Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tilt and Flow

I'm mired deep into a macabre of a losing streak, stuck over $2K in the last two weeks. Poker is as fickle as the Northern Lights, but I'm not freaking out right now. The swings are bigger because I'm playing bigger stakes.

I'm playing some of the best poker of my life, but I've lost close to $2K playing online poker in the last two weeks. I've won a tournament and had a couple second place finishes in that time including a come-from-behind second place in The Wheatie last night on PokerStars, but even those victories can't overcome the losses at the tables. It's mind numbing that I'm making great decisions and playing some of the best all-around poker in my career, yet when I open up my bankroll spreadsheet the numbers spell out... L-O-S-E-R.

That's poker. And I'm, not going to change a thing or tweak my game. I'm minimizing my mistakes and making solid decisions and I've become a victim of the capricious nature of variance.

You have to let the game of poker come to you and come through you. Buddhists have preached about letting life flow through you including all of its experiences is really about training your mind to focus on the present moment... the now.

I played for two different basketball coaches in high school with different philosophies. One coach preached on flexibility... being able to adapt and overcome your opponents. Depending on what their offense was doing, we'd react and play a zone or man to man. Our offense was called the Flex and we'd run different variations depending on how they matched up with us defensively. The other coach was hell bent in making the other team make changes in their game plan. We were a pressing team that played straight up man to man. No questions asked. We ran a motion offense against a zone or against man to man. No questions asked.

Act vs. React.

It didn't matter how we ended up record wise with the different coaching styles. What mattered is that there is no right way to coach basketball and win games. I have deduced from watching tons of basketball, hockey, baseball, and football for almost three decades is that the best teams make their opponents adapt to their playing style while they constantly modified their gameplans on the fly. They had a hyperawareness of the ongoing events and were able to make correct adjustments instantaneously.

Some of the best traders that I knew on Wall Street had no idea what they were going to do that day. They relied on instincts and testicular fortitude and waited for the moment to arrive. When they found the slightest of edges, they attacked. Viciously.

I've tried to construct an approach to playing poker by mix together basic Buddhist doctrine with high school basketball coaching philosophies and trading strategies...
1. Be patient and let the game flow through me.
2. At the slightest sign of weakness, attack aggressively.
3. Constantly adjust to my opponents.
One of the most difficult aspects of poker to overcome (especially playing live when you are seeing less hands per hour) is that the flow of the game rarely cooperates to your hands and mental status. The more you try to force the situation and impose your will onto the game, the more frustrated you become. Going card dead or playing against calling stations will often test your patience and focus.

Letting go of the ego is the quickest path towards living in the moment. Suppressing your ego at the poker table is essential. Titdom sets in when you are convinced that the strategy which you've worked on and developed after hundreds of thousands of hands and decades of experience is no longer valid and you have to deviate from your gameplan in order to achieve success. That includes taking chances that you normally would avoid like chasing gutshots and two outers or playing hands out of position that you would never consider playing. But after losing a few hands or getting bluffed out of a big pot will often make you question the foundation of how you play.

Tilt is a powerful liability that has the potential to corrupt almost every facet of your daily existence such as work-tilt, ex-wife-tilt, or traffic-tilt and proceed to allow anarchy and chaos running rampant through your life. Most of the time, you have your head so far up your ass that you had no idea how foolish you were acting. Your reality had become tainted by tilt. Not only should you not operate heavy machinery, but you should also not be near large sums of cash that you're ready to piss away at the tables to the uncircumcised Eurodonkey from Linkoping who cracked your set with a runner runner flush draw with 4-2o.

The problem with most poker books is that they explain to you how to play poker, but don't tell you how to experience it. Whereas mathematics and strategy play a tremendous role in poker success, so too does psychological temperament. And aside from a book or two, there's very little on the subject matter on how you should be experiencing poker.

That mental grasp is the edge that the best poker pros in the world have over the rest of their peers. Some good players in the world are erratic. And you have to be to play poker. You have to have a reckless streak inside and that "gamble" in you that sets you apart from 99% of the people on this planet.

But from what I've seen covering tournament poker over the last two years is that the most successful poker players over the long term are the ones who have the best temperament. They control their emotions and while their internal chatter might resemble the drunken hotel room scene in Apocalypse Now, their external appearance is stoic and they look unfazed by the bad beats and suckouts.

The best way to endure a losing streak? Play through it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


New York City
Spring of 2003

"I blew a dog once," she said.

Had that been a scene in a movie, the background music would have stopped and everyone in the bar would have turned around and starred at her in astonishment for several awkward seconds.

She took a sip of her drink, an overpriced Apple Martini, and I immediately thought, "Do all animal molesters drink Apple-tinis?"

"It's not what you think," she said trying defend her statement. "Why are you freaked out? You're the one who asked me the question. You're supposed to be the bohemian writer living on the edge, hanging out with criminals and low lifes. On your travels you've never once heard about someone blowing a dog?"

"A donkey, yes. Don't forget I've been to South of the Border to Matamoros. I saw a guy fuck a chicken once too. Uneventful. But I've never sat a few feet from an actual canine cock smuggler."

"Oh my God! You are totally freaked out. Must be that McCatholic thing, right?"

"I'm not freaked out. Surprised is a word that comes to mind. And I never asked you how many dog's dicks you sucked in your life. I believe the question was, 'What's your most bizarre sexual encounter?' I was hoping to hear about hot lesbian affairs or made a semi-erotic story about how you gang-banged three chain-smoking snail-eating French dudes in the bathroom of a bar in Montmartre. I didn't think you'd actually fess up to bestiality."

"Fuck you, McFucker!" she screamed.

"That dog was no beast. He was a beautiful animal and I loved every second of it."

"I don't believe you," I badgered her.

"It's true. I was nine years old and, and..."

"And what?" as I moved in closer.

"I only did it that one time. I was curious. Don't freak out on me now. Haven't you gotten aroused by doing something you shouldn't?"

"Of course, but chugging doggie cock wasn't one of them."

She sighed and had a long sip of her drink before she checked her cellphone. She had gotten a text message during our banter which she read then never bothered to answer back.

"How did you know I was lying?" she said.

"I didn't. It's what we call in poker a 'semi-bluff.' I sensed weakness because there was some doubt in your story. Someone truly ashamed of a sexual encounter with a dog would have not revealed that secret in a public place. And if you had no qualms about people knowing, you would have told your friends... and I would have found out months ago. Besides most tells and lies are non-verbal. You make the same face when you lie to your friends and say, 'I love those shoes.' They can't tell when you're bullshitting, but I can."

"Well, your semi-bluff is semi-wrong."

"Care to explain?"

"I never blew a dog. That's true," she said before she paused a beat. She sat up in her chair and glared at me. Without blinking she blurted out, "I never blew a dog but I jerked one off once."

"That's one lucky puppy," I added.

That time I knew she wasn't lying.

* * * * *

The poker world is filled with world class sophists. Here's the definition of sophism according to Wikipedia:
Sophism generally refers to a particularly confusing, illogical and/or insincere argument used by someone to make a point, or, perhaps, not to make a point. Sophistry refers to the practice of using such arguments, and is used as derogative for rhetoric that is designed to appeal to the listener on grounds other than the strict logical cogency of the statements being made.
Sounds like the basic premise of a very skilled poker player and every politican in Washington. The best players in the world will often give off conflicting tells during the same hand to confuse their opponents. They rattle off false verbal information and use their betting patterns to deceive their opponents.

Your opponent is going to put you on a hand based on your behavior at the table. In real life, they'll size up your physical state. Online they'll scrutinize your betting patterns and check their notes on you.

Poker is tough enough without having to pay extra attention to your mannerisms from how you pick up your chips to how you bet when you are bluffing, have a monster, or on a draw. Even Gus Hansen has problems like that. No matter how much composure he tried to muster up, the Great Dane couldn't can't keep his hands still when he nailed quads at the featured table at the EPT Barcelona last year. I noticed that his hands shook like a Parkinson's patient on a bumpy bus ride. His opponents saw it too and both quickly mucked.

He had quad Queens and showed it. But what if Gus pulled off a superb bluff? What if he had Jack-Shit and nearly spilled his chip stack on purpose and feigned a shaking hand as he bet out at the pot? Now, that would have been something.

Bluffing is an integral part of poker, especially NL Hold'em. The best bluffers in the world are so good that you didn't even notice you got bluffed until you saw it happen on TV. There was not a doubt in your mind you were beat so you folded. How many times did that happen?

That's why there's the adage... Never bluff a calling station. They don't have the discipline to fold a crappy hand let alone a mediocre one.

That's why the biggest bluff in a cash game that I ever pulled off... was against a local rock at Green Valley Station last year. I had K-Jo and he had K-Q. I re-raised him preflop. I raised him on the flop when a King fell, and when he checked to me on the turn, I moved all-in. I had been playing tight and he put me on A-K. He agonized over his decision for a few minutes and even showed his cards to the players sitting nearby. Usually if someone does that they're gonna muck. I sat still trying to act meek, like I had a monster better than A-K.

"A set. I have a set," I thought several times just to put that vibe out there.

In reality, I had top pair with a not-so-strong kicker and had no redraws. I was way behind and had only three outs to save me. The only way I was going to win that pot, as I heard Mike Sexton's voice narrating the hand in my head, "Was to bluff at it."

That guy was convinced I had him beat and he folded the best hand. He mucked K-Q face up. The dealer pushed the hefty pot my way as I flipped over K-J. My opponent slapped his hand on the table and muttered, "Nice hand."

I know he didn't mean that as he stood up and paced back and forth at his end of the table. One of the other locals sitting next to me said, "Best play I've seen all week. Great bluff, kid."

I made the mistake at showing my hand but it ended up tilting the guy with K-Q so exposing my bluff had some merit. However, I jeopardized any future moves I'd try to make if any of those guys remembered playing with me the next time I showed up at Green Valley... and a laydown like that guy made tends to eat at your insides for a while, so I know that guy remembered that hand.

A great bluffer is part magician, part actor, part used car salesman, part preacher, part quack, part serial killer, and part philosopher. Like the original sophists, there's a small inkling of truth to any false argument. Next time you're ready to bluff off half your stack in a tournament, take a moment to ask, "Is my opponent going to believe me here?"

Photo credit: Flickr

Monday, November 27, 2006

Four Horse

After two and a half hours of erratic play, I finished in a tepid 4th place in the WPBT Horse tournament on Full Tilt. Derek bubbled out in 5th place and we made another final table together. 28 players in all signed up for the last online event of the year. The top 14 places got POY points so I moved up a bit in the standings.

I like rotation games but Razz is excruciating. I loathe Omaha 8 rounds, but I'm a fan of Limit and both Stud games. I feel confident 60% of the time in Horse and if I catch cards in Razz, I'm feeling euphoric 80% of the time. During this tournament, I had a bittersweet relationship with Razz, which helped me build a stack and ended up being my downfall.

I fired up some selections from the Grateful Dead's Europe 72 album for my background music. My starting table featured Mean Gene, Biggestron, Maigrey, Hoy, Statik, and Chilly.

I won a big hand during the first orbit of Omaha 8. On a board of Q-5-5, I flopped a boat with Q-Q-7-2. Hoy chased a flush to the river and got there to his own dismay.

"i am so clearly losing to pauly's boat. i hate knowing that," he wrote in the chat, "but i'm still calling."

I busted Hoy later that orbit and took over the early chip lead, which I promptly lost a few minutes later when my two pair lost to Biggestron's flush during Seven-card Stud. I also bricked up in an ugly hand against Mean Gene's trips in Stud 8 with A-2-3-8-9-A-8. He scooped and I slipped to 12th out of 22.

During the second round of Hold'em I lost a big pot to Chilly. With A-Qs, I outflopped his J-J but failed to protect my hand when I didn't raise the flop after he bet out. I probably should have raised because he can't fold unless I raise there. I foolishly called and a Jack hit the turn to give him a set. That mistake cost me most of my stack. I slipped to 19th out of 20 and wasn't looking good with under T300 in chips.

I doubled up and won a hand with A-Q and by the break I was 19/20 but barely alive. I switched the music to Phish from Alpine Valley in hopes of changing my luck. I picked up a couple of small pots in Omaha 8 and climbed to 14th place before I made a run in Razz. I snagged a bunch of Chilly's stack with 2-3-5-6-7 and jumped to 6th in chips before I bricked them off to Biggestron a few hands later.

I hung tough during an up and down round of Stud. I got back into contention after I scooped a monster against Change100 in Stud 8 with a full house. I moved all in with trip 10s on 5th street and a pair of 10s showing and took down the pot after she missed all her draws.

In Hold'em, I scavenged for a few small pots by stealing the blinds a few times until I found J-J. I flopped a set and Biggestron paid me off as I added more chips to my stack and gained some much needed momentum. By the time the round ended, I was 3/9 after picking up a few more pots with a re-steal and Q-Q.

I was 3/8 when the final table began which included Mean Gene, Byron, Change100, Derek, IlliniFan, Mattazuma, and cracknaces. I switched to Widespread Panic as my background music, a sizzling show from the Electric Factory in Philly from 1997 to wake me up a bit.

Derek won a big hand early in Omaha 8 after he flopped a set with K-K-A-x and busted IlliniFan. I won another big hand from Biggestron with Ac-8-6c-6. I flopped a set and Biggestron was all in on the turn. I rivered quads when the case 6 fell and eliminated Biggestron. Although I picked up some more ammo, I continued to trail the two big stacks. At the second break I was 3/6.

I had a tough Razz session as I watched Change100 and Derek bust out. I made the money but stood last in chips. I needed help fast and missed a big hand with A245 and ended up with a 9 as my dangler. Crippled.

I had just a few hundred left in chips. I was all in a few hands later during Stud with K-J/3. I turned a Jack but my luck ran out as I ran into cracknaces A-10/A-10. Out in 4th.

Congrats to cracknaces for the win and thanks to Biggestron for hosting.

* * * * *

The other night I flung around chips in rare session with bloggers as we slummed at the 10c/25c tables on Full Tilt. I played with Gracie, Veneno, NewinNov, SirWaffle, Garthmeister, SoxLover, Love Elf, and Kat. I'm sure I'm missing a few other people. My mind is spotty due to my daily high altitude training. I had a good time and was reminded of the old days on Party Poker when the wait list would be twenty deep as we all tried to tilt each other with the Hammer.

Two hands from that session stand out. I felted Veneno with 3-7o. The flop was a beautiful 4-5-6. We actually got all the money in on the flop. My straight held up as the chat box lit up with "rebuy!"

On the other hand, I folded J-J to Kat's A-Q on board of 23Q4. She checked her queens on the flop and I bet out. She smooth called then bet the pot on the turn with a possible flush draw appearing. I knew she had a big hand and mucked. She gladly showed A-Q.

During a peep on Saturday, I saw one of the worst calls I've seen in a very long time. Shorthanded, I was shortstacked and found A-7s in the LB. Two players limped in and I pushed all-in for the squeeze play, something I used to see Grubby do from time to time in Las Vegas at the Sahara tournaments. The big blind, who was the biggest stack at the table, took his entire time before he re-raised all-in. One guy folded and the button eventually pushed all in. They both had me covered. The big blind showed 10-10 and the button flipped over 5-5.

Hmmmm.... I can understand limping on the button with 5-5, but he should have mucked to an all-in raise and an all-in re-raise in front of him. I'd muck Q-Q and under in that situation but the guy was a bleeding sieve and pushed with 5-5. Just another instance of some of the atrocious play you see in those token tournaments.

And yes, I busted out on that hand. The 10-10 held up and he knocked out both me and the donkfish.

* * * * *

Random closing thoughts...

I watched one of the special features to The Omen on DVD something on the history of 666. Anyway, not only does Phil Laak appear in it, the Unabomber told some spooky story about a homegame involving a hand with 6-6-6.

On a JetBlue flight from Las Vegas to JFK a few weeks ago, I watched ESPNews who were celebrating their 10th Anniversary. They interviewed random sports figures and personalities who reflected upon ESPNews history and significance. One of those personalities wad Phil Hellmuth. I sat completely stunned.

Derek and I watched some heavy hitters at the short-handed 1K/2K Limit tables on Full Tilt. Phil Ivey, Ted Forrest, David Benyamine, and Joe Cassidy were playing. The chat box was ridiculous with childish comments and plenty anti-French sentiment that was directed at Benyamine.

If you want to see some high quality heads-up action, Benyamine and Ivey have been battling it out online over the last two weeks. Even though Benyamine signed up with Mansion Poker, he's playing Ivey regularly over at Full Tilt.

Lastly, congrats to DoubleAs for winning a seat to PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. Satellites are going on right now over at PokerStars as you read this. If you don't have an account at PokerStars, you can download PokerStars here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Poker Siesta

Guess what came in the mail yesterday? A copy of Gigli on DVD. It cost me 88 cents and the postage was 2x as much. I'll be handing that out to the lucky player who busts out first in the WPBT Holiday Classic. Stop by April's blog for details about the upcoming WPBT tournament in Las Vegas. Here are some random details:
What: WPBT Holiday Classic III
When: Saturday Dec. 9th at 1:30pm
Where: Caesars Palace
Format: NL with one rebuy
Buy-in: $80 + $50 rebuy
By the way, Byron is hosting the last online WPBT event tonight. Here are the details:
What: WPBT Event #13
When: Sunday Nov. 26th at 9pm ET
Where: Full Tilt
Format: Horse
Buy-in: $24 + $2
* * * * *

I cannot explain my recent immersion into poker. I guess after taking several steps away from all facets of the game for a few months allowed me to rediscover the passion for poker again.

Breaks are good.

I've been reading blogs, books, and even playing in tournaments. The weather has been crappy in NYC the past week. I've been fighting a head cold and my knee had been acting up again which meant that I have not been exercising or running in the mornings. That left a nice block of unstructured time for me to pursue other interests. I filled that slot with reading and poker.

I've been on a reading binge and knocked out six books in the last ten days. Three of those were poker books. I finally finished Divine Invasions, a biography on Philip K. Dick and two books on music; Chuck Klosterman's IV and Lester Bangs' Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste.

I reread Jay Greenspan's Hunting Fish and Russ Fox's Why You Lose at Poker. I also devoured Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book in less than 24 hours. I'll be writing book reviews later this week.

On the poker front, I've been playing well and making good quality decisions, however the results are not falling my way. Poker is an odd entity. A few months ago, my game was spotty and full of leaks, yet I rode a pleasant winning streak. Times have changed.

I'm not just playing Limit Hold'em cash games. I've been dabbling in a multitude of different games from PLO to Stud to TD to NL MTTs to Limit ring games. My game and my poker mind is as sharp as it's ever been over the last couple of weeks, yet I'm stuck in a bloody losing streak.

Vagaries and variance.

I took two wicked beats in the last few days. One was so bad that I stopped playing poker for a day. And the other happened last night at a 5/10 table.

At the CO, I raised with 10-10. The button was a donkfish who reraised a lot with big draws and marginal hands. He three-bet, the BB called, and I knew I had the best hand so I capped it.

The flop: J-J-10.

Firewroks ensue. I led out in betting after flopping a boat and got raised. The BB bailed out and we capped the flop. At that point, I gave the guy a little credit and put him on A-A, K-K, A-J, or even K-Q. If he had J-J or J-10, he would have slowplayed.

The turn: 2. Betting capped again.

The river: 2. I shouted, "Fuck me, you fucktart!"

I check-called the river because I knew he had A-J. He showed it and I lost a monster pot by boat over boat. I probably would have played my opponent's hand the same way he did, except I would not have three bet or called a 4th bet preflop with A-J, even with position. But post-flop, I got what I wanted... an aggressive opponent with a second best hand betting into me.

That hand set me on slight-tilt and I hid any sharp objects within arm's reach.

* * * * *

If you don't know, super blogger Tony Pierce from Busblog fame is the editor of LAist. He wrote me an email and told me about a rare poker post that appeared on LAist yesterday called Of All The Suits, Why Did Hip Hop Hold 'Em Choose The Spade? The organizers of Hip Hop Hold'em chose the one suit in the deck that is a known racial slur. Irony or did they simply forget?

Bill Rini mentioned this to me:
Michael Bolcerek, president of the PPA, set up a site as more than just the online poker industry is concerned about the anti-gaming law and this opens them up to a broader audience. They're encouraging people to write letters to their elected officials (2 Senators and 1 Rep) and they will deliver these to the new congress (doing anything with the lame ducks is pointless). What they haven't really publicized yet is that if you pick one of the options regarding poker they're offering free PPA membership. Obviously the PPA would prefer paid members but what they really need is to get membership up to around 500,000 to really be taken as seriously as they need to be.
By the way, Dan Michalski gets plenty of guff from me about favoring pink shirts and wearing women's sunglasses at the poker table. But at heart, he's a journalist and one of the best in poker. Stop by Pokerati to read up on his coverage of the recent poker busts in the Dallas area, specifically Instapoker (Dallas Swat Edition). No one knows more about poker in Texas than Michalski.

Lastly, go take a peek at Flipchip's Las Vegas photos.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: Why You Lose at Poker

Why You Lose At Poker (Conjelco; July 2006) was written by Russ Fox and Scott T. Harker. This is their second book together. The two joined forces and wrote Mastering No Limit Hold'em, which focuses on low and middle-limit NL cash games.

Here's some quick bio info on the authors... Harker is primarily an online player, while Russ Fox plays both online and frequents casinos in Southern California. These guys know how to play against and beat erratic online players and crazy Californians. I've played with Russ both live and online and he's got skills, so we're fortunate they are sharing some of their experiences with us.

The foreword was penned by Andy Bloch and he insists, "If you learn why you lose at poker, you'll learn how to win."

Greg "Fossilman" Raymer explained, "Of all the guys in poker you've never heard of, Russ and Scott are two of the smartest. They are long-time winning poker players, and have done a great job of putting that knowledge into this book to help you become a better player. I believe this book will help make anybody who is willing to work at his game into a winning player."

Fox and Harker's latest book came out this past summer and as their title suggests focuses on the 16 main reasons why you are a loser at the tables. In his review on Poker News, John Caldwell mentioned, "The advice is well thought out, but more importantly current and therefore relevant. Since the advice comes from the perspective of losing - rather than how to win, it forces the reader to think about the issues from a different perspective."

He's right. As the majority of poker books preach winning strategies, this book makes you examine your own game for weaknesses. And it wasn't written a decade ago before the recent poker boom and influx of internet players. It was penned early in 2006 and they use realistic hand examples and situations.

Here are the topics covered in Why You Lose At Poker:
The Money You Lose Playing Too Many Hands
The Money You Lose By Not Taking the Initiative
The Money You Lose By Not Recognizing You Are Beat
The Money You Lose Not Taking Other Players Into Consideration
The Money You Lose Making Incorrect Bets in Big-Bet Poker
The Money You Lose With Poor Bluffing Habits
The Money You Lose Making Mechanical Errors
The Money You Lose Playing Only Half the Pot
Losing Because You Don't Have an Adequate Bankroll
Losing Because You Shouldn't Be Playing
Losing Because You Are Not Properly Educated
Losing Because You Don't Understand the Math of Poker
Losing Because You're Playing in Tournaments
Losing Because of Bad Luck
Losing Because You Don't Use Game Selection
Losing Because You've Forgotten the Goal of Poker
Like any poker book, you will not find any earth shattering revelations into playing poker. This book is different, however. Instead of teaching you winning strategies, Why You Lose At Poker draws attentions to the most common mistakes that both pros and amateurs have to deal with on a regular basis. Most of those mistakes are so common that they often go overlooked.

The biggest drain during my recent losing streak was playing too many tournaments. That's why I stopped playing a ton of tournaments over a year ago because I'm not a profitable NL tourney player and I'm a proven Limit Hold'em cash game winner.

For the majority of my poker career, my game selection was poor and I had terrible bankroll management, using 50% of my roll to play at a limit I shouldn't be playing. That high-risk poker playing was dangerous and I'm fortunate I never went broke. These days, my bankroll is big enough that I could sustain a five or six month losing streak without completely freaking out (which I end up doing after three or four weeks anyway). I wish I had this book with me a couple of years ago.

The book also includes Twenty Hands at the Cardroom which focuses on ten Limit and ten NL hands with plenty of analysis and conclusions including different characters (with various poker playing styles and levels of skill) that the authors have played against at some point in their careers.

I read Why You Lose At Poker when I lived in Las Vegas during the 2006 WSOP and I re-read it again before I wrote this review. It is one of those poker books that you should read and reread every few months, regardless if you are winning or losing at the tables.

It seems that majority of poker books are consumed by new players when they first start and they read as many books as possible as part of their poker education. The second group of people who read poker books are intermediate players who are losers. Usually desperate poker players will turn to books during the middle of a horrendous losing streak trying to find a solution to their problems. And they usually don't find much thumbing through Super System or Harrington on Hold'em.

Although the authors never intended on their book to be a Band-Aid to stop bleeding bankrolls, Fox and Harker's highlights reasons why you might be playing like shit. In short, this is a perfect book for a losing poker player because the majority of leaks in your game are simplistic in nature and they help quickly identity those liabilities.

When you develop several of these small problems, the cumulative affect starts to drain your bankroll. You might be able to overcome piss poor bankroll management, playing too many hands, or horrible table selection. But when all three or more weakness frequently appear in your sessions, you're potentially risking your entire bankroll and livelihood as a poker player.

This is a book that should be in everyone's poker library. If you don't have a copy of Why You Lose At Poker, you can order one.... here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Message of Thanks

Since I have a free moment, I'd like to take this time to reflect on the past year and say a collective "Thanks" to everyone involved with the Tao of Poker. I wrote something last year that perfectly sums up how I am feeling today so I'm gonna recycle it:
Sometimes the hardest things to say are the most simple. Thank you everyone... for everything.

Just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone in the community... bloggers and readers alike. This has been a sensational year for me and a lot of my success has been inspired, spurred on, and fueled by you. Whether you are a client, friend, a reader, or a blogger... please note that this amazing run could never have been possible without your support.

I am eternally grateful to have crossed paths with so many of you. I have met some amazing people this year. I do not have the time to personally mention and thank everyone, but you guys and girls know who you are.

I am sincerely inspired by everyone who has been a part of my life prior to this year along with everyone new that I got to meet along the way. I've developed plenty of new friendships this year and strengthened old ones. When I look back at what's happened to me this past year, I do not look at the huge leap in my career, or the money, or the accolades. What makes 2005 2006 special has been the people in my life that I am fortunate to call my friends.

An excellent testament to a person's character is to examine the circle of people they consider their friends. I look around and I am blessed that I stand in the middle a gigantic circle of greatness. I'm where I'm at today because of my friends. I'm the luckiest person I know.
I'd also like to thank my brother Derek, Poker Prof and Flipchip at, Paradise Poker, and BoDog for their support over the past year and making it possible for me to do what I do. I also have to thank everyone at Poker Stars, especially Otis for hiring me at the 2006 WSOP.
Thanks to my Top 10 Referrals of 2006:
1. Las Vegas & Poker Blog (Poker Prof & Flipchip)
2. Wicked Chops Poker
3. Guinness and Poker
4. Aaron Gleeman
5. Tao of Pauly
6. Chris Fargis
7. AlCantHang
8. Up for Poker
9. Pokerati
10. Pot Committed
Thanks again. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday and if you are not American, have a great Thursday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

15 Minutes

In 1968, artist Andy Warhol said that, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."

He didn't mean that literally. He used that phrase to pinpoint the absurdity of fame and the media's relentless pursuit of it. Famous one minute. Banished into obscurity the next. Just ask anyone who participated in the Surreal Life. They can better explain to you the existentialist rollercoaster of fame more so that I can.

Every month, a new alumni magazine from my high school or college arrives in my mail box. It's peppered with pleas for donations and updates on how famous alums are doing. In the most recent issue, one alumni designed a video game and now he's a billionaire. In another issue, the editors highlighted a profile with an Oscar winning writer despite the fact he's openly gay and graduated from a stuffy and rigid all-boys Catholic high school.

I got an email from a friend who is the Alumni Liaison for my graduation year. It's his job to collect information on our classmates and forward it over to the editor for publication. He wanted to know if I had any updates or news to share.

This is the post-modern version of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame quote. In the future, everyone will get their one or two sentence mentioning in their alumni magazines. And that's it.

The scary thing is that I know people who live their lives just so they have a good sentence to tell. Female friends from college have been waiting years for the moment when they get to announce their recent nuptials. Some of them diligently worked on possible names for the children for endless hours hoping that their peers won't laugh at their name of choice upon reading it in the latest issue.

"Myles? With a Y?"

Probably the most embarrassing moment any one of my friends had involved a wedding announcement. A buddy got married in the fall and by the time he submitted his update, it was almost nine months after the fact. For some reason it didn't get published to almost a year after his original wedding date. Here's the fucked up part... one month before the alumni magazine was published... his wife filed for divorce.

Talk about getting kicked in the junk. Moral of that story... make sure your marriage last long enough to get recognition in your alumni magazine.

Back to that email my former classmate sent me. He basically wanted me to sum up my life in a sentence, no more than two. Like I said some guys live their lives and are motivated just so they can have a sentence in the alumni magazine that says... Joe Mullen was recently named partner in the Roscoe, Green, and Moore law firm. Or Suzy Greenberg has been named Associate Editor of In Style Magazine.

These mentionings are as much for bragging rights as they are ego boosts. In some way, those sentences can neatly sum up the skewed perception of your life. Of course, your complex life cannot be summed up in one sentence or twenty sentences.

For most of us, that's what we want our peers to see us as... a successful venture capitalist, a bubbly soccer mom of two, or a recent Ph.D. candidate. That's a way for people to justify their existence. They might struggle internally on the meaning of their specific life, but when you see yourself doing better than your peers... it's hard not to feel good about yourself and you cling to that notion of existence.

I am... somebody.

Alumni updates are a form of propaganda set forth by your former schools. It's necessary for them to brag about their most successful alumni because they want to be associated with success and accomplishment. Just ask Derek who got a fraternity alumni magazine last year with Fossilman on the front cover. He quickly noted, "Hey, Greg Raymer and I were in the same fraternity!"

Alumni updates are also a sick and twisted way of your alumni department using deeply rooted psychological tactics to get you to donate more money. When you see and read announcements about your peers becoming more successful than you, the alumni big wigs hope that jealousy will make you work harder in order to show them up. More success equals bigger paychecks. Bigger paychecks equals more alumni donations to your schools.

So the next time you get an alumni magazine and you get pissed off that a dumb ass moron that couldn't even jerk off properly who is all of a sudden a real estate mogul in Macau with a modelesque wife and a private jet, remind yourself that none of this matters.

Like David Mamet said in his play Edmond, "No one is keeping score. No one cares."

Actually he's wrong on that. There is someone keeping score and there is someone that cares... and it's you. And unless you let those notions go, you are going to be living your life in a way that's not your own. You'd be living a life that is motivated by getting a blurb in your alumni magazine. In short, that's pathetic.

You cannot read other people's minds, so stop worrying about what other people may or might not think about you. Most of the time we're way off base and if someone thinks you're a loser or asshole... then so what?

I have interviewed several big-time poker pros and always asked them about their motivation to play. Most of them quickly say... "I play for the money." Fairly simple reasoning. They want to be rich. A few of them lied to me because they want the fame but are too embarassed to tell someone in the media. For them, the money is not as important as being recognized. While some of them are addicted to gambling while others are genuinely in it for the challenge.

So what is your motivation to play poker?

Are you playing for that one sentence blurb in your alumni magazine?

Are you blowing through your bankroll playing MTTs and satellites to WSOP, WPT, and EPT event for the sole purpose to get on TV and show up your friends and family?

Are you trying to get back at an ex-girlfriend, former spouse, or one of your parents? And think that poker is your shortcut to happiness, revenge, and self-fulfillment?

It's OK if you don't know why you play. Your reasons to play and your inner motivation shifts every day. That's why you need consistently question yourself why you play. But never sit down to play unless you have a clear objective.

I have an old friend that I'll call Stephanie. She's a total hipster and scenester. She's never done anything original in her life and she's part of that first wave of invaders whenever a new trend is set. She's a nice girl but is totally misguided. She lacks originality and is programmed by trends life a zombie consumer pissing away her money on the trend du jour.

In college, she was totally into Seattle grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Then as soon as their hype boiled down she got really hard-core into Dave Matthews Band just when he got really famous and mainstream. Now 10-14 years later I can guarantee that none of those bands are on her iPod today.

Stephanie has lived in happening places like San Francisco and Williamsburg but if you told her that Rolling Stone announced that Toledo or Des Moines were the coolest cities in America, she would have moved there.

When Old Navy commercials said she should be wearing vests, she bought one. Now, The Gap is telling her to buy a hoodie. She just bought two. After 9.11, no one was a bigger flag waver than Stephanie. Now, she openly attacks George Bush because everyone else is doing it.

Stephanie traveled to places that used to be cool two years before she showed up. Remember when Prague was the place to be in Europe? She organized a big trip just after college. At some point she got into Swing Dancing in the late 1990s and even tried to drag me to one of her events. Since then, Stephanie has been involved with e-dating, yoga, speed dating, Friendster, pilates, Kabbalah, picking up strangers off of Craigslist, knitting, Feng Shui, MySpace, Sodoku, blogging, and now poker.

Yes, she asked me for lessons during the WSOP and I blew her off because I'd be wasting my time. In a few months she'd be into something else like Keno, Scientology, or Hula Hooping.

Stephanie represents the traditional American scenester. She adds virtually nothing to the scene and is takes more away than she gives back. If anything, Stephanie and the millions of people like her are a cancerous affliction set upon this earth to gobble up everything that is cool and by their mere presence... make it virtually uncool.

Is her appearance on the poker scene a sign of the apocalypse? I don't want to say she's a jinx... but a few months after she wanted to get into poker... the UIGEA happened. Coincidence?

Stephanie is the grim reaper of pop culture. The good news is that if she is a jinx, then we're experiencing the last three or four minutes of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame.

The reason I wrote this post was not to trash an acquaintance but to give you a clear example about how innocent and semi-intelligent people succumb to the persuasive powers of the mass media. It's hard to go against the flow. That's why highschool is usually the worst four years of anyone's life.

What motivates me to play poker?

Some days the empiricist in me takes over as I approach poker like a new subject and I'm the student. When I sat down at the Triple Draw tables this past week, that's what went through my mind... the learning process and gaining education through experience. I paid attention to the little things and the freshness of the game reinvigorated the simple love for poker and attaining knowledge.

Some sessions I'm motivated specifically by the urge to make money. The more money I can make through playing poker means that I do not have to implement traditional ways of earning income (that dreaded 9 to 5 gig), the majority of which would hinder the artistic process and suppress my individuality and creativity. That's why I grind it out at the 5/10 and 10/20 Limit tables because I know I can beat that level over the long haul. The more money I can earn at the tables means that I can continue to cherish my freedom and live my life the way I want to... for one more day.

Some days I play poker as a form of escapism and for social enjoyment. I love playing poker for fun with friends in blogger tournaments and messing around at the micro tables. When I play in someone's homegame, I'm there to drink, smoke, tell dirty jokes, blow off steam and have fun. The harsh brutality and uncertainty of every day life often evaporates when we all share in a good laugh.

And some days, I'm simply a stone cold junkie. I crave the rush. I need the excitement. I fire up those PLO tables because there are no airplanes for me to jump out of, or there are no race cars to drive, and because I don't do heroin. I need the rush somehow that reminder why I'm alive and once in a while poker fills that void.

If you can walk away from this post understanding the following two statements, then I effectively got my point across:
1. Know why you play poker before you play it.
2. Don't live your life to impress your peers.
Life is too short to worry about what other people are thinking. Most of the people in my life are confused, completely lost, unhappy, and self-consumed.

In the end, that girl who I fooled around with for two weeks sophomore year really doesn't care about if I lost a $400 prop bet with Otis or did shots at the Playboy Mansion with AlCantHang.

In case you were wondering, what did I send my Alumni Liaison?


If my former classmates really want to see how I'm doing, they can always Google my ass.
Iggy Works

Iggy swore me to secrecy about his plans and I'm proud that I kept this quiet for so long, despite hundreds of readers, bloggers, and friends trying to get me to spill the beans. I can keep a secret, but since the word is out that Iggy switched outlets... I can finally talk about it.

Iggy never died. His original blog went on a hiatius. In the meantime, Iggy will be posting on his new blog over at Poker Works.

Good luck, Iggy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Big Game Bubble Boy

I bubbled out of the money in 5th place in Miami Don's Sunday night Blogger Big Game on Full Tilt. And yes, I'd rather be the urinal at McSorley's on S. Patty's day than be the Bubble Boy in any tounament.

If you ddn't know, a scene from the movie Rounders was shot at McSorley's on 7th Street in the East Village.

Anyway, I had the gracious opportunity to be seated at the same table as the always entertaining Sir Waffle, who was talking... more so than usual. Playing with Waffles was the highlight of my day. I think he must have snorted an entire gram of crystal meth then drank an entire gallon of Expresso before he sat down to play.

I dropped the Hammer 33 minutes into the tournament and still did not get any action for some of my big pairs. On the verge of elimination, I moved all in with a short stack against Miami Don. His A-Q lost a race to my 9-9. I even flopped a set to rub it in.

That's the second big hand Miami Don and I had battled over involving A-Q the last few days. And it would not be the last.

I was 7/9 in chips when the final table began and got hands when I needed them to hang on for a while. I was seated next to my brother, who dropped even the Hammer at the final table. Derek made a big laydown after he raised about 3x the BB and I moved all-in over the top. I had K-K. I'm glad he didn't call me with an A-x hand because I had a bad feeling that an Ace was gonna hit the flop.

I got into trouble with A-Q again. I raised in MP with A-Q and Miami Don pushed all-in. At worst I put him on A-K and at best a big pair. I mucked and lost about 1/3 of my stack.

Derek and Iggy busted on consecutive hands and all of a sudden we were short-handed and I was short-stacked. I moved all-in with A-3 in the LB and lost to Budohorseman's K-10 when he rivered a bigger four flush. Out in 5th. Since they made a save for 4th place, I was the Bubble Boy.

Max had all the chips from the start of the final table and Miami Don made a nice comeback. With three players left, Don was third in chips with 10K trailing Budo and Max who had about 20K each.

Don and Max were about even when they began heads up play and ended up chopping. On the final hand, Don flopped middle pair with Q-7 but Max rivered an Ace to come from behind and win it all.

Congrats to Max and Miami Don. And Thanks to Miami Don for hosting.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

208 Slick Mittens

After a few unsuccessful attempts at satelliting my way in to the FTOPS $216 PLO event, I decided to buy in directly. I'm not a tournament person anymore, so it's strange that I've been playing so much this past week. I guess I needed a change of pace and couldn't pass up the chance to play in a PLO event on Full Tilt.

With 517 entrants, only the top 81 places plaid prize money with $20K going to first place. The field included pros such as Stuart "Donator" Patterson, E-Fro, Andy Bloch, Rafe Furst, Steve Z, and Lee Watkinson. I outlasted all of them when I finished in 208/517.

I won the first pot I played ten minutes in, which is essential to any tournament you play in. The last thing you want to be doing is chasing a loss early on in a tourney.

In the first hour, the always herb-friendly Shaniac jumped out to an early lead as Steve Z and Andy Bloch exited early. I lost a pot with A-A-K-4. The flop had a King with two Jacks and there was a bet and raise in front of me. I missed the flop so I quickly mucked.

Later that orbit, I flopped a set with K-K-10-9 and it held up but that would be the only hand I'd win for a while. I had a bitter stretch of dead cards as I attracted amazing Omaha 8 hands like four Wheel cards and could do nothing aside from hit the fold button.

By the break, my stack was an unhealthy T2135 and 295/352 overall. The DonkeyPuncher was struggling too and busted out in 270th right after the break.

I folded quads after mucking 3-4-5-6 and the flop came down 4-4-4 and eventually got blinded down to one of the severe short stacks. I found Ax-Ax-Kd-4d on the button and won a good sized pot after a flopped a set. I moved up as high as 180/230, but I could not get any higher. There was no heroic comeback. There were no drastic bad beats to talk about or dastardly villians to blame. I busted out when I moved all in on the turn with two flush draws and an overpair. I got there on the river, but my opponent had a bigger flush.

Wrong flush. Eliminated in 208th place.

At the cash game tables, I suffered a losing session at the 5/10 tables during and after the PLO tournament. My demise began shortly after I lost two juicy pots after flopping sets with 9-9 and A-A. Rivered both times by my opponents. Of course.

I write about bad beats from time to time because they happen. A lot. Grubby told me that he rarely writes about bad beats despite the fact he's gotten more than anyone I know. His reasoning is that he writes about things he wants to read about. Reading about bad beats is something that is unappealing to him. And me for that matter.

But sometimes, you have to write about it to let it out, otherwise it eats you up inside and you let it build up so much that you snap one day and freak out and don't realize that you're standing in the middle of the subway with an old Croatian lady in a headlock and screaming at the top of your lungs, "How can you call off all your stack with just a fucking gutshot you slick mittened wench!"

On the sports betting front, I took a wicked testicle-numbing bad beat from the referee in the Michigan/Ohio St. game. Late in the 4th quarter, there was a questionable pass interference call. BG described it a horrible play and I agreed. That misfortune allowed Michigan to keep their drive going and an ensuing TD killed the spread for me. Ohio St. won by 3 when I was giving 6.5. Kansas State lost too as I sunk to 0-2 for the day betting on college football.

I'm stuck 1K for the day and it's not even even dinner time.

* * * * *

By the way, the only positive aspect about Saturday's fugly session was winning a $75 token on my first try. I had not played a peep since they started running those. Anyway, now I don't have to buy in directly to Miami Don's Big Game.

Bigger buy in. Bigger prize pool. Bigger stacks. Bigger donkeys. The Big Game...

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Games on Poker Stars, Derek Wins Blogger Quiz, and I Win CC's Thursday's Bash

A few weeks ago, PokerStars added Razz to their Stud tables. Earlier this week, PokerStars introduced Five Card Draw and 2-7 Triple Draw Tables to their mix of cash games. I like the philosophy that PokerStars is laying out for their clients... NL Hold'em is king and can make you rich and famous, but here are some other cool games you can play too.

The addition of Five Card Draw and 2-7 Triple Draw is good news for folks who like playing those games. Not only do they get to play their favorite games that are hard to find on online card rooms, but their competition consists the majority of the player who have no idea how to play. That means if you have marginal skill in any of those games... you'll be shooting fish in a barrel... and padding your bankroll.

If you don't know how to play Triple Draw...
1. Take a peak at this article called The Other Games of Poker: Triple Draw Lowball (

2. I recommend buying Super System 2. They devote 36 pages to the Triple Draw chapter written by Daniel Negreanu.

3. And you should go read the archives of Chris "Triple Draw" Fargis' blog. He's one of the best TD players in this solar system.
TD is an action game. That's why I'm hooked on it like Homer Simpson on donuts, like Judy Garland on Dry Martinis, or like Bill Clinton on chubby interns. I crave action. Playing Triple Draw makes me feel like I'm alive. The heart starts racing. The pots start building. I dig in deeper and focus harder. The world slows down and if a butterfly flaps its wings in Cambodia and I can hear it. Plus there's the added excitement of drawing non-community cards.

Sure, luck plays a factor in a card game, but TD is one of those games like PLO where if your good hands hold off and fend off any suckout artists... which means you'll be scooping a big pot. And the pots in TD are massive.

I've played a few TD sessions on PokerStars and I've turned a slim profit. For now, TD is a guilty pleasure while I gain more experience and play as many hands as I can to accelerate the learning curve.

PLO is still the game of all games for me. I play those tables for pleasure and the thrill of poker. I grind it out at the 5/10 Limit tables which is completely boring but it's profitable, especially over the long term.

* * * * *

By the way, I forgot to reveal the winner of the Pauly & AlCanthang Quiz... it's Derek.

He's been to almost every single main blogger function since the inception and that gave him a slight edge. Plus the fact that one of the first thing Daddy ever mentioned to Derek was his ERA during his sophomore year in college.

Congrats again to Derek. He gets a free buy-in to a blogger event of his choice. Thanks to everyone who particpated.

* * * * *

I played in several blogger tournaments this week. I've cut tournaments out of my daily poker diet so even though there's one tourney every night, I have not been interested in playing.

Besides, I've either been too busy writing or traveling to find the time to play, especially after jumping around different time zones. I've had more than one instance when I thought, "Hey, I should play in the Mookie..." and then I fire it up to discover that it already started.

My brother sucked out on me in a WPBT event at PokerStars on Sunday. It was Stud 8 or better, which meant suckouts galore. I started out with three suited connectors and on fourth street I had an open-ended straight flush. He picked up a gutshot straight flush draw by fifth street. My 9 high flush lost to his Jack high flush that he rivered me with. Derek finished in 9th place and bubbled off the final table.

On Tuesday, I played in the WWdN tournament on PokerStars for the first time since Picard knows how long. With a shortstack, I moved all in with The Hammer. I had Maudie pondering the notion of folding, but she called with two seconds left on her shot clock and stomped out my Hammer bluff with 8-8. I quickly hit the rail searching for a kitten to toss into the microwave.

I signed up for the WWdN second chance tourney and spaced out. I thought the tourney was at 11:30pm. It started at 10:30pm. I got a text message at 11:27pm from Change100 that read, "Congrats. You outlasted me by sitting out. I hate you." I logged on and played one hand before the break. I was the short stack after getting blinded down. I went out two hands later and yes I outlasted about ten people by posting and folding.

I played in the Mookie at Full Tilt on Wednesday and finished in 17th place. I lost most my stack when my A-Q ran into DNasty's A-A in the big blind. Why do I always run into Aces in the blinds? Ryan eventually finished me off.

My Bad Beat of the Day Week was issued to Miami Don when I cracked his A-K to my A-Q. I flopped the Queen. Ouch. Sorry, Don. That was no more than twenty minutes after he gave me a juicy tip with West Virginia.

"The spread is 11," I said. "You sure?"

"WV will win by twice as much," he confidently typed into the chat.

"I like your confidence. It's like walking into a bar and pointing at a girl and saying that you're not just going to pick her up... you're gonna fuck her twice."

And Miami Don is the Beano Cook of the blogger world. West Virginia beat Pitt 45-27. They covered and I won $300. I'm gonna roll the money over into Miami Don's next pick of the week... Kansas State at Kansas -2.

I played a couple of PLO Satellites for Saturday's $200 PLO Event on Full Tilt. I finished in 12th and 3rd in the last two sats I played. Looks like I'll buy in directly to the $200 event on Saturday afternoon.

On Thursday night in the middle of watching The OC, I signed up to play in CC's Thursday Bash on Poker Stars. There was a glitch and the tournament format was Limit Hold'em instead of NL. I was irked at first before I realized that (when I'm not traveling) I average a thousand hands of Limit Hold'em a week. I was finally playing in a tournament where I was the favorite. Maudie, who is also a Limit player, had been running over our table with a big stack. I kept catching a series of sick cards... plenty of Big Aces or when I played junk hands, I'd inadvertently flop two pair.

When I was heads up with Darval, I held a 4-1 chip lead. He played some great heads-up poker. He didn't give up and fought back despite my hyper aggressiveness. At one point I lost momentum and lost three hands in a row as I coughed up the chip lead after Darval flopped a straight with Q-9.

The slide continued and I was on the ropes as I trailed 4-1 on the verge of elimination. Then I did something out of character... I folded my small blind. I had been raising it every time and for some reason I decided to muck my 4-2o. I stood up and stretched to collect my thoughts. I had about 3BB left and my fold saved me the tournament. Darval showed Q-Q in the BB and I most likely would have been toast.

I won a couple of hands to pull within even as Darval went card dead. On the final hand, I had Q-10 and flopped a straight on a board of K-J-9. Darval had 10-8 and pushed. I happily called and the turn and river were running aces to seal the victory.

I had not won a tournament in a while. And I've never won a LIMIT hold'em tournament before. Perhaps I found a new niche? Limit MTTs? The victory felt good after a week where I finished 2nd and 3rd in two PLO satellites.

Thanks to CC for hosting and thanks to Poker Works for adding $100 to the prize pool. I'm currently tied for first in his Thursday night series!

* * * * *

If you'd like to play Razz, Five Card Draw, or 2-7 Triple Draw... you can download Poker Stars here.

If you'd like to play in an Aussie Millions satellite or play in the remaining FTOPS events... you can download Full Tilt here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tao of Flickr: Amsterdam to Vegas

I spent most of this week working on photo galleries for two of my blogs. I decided to partner up with Flickr and opened accounts for both the Tao of Pauly and the Tao of Poker. My filing system will be pretty easy... all poker photos will be stored in the Tao of Poker photo gallery and the rest will go over to the Tao of Pauly gallery.

In non-poker news, I finally finished up with some Amsterdam stories which included pictures and videos (I eat a McBacon in one and the other video is random clips including the Heineken Brewery).

Here are the related Amsterdam and Tao of Pauly links:
Amsterdam 2006 photos (Flickr)
Vegoose 2006 photos (Flickr)
Tao of Pauly's Flickr page (Flickr)
McBacon (You Tube Video)
Amsterdam (You Tube Video)
12 (Tao of Pauly)
Grey Haze (Tao of Pauly)
My Videos (You Tube)

And now I shall unleash the Tao of Poker's new photo galleries into the world...
Tao of Poker's Flickr Page
2006 WSOP Black & White Photos
2006 WSOP Main Event
2006 WSOP Vol. I
WPT Championships (May 2006)
WPT Invitational (Feb. 2006)
LA Poker Classic (Feb. 2006)
Borgata Winter Open (Jan. 2006)

These are ongoing projects and should be considered works in progress. If I have time this weekend, I'll complete the Tao of Poker photo gallery and include various WPBT events, WPT, EPT, and the 2005 WSOP. Stop back from time to time to glimpse at some of the best photos that I snapped while covering various poker tournaments.

By the way, click here to view one of my favorite pictures from the 2006 WSOP. Good stuff, Wil.

Oh, and I got one comment. In case you were wondering, the first ever comment on my Tao of Pauly Flickr page was... Liz Lieu!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Iggy was a good blogger, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors... and blogging, and as an alcoholic he explored the bars of America, from Cincinnati to Las Vegas and up to Hill jack.

He died, like so many young men of his generation, he died before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright flowering young men in Vietnam at Khe Sanh, at Langdok, at Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. And so would Iggy. Iggy, who loved blogging.

And so, Ignatius J. Reilly in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the internet, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.

* * * * *

Services were performed by Rev. AlCantHang in a post called Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"No points for second place." - Slider, Top Gun
Good Lord. I opened up a post with a quote from Top Gun. I have slipped into the deepest depths of depravity. All that is missing is a desperate rag soaked in ether and a random Coldplay song playing continuously on my iPod for seventeen straight hours.

That's what finishing in second place after blowing the chiplead at the final table will do to a man. I have a tinge of Sylvia Plath's internal misery running rampant in my stomach like butterflies jacked up on trucker's speed. All I wanted to do was kill some time and now I wanna drown a sack of puppies.

Curiosity killed the cat. And when Curious George glimpsed at the dark side, he ended up addicted to pain killers and turning tricks in West Hollywood for $40 a tug.

I had an hour to kill and decided to play a Satellite on Full Tilt to the $200 PLO FTOPS event while two tabling 5/10 Limit tables. Therein lay my downfall.

I had not played a PLO tournament since I busted out of the $1500 PLO event at the World Series of Poker this summer at the Rio. During the last days of the Party Poker disco, I cleaned up at the $1K PLO tables. Although I hadn't played in several weeks, I had plenty of confidence in my PLO game.

My strategy was simple... play tight and jam pots when I have the nuts and big redraws. I mucked several hands the first hour before I found Ad-As-5s-5c in LP. I raised the pot and got three callers. I flopped top set on a board of Ac-9d-8d and knew someone was going broke. There was a bet, a call, then I raised the pot. First guy pushed all in. The second guy did the same. I pushed too and although I correctly put them on a nut flush draw (Kd-Kx-7d-Jx) and two pair (8-9-K-2), I probably should have folded my top set with no redraws. Mucking big hands is never easy to do.

The turn was the 3d which filled in the flush. I had outs for a boat and I pumped my fists ala Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series when the 9h spiked on the river. My boat was bigger and I took down the monster pot and busted two players. That hand propelled me into second place and I'd stay at the front of the pack for the remainder of the tournament.

I busted two more players when I flopped top set with K-K-9-9 double suited. I was up against two pair and a nut flush draw. Deju vu all over again. Yogi Berra would have been proud. Luckily neither draw hit and I took over the chiplead.

I slipped to second in chips by the time we redrew for seats at the final table. I regained the lead for a moment with seven players to go before I donked off most of my chips and doubled up the short stack. Twice.

I should have known better. Like the infamous words uttered by Chef in Apocalypse Now... "Never get out of the boat," I knew better.

"Never double up a short stack at the final table of a tournament."

And I did it twice. On consecutive hands.

Fuckin' rookie. I acted like an overzealous newbie and quickly found myself one of the shortstacks and having to play shorthanded. Earlier in the year, I went on a binge of PLO SNGs on Poker Stars in order to improve my PLO short-handed MTT game. I'm glad all that training paid off. Aggression in late position and post-flop allowed me to accumulate chips quicker than Tara Reid picks up STDs. I stole my way back into contention and waited until I could catch a big hand or hit a monster flop.

With three players left, the game slowed down. Substantially. We played three handed for almost an hour as the lead got passed back and forth every few minutes. I was in last place until I caught a fortunate card with a river flush to level the stacks. A mere 2K separated the remaining players. I snatched chiplead after I flopped The Wheel and my opponent missed his flush redraw.

Those chips fled from my stack faster than the French troops surrendering after unsuccessfully holding the Maginot Line against the Nazi invasion in 1940. I was shortstacked. Again.

I had A-A double suited on the button and raised, like I had always been doing in LP. I got action from the blinds and flopped a flush draw. I got their on the river and cracked a flopped set. I lost the chip lead two hands later when my opponents became entangled in raising war when they both turned a boat.

When heads up play began, I trailed 3 to 1. And one hand later I was out in second place. I flopped two pair and picked up a flush redraw on the turn, only to lose to a set.

Prize for second place?

Nothing. Emptiness. Which aptly describes my hallow soul after that nut crushing defeat. Ah, let's be honest. I never should have been at the final table. I made mistakes but all those lucky river cards made up for the poor decisions and that's how I made it that far. My mere existence is a sham.

Full Tilt is running a ton of satellites for their FTOPS which started the other day. This is their version of PokerStars WCOOP. The FTOPS $500 buy-in Main Event is a $1 million guarantee. Not too shabby.
FTOPS Schedule
Tue Nov 14 9:00pm NL 6 max $216 buy-in ($250K guarantee)
Wed Nov 15 9:00pm HORSE $216 buy-in ($150K guarantee)
Thu Nov 16 9:00pm PL Hold'em $216 buy-in ($200K guarantee)
Fri Nov 17 9:00pm Razz $216 buy-in ($75K guarantee)
Sat Nov 18 4:30pm PLO Hi $216 buy-in ($100K guarantee)
Sun Nov 19 6:00pm NL $535 buy-in ($1M guarantee)
I almost won a seat to the PLO event but missed by one spot when I came in second place. A few moments ago, I decided to buy-in directly to Saturday's $216 PLO event. I funded my buy-in by fleecing the influx of Party fish donating their bankrolls at the 5/10 Limit tables. I thought about playing more satellites this week, but satellites are the crack cocaine of the online poker world. Like Keith Harring's 1986 epic mural in Harlem said...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Absolute Tao Update

Just in case you haven't been around the last few days, here's a recap:

Thursday 10:30am EST... While on a bender in Amsterdam, the Tao of Poker goes mysteriously missing from the blogosphere. Emails start trickling in, "Where's the Tao?" Rumors start swirling that I sold the site or quit blogging.

Friday 6:30am... Tao of Poker redirects to an Absolute affiliate site. Old rumors stop. New rumor hits the intertubes... The Tao has been hacked. Readers and bloggers revolt. I leave Holland and return to America with spacecakes and Che Guevera t-shirt to quell the revolution.

Friday 11:00am... Wicked Chops Poker posts What Happened to the Tao of Poker?

Friday 3:30pm... Wicked Chops Poker posts Tao of Poker Now

Friday 4:05pm... Plane touches down at Newark Airport. I turn on my cell for the first time in over a week. I have 18 new text messages and 20 new voicemails. 90% of them are from frantic and concerned friends about the Tao going down.

Friday 7:00pm... After contacting Blogger, they quickly restore my site to the old settings. Readers breathe a collective sigh of relief as they can continue to be entertained by the Tao of Poker from their dens and cubicles.

Saturday 12:20am... From an undisclosed location in the Nevada desert, the Poker Prof starts tracking the hacker. No response from Absolute Poker.

Sunday 4:20pm... Absolute Poker still has yet to respond to what has become known as "the email." The Jets upset the Pats in Foxboro and The Rooster goes apeshit. Tom Brady cites his poor performance over his lack of sleep and increased anxiety and concern over the Tao of Poker going down.

Sunday 11:53pm... I get a phone call from a Wyoming cellphone claiming to be VP Dick Cheney. He repeatedly says in muffled tones, "What's the frequency Kenneth?"

Monday 12:08am... Grubby responds with a text message stating, "Save the cheerleader."

Monday 7:15am... After being ignored for over two days from Absolute, I posted "the email" on my blog and incited a revolution among poker bloggers and readers. Friends start emptying their Absolute accounts and sending nasty emails to the affiliate manager.

Monday 11:15am... After a four hour barrage of nasty emails, Pete from Absolute was the first person to finally email me. He said:
"I can assure you if this has happened by an affiliate of Absolute Poker, it will be dealt with immediately. Absolute Poker does not condone nor will we do business with anyone who conducts business in this manner."
Monday 12:31pm... I had the first of several conversations with Pete. He apologized for the two day delay in having someone contact me and expressed his concern about the poor customer service his company put out. He assured me that Absolute will cooperate in the investigation. I told him they should have started it on Friday and he agreed.

Monday 12:45pm... I ask my troops to cease fire and hold off on sending nasty emails to Absolute. The suits finally contacted me after this morning's blitz of all of you withdrawing funds from their site and the slew of emails. Thanks to everyone for their help. I'm confident that your loyal support is what finally got Absolute on the ball.

Monday 3:00pm... After an investigation (that should have taken place on Friday), Absolute tracked down the culprit and the matter is being handled internally. I have no more beef with Absolute and as soon as Pete took control, the matter was handled professionally.

Monday 3:50pm.. Again, I'd like to thank everyone for their help and support including Blogger, Absolute Poker, the Poker Prof, and everyone else. I removed the previous post regarding the Absolute Poker boycott after they stepped up and started taking the matter more seriously. I didn't make any headway until the bloggers and readers rallied together and joined forces to bring dire attention to this matter, which demonstrated the power that our little niche group can have. If this happens again in the future, the online sites will be quicker to respond. Hopefully, the outcry of support will be enough of a deterrent from future attacks on any of our sites and blogs. Thanks again to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to step up and help out. Oh, and make sure you change your passwords after you use a public or any other computer.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Truckin - November 2006, Vol. 6, Issue 11

We're back with a new issue of Truckin'!
1. Grey Haze by Paul McGuire
I freaked out when I thought I lost a baggie of hash I carried in my jacket pocket. I didn't care about the bag or the monetary cost of the lost drugs. I was worried that I'd unknowingly take it home with me and get busted at a security checkpoint or in customs while sweating my ass off like Billy Hayes in the airport raid scene from Midnight Express who had several kilos of hash duct taped to his ball sac... More

2. Dodd by Mella
It seemed strange to me to have a party for him, seeing as he was dead. But Mom wanted to. I watched from beneath the banister on the stairs as she hummed between the kitchen and living room, carrying plastic-skinned platters of pickles and deviled eggs, wiping her hands on her apple-red apron as she assessed the arrangement of food... More

3. My Own Private Paris by Craig Cunningham
A business traveler's life sounds pretty glamorous, and I'm sure it could be if one was adventurous or a linguist or outgoing. I'm none of those things, so my travels normally are airports, hotels, room service, and remote controls. Many of my international trips are hops, meaning I'm in a different city or even country each night... More

4. Roots - Part III by Doog
If there was one vice that defined Leo G, it was gambling. During his adult life, he made and lost a lot of money. That is to say, he made it by means of various (mostly) successful business ventures - some legal, most not-so-legal - and he lost it in the finest casinos the grand state of Nevada has to offer... More

5. Archetypes by Katitude
"You're not from around here, are you." At least this one had the sense to phrase it as a statement. With her long black hair, riot grrrl makeup and tattoos, it was pretty fucking apparent that she was not from this town stuck in the backwaters of middle America... More

6. Draft One by May B. Yesno
Drunks are a pain in the ass for the most part. But a dead drunk human is a short way to a hernia if you must carry one any distance by yourself, and the closest I could park was thirty yards or so. The task was eventually accomplished, with me dropping her once on the rough grasses... More

7. Malcolm in the Middle Smokes Crack by Paul McGuire
I sat next to a weird looking chick with dark curly hair and thick Lisa Loeb glasses. She drank five cups of coffee and read a book about Heidegger. She didn't turn on her free TV but occasionally glanced at my screen to see what was on. I freaked her out because after the first hour of Sportscenter, I watched four straight hours of the Vietnam War on the History Channel... More

The November issue features seven stories from two new authors, Katitude and May B. Yesno. Several returning authors including Doog, Craig Cunningham, and Mella also shared some of their best work to date. And I wrote two pieces this month about my recent visits to Los Angeles and Amsterdam.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks to everyone who took a leap of faith with me this month and submitted their bloodwork. I'm extremely lucky to share the same space with talented fellow bloggers. I am grateful that you wasted your time with Truckin'. Until next time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Umm, I'm Not Dead... Yet
"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." - Mark Twain
Alas, the Tao of Poker is still here (for the moment). I can't even have one good old fashioned bender overseas without the blogging world freaking out about the Tao of Poker's 24 hour vanishing act. Here are the rumors that I heard in the last few hours...
1. Pauly sold the Tao of Poker for $100,000 to Tony G.
2. Pauly was detained at Newark Airport by Homeland Security and they erased his blog.
3. Pauly is shilling for Absolute Poker.
4. Tao of Poker was hacked by a 15 year old Swedish kid and Pauly flew to Stockholm with Derek and The Rooster to "take care of business."
5. Pauly got sick of writing about poker and finally pulled the plug.
Of course, none of the above statements are true (with the exception of the first part of #5). Just rumors set forth by bored bloggers. I'm flattered that all my friends, fellow bloggers, and readers were concerned about the twenty-four hour disappearance of the Tao of Poker from cyberspace.

Even the horndogs at Wicked Chops Poker devoted two posts to this latest drama. Two posts in one day and I don't even have a nice rack like Haley Keezel! That's why "I love Wicked Chops Poker."

And for the record, I'm not shilling for Absolute. They're currently on my shitlist after ignorning my emails and protecting the person(s) responsible for the outage. However, I'm still shilling BoDog, Full Tilt, and Poker Stars. Feel free to download any of their software.

Editor's Mote:Thanks to the folks at Blogger for helping me out to restore my blog to the original settings. After emailing them 24 hours ago, Absolute Poker has not contacted me yet and has not answered any of my emails. Also, they have not issued a formal apology or explanation. Also, tthey are still allowing their affiliate who hijacked my site to conduct business.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Umma Gumma

The heads up Chinese Poker match against Change100 continued with six tough sessions since my last post. I'm currently up 21 points after enduring a rollercoaster ride the last 48 hours. My lead climbed to 25 before she mounted a comeback and knocked it down to 15. Then it got ugly and I sent her on megatilt. It go so bad that during a fit of ire she slammed her fist on the tables and freaked out the Fanta drinking and Umma Gumma toking bohemians sitting nearby. She was so pissed off that she didn't talk to me for an hour and we halted play for over 24 hours before her tilt subsided and we were ready to return to action.

We've been playing in coffee shops around Amsterdam during random times like 1pm at the Bull Dog in Leidseplein or in the back Pink Floyd's at 8:20pm or upstairs in La Canna at 5:15pm. We'd squeeze in an hour of playing after dinner or before we went to a museum.

Some of the hands were juiced like Change100's six pair for an auto scoop. I scooped the last hand that session to break a tie. Later that afternoon, we sat through an hour of horrendous migraine inducing Eurotrash techno pop at La Canna that would make Dieter's (from Sprockets) nipples stand erect as three wasted girls from Spain wearing tight jeans with big white belts at the table next to us couldn't stop screaming. I couldn't tell if it was the Himalayan hash or the music that whipped them into a trance-like frenzy. The voguish club tunes didn't faze Change100, who rallied late to tie after she scooped with a Hammer boat and 7-7-7-2-2, 8-8-6-6-4, K-K-10.

I managed to pull a straight flush out of my ass in one session and then cracked Change100's quads with my quads. I didn't win the hand, but I prevented her from scooping with 9-9-9-9-2, A-2-3-4-5, K-K-8 against my Q-Q-Q-Q-6, J-J-T-T-8, 7-7-2. That hand sent her tilting down Tiltdown Street for a few minutes. I ended up having a horrible session even though I pulled another straight flush out of my ass when she had another 6 pair.

In our last match, Change100 started out by scooping two out of the first three hands and took a 8-1 lead. I fought back and lost 16-12 and still hold a 21 overall margin.

I played a few hit and run sessions of online poker at the 5/10 tables on Full Tilt. I'm still trying to clear my reload bonus. I flopped sets on consecutive hands, but only won tiny pots. I've been playing poker and switching back and forth the TV between a Dutch reality show (sort of The Real World meets Masterpiece Theatre) and CNN (keeping an eye on the elections... seems like the Democrats are back in power for the first time since 1994 when Slick Willy was busy getting hummers from interns in the Oval Office and I was wandering around the South following the Grateful Dead).

I've also posted several random photos of Amsterdam over at the Tao of Pauly if you like those sorts of things.