I have some great and funny Shronk stories (as do many of you), but I’m not going to share those here. And I won’t be writing about the first time I met him. When I found out Shronk had died, all I could think about was my most recent memories of him.

Friday & Saturday, March 27th & 28th

The last time I saw Shronk was here in Las Vegas for the Dream Team Poker event at Caesars. Even though a lot of industry/media people were playing in that relatively inexpensive ($550) event, neither of us were. He was doing what he always does (producing PokerRoad Radio), and I was doing what I always do (covering the tournament).

We didn’t hang out much, as we were working on separate things, but we did chat for a few minutes here and there and we promised to catch up on the show “Lost” when we got a chance.

Thursday, April 9th, 5:24 pm ET

My iPhone lists this as the last time I spoke to Shronk. He was one of the very few “poker people” that I spoke with regularly when I was back home in Atlanta.

While I was flying home from Foxwoods, Shronk sent me a text message asking me about Chip Reese’s son Casey passing away. (Casey had died a few days earlier at the age of 20.)

I called Shronk back when I landed in Atlanta, and we talked about how unfortunate it was that Casey Reese died at such a young age. Normally, this is where most people would say how “spooky” that was, or call it some kind of premonition.

But Shronk shared my thoughts on things like this — it’s called a coincidence. Yes, in retrospect, we can assign all sorts of symbolism, but there is absolutely no causal relationship between Casey’s premature passing, our discussion of it, and Shronk’s premature passing. I am 100% certain that Shronk would agree with me on this. One of the reasons we got along so well is that we’re both such literal, scientifically-minded people.

We then moved our conversation over to the previous evening’s episode of “Lost.” Shronk was a huge fan of this show, as am I. One of the big reasons I am so keyed up to watch this show ASAP is that Shronk would often refuse to talk to me until I was caught up with the most recent episode. I’m tearing up right now as I write his, knowing that he won’t be able to watch the final season or the series finale.

No, I don’t believe in heaven, and I don’t think Shronk is watching the finale “somewhere.” Shronk and I thought alike on this issue too, and we discussed it when we talked about Casey Reese. Death sucks. Period.

Friday, April 17th, 6:34 pm PT

The day before the WPT World Championship, Shronk sent me a text while I was napping at Bellagio after a long flight.

SHRONK: You in town yet?

Friday, April 17th, 7:10 pm PT

BJ NEMETH: Yes! I just woke up from a nap at Bellagio.

SHRONK: Read my tweets for update on my last two days : (

I had been away from Twitter and the forums for a few days, so I had no idea what Shronk had been up to. If you check his Twitter feed now, you’ll see the same things I saw. His final tweet (an observation that his assigned parking spot was occupied by a van that ironically said, “Parking Solutions”) was sent at the same time that our texting started. I replied with two messages.

BJ NEMETH: You went to see the doctor (and Adam Junglen), and 2 days later you went to the ER? I know nothing about pancreatis.

BJ NEMETH: But spending the night in the hospital implies it was pretty serious. (Off to Wikipedia …)

While I was reading the Wikipedia page on Pancreatitis, he sent me two more messages.

SHRONK: Just means “inflamation of the pancreas” same way hepatitus just means “inflammed liver” refardless of cause

SHRONK: Extremely painful

BJ NEMETH: Is it temporary, or do you have a a bad pancreas that will likely give you future problems?

Shronk never answered. Before you think the worst, I now know that Shronk was alive and posting in the PokerRoad forums for another 2 1/2 hours, so thankfully his final words weren’t “Extremely painful.”

Moving ahead in the timeline, here are his final two posts in the PokerRoad forums:

Friday, April 17th, 9:55 pm PT

Shronk started a thread called “Best BPS Episode?” BPS is the abbreviation for “Big Poker Sundays,” one of the radio shows at PokerRoad.

SHRONK: If you were gonna turn someone onto BPS, what 1-3 episodes would you start them off with?

Here it was, a Friday night after Shronk had just been released from the hospital, and he was working on something for PokerRoad, the company/website that he loved so much. He didn’t just love PokerRoad, he embodied it. While Joe Sebok and Barry Greenstein are the public faces of PokerRoad, Shronk is the behind-the-scenes face — all the hard-core fans knew Shronk, and he knew them. He loved interacting with the fans, because he was a fan himself.

Shronk never forgot that he was fortunate to make a living doing what he loved. PokerRoad wouldn’t be what it is today without Shronk, and it will never be the same without him.

Friday, April 17th, 10:05 pm PT

Another member of the PokerRoad forums had started a thread called “Biggest Game I Ever Played” in which that person described sitting down at a poker game that was out of his league so he could play with some famous players he knew. While everyone else was commenting on the situation directly, Shronk summed everything up with a single quote from the movie “Rounders.”

SHRONK: I’m sorry John, I don’t remember.

Typical Shronk. In just six words, he was able to say far more than anyone else in the thread could say with six paragraphs. Those of you who know the movie will understand the quote, and why it works so well on multiple levels. (The original poster in the thread even had a screenname based on the film: “TeddyKGB8”)

Shronk will be remembered in the poker community as a funny guy, but he is sometimes mistakenly seen as a class-clown type who went for the easy laughs. That wasn’t the case at all.

Yes, he would occasionally do something crazy like snort Strawberry Quik in a funny prop bet, or suggest himself as the butt of a joke in a radio segment. He was always willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, and even for the radio show/website that he loved so much.

But the humor I’ll remember Shronk for is his sharp wit and his clever comments. Like his final forum post, he got maximum effect out of a minimal number of words. I know Shronk respected some of my technical skill as a writer, but that can be learned with time and practice. If I live to be 100, I don’t think I’ll ever have a wit as sharp as Shronk’s.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

That was the last we heard from Shronk. Nobody could reach him at all on Saturday, and when he was discovered in his apartment on Sunday, his body was in a sleeping position. (Out best guess is that he passed away sometime Friday night.) The paramedics said that all signs pointed to a peaceful death in his sleep, so there is some comfort in that.

Joe, Amanda, and Ali didn’t want the bad news to go public without making sure that his family knew first. They also didn’t want to let the news out in the middle of the WPT World Championship, as many of the players who knew him might be unable to continue after hearing the news.

They told me and a few others who were close to him, and I can tell you that I was pretty ineffectual as a reporter for the rest of the day as my brain had trouble processing the information. If you check the WPT Live Updates for Day 1b, you’ll see a significant dropoff in the coverage at some point — that’s when I found out that I’d never see or talk to or hear from Shronk again.

That last sentence still doesn’t make sense to me.

The denial stage is relatively easy, in the scheme of things. I didn’t eat for the next 24 hours or so, and I managed to get through that day trying my best not to think about it. The next morning (Monday) was rougher, because at that point everyone else knew what had happened — the secret was out, and I could no longer pretend it didn’t happen.

There were several times throughout the day when I was on the verge of busting into tears. Gavin Smith’s somber announcement to the tournament room and the moment of silence that followed was the toughest. I have to fight back tears just thinking about it.

This will take days, weeks, or possibly months for me to wrap my mind around. No matter how many years I live and breathe, and whether or not I remember the name “Justin,” I will never, ever forget the force of nature that was … Shronk.