Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WSOP Day 19: Looking Through a Glass Onion

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I told you about strawberry fields. Just like Las Vegas, it's the place where nothing is real.

Phil Ivey was rumored to have lost $2 million on the NBA playoffs. My source told me that several months ago, Ivey and a "very rich guy" made a wager where they both picked a team. If their team won the championship, they got $2 million. Ivey picked the Lakers and his opponent went with the Celtics. It just so happened that the two teams met in the NBA finals.

I have fuzzy memories of Ivey and Doyle Brunson frantically sweating Game 7 of the Boston/Detroit series. It makes perfect sense to me now. If Boston lost that game, he would be free rolling the $2 million bet as the Lakers advanced to the finals. Felipe, the Portuguese photographer from PokerNews, is stationed next to one the the plasma screens. On the night of Game 7, Doyle Brunson busted out of a tournament just before game time. He sat in a chair right next to Felipe. Texas Dolly quietly watched the entire game as Ivey occasionally came over to chat. You almost wonder if Brunson busted out early on purpose to watch the game?

Even though the NBA might be rigged, professional poker players were still willing to gamble heavily on playoffs games. That's the apex of degeneracy. Ivey needs action somehow and somewhere. The big cash games have dried up in Vegas so Ivey has to turn to -EV situations to get his fix. Same thing happened to Archie Karas. He couldn't find anyone to play him heads up in poker after he fleeced Johnny Chan and Texas Dolly and Chip Reese. Unable to quell his inner action junkie, Karas migrated towards baccarat and craps. Jack Binion allowed Karas to bet as much as $300,000 a roll.

Humanity is often held together by a tiny thread. Guys like Erick Lindgren and Phil Ivey are on top of their game today, whether it's tournaments, cash games, prop bets, golf bets, bracelet bets, craps and sports betting. What is really standing in the way from them from evolving into the next Archie Karas or Eskimo Clark? Sure it might not happen for another twenty or thirty years, but those guys can't keep pushing their charmed lives to the limit every single day.

Last week, I showed you a glimpse into A Day in the Life of Phil Ivey. This week, my depraved behavior should be examined and ridiculed. Just like that Beatles song goes, "To see how the other half lives looking through a glass onion."

My inner action junkie is the size of Gary Coleman and wrapped up deep and deep inside buried behind so many layers of complicated phobias, addictions, and other unresolved mental health issues. It takes years and decades to peel off all of the excess layers before we get to the source. But if our souls were glass onions and you could peek through all the layers, we'd see the true essence of existence... and that's to constantly challenge and prove to yourself that you're truly alive. And gambling is one of those opportunities when ordinary activities take on a role of vital significance by simply wagering on the outcome.

Take something that's nothing, something that is utterly meaningless and ignored, such as Holland's match against Romania in the European Championships. I know zilch about soccer and normally wouldn't even give the game an iota of my attention, yet as soon as I walked up to the window at the sports book and dropped a bill on Holland, that game became everything. I slowly revolved around a small sun which became the center of my universe.

Sure, I was supposed to be covering a poker tournament but it was one of those days where the WSOP was a hindrance and my own selfish desire to gamble took control. I guess it was that post I wrote from last night called Never Trust a Junkie. Or maybe it's the sheer fact that I have not gambled much since I moved back to Vegas and that my inner action junkie was ready to explode and cause serious damage.

I spent most of my day in the sportsbook or starring at TVs in various bars watching the Italy vs. France match and the Holland one as well. I bet heavily on the Italians and they prevailed. I went two for two on soccer bets and turned my short attention to watching baseball games online at

I picked Yankees and they whooped the Padres. I picked the White Sox and they kicked the Pirates to the curb. The Astros were ahead late in their game against the Orioles, but the O's rallied in the 8th to put me at three-for-three for the late afternoon and early evening. The entire parlay hinged on one later night game... A's vs. Diamondbacks. I'll spare you the bad beat, but the D-backs got their asses handed to them.

By Day 19 of the WSOP, everyone is itching for action. Dealers, writers, floor people, sponsored pros, online pros. Desperation fills the Amazon Room. Dealers and media are sick of covering poker or dealing cards that they can't wait to get off work and rush to the closest craps table, or Pai Gow table, or poker table where they can donk off all that frustration that built up while spending 12+ hours a day at the Rio breathing recycled air.

Hundreds and thousands of players are stuck and miserable after almost three weeks of non-stop poker. Some crawled back to even and feel unsatisfied. And those who are ahead are intoxicated by greed. They need more. As John Lennon aptly put it, "I told you about the walrus and me, man. You know that we're as close as can be, man."

I have not played a single hand of live poker. No WSOP events. No cash games. No satellites. No events at other casinos. Nothing. Sure, I played couple of online tournaments but aside from that, I had no desire to play mainly because of all the other deviant action I had been engaging in; betting super small on baseball, betting small on soccer, and better large on basketball.

During the opening round, I made several small bets early on and gradually increased in size. I bet the Lakers heavily in the first two rounds. Then I got greedy the last two games. Historically, I lose in those spots when I decided to press the action. The Celtics covered or beat the spread in every single game against the Lakers. I started increasing my bets with each game. I could have cashed out and walked away after Game 4, but I didn't want to puss out so I pressed the action and got lucky. The Celtics were only the favorite in Game 1 and Game 6. They won both games and covered bot instances.

I have not wagered a substantial amount on a single game since last year. I had imposed a limit per wager which I did my best to stick by. But Las Vegas tests all of your promises and pacts and principles. It's a matter of time before you get taunted by the demons.

I bet the Celtics again. They won which is a bounty in the short term, but I'm ruined over the long term from vacillating away from my principle. I need structure to keep me safe from the temptations of the world, yet as an artist I thrive on anarchy and an unfettered lifestyle.

Las Vegas enables anyone to go off the deep end at any given time. Thousands and thousands of degenerates line up everyday and take the leap of faith. Most of them never survive. Just ask Javon Walker. The NFLer got rolled the other night and got knocked the fuck out. Walker reportedly had over $100K in cash and jewelery stolen. By a hooker and pimp? By thugs who targeted the bling-heavy Walker?

Sin City ate him up and spit him out buck naked on Las Vegas Blvd. at sunrise. Will you be next?

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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