From Denver, With Love

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Annie makes a date with Ben for two days later.

Except for Annie, the men think the women they've met so far are a bust. Lee and Greg flirt with two women in their forties who aren't too shy to touch the farangs. Each woman knows exactly one English phrase.

"Welcome to Thailand," says one.

"I love you," says the other.

Richard Beals's father was a butterfly.

When he was growing up in New Jersey fifty years ago, Richard sensed that his father was cheating; so did his mother. But in those days, Richard says, a bad husband was better than no husband at all.

Richard's mother, who'd been a mechanic in the Women's Army Corps, wound up playing the role of father, teaching her son to rebuild an engine when he was ten. Four years later, Richard's father went to the Indianapolis 500 and bought a bar. He moved his family to Indiana but didn't spend much time with them. He was too busy with cocktail waitresses, barflies and whoever else he could get his hands on. "He was after George Washington's title -- 'father of our country,'" Richard says.

After high school, Richard went to Indiana University for three years, where he studied business and psychology. His mother finally left his father and bought a bar of her own. Richard worked there as the daytime bartender. Now 58, Richard says that his father's behavior has always made him more sensitive to a woman's situation, that he's been more friendly with women than men throughout his life.

When he was 26, though, Richard got a woman pregnant -- and he wasn't in love with her. The woman tried to hide the pregnancy as punishment, he says, and after the child was born, she kept Richard away from his daughter.

In 1975, Richard moved to Colorado, a place he'd fallen in love with on a trip when he was eighteen. His first job was at a Beau Jo's Pizza, and then he sold cars while going to real-estate school. The real-estate business kept him interested for almost eight years, and then he moved on to network marketing. Through his assorted careers, he continued to race and sell radio-controlled boats.

In 1995, Richard started playing professional poker. He made money, but not millions. Still, he liked the odds of poker better than the odds of American marriage. He saw that marriage had a 50 percent chance of failure, and with men losing half of everything they earned to divorce, the stakes were way too high. Richard vowed to stay single forever.

Then Seow walked into the Black Hawk casino where he was playing in September 1999.

Seow is of Chinese descent but was born in Malaysia. She was almost 25 when her 59-year-old American boyfriend was laid off by a computer company. She moved with him to his ranch in Montana in 1996. He was married, but afraid to divorce his wife because he could lose everything.

When Seow's boyfriend died, his brother agreed to put her up in his Nederland home, and she scored a job at a Chinese restaurant in Boulder.

A cook and a waiter there were both addicted to Texas Hold 'Em. They bought a tip book but couldn't read English, so they had Seow translate. Then they took her to a casino.

Seow decided to play. When she sat down at the poker table, several of the players, a couple of the dealers and the pit boss were all watching her. "But for whatever reason, she liked me," Richard remembers.

He asked Seow if she'd like to go on a motorcycle ride.

"Is it a big one?" she asked.

"Yeah," Richard said. "It's bigger than a Harley."

"I thought Harleys were the biggest motorcycle in the world," Seow countered.

"No, this one's bigger," Richard assured her.

Soon after, Richard picked Seow up at the restaurant during her lunch break, and the two drove up the canyon to the Pioneer Inn, where Seow had a beer and he had a Coke. Richard couldn't believe how Seow saw American women in the same light as he did -- overvalued -- while the men were undervalued.

Cruising down from Nederland, Richard realized that he wanted to be exclusive with Seow. She proposed marriage to him a few months later, and they were wed on January 6, 2000, in Las Vegas.

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Luke Turf

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