Cash Turner is battling Ben Stark in the feature match area. Just playing under the lights and cameras can be intimidating for any non-veteran—but also against a Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and a Limited specialist? That could be enough to make anyone sweat bullets. But Cash is different.
Sure he’s got some jitters, but his mind is on things both more abstract, and more concrete than what’s happening on the battlefield.
“My dad was an infamous pool player,” Turner said between rounds. He said his father would travel from place to place, making money where he could. It probably explains Cash’s name a great deal. Cash paused, then collected himself and continued, “He passed away.”
Turner’s father succumbed to cancer in the fall, around the time Cash was beginning to plan this very trip. Cash minced his words and considered each phrase thoroughly as he spoke, “The last thing he said to me ...” he paused. “...was ‘You’ll win one, son. I can feel it.’”
Turner, like many who’ve had to grapple with great loss, struggled to understand his place and find his footing. Things haven’t been great since his father’s passing, but the most positive way to cope with loss is through understanding and growth. Cash has been putting the pieces back together as he can, and the planning of this tournament—his father’s words echoing in his mind—became a mooring. It became something concrete he could understand.
Cash views his tournaments in a holistic way that has proven helpful this weekend. “Each day, I ask a question before the tournament. And each game helps provide a part of the answer.” He continued, “Each game has so many ups and downs and so many emotions, I’ll always end up with an answer at the end of the day.”
This type of narrative, emotional answer-seeking not only helps players understand the structure and flow of a tournament, regulating the highs and lows along the way, but it can also help reflect on loftier questions as well.
“The answer yesterday was ‘might’.” He said he found out after the last round. “The word can mean so many different things; yesterday it meant ‘having the ability to choose your outcome, despite the cost.’”
Cash had plenty of might going into the second day, and continued to through his first draft pod. He was 11-1 when he stepped under the lights with Ben Stark.
Cash said he knows the question today, but is unsure of the answer: “What makes a Planeswalker?”
“My father was a Planeswalker. He literally traveled from state to state, gathering knowledge and experience as he went.” But he wondered how that could translate to him. “If you live in a house, and have all the other things that go with it, can you be a Planeswalker too?”
His question is an important one, only answerable on a personal level. Planeswalking is about finding that spark inside yourself and igniting it—whatever that spark may be. No one can answer that question for anyone else.
Cash Turner will find his own answer, as he must. Can any son ever feel that he can live up to and surpass his father? How can you know you’ve made the people in your lives proud of you? The task seems impossible. And yet, we do it every single day, every time we understand what they mean to us, and try to be the best we can be using their memories to guide us.
I think Cash knows this well. But knowing it and feeling it are often two different things. Perhaps his own answer at the end of the today will bridge that divide.
“This tournament is for him,” was the last thing Cash Turner told me about his father. And though an easy narrative would have Turner win the trophy and validate everything in a nice little package, life is infinitely more complex than that.
Cash Turner lost his match against Ben Stark. He dropped to 11-2, and in a tournament this large, it is unlikely that he will make the Top 8. But that hasn’t answered his question yet. Based on my time with Cash Turner, I am confident he will find the answer he needs to find in his cards. My guess is, no matter how hard the question, he always does.
Regards of whether he wins this one or another one, I’d like to think that in his father’s eyes, Cash has already won.