Las Vegas, NV
"What keeps mankind alive?" asked William Burroughs.
Action. The rush. The buzz. The sustained high. Doesn't matter the medium. Craps. Poker. Slots. Blackjack. Baccarat. Dog races. NBA games. Video poker. It's the anticipation of the outcome that gets everyone fired up. The moment of truth when life sizzles through your bloodstream and you're jacked up on so much adrenaline it takes you days and weeks and months to come down from the cosmos. The anticipation... the crest of the gambler's high... where nothing else matters as the entire world pauses during that millisecond before your fate is determined.
The precise moment before the dealer flips over the river card is why we play poker. Similar to Christmas mornings and the innocent exhilaration that fuels a child's anticipation as they jump out of bed and dart to the tree and tear open the first box that they see. You never knew if it was going to be a new video game or a pair of socks. One got you high and the other kept your feet warm.
I flirt with the edge all the time. Life is too dull playing it safe and sitting on your ass wondering about what life would have been like if you took chances. Alas, too much of riding the edge is disastrous because you will never be satisfied and setting yourself up for an early funeral. But risk too little and you're drowning in a life of ordinary madness.
So when you're standing up at the poker table on the verge of elimination or doubling up and you're sending out vibes to the dealer to hook you up while silently praying to the poker gods for another deus ex machina. Your mind races before the dealer drops the river card on the felt. Did you dodge another bullet or did the cracker in Seat 7 spike another gutshot to send you spiraling into a fourth dimension of uber-tilt. Does it really matter what happens? You got off either way. And that is the exact reason why degenerates piss away every last dollar they have.
You can't get the rush if you don't put your money in play. Of course, that's not entirely true. I know plenty of folks who swap out for lesser expensive addictions like finding Jesus Christ or fly fishing or Guitar Hero. But with gambling, it's high risk and high reward. You accomplish an opiated feeling that can also pay off dividends, which you can parlay to seek out grandiose highs.
I have seasonal addictions. In the autumn, the blood boils inside me while I bet on football. I pace back and forth on Sunday afternoons knowing that I am unable to control my own destiny and my entire financial fate rides on a foreign-born kicker who couldn't hack it as a soccer player. Last second field goals are one of the longest sustained highs in sports betting.... especially if the opposing team ices the kicker. Oh man, I can't tell you how sick that rush is waiting for that last second field goal... as the ball gets snapped and the kicker boots the pigskin thirty-forty, fifty-yards through the uprights. Sometimes he chokes and the kick sails wide right. Other times it shanks off the goalpost and your dreams clank away with the rest of your bankroll.
Every year like clockwork during March Madness some 19-year old kid who can barely read and write is on the free throw line shooting a one and one. Every bucket counts down the stretch especially when you're team is on the verge of not covering. If he sinks them both, he's a hero. If he misses, I explode into a tirade and violently rip up my losing ticket into a million little pieces.
I used to watch the glimmer in Grubby's eye as he waited for the outcome of his last spin at a Mr. Cashman machine. A ritualistic and habitual gambler never knows when to say when... until your bank card gets rejected for going over the limit.
After spending too much time in Las Vegas, I tend to turn off all my senses when I walk through a casino. Too much plight. Too much pain and suffering and misery. The thin and bitter bodies glued to the slot machines are stiffs hypnotized by the allure of the big score.
Scandis. Japanese. Canucks. Texans. New Yorkers. Aussies. Despite the differences in nationalities, they all look a like when they are nodded out at the slots. Junkies. The lot of them. They stood out and lacked as much depth as a recurring character on Sesame Street. Just another ugly fuckin' muppet.
What keeps mankind alive is the relentless quest to purge every desire inside the hallways of every junkie's mind. Once you get a taste of the action and a taste of the heavenly emotions of jubilant ecstasy, you're never the same again. You roam the world for the remainder of eternity contaminated and a unsentimental slave to that frenetic craving.
Pot Limit Omaha destroys lives. I mean, you don't lose a house playing limit seven-card stud. Poker junkies don't lose the entire roll on a weekend binge at the Razz tables. PLO is like cocaine in that it's a quick blastoff and then an even quicker fade. There's an old joke among cokeheads that goes something like this...
Q. When is the best time to snort a line of cocaine?Cocaine is an invincible high that you are constantly chasing. No pain. No suffering. No misery. All of that is numbed for a few minutes before all hell breaks lose and you start sweating like Patrick Ewing and freak out because you frantically need to be higher than your last high. Sadly, you can never top the first high of the day, yet every few minutes another junkie gives it a shot.
A. Right after you snort a line of cocaine.
And man, poker players getting ripped to the tits on blow? Talk about a recipe for disaster. That topic can be covered in a whole post at another time, but all you have to do is see pictures of Stuey Ungar's collapsed nostrils to understand that poker and coke don't mix. Although I definitely see more Charlie juicing up the pots in the L.A. based casinos, it's still being abused in Las Vegas. Every hour there's enough cocaine being snorted in bathrooms all over Vegas that can get all of Baltimore jacked up for three years.
If you master PLO, you're the biggest swinging dick in town and sit on piles of cash and can pay hookers thousands of dollars to do the most humiliating stuff possible.
If you lose your dignity playing PLO, you end up sucking dick for a min. buy at 50 cent PLO tables. I've seen it happen. Hotshot wins huge at NL. Gets hooked on PLO. Wins a bit and then dives off the deep end into the void.
Here's an indication of the degeneracy surrounding Event #28 $5K PLO with rebuys. Durrr was in for 90K. He didn't even cash. Daniel Negreanu also dug deep into his pockets. Danny Boy was in for 80K. He finished in 8th place and only netted 40K for three days of work. He needed to make the final table just to get unstuck for the event.
Of course, one of the biggest PLO junkies in the world is France's David Benyamine. For years he had been fleecing the French and other Euros at various games in Paris. He'd roll up a stake and headed out to Vegas full of hope. Without a semblance of fear, the brazen Benyamine took on the biggest games he could find. He usually kept playing until the sharks gobbled up the last of his money. He'd return home to France and get back to work beating those games and building up a roll to take another shot.
These days, Benyamine can almost always be found online at Full Tilt waiting to play almost any game against any player. His preferred poison is PLO. A half-hour before his final table in the Deuce-to-Seven event Benyamine was spotted playing on Full Tilt. He was getting his online fix up to the last possible second. If they let him bring a laptop to the final table, I'm sure Benyamine would be multi-tabling.
"How many chips does Degenyamine have?" said one media rep who whispered David Benyamine's nickname to me while I sat in the front row of the PLO final table.
"He's the chipleader," I said.
Moments before the final table began, Benjo said, "David Benyamine is the best PLO player in the world. You can quote me on that."
He's right. According to Benyamine's high stakes stats, he has won a whopping $7.7 million at the PLO tables on Full Tilt since January of 2007 playing under three different screen names. Some of his victims included Durrr, Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, Brandon Adams, Ziigmund, and OMGClayAiken.
Benyamine is one of those high stakes players who can have million dollar swings inside of one day. Benyamine and OMGClayAIken had numerous battles playing heads up PLO. After the big boys busted... Negreanu, Hellmuth, Chan, and Juanda... everyone was awaiting a live version of a classic Benyamine/OMGClayAiken heads up PLO brawl.
That match up never happened. OMGClayAiken won the bracelet, but Benyamine was eliminated in third place. He won $316,307 for three days of work. If given the opportunity, the deviant side of the action junkie would definitely blaze through all of that at the online PLO tables before sunrise.
During a trip to Australia in January, I bumped into Erica Schoenberg at the Crown Casino. She was in great spirits and ready to play in a couple of the preliminary events, but her beau David Benyamine was holed up in their suite splashing the pots in high stakes cash games online. He'd make more money at the online tables than grinding away for hours on end inside the poker room.
That's the most frightening aspect of PLO. Availability. Easy access. It's at your fingertips. 24/7. 365 days a year. 366 during leap years. Just writing this post got me all fired up to play PLO. I can feel the itching underneath my skin. I keep scratching, but the itch retreats deeper and deeper and I scratch harder and harder until droplets of blood appear and stain my fingernails.
"Sometimes contact with the lucky can change a man's run of bad luck," said William Burroughs. "But generally it works the other way. Junkies are an envious lot."
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