Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tao of Pauly: 2006 the Year in Review Video

Instead of posting a year end review of the Tao of Pauly, I decided to sift through all of the videos I shot during 2006 and spliced together a Best of 2006. I did not think it was possible but I managed to squeeze a full year's worth of traveling into a ten minute You Tube video. Excerpts are from Atlantic City, LA, Las Vegas, Colorado, Amsterdam, Tennessee, and Cincinnati. The only thing missing is the Playboy Mansion because I didn't bring my camera there.

Here you go: Tao of Pauly 2006 Travels (Click on the link if you are reading this through Bloglines or an RSS feed.)


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flipchip's 2006 Year in Photos

Flipchip is one of my favorite photographers. Check out some of his best photos from this past year:
2006 Poker Player Photos
Ladies of Poker Photos
Las Vegas City Photos
And don't forget about the Tao of Poker's photo gallery via Flickr.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tao of Poker: 2006 Year in Review Part II

The 2006 retrospective continues as I review the last seven months of 2006 including the WSOP.

* * * * *


June started out in NYC before my travels took me to Tennessee and eventually out to Las Vegas for the WSOP but not without stops in Colorado and LA. After cleaning up my storage space in New York City, where I threw out tons of junk and old stuff, I ended up taking several trips down memory lane as I sorted through nostalgic items that I kept. That inspired the Born to Gamble series as I capped off a ten week creative binge where I cranked out some of my best poker writing to date.

The Born to Gamble series continued with:
Born to Gamble Part III: Midnight Rider
Born to Gamble Part IV: Ramblin' Man
Born to Gamble Part V: Whipping Post
Born to Gamble Part VI: Revival
Just like in 2005, I spent the month before the WSOP writing a ton of freelance articles. Here are a few that were published online during June:
2006 WSOP Preview: The $10 Million Man (or Woman) (Las Vegas & Poker Blog)
Poker Stars: 5 Million and Counting (Poker Player Newspaper)
Online Poker: Avoiding Distractions (Poker Player Newspaper)
Pauly's Picks: Las Vegas Poker (Las Vegas & Poker Blog)
Poker Blogs: The Best of the Best (Bluff Magazine)
Here's a recap within a recap! I posted a recap of the 2005 WSOP.

I went down to Nashville to hang out with Spaceman and lovely Mrs. Spaceman for a few days with Change100 before we went to the Bonnaroo music festival with my buddy The Joker and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. We even played poker at Bonnaroo! Here's the index of Bonnaroo coverage including two hilarious You Tube videos:
Bonnaroo Part I: Thursday Arrival (Tao of Pauly)
Bonnaroo Part II: Fanfuckingtastic Friday (Tao of Pauly)
Bonnaroo Part III: Superlicious Saturday (Tao of Pauly)
Bonnaroo Part IV: Sunday Finale (Tao of Pauly)
Bonnaroo video Part I
Bonnaroo video Part II
I moved back into my apartment in Henderson with Grubby which was 10,000% better than the Redneck Riviera and only five minutes away from Green Valley Ranch. I also added another video to my You Tube collection called Grubby's Secret Drawer where I revealed Grubby's morbid and secret addiction.

I finally arrived at the Rio Casino to cover the 2006 WSOP and found several new rules in place by the suits at Harrah's that limited my access on the floor. Spectators and railbirds had a better opportunity to cover the final table. As a media rep with a dreaded "red badge" I could not take photos from the stands or take notes. But if you were a tourist or railbird, you could do both. Fucked up, eh?

With limited floor access, I had to set up camp in the media room instead of sitting twenty feet from the final table in 2005. No more sitting in the trenches in media row. That was for the "green" badge people wich included inept CardPlayer interns some of which had no idea who Johnny Chan was or what a "dry side pot" was.

The media room was located several ballrooms away from the tournament area and Harrah's made about ninety people share a room designed for twenty. They finally gave us a second room after the media swelled to several hundred during the Main Event. But for six weeks, they jammed us into that tiny room.

Live blogging was prohibited which meant no more lighting quick updates on the Tao of Poker. Of course those four words (live blogging was prohibited) seemed to be absent from the vocabulary of a small percentage of readers who acted like spoiled jackoffs demanding live updates and chip counts when that was impossible and would put my badge in jeopardy. With several outlets paying me to write articles and recaps for them, I was not going to put my career on the line just to appease a few unsatisfied readers who have never paid me a cent for my writing.

The WSOP whored that aspect out to CardPlayer and PokerWire and my role changed. I had no choice. Looking back I can now laugh at the absurd demands of several readers. At the time, I was super pissed off because my options were limited and given the circumstances, I was doing the best that I could and at the same time sticking to my gameplan (spending less time at earlier events to conserve my energy and focusing on the $50K HORSE and Main Event instead).

I wrote for almost a dozen different outlets by the time the WSOP ended. With a deadline every four or five hours, the folks who paid my wages did not care if I had not slept in two days, or about the other outlets I wrote for, or whether or not I had the chance to update the Tao of Poker. It's a ruthless business and most of the other media reps had one or two outlets to write for at most. A few had more but I juggled several fireballs at once. That's why I got paid the big bucks... because I could handle that intense pressure for two straight months. But the one place I was writing for free was at the Tao of Poker. I was fortunate that 99.72% of the readers understood my situation.

I admit that the live coverage on the Tao of Poker was nowhere near as good as the 2005 WSOP. But if you look at the collective writings of every outlet (PokerStars, FoxSports, MSN, Las Vegas and Poker Blog, Poker Pro, Poker Pro Europe, Poker Player Newspaper, Expressen, and Poker Magazine to name a few) that I wrote for at the 2006 WSOP, my coverage was more comprehensive. Overall, the opinion that matters the most is mine and I felt that I did a better job with the 2006 WSOP, esepcially under the crappy circumstances.

Plus I was a lot more smarter about some of the information and dirt that I accumulated at the 2006 WSOP. Instead of pissing that away for free on the Tao of Poker, I stashed away those gems for the Las Vegas book.

I adapted a new strategy with a journalistic/beat reporter approach to the WSOP more than a live blogging monkey chained to my laptop. I experienced more of the overall WSOP and spent more time talking to players and other media reps than watching every single hand of the final tables of preliminary events. Unlike at the 2005, at the end of the day I felt that I was doing more real writing and my clients were very pleased.

Here are a few posts about the first week at the 2006 WSOP:
First Day at the WSOP: Buffets and Hookers 1, WSOP 0
Event #2 $1,500 NL
Bad Beat Princess
* * * * *


July featured action at the WSOP and the summer gathering of the bloggers with F Train winning the prestigious blogger's tournament. I played in one WSOP event, and my first ever PLO event. Plenty of weird stuff went down at the WSOP such as Hellmuth winning his 10th bracelet, Chip Reese beating Andy Bloch heads-up for the $50K HORSE crown, the dealers mutiny, the birth of Liz Lieu Tuesdays, the fiasco, and other hijinks with bloggers including the infamous Keno crayon incident.

Here's the index of noteworthy posts including WSOP coverage:
Rafe First, Dutch "Bi-Polar" Boyd, and Hellmuth's 50
WSOP Fashionistas
Bouncin' Round the Room and Bathwater Surprise
WSOP Event #9 $5K NL Final Table: Hellmuth, Mercier, Luske, and Vinnie Vinh
F Train Rules and Hookers & Mashed Potatoes: Bloggers in Vegas Update
WSOP Ladies Event
Bloggers at the WSOP and Liz Lieu Tuesdays
WSOP $50K HORSE Day 1 Update, Mexican Wedding Crashers, and How I Won Grubby's Car
WSOP Rumors: Rebel Dealers and Andy Black's Hammer
WSOP $50K Horse Final Table: The Real Heavyweight Championship
World Series of Bad Beats, Grubby's Last Supper, and Liz Lieu Tuesdays
Hot or Not? A WSOP Conversation with Foiled Coup and 5251
Cyndy Day?
Lee Watkinson's Chimps Gone Wild and Ode to Paul McKinney
WSOP Photo Dump 7.22
I Lost $400 Because Otis Ate 2 Keno Crayons
WSOP Sports Jersey Photo Gallery
Ninja Midgets, BoDog, and Tao
Hellmuth: Poker's First 50/10 Player
WSOP Media Tournament and Poker Lifestyle & Expo Pics
Almost There: On the Cusp of the WSOP Championship
2006 WSOP Main Event Day 1A
2006 WSOP Main Event Day 1B
2006 WSOP Main Event Day 1C
2006 WSOP Main Event Day 1D

The dealers

Here are some freelance articles that I wrote during the WSOP:
First Impressions: 2006 WSOP (Fox Sports)
Chip Reese Wins $50K HORSE (Fox Sports)
Serious Business (Fox Sports)
Calm Before the Storm (PokerStars)
Here are the some photo galleries:
2006 WSOP Black & White Photos
2006 WSOP Photos
2006 WSOP Main Event Photos
Thanks to the following bloggers who bought Pieces of Pauly for the WSOP $1,500 PLO event:
Pieces of Pauly PLO Backers:
1. Grubby & Change100
2. Senor
3. Derek
4. Ryan
5. John Caldwell
6. Brandon Schaefer
7. Seatle John
8. CBGCs: Kat & Jules
9. Iakaris
10. Alan
11. Miami Don & SinCity Carmen
12. AlCantHang
13. Iggy
14. Joe Speaker
15. Big Pirate
* * * * *


I started the month smack in the middle of the WSOP Main Event and drinking way too many pints of Stella on dinner breaks at the Tilted Kilt. I had been hired by Otis and PokerStars Blog to cover their players for the Main Event. One of the perks was getting a free room for two weeks at Treasure Island. It was closer than Grubby's apartment in Henderson which meant that I got an extra 45 minutes of sleep every night.

Otis assembled a Dream Team of bloggers that included CJ, CC, Wil, Mad, Howard, Ali, Max Shapiro, and myself. With Ali sweating fellow Australian Joe Hachem and other Aussie and Kiwi players, Mad kept an eye on the Europeans, while Howard sweated the Brits and Irish players. CJ and CC followed on the rest of North American players on Stars, while Wil and I got the sweet assignments... covering members of Team PokerStars. I got to keep tabs on Tom McEvoy, Barry Greenstein, Humberto Brenes, Katja Thater, Isabelle Mercier, and Greg Raymer. If you watch the ESPN broadcasts of the Main Event, you'll see me in the background on the rail as both Brenes and Raymer bust out.

The play was super slow in the $50K HORSE event but the play was ultra fast in the Main Event, so much fast that the action ended early on a few nights and didn't need close to 1.5 days that was allotted for the tournament. The thousands of internet push monkeys helped accelerate the action as several friends went deep including an old friend from New York City Stormy and fellow bloggers Ryan and Tuscaloosa Johnny.

With only Allen Cunningham as the lone pro who made the final table, the missing chips rumors and speculation began to swirl. I was fortunate to get a few emails from an insider who used to be a former floor supervisor. He/She explained the dealer's mutiny and a possible theory of the missing chips.

What $12 million looks like

Here are the highlights from August including WSOP Main Event coverage:
WSOP Main Event Day 2A
WSOP Main Event Day 2B
WSOP Main Event Day 3
WSOP Main Event Day 4
WSOP Main Event Day 5
WSOP Main Event Day 6
WSOP Main Event Day 7
WSOP Main Event Final Table
Jamie Gold Wins 2006 WSOP Championship
WSOP Championship Time Line (Fox Sports)
Inside the WSOP: Disgruntled Supervisor Speaks Out
Tilting Locals, Four Random Hands, and Return of the Poker Grub
The Menagerie of Tweakers and LLT
Tao of Three.
Here are some pics:
Random B&W photo dump
Flipchip's 2006 WSOP Photos
Tao of Poker's Main Event Gallery

Former Star Trek Actor feeds meth addiction by stealing water

When the WSOP ended and Jamie Gold won $12 $6 million, I headed back to Henderson and got to play some poker at Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock. Grubby took a job designing slot machines in Chicago and came back to Las Vegas to pack up the rest of his things. It was a sad moment as we both said goodbye to the apartment in Henderson.

I finally left Las Vegas and went to Boulder, CO to decompress after a tough two month assignment. I earned and saved enough money during the WSOP to take the rest of the year off from covering poker tournaments and went back into semi-retirement. Aside from a few columns, I did not take on any freelance work as I returned to NYC to write before I hit the road again to do some more traveling.

And and yeah, the Tao of Poker thurned three years old in August!

* * * * *


I took a break away from all things poker when I moved back to NYC to rewrite Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. I headed down to AC then over to AlCantHangland, PA for the annual Bash at the Boathouse where blogger hijinks ensued. Here are the recaps of that four day bender which included my birthday in NYC and some guy calling StB a sore loser at the Borgata:
Treading Water: Bash at the Boathouse Part I
Moments of Clarity: Bash at the Boathouse Part II

Other noteworthy posts from a dead month include 21 Flavors: A 2006 WSOP Photo Dump and Dear Hillary where I told my faux-Senator to vote against Frist's UIEGA.

* * * * *


October 2006 for some. Black October for others. Poker players got "Frist-fucked" when Bill Frist railroaded the UIEGA at the end of the Port Security Bill. Party Poker pulled the plug and all of their revenue went right down the crapper. Party Gaming stock was worth less than toilet paper. But PokerStars and Full Tilt hung in there... for now.

Frist fucked me over when I lost several clients due to his hard-on with online poker and I also had to take a 25% pay cut for one of the magazines I write for. Freelance writers don't make a lot of money. Freelance poker writers make even less. And after Frist, the entire poker industry (non-online poker sites) took a major shot to the gut. His attempt to appease the Religious Right made it tougher for me to earn a living. For that, Bill Frist wins the Tao of Poker's Assclown of the Year Award.

Bush II signed the bill and we're a few months away from the banking industry figuring out how to enforce it. The UIEGA got a lot of people sleepwalking through life fired up about something important as our personal freedoms are eroding every single day. Today it's online poker. Tomorrow it's full access to the internet. Geez, I'm starting to sound like the Human Head!

I started the month in NYC working on my book and eventually migrated to the Left Coast. I spent time in LA and Las Vegas for the Vegoose music festival. I played a lot of online poker and enjoyed the last few days at the profitable tables on Party Poker. I cleaned up as the last of the fish donked off the last of their Party Poker dollars. That run was mentioned in Business Week article called Online Gambling Goes Underground.

In a very serious month, I took a not-so-serious approach to life and that attitude showed in the writing on the Tao of Poker. Here are some of my favorite posts from Black October:
Bad Beating a Danish Prince
Crisis = Opportunity
Prison Tips for Online Poker Players
Exile on Main Street
R.I.P. Party Poker
Gracie Wins the Spice Girls Essay Contest!
A Rain Gently Falls
Nietzsche Died of Syphilis
AlCantHang & Pauly's Blogger Quiz
Drunk Grandma at Green Valley Ranch
And yes, my brother Derek won the Blogger Quiz and Gracie won the Spice Girls Essay contest in a close race. Too bad that the UIEGA went down because one of my favorite poker posts of all time Bad Beating a Danish Prince got overlooked from all of the UIEGA fall out. If anything else stands out from the month, it has to be Exile on Main Street.

* * * * *


I spent the first half of the month traveling... Vegas to NYC and then to Amsterdam. I played a ton of heads-up Chinese Poker against Change100 in Amsterdam as she went on MECPT (Mega Euro Chinese Poker Tilt). I came home early after the Tao got hacked but thanks to, everything was restored.

I spent the rest of the month in NYC writing. 15 minutes was one of the best pieces I had written in months and Sophism was my favorite posts of the year to crank out. Poker wise, I was grinding it out online at the Limit tables as I tried to break even for the year. And Iggy quit blogging. Sort of.

Here are some interesting posts from the month:
Tilt and Flow
Ummm... I'm Not Dead Yet
15 Minutes
Book Review: Why You Lose At Poker
On Turkey Day, I gave a message of thanks especially to my top referrals of the year.
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
* * * * *


December was a fun but wild month where I spent time in Hollyweird, Las Vegas, and New York City. I headed out to Vegas for the 3rd annual December blogger gathering, which was one of the best to date. Congrats to -EV for his victory in the Holiday Classic tournament.

I decided to write up my Vegas trip reports in a different way and weaved in the Seven Deadly Sins after I went off the deep end and went on MPGT (Mega Pai Gow Tilt). I donked off $2K quickly. Here they are:
Part I: Lust & Gluttony
Part II: Wrath
Part III: Greed & Sloth
Part IV: Envy
Part V: Pride
Here are the other posts from the blogger weekend in Las Vegas:
Snailtrax, Male Prostitute
-EV Prevails
I also reviewed of Jay Greenspan's book and revised my infamous Vegas Tips:
Book Review: Hunting Fish
Bloggers Invading Las Vegas 4.0
And kids, always remember Rule #20! Don't get rolled by a hooker. On that note, I'm done with the review. Thanks for reading. See you in 2007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tao of Poker: 2006 Year in Review Part I

These posts are always my most favorite and least favorite posts rolled into one. I always start out writing a lot and then I'm pressed for time, so I hurry up and rush through it. However, Looking back on the year allows me to reflect upon my poker life in the last 350 plus days something that is essential for me to do before I begin a new fiscal poker year and I hammer out my goals for the upcoming year.

As I opened up the archives from 2006, there are dreaded moments that I'm glad are over and there were some highlights that I wish I can replicate sometime in the future. I'm not one to dwell much in the past so I immerse myself deep into reflection one the rare moments when I do. I've come to understand that your current frame of mind, head space, and levels of sanity often tweaks the perception of your past. I'm in a good mood now so I'll end up overlooking the bad points and downplaying the highlights.

One year ago I was in horrible shape mentally. My grandmother had just passed away, I was mentally bankrupt, my bankroll was bleeding, I was burned out as a tournament reporter, and utterly disappointed with the poker scene. In short, I dreaded the upcoming year, particularly the 2006 WSOP. Sure everyone might have enjoyed my coverage of the 2005 WSOP, but the toll it took on my body and spirit was immense. That's why the last thing I wanted to focus on in 2006 was poker.

And as expected, I got so sick of poker that I quit and even pulled my blog as I walked away from the game, the industry, and the community. After a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, serious soul searching, and conversations with several people I trust the most... I made the decision to come back but knew I had to have a greater appreciation for poker and to take more breaks if I was to come back and flourish. The result ended up being a much more enjoyable experience at the WPT Championships and an amazing 2006 WSOP. I rediscovered a passion for the game and accepted my role within the poker industry and community.

The biggest change for me was the dedication to have a more rounded life and not let poker take over all facets of my existence. For the first time since I started in the industry I turned down work and several well paying assignments. I'd rather just get by and have more free time on my hands than to be miserable working so much. I found a happy middle ground where I was able to devote more time to friends, travel, music, and personal writing. I had more time to dedicate to Truckin' and the Tao of Pauly. I traveled more in 2006 than in previous years and I caught more new bands and saw more concerts than the year before.

I regained control of my life again. Having poker dictate my life made me an unhappy person and cutting back ended up being the best solution to my problem. I had a greater appreciation of the time I spent with poker and at the same time, I did more things that pertained to my personality in order to keep a healthy balance between work and play. And I found a semblance of happiness that had been absent from my life for a very long time. I lived more in the moment, fully enjoying my time in poker and out of poker, knowing that I'm miserable when both are not in a harmonious balance with one another. I also needed both to survive.

With a positive attitude, the words flowed smoother and I was able to absorb the shock of the UIEGA a little bit better than others. Sure, I lost a few clients and had to take a pay cut, but I'm getting assignments for 2007 and it looks like I'm pretty much booked through the 2007 WSOP which will allow me to take off five months at the end of 2007 to travel and work on a new project. I prefer that formula.

Overall, 2006 was a positive year for me. Although I didn't reach the level of writing I wanted to achieve, I did make some improvement across the board. Professionally, I've been fortunate to maintain regular columns in two publications and contribute as a writer to Fox Sports. In 2006, I got hired by the Borgata and PokerStars which were nice names to add to my poker resume. And in the last month or so, I worked out a deal with Poker News to help cover the Aussie Millions in January for them which will include writing, live blogging, and even some radio commentary.

There are a few moments that stand out such as working for the Borgata Winter Open, attending the Playboy Mansion with my friends, covering the 2006 WSOP, and the gathering a few weeks ago. Of course, there are some bad moments too like a horrible losing streak, getting fucked over by Poker Pages for the LAPC, quitting poker, the non-exclusive access at the WSOP, losing a few clients due to the UIGEA, and getting the Tao hacked. And then there were non-poker highlights such as March Madness wih Senor, two music festivals (with Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot), spending lots of time in LA, a trip to Amsterdam, and getting to rewrite my first novel.

As far as poker playing, I started out the year in the worst losing streak of my life. Eventually the bleeding stopped and I built the roll back up thanks to the awful players that used to be swimming around on Party Poker. When Party Poker stopped doing business in America, I lost my ability to print money to cover my loses at the other poker sites and at the sports book. The winning ways stopped and I was back to being a break even player. However, I'm ending the year on a strong note hitting and running at the 5/10 tables on FT and PokerStars. If I didn't have a feeding frenzy of tournaments in late November, I'd be up for the year and wouldn't be worrying about breaking even during the last few days of 2006.

On a personal level, I've been able to make a few new friends in the last twelve months thanks to poker. I've also solidified older friendships and there are people that I met through poker who are making valuable contributions to other aspects of my life socially and romantically. Several have made the jump from "poker friends" to simply state... my friends. I'm fortunate for those people in my support group and I'm well aware that I wouldn't be where I'm at today without the majority of them in my life.

I enjoy playing poker again. Usually I can't wait to get my writing or traveling done for the day, so I can sit down and fire up PokerStars for an hour or so. I started reading some blogs again and I'm back to covering tournaments... if only sporadically. Taking longer breaks from poker and minimizing my days in Las Vegas (and when I'm there spending more time away from the Strip like at Red Rock National Park or in the burbs of Henderson) ended up being the best way to maintain a higher standard of mental health.

Just when I thought the Tao of Poker was near its death, I'm feeling more positive about it than ever before. Sure all of that can change in a heartbeat and if the run is over tomorrow, I'll shed a quick tear but be ready to say, "That's was one helluva run."

That's part of the reason the last blogger gathering in Vegas was one of the best to date and the reunion became a very special moment for several of my friends. We partied hard and barely slept because it theoretically could be the last ever gathering. With the understanding that all good things come to an end, we soaked up the weekend like it was the first and at the same time celebrating our success, our run, and our friendships.

Yeah it sounds cheesy, but I'm happy to be here and I can't wait to get to Australia to cover the Aussie Millions. Like everything poker in my life I get to take you along for the ride.

For now... it's time to look back at 2006 on the Tao of Poker as I review the first five months.

* * * * *


I had this crazy idea that I would only take me two weeks to write a manuscript about my experiences living in Las Vegas and covering the 2005 WSOP. I had one publisher interested they decided to pull out at the last moment when their other poker titles were not selling. After realizing the draft that I wrote was third-rate horseshit and with no publisher interested, I abandoned the project. I keep wavering back and forth whether or not I wasted those two weeks or if there was any intrinsic value to my failed attempted at a Vegas book. In the end, I have to feel positive that I wrote 18-20 hours a day, every day for two weeks straight.

I took a break from the Tao of Poker while I wrote the Vegas book and asked my friends Daddy, BG, BigMike, Joe Speaker, Bobby Bracelet, Change100, Gracie, and even Otis to step up and write a series of guest posts. They all shined with their posts and Daddy pitched a gem after I handed him the ball for Game 1. Here they are:
A Bad Beat Story by Daddy
Fundamental Need To Be Correct by BG
A Day in the Life by BigMike
Low Buy-In Online Tournament Manifesto Version 1.0 by Joe Speaker
The More Things Change... by Bobby Bracelet
Two Inches of Banana by Change100
Ladies Night by Gracie
Action Island by Otis
After the two week hiatus to start the year, I headed down to Atlantic City where I lived at the Borgata for two weeks covering the Borgata Winter Open.

I did the assignment with Friedman and the Philly boys Frank and Mike and it was by far one of my favorite freelance gigs to date. The Borgata treated me like a true king as I had free reign of the entire casino for two weeks including the employees cafeteria which had ice cream and frozen yogurt. I befriended locals (like Action Bob), poker dealers, floor people, and a few suits before my stint was over. I'm also a huge fan of their beds because I overslept a few times (which had not happened in years) because the beds were so comfortable than an insomniac like me had a pleasant slumber night after night.

Of course, I also got to meet the newly crowned Miss America and boxing champ Antonio Tarver, who was kind enough to shoot the shit with me for ten minutes about the similarities between boxing and poker.

Take a peek at the Borgata Winter Open photo gallery.

One of my biggest regrets is my schedule not being able to fit in with the Borgata for their other events. Let's hope that I can do some work with them in the future. Check out my first day of coverage at the Borgata Winter Open and my coverage of the WPT main event.

* * * * *


I started the month still in Atlantic City covering the final table of the WPT Borgata Winter Open. The Grinder eventually won and his final table featured Erick Lindgren, Stuart Patterson, and John D'Agostino. Here are some pics that I took:

Erick Lindgren & The Grinder

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi
2006 WPT Borgata Winner Open Champion

I managed to play some poker at the Borgata before I left, I summed up in a post called Turn This Mother Out. Here's a bit:
"Call me Nicky," he insisted, "I want you to know the name of the guy who is going to take all your money!"

He began taunting me early on. He had the hipster kid from Brooklyn on tilt and must have run through at least 4 or 5 buy-ins according to the Russian chick sitting next to me. She reminded me of a young Meryl Streep. Her accent was thick and she smelled like flowers and blueberries. She sipped on a sea breeze or some sort of vodka-cranberry concoction. She was shortstacked and if I spoke better Russian, I would have figured out that she was the table captain...More

BG had some health problems and I started up the Save BG Fund where friends, readers, and bloggers pitched in to help BG with some medical bills. He has since recovered and is more snarky than ever!

I was caught in a terrible losing streak and wrote an essay about Gilligan's Island and poker called Island Theory of Ending Losing Streaks. Here's a bit:
Whenever I'm in a tough bind, I turn to television to solve my problems. This time I'll use Gilligan's Island to help pull me out of my losing streak.

Seven strangers stranded on a deserted island. Hilarity ensues. As much as they try to get off the island, they can't. The secluded island resembles the my current state of poker play. I'm trapped and can't get away from my losing mentality. I realize that at some point, my poker play has taken on the personalities of everyone from the cast of Gilligan's Island... More
My losing streak ended as I began a brand new winning streak which I wrote about in Market Corrections, Bozos, and Bolos. Here's a bit:
The Bozos had seats facing backwards on their tourbus so they could look back, while the Bolos sat looking forward. That represented two styles of thought. Are you one to look back constantly? Or do you stay in the moment while looking toward the future? I cannot answer those questions for you. That's something you have to figure out how it applies to your poker play.... More

I flew out to LA but the trip was bittersweet and full of drama. There was a mix up with Poker Pages after I was hired to cover the LAPC event in December of 2005. After getting blown off for a week, I was told that my services were not needed less than two weeks before the start of the event. They didn't even have the decency to tell me. I had to track them down. Without a place to stay in LA and already in the hole after renting a car for a week and buying a plane ticket, I was pretty much fucked. The owner didn't apologize, nor bothered to offer to pay for the car or plane or help find me a place to stay. I learned another valuable lesson about dealing with folks in the poker industry... mainly that I can't trust them, especially Poker Pages.

Friends helped out. Change100 let me stay at her apartment and Amy Calistri (then editor of Poker Pages) compensated me for the plane ticket out of her pocket. The gesture was amazing (because Amy is a wonderful person) but I was even more disappointed that Poker Pages lacked professionalism. Once again.

That incident sparked a revolt within Poker Pages which has not been the same since. I'm fortunate that my friends felt that how I was treated by their company was more important than their own jobs. Amy quit as editor over the incident. Soon after, Tim Lavalli and BJ Nemeth left.

I enjoyed myself at the LAPC and it was nice to see Shirley Rosario who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall, I lost money on the trip when I could not drum up enough freelance work (on such short notice) to cover all of my expenses. That salty experience was just another reason why I wanted to quit poker, especially because considering how many hours I had to work, poker tournament reporters made a lower hourly wage than the people at Starbucks. And customers at Starbucks don't bug their workers for constant chip counts for Phil Ivey.

Only a few weeks after the cushy Borgata gig, I was smacked back down to reality. Even the best reporters and writers in poker still get treated like shit and fucked over and the LAPC was a perfect example of that.

Without a sponsor, I headed to the LA Poker Classic solo and for the first time, I covered the event for only the Tao of Poker. Sure, I wasn't getting paid but it felt good to be out there on my own where I called all the shots. The first five days of action went quick as actor James Woods made a run for the money. Most of the biggest names in poker were in town. They didn't care about the tournament per se, rather they preferred the high stakes action downstairs in the poker room.

I live blogged the final table of the WPT LA Poker Classic that was won by Alan Goehring. The final table featured Mike Woo, JC Tran, Per Ummer, Steve Simmons, and Dan Quach.

I tried to win a seat to the WPT Invitational by a satellite. There was a media event where the winner would win a seat. I made the final table but ended up in 3rd place after Barbara Enright sent me to the rail in a vicious bad beat. That was the third or fourth of the day from her.

I covered the WPT Invitational at Commerce Casino featuring Wil Wheaton and a slew of poker playing celebs. Wheaton introduced me to George Costanza who instantly made my list of Top 5 Celebrities That I've Met.

Wheaton went on a great run and ended up the last celebrity standing as he won the celeb last longer which meant that the WPT donated money to his charity City of Hope.

I snapped some of my favorite pics of the year during the WPT. Here are a couple:

Wil Wheaton, Jason Alexander, and Danny Masterson

James Woods

Please check out the LAPC photo gallery and the WPT Invitational photo gallery.

Then there was In Cold Blood: Another Night at Murderer's Row which was supposed to be a recap of HDouble's infamous LA homegame that ended up being one of the last to be played. Here's a bit:
The infamous homegame at Murderer's Row in West L.A. is a place that no matter how well you played, you're still not guaranteed to leave without getting your junked kicked so far up into your esophagus, that you're gonna need emergency colon surgery just to pluck out your swollen testicles from your digestive track.

The Murderer's Row game is filled with some of the best minds in poker including an eclectic collection of the astute programmers and members of the poker blogging elite. Whether it's cash games, tournaments, online poker, or playing in the super loose local cardrooms... you'll easily find a successful player in one of the regular seats at Murderer's Row. With a mine field cluttered with tight players and loose maniacs, you're constantly playing the guessing game and must switch gears on every hand in order to survive... More
* * * * *


I started the month in Hollyweird and got a ticket... for jaywalking. Change100 got one too and went on MLACT (Mega L.A. Cop Tilt) when he wrote out our tickets. Here's a bit:
We jaywalked to the other side and as soon as we reached the sidewalk, a motorcycle cop drove up and told us to stop.

"Can I see some identification," he said as he took off his mirrored sunglasses at 8:10pm. "And sir, your zipper is down."... More
I stayed in LA for a little longer than originally intended which I explained in Ground Hog's Day. Here's an excerpt:
I'm still lurking in the shadows of the Los Angeles. I've become a cliche that I've been dreading... the drug-addled writer from New York City who can't leave the City of Angels caught up in a bumbling pack of strung out studio execs, c-list celebrities, and former German golden showers porn stars. I feel like Bill Murray's character in Ground Hog's Day. I wake up everyday in the same place and I desperately try to get out. I can't seem to muster up enough energy to leave this town. A jaywalking ticket and a dead cat isn't enough to pull me away from the sunshine and loose poker players... More
Yeah, I forgot about the dead cat.

I also penned one of my noteworthy posts of 2006 called Buwkowski and Poker, inspired by a legendary L.A. poet and one of my favorite writers Charles Bukowski. I dedicated the post to TC, a friend of Daddy's from Indiana who had been ill. Here's a bit:
We're all criminals. Doesn't matter if it's poker or Super Mario Brothers, we're all a part of a society built on the evil deeds of thieves, murderers, cheaters, and liars. Some of us get caught and the rest of us have to live with the guilt knowing that we are ruthless souls wandering throughout life. That's why we play poker. To either escape from the seriousness our daily lives for a few hours or to escape into orgasmic dream of winning it all and becoming the next World Series of Poker Champion. I'll see you at the tables... More
I posted an interview with WPT Borgata Open Champion Al Ardebili, who was happy to help me out with it.

Buckeye's Aces

I also played in the last game at the Blue Parrot after Ferrari sold it and moved to a new place downtown. Here's an excerpt:
The Blue Parrot will always be mentioned as an integral part of New York City poker lore. For the last two years, I've been fortunate to call the Blue Parrot "my home game." It's been the location of some of the wildest games I've ever played in. The seats at the Blue Parrot featured some of the best Ivy League legal minds in the city along with a rotating cast of characters that often reminded me of a bad Saturday Night Live skit on LSD.

The players came from all walks of life. Teachers. Sports writers. Corporate litigators. Mortgate brokers. Slam poets. Fashion photographers. Scientists. Law clerks. Even a comedian, a screenwriter, and a few Columbia students. Swish was a Blue Parrot legend who was willing to see any two cards to the river. He was a famous sportswriter at prestigious NYC newspaper and has since moved down to Washington DC. Swish and I were involved in a lot of tough hands during late night sessions at the Blue Parrot. Things also got weirder after Midnight in some of the games that went until sunrise. When Rick Blaine and his wife moved out to San Francisco, he was certainly missed. However, in the same week that Rick left the Blue Parrot, it was the same time as F Train arrived from LA... More
I went to Las Vegas to gamble on the March Madness tournament with Senor. We stayed at the Mirage and lost a ton of money. Grubby, Joe Speaker, Change100, Senor, and myself walked into a strip club in Las Vegas... that sounds like a punchline to a joke but it really happened which I document in the post Strippers and Blow:
By the end of the night I must have paid for her flight from NYC to Las Vegas. The lapdances were average, but she was feisty and kept grabbing my nipples. I know that too much information to reveal, even on a blog, but I admit... I like have my nipples squeezed by hot strippers in Las Vegas at 1am. And she just didn't squeeze them, she molested them. I loved every second of it.

She gave Change 100 three lapdances. At one point, she was grabbing her breasts and pinching her nipples. They were all over each other. I admit, I got a chubby. Nothing beats girl on girl action. I love to watch.

"I can tell, you're a naughty one," Nicki said.

"Don't you know it," admitted Change100.

After it was over, I asked Change100, "Were you making out with the stripper?"

She said no, but the look in her eyes said, "Yes." ... More
And then it happened. I was invited to the Playboy Mansion with a group of bloggers that included Spaceman, Joe Speaker, BG, Bobby Bracelet, CJ, Chad, and AlCantHang. Thanks again to Joy for making it happen! Mrs. Spaceman sent me an e-mail telling be to have fun, but to be safe.

I never finished the trip reports because it was one of those things that can't be verbalized... it just had to be experienced. I did write Bloggers and Bunnies Part I: The Arrival and Part II: Where's AlCantHang? Here's a bit:
I turned to AlCantHang and said, "Let's go do some shots."

As the late arriving players rushed past us, he didn't say anything and walked to the stone bar. Just as Babe Ruth called out a home run in the 1932 World Series, AlCantHang made a similar motion towards the bartenders. He raised two fingers and by the time we arrived at the bar, two double shots of SoCo had been poured for us.

Yes, even at the Playboy Mansion, the bartenders know what AlCantHang drinks... More
* * * * *


April was a tough month. I was sick. I quit my blog. Then after some soul searching, I returned to the Tao. I also went back to covering tournaments. The majority of the posts on the Tao of Poker in April and May of 2006 represent some of my best writing to date. The passion was there. The fire was back in my belly.

The reasons for my departure were obvious as I stated in The Last Waltz.

Here are some of the infamous April posts which include covering the WPT Championships at the Bellagio:
April Sojourn
Dazed and Confused: WPT Day 3
Hump Day Friday
WPT Day 5, Young Black Ass-Worship Slaves, and Dead Sharks
Day 6: Does Cinderella Wear Dolce?
2006 WPT Championship: The Final Table
Glass Eyes, Red Rocks, and Omaha Suckouts

I took a bunch of pics at the WPT Championship. Check out my 2006 WPT Championships gallery on Flickr.

Oh and in April, I finally made the same final table as my brother! And I also posted an job offer for a female intern during the WSOP. I could not pay anything but I did manage to offer, "Free lapdances during bi-weekly field trips to strip clubs."

* * * * *

5:30am... Sunday... Covington, KY... Daddy hit on 3 different Waffle House waitresses while he devoured a triple order of hashbrowns topped with chili and a pecan waffle on the side... the 20 year old pear-shaped waitress with three kids had a tattoo on her wrist that read "Total Bitch" in faded aqua ink...
May was an amazing month. After what seemed like several months in Hollyweird and Las Vegas, I went back to NYC and spent time with my brother. I also wrote a ton before I was scheduled to hit the road again in June and move back to Las Vegas to cover the WSOP. In May, I went out to Cincinnati to visit Iggy and some very special guests. I sat in a high stakes game down on Wall Street and I started writing something that turned into the Born to Gamble series which will be included in the next incarnation of the Las Vegas book.

Here are some gems from May:
The Warrior Within: Bruce Lee, Taoism, and Poker
Through the Looking Glass: April Maelstrom
Mother Lovebone
The Wall Street Game
LaFeltah Vermouth and the Village Drunk
Tao of Keno
Born to Gamble Part I: Where It All Begins
Born to Gamble Part II: Southbound.
Daddy also returned with two guest posts called A Bad Beat Story: Part II and The Routine.

In LaFeltah Vermouth, I recap my trip to Cincy to hang with Iggy. He took me to one of the riverboats to play cards. We caught a Reds game with Daddy, BG, Maudie and GMoney. I played in Iggy's homegame (held across the river in Covington, KY) with TeeDub, GMoney, Dann, Mr. Fabulous, and Duggle Bogey. Daddy and I managed to make two late night/early morning binge eating sessions at the worst Waffle House in all of Kentucky.

For shits and giggles, with the help of my buddy, Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot, I wrote Tao of Keno in response to TripJax's 21 questions.

And I ended the month with the first two installments of my Born to Gamble series... Part I: Where It All Begins and Part II: Southbound.

That's it for now, stay tuned for Part II of the Year in Review.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

32 years ago today

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story written by Paul Auster is one of my favorite short stories of all time. Go read it!

And go read Flipchip's poem The Night Before the Poker Room.

The above picture is a Christmas tree Iraqi style taken by Jack, a Tao of Poker reader who happens to be stationed at Camp Slayer in Iraq. My Christmas Wish this year is for all the men and women in the armed forces serving overseas to come home safely.

I want to wish everyone, especially those folks at Camp Slayer, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

December Las Vegas Trip: Epilogue

I went the unconventional way and non-linear approach to this year's Vegas trip reports with the Seven Deadly Sins. It seemed like a good idea when I started, but after the third one, I regretted my decision to undertake the trip reports in that manner. Being one not to give up, I gutted through it and finished my rambling dissertation on the darkside of Las Vegas. However, in doing so, I left out plenty of random stories.

Here's a chance for me to mention a those odd things as I flip through my notebook and glance over my notes, which these days are sparse. Usually I'm jotting down a few key words that will help me recall a particular moment. That's why I prefer that hour before I pass out or the first hour when I wake up to quickly ramble on in my own private journal/notes.

So taking a page out of Derek's succinct Hemmingwayesque trip reports, here are actual excerpts from my notes...

Overheard while waiting for the elevators at the IP:

Cowboy 1: "Someone is smoking reefer."
Cowboy 2: "Not me."
Cowboy 1: "And it smells like good shit, too."

After a losing streak, StB banked at my Pai Gow and got burned. He let Mrs. Head play out of his stack and she got a quads and a straight flush which sent him on MPGT (Mega Pai Gow Tilt). After I was cold decked at the same table, I let Change100 play out of my stack and she won $200.

Derek was getting smoked by one Pai Gow dealer. He had hands that should have won, but he seemed to get beat out by a slim margin on dozens of hands. "That's not supposed to happen," the dealer would say about twenty times.

On the way to the Wynn buffet, a group of us walked from the IP including Sweet Sweet Pablo. A pickup trucked jam packed with cowboys headed to the NRF stopped at a red light and taunted Pablo, "Get a haircut! Get a hair cut yaw gawd'ammed hippie!" To which I screamed out, "I can't quit yew!"

I ate Kobe meatballs at the Wynn buffet and ate my dessert halfway instead of waiting until the end. Chilly offered me $50 to eat four sugar packets. I declined.

April (CA) brought her Mom, who was totally cool. She actually hung out with us and thought we were fun.

Kamikazes with Drizz on his birthday at the Geisha Bar. Makers and Ginger with StB at the Pai Gow tables. Shots of SoCo with AlCantHang everywhere. Patron with Kat and Sweet Sweet Pablo at the Geisha Bar and pints of Stella with Human Head at the MGM.

Pauly: "I like Twinkies and little Asian boys?"
Gracie: "You mean little Asian boys who can run fast?"
Pauly: "And Twinkies too."

At the bar behind the poker room at the MGM, Derek walked over to Human Head and myself with a grin on his face and a cigarette dangling from his lip. "I just felted an old guy who didn't have any chips." A guy sat down and played one hand before he the runner brought him chips and Derek felted him in the process. Rebuy!

There were two old guys who looked like Santa dressed up like Santa on the monorail. They were going to the MGM and talked about strip clubs and hookers from Vietnam.

After Michalski's drunken shenanigans at the MGM where he had cleaning rings around his head, we nicknamed his blog Sketcherati.

"Standards have been dropped." - Derek on the behavior of common citizens in Las Vegas

I played Pai Gow with Grubbette at the IP and bluffed Grubby out of a pot in the blogger tournament.

Miami Don gave me a tip about the Celtics and I bet them heavily along with the under in the Pacers/Cavs game. Went 2-0 in Miami Don tips on Saturday. Sunday was a different story and thanks to Vince Young, I stayed stuck.

The Tao of Daddy... "You should probably get what you get."

There were three elevators that led up to my tower at the IP. The far left one was contaminated for a full day after some unlucky fucker blew chunks and puked in there. We'd have to hold our noses when we went in. As we waited to go downstairs, the puke elevator showed up. We were about to take a step inside when another elevator opened up. Out rushed an old cowboy and his wife. Derek, myself, and Pablo ran in about to celebrate and we almost died because the elevator smelled like shit. Seriously. That old man must have busted ass and shit his pants. Something foul must be lurking in his bowels. I never thought that I'd admit to wanting to ride in the puke elevator instead.

"Ladies, my name is Bobby Bracelet and I'm also known as Bobby Beer Goggles. Hear that ladies?" - Bobby Bracelet

I lost a heads up match against Falstaff at the PokerTek thingy. The cheesecake gave me indigestion but I dug the free beer.

"Furgburgers." That's all I had written in my notes. Furburgers.

Explaining Maudie the concept of manscaping particularly to make the penis look larger than it actually is.

The Rooster held court as he gave off his oral sex tips. I thought Maudie was going to explode.

"That wasn't a hooker. That was a homeless person." - Derek to Joe Speaker

I can spot a hooker in Las Vegas with ease. It's really not that hard sometimes. The one we spotted dressed like a working girl so it was obvious. She had the hooker gait and gave off that glassy look as she hobbled through the IP over to the poker room and sat down at a 2/4 Limit table. She had just serviced a client minutes before and tossed a piece of gum in her mouth and as ready to donk off that evening's cock smuggling money. "She's playing with seed money," Derek mentioned.

F Train and I had an interesting discussion about certain bloggers who are notorious for going broke and how many times we've staked those malfortutious bloggers in tournaments on several instances. There were also a few bloggers who had a bad habit of borrowing money from friends and paying the debt late or never returning it. We decided to start a Blogger Debt Consolidation Service. Depending on the blogger there debts would be valued by their ability to pay. We would buy up blogger debts at a premium and sell them on the market. With Bad Blood as our muscle we'd be in pretty good shape. By the way, a SirWaffle marker is worth more than gold.

I finally met Joe Speaker's buddy Dacia aka Betty Underground. She went out to sushi the week before with two friends who happened to be big fans of the Tao of Poker and Obituarium. They were floored when they found out she knew Joe Speaker and was going to Vegas to meet me. To quote one of my favorite lines from Entourage... "I love my fans."

A Tale of Three Pairs of Pocket Aces... In the blogger tourney, my A-A held up against Kat's Q-10 in early action. And just before the break (and end of the rebuy period where I still was eligible for my rebuy) I had A-Ks and called a big raise from Dawn. I flopped a gutshot and a nut flush draw on a board of Qs-Jx-4s. Dawn bet, I moved all in and she quickly called, flipping over A-A. I rivered the 8s to double up. She glared at me as I stacked up her chips. Karma would come back my way, but not in a good way. With A-A I raised in EP and -Ev called. The flop was all rags and all the money went in on the flop. -Ev flopped bottom set with 2-2 and I was fucked. Bounced somewhere in 50ish place, I quickly headed outside for the bar.

Karol goes to Atlantic City like three days a week, but she had never been to Las Vegas before the gathering. She ended up winning a tournament at Stratosphere while Ryan took down the Aladdin tourney.

I played Mrs. Head Roshambo. Joe Speaker backed her and it was a pleasure taking his money. I went for the "I'm going tell you what I'm gonna throw psyche out move" where I'd say, "I'm going rock!" And sure enough, I'd put down rock. That messed with Mrs. Head as I got inside her head and sent her on MRT (Mega Roshambo Tilt). Ridiculous prop bets were one of the few areas I actually cleaned up in, even though F Train refused to play "High card out of the muck for $20" with me. Bastard.

After the last Sunday afternoon game, the bar at the Sports Book had a 2 for 1 drink special for two (or three?) hours. That's what did us in on Sunday. We had been drinking since 10am and then they offer us twofers? Are you shitting me?

At one point I was stuck almost 3K. The actual number was under 2700 by the time I left Vegas and I did nail a bet on the Lakers which pulled me to about 2K in losses for the weekend. I also gobbled up an entire bottle of Motrin.

I had an amazing conversation with DrChako. He told me about his upcoming deployment to Iraq and told me a great deal about his daily life. Glad he was able to make it.

I also was fortunate to finally meet Gary. He was older than I expected and a dead ringer for Greg Allman. The guy was a machine and did not sleep and lived off of cigarettes and beer all weekend. He offered to take me fishing.

Maudie showed us her cool tattoo:

Jim from Ireland was a nice fit with the gang. He went deep in the tournament and bought me several drinks. He and Garth got into a hilarious verbal spat that reminded me of a bad SNL skit where a drunk Australian and a drunk Irishman playfully hurled ethnic insults back and forth to one another.

On Sunday night, I ate dinner with Derek and on_thg. It was close to 10 or 11pm. Derek and on_thg both just got up from naps so they were technically eating their breakfast. I ordered a banana split.

ABC. Always Be Closing.

That's all I have for now. Sorry that I had to rush this post. Of course the best memories are the ones that I can't fully conjur up into concrete sentences and those are the moments that will keep me warm on cold nights and make me chuckle at random points in the future. Some things in life should be experienced for yourself. And this gathering was one of them. They really are what you make of them. If you want to get wasted, there are folks who will do that. If you want to throw dice... you'll find a few to do the same. Poker? Tournaments? Fine dining? There's someone in the group who has a similar game plan in mind.

I wasn't bullshitting when I said this was my favorite get together since the first one. The ones in June are tough because I have to work the WSOP and don't get to have as much fun. That's why I dig the December ones. I guess with the cowboys in town it makes for an interesting mix.

As always, I'm fortunate that I've crossed paths with so many of you. And I'm lucky to consider many of you very close friends. That's why a weekend like the one we had is important to me since we all live very far apart and don't get to see each other. I know many of us went to this gathering knowing that it could very well be the last one. The future of poker and the bloggers is uncertain. And I never know where I'll be a few months from now. I'm glad we soaked up every possible moment to celebrate our friendship.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Seven Deadly Sins Part V: Pride

The Seven Deadly Sins and Las Vegas Series concludes with this final chapter.

* * * * *

In almost every list Pride is considered the original or most serious sin, and the ultimate source of all other sins. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive to others, failing to give credit due to others, or excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." In Jacob Bidermann's medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, Pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus. Pride was what sparked the fall of Lucifer from Heaven, and his subsequent transformation into Satan. Vanity and Narcissism are good examples of these sins, though both imply a more empty feeling of Pride, with little to back it up. In the Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with their heads bowed while they were whipped in order to induce feelings of humility.
"Fuck pride!" Marsellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction.

I wanted to get unstuck and Pride was fucking me in another one of those abusive relationships. Pride is a fickle thing. There's a fine line between being confident in who you are and crossing that line and acting like a narcissistic baboon. Pride is the root of all assholes on the planet. Pride is what prevents you from admitting you made a mistake. Pride is what makes you belittle the short comings of others in order to make you feel better about yourself.

My most embarrassing moments happen to occur when several of the deadly sins are dancing and cajoling the guy inside my head who calls most of the shots. Pride is the ring leader and parades Gluttony and Greed and Lust in front of me like scantily clad nubile lingerie models. It's impossible to look away and I'm immediately distracted. And when I'm paying the least attention to life, Pride takes control and things start falling apart.

I wanted to get unstuck, but I couldn't accept defeat and walk away a loser. Instead of a small loss, I chased and my losses grew bigger and bigger. Pai Gow? Loser. Craps? Loser. NBA? Loser. NFL? Loser. The hole got deeper and my mood got darker. I became pathetic character in a Raymond Carver short story... somber, desperate, and intense.

Pride was making me chase my losses when at best under optimal conditions, I was a long shot to break even. I hadn't slept well in days. My mind was frazzled. I had been drinking an increased amount than I normally do when I gamble (to ease the pain of the heavy losses). And my decision making abilities were clouded due to Severe Mega Pai Gow Tilt (SMPGT). I was lucky enough to make it out of Las Vegas alive without having to dig into my poker bankroll to cover my losses in the pit and at the sports book.

"You wanted to lose so you bet on the Rams against the Bears," Change100 said in a hushed tone.

"I love home dogs, especially on Monday Night Football," I blurted out trying to justify my losing pick.

I sounded like the poor guy who bet on the Washington Generals every night they played the Harlem Globetrotters. I was pissed at her because she was right. Where the fuck were you when I made the pick to try to get unstuck?

Sometimes you do the wrong thing even though you know fully that you're about to do the wrong thing. Yet you do it anyway. Gambler's suicide. It happens every hour on the hour in Las Vegas, synched up to the Bellagio Fountains. Everytime the fountains spew water thirty stories into the air, a gambler somewhere on the Strip decides to end their misery. They "go for broke" and bet it all on the Pass Line. They push all in with a questionable hand. They toss the rest of their redbirds on one last hand of Pai Gow. The bet it all on the Rams. They know the result before they made it. They were born to lose that day and wanted to end the slow torture.

No wonder that more people come to Las Vegas commit suicide than any other city. I think the other one is San Francisco, so people could jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. There are no big bridges to jump off of in Las Vegas but there's plenty of other ways to kill yourself under the bright lights. Most fugitives end up in Las Vegas on one final bender before they get caught and go to jail. Vegas was where the Ohio highway sniper ended up before he was caught by the federalies at a sister property of the Redneck Riviera if you can believe that.

America's most desperate souls flock to Las Vegas for one final bender before they off themselves in one of those no-tell motels in North Las Vegas with a vague suicide note written on the back of a $10 off coupon to the Thunder from Down Under. Or how about the tenebrous souls who spiral into a fit of morbid depression and jump out of the Excalibur? Those are the stories that get covered up the most... the suicides on the Strip. The powers to be don't want you to know that someone either did a drug deal, nailed a hooker on the bed spread, or tried to kill themselves in your $79 room with a Strip View.

We call it Sin City, but like the fallen angels who left God's side eons ago, they encircle the city and prey on the weak. They whisper words encouraging deviant behavior to you while you sleep and the city that you thought would be the place to fulfill your dreams is nothing more than a mirage in the dessert with an all you can eat buffet that crushes your dreams after getting your Aces cracked by Jack-Shit.

Las Vegas is a sham, a fabricated city and nothing more than an adult Disneyland with single deck blackjack and $300 hookers. Part of the charm is that we know it's a rouse, but like Hunter Thompson said, "Buy a ticket. Take the ride."

We know we're supposed to go to Vegas and do things we normally wouldn't do in our 9 to 5 lives. If you were playing cards with a guy who just got released from prison while drinking at 10am on a Wednesday... without a doubt, your wife would divorce you and your boss would fire you on the spot. In Vegas, that's the least weird behavior you're going to see that day.

That's what's supposed to be the allure about Las Vegas that the mobsters who started the town envisioned it to be... a place in the middle of nowhere away from the cops and the federalies where they could drink, gamble, fuck, and have a good time without anyone breaking up the party.

The suits took it over and turned it into a shopping mall with slot machines. Thank God for the hookers. At least they give Las Vegas a semblance of purity.

It's when you lose sight of what Vegas is supposed to be about and project other romantic and unrealistic notions that the dark side sets in because you were not prepared for it blindside you. You're supposed to go to Las Vegas and lose money and drink too much and do stupid shit. And if you win some money in the process.... then that's awesome because you got paid for your degenerate behavior.

It's when Vegas doesn't meet your expectations that Pride sets in and ruins the trip. Instead of surrendering to the flow of Las Vegas, you fight the fallen angels. You flirt with the deadly sins. And that's when the town turns you on your head and you wake up at odd hours clutching the porcelain god wondering where it all went wrong.

Las Vegas owes you nothing. You flew into town with your sole purpose to use Las Vegas perhaps looking for a quick score and a shortcut to financial success. You wanted to get laid, get fucked up, and totally use and abuse anything in your path including the locals, the other tourists, and the casinos itself.

And when Vegas kicks your ass, takes all your money, and puts you in your place... you can't get pissed. You can't sue Las Vegas. You were dumb enough to tackle on the darkside of human nature and lost. Man loses against nature every time they go to battle. What makes Las Vegas and you any different?

Pride makes you think you can beat The House. Pride lulls you into a false sense of security that your poker acumen far outweighs the short term luck that seems to be wedged up the assholes of the luckboxes on the Strip who suck out flush after flush on the river. Pride makes you think that you can move to Las Vegas and tame the wild beast by going pro. Eventually your pride gets you in enough trouble that you put that ugly fucker to sleep and you get your shit together and leave town.

Las Vegas is an awesome place to party, but it's one hellacious of a town to live in.

* * * * *

Read the other installments...
Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Lust and Gluttony
Seven Deadly Sins Part II: Wrath
Seven Deadly Sins Part III: Greed and Sloth
Seven Deadly Sins Part IV: Envy

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CC's Thursday's Bash

CC is hosting his final event of his series CC's Thursday's Bash tonight at 9:30pm on PokerStars. See pic for password info and more details.

Update: I bubbled off the final table but managed to take down first place overall. Thanks again to CC for hosting and for Poker Works adding cash to the prize pools. I went out and celebrated the win with Derek, F Train, and the Rooster. We got hammered and ended up crashing Ethan Hawke's Christmas party by accident. We also got kicked out soon after showing up. Stop by the Tao of Pauly to read Merry Ethan after my hangover subsides.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Seven Deadly Sins Part IV: Envy

Seven Part IV: Envy

The Seven Deadly Sins and Las Vegas Series continues...

Like Greed, Envy is characterized by an insatiable desire, however the two sins differ for two main reasons. Firstly, Greed is normally associated with material wealth, whereas Envy can apply to other concepts, like love or success. Secondly, those who commit the sin of Envy desire something that someone else has. Dante defined this as "love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs." In Dante's Purgatory, the envious have their eyes sewn shut with wire, because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low.
Over the long term, I'd rather be good than lucky. But over the short term, particularly on a weekend in Las Vegas, I'd take ephemeral luck over skill or competence in a heartbeat. Las Vegas can be frustrating because you see complete jackoffs walking away with huge sums of cash. Some have stacks of black chips that they're spilling on their way to the cage that they scored after a hot run at the black jack tables. Or the push monkeys that bad beated their way to poker tournaments with hyper-accelerating blinds that are throwing a rubber band over a wad of Benjamins. Or the chain-smoking blue haired octogenarians that pocketed $30K on a single slot pull.

I want their money. I want those intoxicating looks on their faces. I want their luck. Badly.

Just take a walk down the Strip on any random week night at 2am and you'll see the hiccups of modern society dodging the porn slappers and filtering into the IP at odd hours to gamble their dreams away like an overzealous rookie bluffing off half his stack with a gutshot that never fills in.

The capitalist pigs of big business prey on your envious ways. The majority of good citizens like you and me are insecure about some aspect of our lives, which makes us easy prey for marketing. Turn on the TV and watch a few commercials and you'll see that if you are not already insecure, The Man will do anything possible to make you feel like shit so you will go out and buy their product to make you feel better.

Feel like a crappy husband? Buy diamonds. Losing your hair? Buy this drug. Can't get it up? Pop this penis pill. Have a small penis? Buy this Hummer. Want to hide those homosexual tendencies? Drink this beer.

But if there was a product to increase your luck, I'd be the first person in line to buy it. Cyndy Violette has her lucky stones and I'm very close to asking her where I could score some lucky rocks. I've done everything possible to attract good luck. Nothing. I avoided $50 bills. I avoided a few bloggers who have been known to have "Cooler" abilities. I gave money to homeless people on the subway the last time I was in NYC. I adopted fourteen Malawian children and even backed one of those wastrels on PokerStars sweating my table begging for $5. I said the Our Father in Latin before every Pai Gow deal. I even sacrificed three virgins in The Rooster's room with a Haitian witch doctor sitting in the corner drinking Wild Turkey. And I still got fucking cold decked by those demagogues in Hawaiian shirts at the Pai Gow tables.

I know why I'm prone to fits of crappy luck at the tables... it's the karmic balance of all things in my life. At any given time, there has to be at least one thing completely fucked up going on with regard to my career, family, friends, relationships, health, finances, and my personal self. When most of those things are flowing smoothly, the powers to be decide to fuck me at the tables. It's a Philip K. Dickian struggle between good and evil as I develop a paranoia that everyone in the gambling industry is conspiring to get all of my money. I think the origin of my psychotic paranoia was all of those bad things I said about Harrah's during the WSOP. Sometimes those suits will go to the extremes to make field goal kickers with lots of vowels in their names miss chip shots so I lose my bet at Caesar's sportsbook or they set up cold decks at the Pai Gow tables at the IP just to drive me insane.

How else can I explain my horrible run of bad luck? Was it just a coincidence that guys with 2-2 flopped a deuce against my Pocket Aces. Or when I had a straight and Kings up in Pai Gow, the dealer miraculously has a higher straight and A-A?

There something called the Envy Bonus in Pai Gow and for $5 you're gambling that someone at the table is going to hit a bonus hand. Grubette is a staunch proponent of betting the Fortune Bonus at the Pai Gow tables, so much so that she gets visibly upset if you don't play the bonus. She'll furiously tap the table and question your manhood until you throw your $1 chips into the circle. F Train and I refused to give in and that set Grubette on Fortune Pai Gow Bonus Tilt. She had to get up and walk off the steam spewing out of her ears.

The best cure for envy is to repeat that stupid fucking ubiquitous mantra that's been repeating itself in my head continuously since 1986.

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

I knew some hippies from my Seattle days that used to say, "The grass is always better, when you smoke your neighbors' grass."

The "grass is always greener" mantra is about understanding that there no absolute perfect place or moment in life and that if you examine everything you will find some faults and come to the conclusion that the alternative is better. Sure sometimes it is, but the entire point of the saying is accepting the Zen philosophy of being in the moment.

That reminds me of an old saying from Lao Tzu, "To not want is to be."

By eliminating desire, you have a better chance at living completely in the moment. To think about having other things (material or non-material) makes you lose focus on the now and instead of living in the present.

Being able to live in the moment in Las Vegas became impossible for me when my mind started drifting and I began desiring the luck of the other gamblers. I was soon coveting my neighbor's wife and my neighbor's oxen. I wanted that winning hand. I wanted to be betting on the winning team. I wanted to be betting on anything that won. The number 23 at craps. The under in the Suns/Bobcats game. Anything.

I knew it got ugly when I was offering to shoot Odds or Evens with F Train in the lobby of the IP. I didn't think it was possible, but I fucked that up too. It was 33% less difficult that Roshambo. I had to only pick one of two numbers. Cold decked in Odds and Evens.

Humiliated, I peeled a bill out of my diminishing bankroll and paid my debt to F Train. My bankroll used to look like Fat Elvis. At that point, it looked like the ever disappearing Nicole Ritchie.

When people in recovery talk about the moment they decided to turn it all around, they speak about the flashpoint where you hit rock bottom. I had been at that destination too many times before in life. Like a bus station in the middle of nowhere that smells like cat piss and desperation, you know you've been dropped on Death's doorstep and only you can find your way back. It's when you having nothing left to cling to... that's when you decide to take the first step and improve yourself.

That's why I understand how people quickly trade addictions and find religion or God or spirituality after dabbling in booze, gambling, drugs, sex, and capitalism. As humans, we need to get off for one reason or another. Either it's for excitement or to dull the pain, whatever the root of the problem... it's there. That thirst has made many men and women wealthy. Depravity and decadence is profitable. And as long as there's that urge... that want... that desire... a place like Las Vegas will always make money.

I finally got my shit together when I realized that I envied those lucky folks who were at the airport ready to get on flights to go home. I don't have a home per se, but I wanted to get the hell out of Las Vegas before I lost any more of my money, my hair, and my sanity.

... to be continued.

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Read the other installments...
Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Lust and Gluttony
Seven Deadly Sins Part II: Wrath
Seven Deadly Sins Part III: Greed and Sloth