Editor's Note: Warning... do not expect any real poker content, theory, or hand histories in the next 3000 or so words.
"Dude, we're going to Vegas for March Madness."
My buddy Senor (not to be confused with Signor Ferrari from the Blue Parrot, they are two different people. Senor is one of my best friends from college and he lives in Rhode Island) called last night. He was excited. His wife is taking his son to visit her relatives in Thailand for the entire month of March. He's going for two weeks and then coming back to the States. Before he starts a new job, he's taking off a weekend to gamble on the college basketball tournament. I was specifically picked for that special mission.
"OK, I'm in." I said without hesitation.
I'm the "jump first, ask questions later" kind of guy when it comes to cliff diving and quick decision making. Senor and I have embarked upon some of the most epic adventures in my life that set the tone for some of the wildest moments in my 20s. Amsterdam in 1996. Iceland in 2001. Japan in 2000. New Orleans in 1997. Those are just a few trips that come to mind as I am flooded by flashbacks and goosebumps. We have plenty of deviant Vegas stories that could fill two books maybe more.
Halloween 1998 under the bright lights of Las Vegas is a highlight, or lowlight depending on how you look at things. It's funny how I can look back at an exact date and say for certain that I had never been more wasted, shithoused, and tiptoeing on the edge of the abyss of insanity as I was on October 31, 1998. I was living in Seattle at the time, had hair down to my ass, and I was enamored with a hippie girl from Bellingham named Frog. She looked like Rachel Leigh Cook and her mother ingested too many hits of LSD when she was pregnant because Frog would often interrupt herself in mid-sentence and start speaking in a language that resembled some form of Klingon and mixed with a Haitian dialect. She swore that she could talk to cats and vice versa, but not dogs, which baffled me. She made the freaky girl at school seem somewhat normal. Anyway, Senor flew into Vegas so we could see Phish on Halloween and I flew down from Seattle. I was a lit monkey for sure, struggling to define my own existence while sputtering along on four hits of acid. I got into a fight with our cab driver after the concert and I remember freaking out in the middle of a casino. On a head full of double-dipped acid, with all the lights and flashes and sounds of chips and slot machines and the free drinks and people from Canada having fun and all the visual stimuli... the entire dark side of Las Vegas laughed and tossed me aside, like a parking ticket on the windshield of Paris Hilton's Mercedes SUV. I could feel all the dark energy and desperation of Las Vegas choking me and I nearly slipped off the edge. I almost drowned in my own profuse insanity.
So we're a little older now. I have a lot less hair. Senor has a wife, a kid, and an MBA, and I still have a weakness for 18 year-old hippie girls. And we're heading back to Vegas. The last time I was in Vegas with Senor, it was during March Madness in 2003 and Derek came along. I wrote a few stories about that trip for my blogzine. Vegas, Two Canadian Hockey Players, and a Kansas Blonde is one of my favorite short stories of all time. Here's a bit:
No other vice lured me into violence as much as gambling. I If don't pay my bookie, I get my ass kicked. The rules are simple. Same goes for the casinos. Behave like a gentleman, or else. Sometimes, when my bets are not going the way I'd like, my patience evaporates and my Buddhist mannerisms towards people disappear, and I'm usually within seconds of dropping my fists on the first asshole that sets me off. And if I'm drinking and gambling, I'll definitely get myself into trouble.Damn, Vegas is one of my favorite topics to write about. You have to read the rest of that story. I had a blast playing blackjack with a bunch of minor league hockey players downtown.
I bet heavily on Syracuse (the only time in the tournament) and was slurping down vodka tonics. The guy in front of me had $50 on Auburn. Syracuse blew a 17 point lead, and every time Auburn did something right, he would celebrate like he just won the lottery and got a blow job from Britney Spears in the same afternoon, which would inch me closer and closer to pummeling his ass. At one point I raised my leg, ready to kick him in the head with my boot if he jumped up one more time. Luckily for him, he remained seated. Or luckily for me, I should say. Behavior like that... random acts of violence towards jubilant tourists are not taken lightly in Las Vegas. Similar incidents get you blacklisted and banned from all gaming areas in the state of Nevada. I would have immediately been dragged off by the casino lumberjacks, the visible security force with pressed shirts, shiny shoes and black walkie talkies. They drag you downstairs to a room with no windows, and hand you over to thugs named "Nine Fingered" Vito and "Fat" Jimmy, who may or may not remove your eyeballs with rusty ice picks.
A group of unruly, rowdy, drunken frat boys from Michigan State nearly caused a small riot as they sat in the front row of the sports book. Michigan State was the underdog for most of the tournament, and a lot of people lost large sums of cash when they played. One frat boy in particular was bumping chests and taunting the bettors who wagered on Maryland. I held myself back from running up there and crashing an empty Corona bottle across his sun burned face. I wanted to fight, but I reminded myself about the cameras all over the casino that watched my every move. Instead, after a Maryland player missed a wide open dunk, I got up and walked away. Derek and Senor thought I was just kidding. But I was serious. I wanted to leave immediately. With more than half the game not over, I walked out of the Mandalay Bay Casino in a solemn retreat, with my head down, and chiding myself for losing all the money I won earlier in the day.
Derek had a similar situation. This one involved a beautiful blonde from Kansas. She showed up just before the game started to watch her team play and could not find a seat for her sorority girlfriends. We had been sitting in the last row of the sports book for almost four or five hours when she arrived and we ended up stuck with her standing right behind us. To say that she was annoying would be polite. Within a half hour, Derek wanted to get up and punch her.
"I don't care if she's hot," he muttered.
Kansas was beating up on Arizona in the first half. It was ugly. When Kansas did well, you heard the blonde squeal and let everyone in the state of Nevada know that "her boys" were kicking ass. Sometimes overhearing the conversations with her friends killed me, which was slightly more pleasurable than having my testicles scraped by a cheese grater.
"Who's cuter? Nicky or Kirk?" she asked one of her sisters.
My brother rolled his eyes. "Collison and Hienrich are two of the ugliest white dudes I ever seen. What the fuck is she talking about?"
"Come on Nicky! Thatta boy, Kirk!"
She kept rambling on, drawing the ire of the ninety percent of the guys who bet against Kansas. They sat and stewed in anger, like drunken pigeons ready to shit on the next thing that moved, as Kansas whooped on Arizona.
I wanted to get up and say something to our Kansas Blonde like, "Listen up Princess Dorothy, you're pissing us off. Here's $100. Why don't you take the Barbies and head on over to the bar over there, get really drunk, and watch the game as far away from me as you can? In the meanwhile y'all can debate which one of you lovely girls will eat each other out on video tonight for this next year's DVD mega hit, Sorority Girls Gone Wild in Vegas."
This is not the Phi Delt house and we ain't nowhere near fucking Kansas. She should realize where she is, cheering mindlessly and incessantly like Cheri O'Teri's Saturday Night Live cheerleader jacked up on Sea Breezes and cocaine. It's like a narc walking into a Hell's Angels bar and making fun of their motorcycles by pissing all over them. You're either dumb as shit, or you're looking to get empty whiskey bottles shoved up your orifices. Either way, Arizona's appalling play wasn't helping the situation. There's over a million dollars lost that I can see in the miserable faces as I scan the room... gloomy frat boys from San Diego, pathetic compulsive gamblers from Reno, disconsolate dentists from Minnesota, cheating husbands from South Florida whose wives have no clue they lost $500 on lowly Arizona... they all stared in despair and endured the ball squeezing, triumphant echoes of the Kansas Blonde every few seconds.... More.
Yeah, Vegas is on my mind and I still haven't finished up my December trip reports. I'm so far behind I'll need to stay up for the rest of the month just to catch up on all the writing I have to do.
I have two female friends that have become a little more popular because of their affiliation with me. My friend Jenna works for a company here in NYC. And she is now in with her boss's boss because of our friendship. He is a devout reader of my blog. She was having a meeting a few weeks ago in his office and noticed that her boss's boss had the Tao of Poker up on his computer in the background. When the meeting was over she asked him what he was reading.
"It's one of those blogs."
"About?" she inquired.
"This one is about poker."
"The Tao of Poker?"
"Yeah, how did you know?" he said almost stunned.
"I know Pauly. My best friend used to go out with him. We're good friends. We're having lunch later."
"Dr. Pauly?" he yelled, "Do you think I could meet him?"
Now Jenna has been getting attention from a lot of the guys in her office for knowing me. She's relieved that they've finally stopped hitting on her and now exclusively talk to her about poker, something she knows very little about, but she commented on how obsessed people in her office about poker. They've all caught the poker bug, even a few female co-workers. I've been invited to a few home games from her co-workers and politely declined due to my busy schedule. If anything I told Jenna to get them to sign up for Party Poker using my bonus code: TAO4 and maybe I'll come to one of their home games.
Another friend of mine, who lives in Chicago, recently found out that she has a couple of friends from Wisconsin who religiously read this blog. Thanks for reading guys! Anyway her friends were shocked that she knew me, "How do you know Dr. Pauly?" She never reads this blog and knows very little about poker aside from what I post on my main blog. "My friends think I'm cool now because they think I'm friends with someone famous," she said in a conversation the other day.
I shrugged my shoulders and patted my ego when she told me. My only response was, "Are any of these friends, er... female?"
I read that 2+2 post about some guy calling blogs "gay". If blogs are gay, then I'm Harvey Firestein of the blogging world. However, for the most part, the average blog is nothing to brag about. Have you ever hit the Next Blog button on the upper right hand corner and surf ten or so random blogs? 1/3 are not even in English and the rest are pretty... well... boring. I hate to judge people who put themselves out there... but a lot of folks are wasting their time... reading blogs and creating new ones.
Blogs are the new tattoos. I coined that phrase. And I'm shivering at the thought of having to add two hundred more links in the next six months.
This will be a regular feature on the Tao of Poker. I'll select a few random emails and post my answers here.
Dear Dr. Pauly,
My name is Timmy and I'm in the third grade. We have been playing Texas Hold'em at recess. These games are loose and I know I can crack them. It's just that I keep getting bad river beats. I have been on a bad run and have not been able to eat lunch for two weeks because I keep losing my lunch money. I owe Farty Henderson forty dollars and he charges three points a week interest. He said he was going to tell this girl I like that I have posters of Clay Aiken up on my wall if I don't pay him by next week. What should I do?
Welcome to the world of bad beats. Suck it up, kid. It will build character. OK, now my question for you is... what kind of parents do you have? Because let's be honest, you can't tell them you are gambling at school. You are going to have to get an afterschool job or you are going to have to steal from your parents until you ride out those bad beats. If they are alcoholics or pill poppers, you're in good shape. Wait until it gets very late and they pass out. That's the perfect time to steal from your drunk dad's wallet or your valiumed up mom's purse. If they are heavy drinkers, you should have no problems with making a few extra bucks here or there, mainly because they'll just assumed that got too wasted the night before and bought more drinks than they remembered. My next bit of advice is to find another kid who's juice is only 1 point and borrow money from him. Pay off Farty Henderson right away and then you'll cut your juice payments by 67%. Steal from your parents to pay off the second loan shark. And stop chasing flushes when you don't have drawing odds!
Thanks for reading,
Dear Dr. Pauly,
Hey Doc. My name is Ed and I'm a long time reader. I recently quit my job as a programmer here in Portland and I have been playing online at Party Poker. I'm doing very well and I'm making almost as much as I was working at my old job. Here's my problem. My wife does not know I quit my job. Since I work at home, it's not unusual for me to be in front of a computer for ten or twelve hours straight. She does not suspect a thing. I feel guilty. I should tell her right?
Ed, Portland, OR
Dude, you're so fucked. But let's not focus on that right now. My advice to you is to not tell your wife. What she doesn't know won't hurt her, right? If she finds out... then deny everything. That's the best piece of advice that was given to me from one of the head honchos at my old firm on Wall Street. Shit, if you can't successfully lie and bluff your wife... then there is no way you'll be able to make a final table at the WSoP and therefore you should not be playing poker for a living. And if you do tell her, never tell her the exact amount you have been earning. Lowball her. It's a fucked up thing to do. But trust me. It's much better to let people know you made a lot less than you actually do. It's reduces financial expectations, especially around gift giving special events like birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. If she knows you make a lot of money, she'll expect expensive presents from this point on. Also you'll have a little more cushion to absorb any bad streaks that your bankroll might undertake, especially if you are playing on Party Poker.
Thanks for reading,
Dear Dr. Pauly,
Greetings from the Delta Delta Delta sorority. As events coordinator for the Gamma Phi chapter at Washington University in St. Louis, I was wondering if you would be able to give me any tips on organizing a charity poker tournament? How much should the buy in be? What will the blinds and levels be? We want to donate proceeds to Tsunami victims. Any help that you can give us would be great! A few of us here at Tri Delt love your blogs and if possible we would like you to attend as our celebrity guest? Maybe you can get some of your blogger buddies to come along like Al Cant Hang or Wil Wheaton?
Kayla, St. Louis, MO
Hey, how you doing? I'm flattered to know that my humble blog is read in exotic places like the Tri Delt sorority house. If you call me personally, I will give you specific information on how to run a tournament. I have to check my schedule, but when are you having this event? I'm sure I can squeeze in an evening of chip flinging with lubricious co-eds. Will there be a wet t-shirt contest to follow? As you know the bibulous Al Cant Hang has a few open dates on his globe trotting schedule but I'm sure he can accommodate your wishes if you provide the necessary allotment of Southern Comfort and Krispy Kreme.
Thanks for reading,
And that concludes this installment of reader mail. Best of luck at the tables tonight. Vegas trip reports will be posted this weekend. Maybe?