make it bigger and to really raise some money for some foundations and things that I'm involved with. This is just the first step, bringing the community together with something that everyone grew up playing."
Pierce reacted with incredulity when asked if he expected any dispense any trash talk at his opponents.
"Yeah! That's the whole deal! But I expect to receive it if it goes the other way, too."
The tournament, however, was won by one of the quietest twosomes. Jackie and Juanita Smith, a husband-and-wife pair who have been married for over forty years. They took home the top prize, which included a trophy, courtside tickets, a pair of customized jerseys and a pair of Peachtree Collection Jackets.
Graham admired their skill and cohesion.
"I can tell that they knew each other's mannerisms. They knew what each other hand in their hands without even saying a word. It's great to see someone play the game of Spades the way they played it. It's a game that I love and grew up playing, and to see a different level of how they played it was great to see."