Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Soon Come... 2008 WSOP

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I move to Las Vegas four weeks from today. After several months of soul searching, I finally made a decision about the 2008 World Series of Poker. So who am I going to write for?

Tao of Poker.

I will not be live blogging the 2008 WSOP for Poker News like last year. However, I cut a deal to write a weekly column for Poker News during the WSOP. Schecky and I both agreed that my talents will be better suited for features.

Tao of Poker will be my focus at the 2008 WSOP. It's going to be place to get the straight dope on the seven-week circus. My goal is to have fun this year and I expect that to spill over into my writing.

I also wanted to cover the 2008 WSOP in the best possible manner without any constraints. The only outlet that fit my vision was... Tao of Poker. Besides, historically, the best stuff I have written has always been for myself (for free) and not for others (for pay).

There were thousands of stories at the WSOP. I was too busy last summer and could only delve deep into a couple. I was stuck in the trenches on the floor and only got a glimpse of that part of the WSOP. Chip counts and bust out hands are just one aspect of the WSOP. There was so much more behind the scenes action that I missed out on and several stories that I wish I had more time to explore such as the Vinnie Vinh missing chair saga.

This year? I'll be everywhere... at the final table, bouncin' round the room, roaming the hallways, drinking at the Hooker Bar, lime tossing with Otis, engaging in random hijinks with Michalski, playing chess, teasing Mean Gene every time Isabelle walks by, railbirding friends, playing cash games, checking out the afternoon shift at the Rhino, free-basing in the parking lot with the hombres at Wicked Chops Poker, tilting locals, and raising hell in the media room. Sadly, there's no more Tilted Kilt, so it looks like Otis and I will have to find another bar for liquid refreshments during dinner breaks.

I dreaded covering the WSOP over the last two years. But this year is different. I can't wait for the WSOP to begin. After a lengthy vacation away from poker, I'm completely refreshed and energized. I'm ready to plunge back into fiery depths of hell.

I haven't been this excited since the 2005 WSOP, which seemed like ten years ago. 2005 was a watershed year in the history of poker, since it was the first year that the WSOP was played in the Amazon Ballroom at the Rio. The poker media was still kinda small and had not yet expanded. Over the first five weeks, only a handful of media were covering the preliminary events. We all bonded and witnessed several epic moments in poker history like Johnny Chan becoming the first player to win ten bracelets and then Jen Tilly winning the Ladies Event the next day. Other highlights included Doyle Brunson's 10th bracelet win four days after Johnny Chan. Doyle's son Todd Brunson won his first bracelet that year and Mark Seif won two. Paul McKinney became the oldest bracelet winner at 80+. Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Erik Seidel, Josh Arieh, Allen Cunningham, Johnny Bax, Edward Moncada, and David Grey all won bracelets. And we all know about how Greenstein dedicated his bracelet victory to Charlie Tuttle on the night before he passed away. So many special moments. I remember them all because it was my first WSOP.

Flipchip survived a tour in Vietnam, so he was the perfect jungle guide to show me around Las Vegas and help me get through the grueling WSOP. He and the Prof originally hired me to write recaps for LasVegasVegas. I added Poker Player Newspaper and Fox Sports to my roster of clients and the rest was history. I live blogged almost every final table and headed down to Binion's to catch the last two days in Benny's Bullpen. Joe Hachem won the main event and was the last champion to win on sacred ground.

I picked up the bulk of my readership at the 2005 WSOP and many of you have been with me since you stumbled upon the Tao of Poker that summer. The most popular posts included sordid tales about the sketchy apartment complex otherwise known as the Redneck Riviera, which was infested with members from the lowest rung of society including drug dealers, hookers, ex-cons, and a horde of shirtless inbred pot-bellied mullet-clad kids.

Even three years later, random people stop me and tell me how much they loved the Redneck Riviera and/or the Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To.... Those two items stood out from my coverage, yet in reality, I only mentioned those two things a couple of times.

When I accepted the assignment back in 2005, I thought it was a one shot gig and that I'd be done and have to go back to NYC and find a job. I ended up making a career out of covering tournaments. Just a few days after the WSOP ended, Flipchip and I were back at work covering the Bellagio Cup and Ultimate Poker Showdown. Soon after, I hit the tournament trail and went to Barcelona for the EPT and then onto Atlantic City and Las Vegas and Foxwoods and back to Vegas and then to Atlantic City and onto L.A. and then back to Vegas and then... well, you know the rest of the story. I've been on the road since I moved to Las Vegas in June of 2005. It's funny how temporary things all of a sudden become permanent.

The lyrics to the Allman Brothers Band song Back to Where It All Begins has been echoing throughout my head during the half-baked construction of this post. I guess that's the theme that I'm trying to express.

The Tao of Poker is where it all began. And that's where I want to cover the 2008 WSOP.

I cannot replicate the energy of the 2005 WSOP. I also don't want to repeat myself. However, I want Tao of Poker to be my main vehicle of expression during the 2008 WSOP. I will try out a few new things as well as stick to doing what I do best... writing what I see.

The coverage on Tao of Poker during the 2006 WSOP only represented about 10% of my total output. I focused heavily on photography that year and I'm especially proud of my black and white WSOP series. I also wrote for thirteen different outlets and published a couple of pieces under my name and several articles utilizing pseudonyms. My clients in 2006 included Fox Sports, MSN, and PokerStars Blog. I even got published in a Swedish newspaper.

At the 2007 WSOP, I wrote exclusively for Poker News covering the majority of Day 2 events, several PLO final tables, and a couple of stints writing color coverage of the 50K HORSE and Main Event final tables. Despite the 100+ hour work weeks, I managed to write every single day on Tao of Poker. I sacrificed sleep on several instances in order to complete my daily post. In my estimation, the quality of writing during the 2007 WSOP represented some of my best poker content to date. I just wish that I had more time to write second or third drafts and/or do more research.

I made a fistful of money in 2006 writing for over a dozen outlets. I made a nice wad of cash last year working for the exclusive coverage team. And this year... I want to write for the sake of writing instead of writing for money.

The 2008 WSOP is the last opportunity for me to write for myself before I return to the tournament reporting scene and whore out my services to the highest bidder. I want to rage solo this summer before I become a hired gun once again.

My accommodations were a step up in 2006 compared to the Redneck Riviera in 2005. I shared an apartment with Grubby in Henderson and no longer had to worry about a homemade meth lab blowing up next door. Change100 stayed with us that summer too. It was nice to be so far away from the insanity, but commuting to work was a bitch. Luckily, PokerStars put me up in Treasure Island during the Main Event, which was an added bonus. I could see the Redneck Riviera in the distance and was happy that I never had to set foot in there ever again.

Last year, Change100 and I rented an apartment in Del Bocca Vista, a gated complex located a couple of blocks away from the Rio. We were pretty damn close but I spent most of my time at the Rio.

For the 2008 WSOP, we considered renting the same place, but then we opted to share a house in Summerlin. I guess it's temporarily called Scheckytown for lack of a better nickname. Yep, Change100 and I will be sharing a house with John Caldwell and Jen Leo. And the last I heard, there was a strong rumor that a red Full Tilt Pro will be living in the house with us. That is yet to be confirmed.

The swanky pool is by far the best part of Scheckytown. We're only a couple of minutes from Red Rock Casino and Red Rock Canyon. I love driving around that park and taking hikes to touch the red rocks. I always write better after I come in contact with the rocks. If possible, I'll drive out there every day before work.

So everything is set for the 2008 WSOP. I have a primary objective. I know where I'm living and who I'm writing for. All I have to do is... show up.

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

Monday, April 28, 2008

David Chiu Beats Out Gus Hansen for WPT World Championship

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

David Chiu is the latest WPT World Champion after he came from behind to beat Gus Hansen at the Bellagio. Chiu collected $3.38 million for his victory. If you don't know Chiu is a red FT pro from California, and he's a 4-time WSOP bracelet winner.

Check out BJ Nemeth's stellar final table recap.

In addition, here are the hand-for-hand updates of the final table (also with the recap).

And in case you were wondering who made the final table, here are some bios...
WPT World Championship: Final Table Bios

By BJ Nemeth

Seat 1
John Roveto, Sr.
2,720,000 in chips

John "Kicker" Roveto might have an unusual nickname for a poker player, but it works well for a guy who was placekicker for the NFL Chicago Bears from 1981-1983. So while the pressure of intense competition at the highest levels is nothing new to Roveto, this will be his first time playing poker up close in front of the TV cameras.

Roveto has a solid list of tournament cashes dating back to 2004, including six WSOP cashes and more than $400,000 in career earnings. He has only cashed in one previous WPT event, finishing 11th at the WPT Borgata Poker Classic earlier this year, earning $64,000. He will eclipse that figure today, as he is already guaranteed to win at least $263,000, with a shot at $3.3 million.

From my own hometown of Duluth, Georgia, Roveto has Atlanta poker pro Josh Arieh on his side, and Arieh will be in the stands rooting for Roveto today. Roveto is engaged and has three children, with another on the way.

Seat 2
Gus Hansen
8,570,000 in chips

Gus Hansen is one of the most accomplished players on the World Poker Tour. Perhaps the most accomplished.

Hansen (nickname: "The Great Dane") won the first-ever WPT event nearly six years ago, and became the first player with two WPT titles later in that first season -- making him one of only five players to win multiple WPT titles in a single season. In fact, those two victories made him the first-ever WPT Poker-Made Millionaire.

Hansen added another WPT title in Season II, making him the only player in history with three WPT titles. This is Hansen's seventh WPT final table, putting him in a tie for second in that category, behind Phil Ivey. Hansen has accumulated more than $2.3 million in career WPT earnings.

The biggest score of Hansen's career came when he won nearly $1.2 million in the 2007 Aussie Millions, a number he can improve today with even a second-place finish. Hansen has more than $5.41 million in worldwide tournament earnings, but he has had surprisingly little success in the World Series of Poker -- he has just two cashes in the WSOP, with another in the WSOP Europe (though all three cashes were in the championship event).

If that's not enough, Gus Hansen is the only poker player in history to be named to People's 50 Sexiest Men Alive list, an honor he earned in 2004.

Hansen is known for his loose style, where he is willing to see a flop with any two cards. This makes it difficult for other players to put him on a range of hands, making him a very risky opponent.

Gus Hansen definitely has the experience and tenacity to win this event, not to mention the chip lead. If Hansen were to win tonight, he would not only be the first player in history with four WPT titles, but he would pass Daniel Negreanu to take the top spot on the WPT all-time money list with more than $5.76 million.

Seat 3
David Chiu
6,050,000 in chips

David Chiu's poker career is nearly the opposite of Gus Hansen's -- most of Chiu's success has come outside of the World Poker Tour. While he has seven WPT cashes (earning $206,000), Chiu has reached just one WPT final table, finishing third in the Season I WPT Invitational.

Chiu has been one of the career leaders at the World Series of Poker since 1981, picking up 37 cashes, 15 final tables, and 4 WSOP bracelets. In his career, he has earned more than $2.8 million. However, as successful as he has been over the years, think about this -- if he wins this WPT World Championship, he will more than double his career earnings in one night.

Chiu was born in China and raised in the United States, and before he was a poker player he was a restaurant owner. Chiu is partially deaf, having lost 35% of his hearing at an early age. While some might see this as a setback, Chiu credits this with heightening his other senses, improving his ability to read other players at the poker table.

David Chiu is a tough, experienced player, and with the third-most chips entering the final table, a threat to win the title.

Seat 4
Tommy Le
1,950,000 in chips

Nhan "Tommy" Le may not be a familiar name from the World Poker Tour, but poker success runs in his family -- he is the younger brother of WPT winner Nam Le. He is also close friends with Season III WPT World Champion Tuan Le, to the point where they (along with Nam) claim to be brothers. (Though as far as we can determine, no family connection exists, other than the shared last name.)

This is Le's first cash on the World Poker Tour, though he has three WSOP cashes, including a deep 79th place finish in last summer's WSOP Main Event, earning $106,000.

Nicknamed "Tommy Legend," the 26-year-old Le once proclaimed himself to be the "Phil Ivey of Home Games," a claim that his brother Nam was willing to endorse. In addition to Nam, Le also draws from the experience of Steve Sung and Season V Player of the Year J.C. Tran, who have been sweating him throughout the tournament. Steve Sung, who made two WPT final tables this season, actually picked Le to win this event back on Day 1.

Seat 5
Cory Carroll
6,670,000 in chips

It was only a year ago that Shane "Shaniac" Schleger called Cory Carroll the "greatest player you've never heard of." Shortly after that claim, Carroll won a WSOP Circuit championship and finished second at the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown. Now that he's reached the final table of the WPT World Championship, it's safe to say that everyone in poker should know the name Cory Carroll.

Carroll is just 25 years old, and got his start after wandering into a poker room about five years ago. This young Canadian went on to develop his poker skills online, where he's known as "UGOTPZD." Carroll is willing to see a lot of flops with a wide range of hands; combine that with the fact that he is second in chips, and he is the most likely candidate to mix it up with Gus Hansen at this final table. Carroll is probably a much bigger threat than Hansen realizes.

While Jonathan Little has already clinched the WPT Season VI Player of the Year award, it's interesting to note that with a first or second place finish here, Carroll will finish the season in second place on the POY leaderboard. Any finish of fourth place or higher will give him more than $1 million in career WPT earnings, which would make Carroll the latest WPT Poker-Made Millionaire.

Seat 6
Jeff King
1,305,000 in chips

Born and raised in Connecticut, Jeff King was a poker dealer for four years before making the transition to professional poker player, and he has earned more than $723,000 in his career.

The biggest score of King's career was a victory in a WSOP Circuit Championship in 2006, where he earned $345,000. King just missed another WSOP Circuit Championship final table two months later, finishing 11th. King has two prior cashes on the World Poker Tour, and three in the World Series of Poker. He made one WSOP final table in $5,000 Omaha Hi-Lo, where he finished seventh.

This won't be King's first time playing at a televised final table; he finished seventh in the 2006 U.S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City. While he has experience playing poker under the bright lights, this time the stakes are much, much higher. As the short stack, King said he is hoping to double up early to give himself a fighting chance for the title.

Like Tommy Le, Jeff King will have several experienced players backing him up -- former WPT winners Erick Lindgren, Gavin Smith, and Bill Edler are all expected to be on hand to cheer him to victory.

Editor's Note: According to BJ... "I mentioned that Josh Arieh would be there supporting John Roveto, and that Bill Edler would be there supporting Jeff King. But I never saw either of them at the actual final table. (They were listed as guests on the WPT bio sheets.) Erick Lindgren and Gavin Smith were there to sweat both Jeff King and David Chiu, and Daniel Negreanu showed up at some point and sat with them."

Thanks to BJ Nemeth for the stellar final table bios, coverage, and report. And congrats goes out to David Chiu!

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

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Around the Horn - Ikeaphobia, Paintings, and Coventry

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

As many of you know, I have multiple blogs and write for different sites. Here's a sampling of my output over the last two weeks:
Ikeaphobia (Tao of Pauly)
Potheads in the NBA (Tao of Pauly)
L.A. Paintings (Tao of Pauly)
1970s Bracelet Winners (LasVegasVegas)
4:20 Day Coverage (Coventry)
Today in Phishtory: 4.17.04 Las Vegas (Coventry)
Today in Phishtory: 4.17.99 - Trey and Page Play with Phil and Friends (Coventry)
Today in Phishtory: 4.23.94 Atlanta (Coventry)
Bong Hits with Rachael Ray (Truckin')
Definitely check out Ikeaphobia. It's become a popular post among my friends.

Also, I have been diligently working on my photography over at Flickr, including the Pauly Food gallery has swelled to 343 pictures of food and beverages taken from all over the world.

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

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Grouse14 Wins Saturdays with Dr. Pauly; Becomes First Repeat Champion

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Benjo (everyone's favorite malcontent chain-smokin' Pai Gow addicted journalist) visited LA for a few days after all of the French players busted out of the WPT Championships. We let him crash at the apartment with Change100 and myself. This morning, we headed to In & Out Burger for our pre-game meal.

I got something off the menu. Nothing too exotic, just a triple cheeseburger.

Anyway, after lunch, we headed back to play. There were 29 runners for Week 13. The Top 5 were paid. This week featured special guest SirWaffles.

Grouse14 had left an ominous comment at 8:43am ET on the morning of the tournament which said, "I have not been to the tourney for a while, but I plan on making a comeback today and becoming the first repeat champ......Look out."

My starting table included grouse14, DrPauly, Emil_M, AcerbicOne, Clintonstain, change1OO, and Derek.

Waffles was Gigli. He flopped a set of 7s in a three-way pot. phxman00 turned a set of Kings and had Waffles on the ropes... with a gutshot or quads as his only hopes for a miracle. He got neither on the river and headed to the rail as Gigli.

I spewed chips early and then doubled up against Friedman to get back a little above even. I cracked his A-A-x-x with two pair. The highest I got was 6th in chips with about 22 remaining. It was all downhill afterwards.

I played too many hands, per usual, and saw flops in 27 out of 45 dealt hands. 60%! But my table was six-handed or seven-handed for a bit and I like to see a lot of flops in position in PLO.

I busted out in 17th place. I had 1.2K in chips and found Ks-6h-6c-5s. Two players limped. I potted. O-hole-ne folded. Grouse14 re-raised to put me all in. I was committed and called. He had Qh-Qd-2d-2c. I flopped a gutshot and turned a flush draw. Alas, I missed on the river and grouse14 won the pot as I was out.

At the first break, Chewbot was the chipleader with 10.4K and 16 players remaining.

The final table included... Benjo, lanmah, chenzilla, mooninjune, grouse14, USC55ND24, AcerbicOne, phxman00, and Chewbot.

Benjo took over the lead after he doubled up against the chipleader in the biggest pot of the tournament. He got all his money in on the turn with trips against Chewbot's two pair. Benjo's stack jumped to over 22K.

Phxman00 was the Bubble Boy and hit the rail in 6th place. Benjo was the chipleader with almost 30K. At one point Benjo slipped to 25K, but he still had more chips than the remaining four combinded. They all had similar stack sizes ranging from 4K to 5k.

Benjo knocked out Chewbot in 5th and was rolling along. Then he took a big hit after Grouse14 doubled up with a sick hand. Benjo flopped a set but Grouse rivered a bigger set to win. Grouse took over the chiplead by a slim margin. Benjo busted out in 4th shortly after.

At the second break, grouse14 had the chip lead with 23.4K, Chenzill second with 11.3K, and Shamus trailing with 8.7k. After the break, Shamus chipped his way up to second place.

Chenzilla busted out in 3rd place. grouse14 raised from the small blind. Chenzilla re-raised to 5.4K from the big blind. Chenzilla called. The fop was Qd-4d-4h. Grouse14 checked. Chenzilla moved all in for his last 6,210 with A-A. Grouse14 called with trip fours. That held up and Chenzilla was out.

When heads up began, Shamus had 7.5K to Grouse14's 36K stack. On the fifth hand of heads up play, Shamus busted out in second place. On the final hand, Grouse raised to 1,800 and Shamus potted. Grouse re-raised to put him all in and Shamus called off his 5.5K stack.

Shamus: As-Qc-5c-4c
Grouse14: Jc-Jd-10c-6h

The board ran out 8c-8d-7d-2d-Kh. Grouse14 won with two pair and won the tournament.
Week 13 Money Winners:
1. Grouse14 - $116
2. Short-stacked Shamus - $69.60
3. Chenzilla - $46.40
4. Benjo - $34.80
5. Chewbot - $23.20
Grouse14 won the first ever Saturday's with Dr. Pauly. With his victory in Week 13, he has become the first two-time winner. Congrats!

Thanks to everyone who participated. Hope to see everyone next week!

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

Thursday, April 24, 2008


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I have been dabbling in PLO.

That sounds very edgy like on the borderline of taboo, sort of like in your 20s when you dabbled in cocaine on the weekends or when your best buddy tells you that he and his wife have been dabbling in the local swinger's scene. By those examples, dabbling means putting your nose or penis in places you don't usually. Perhaps dabbling is a poor choice of words.

I have been feeding my inner action junkie with PLO cash games.

That little monster has an insatiable appetite. The money doesn't matter to me. Neither does the stakes. I crave the inundation of the gambler's high that overcomes my senses when I shove all in with a monster draw, especially when I get called in a three-way pot and I find myself way, way, way behind. Then there's the invigorating jolt of anticipation as the the river card appears and then you magically spike your draw on the river.

You can never come that as close to an orgasm without jizzing all over yourself. Well, maybe at the Rhino.

It's like the millisecond before Kirk Gibson tagged a back-door slider on a 3-2 count against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Or like that second before Larry Johnson hit that infamous four-point play in Game 3 of the 1999 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

As Kirk Gibson said, "That's the great thing about the game. People think they got ya and it's so nice to get them and snatch it away at the end."

I've gone on week-long benders seeking out the highs that I can get from sitting at a PLO table. I always get a slight buzz when I utter the words... PLO. I like saying it out loud.

"Pee. El. Ohhhhh."

The letters roll off my tongue and my mouth automatically salivates. I beseech any action. NL Hold'em doesn't do it for me anymore. I don't get off like I used to. I require something stronger. It's like giving an alkie a sip of Lite beer when he has Johnny Walker raging through his bloodstream. My senses need a little more excitement than two cards. I have played so many hands of poker that I built up a tolerance and I really need a game with juiced action to get any semblance of a rush.

PLO has four cards. Double the dosage. Double the rush.

When I sit down at a PLO table, the inner gambling demons are washed away and I sink down into a grandiose feeling of warmth. Relaxtion. Pleasure. Satisfaction.

I won a glorious hand one afternoon. It was a four-way pot. The flop was Kd-10h-8s. I held Ad-Kh-7h-5d and fired out at that scary flop. I got two callers. The turn was the 6d. I redrew to an open-ended straight draw and a nut flush draw. I bet the pot. One player called. Another potted. I took all the time in the time bank as I let the rush build up before I re-potted all in. Both players called. I took a deep breath before the Qd fell on the river. For a couple of seconds I floated a few inches off the ground.

And the thing is, I also take a fair share of brutal beats in PLO and there's nothing I can do about it. You get just as much as a rush when you're ahead in a hand and succumb to the river suckout.

I held Qh-Jd-Jc-9c and flopped top set. I got it all in against a guy with bottom set. He rivered a one outer. But I got a euphoric buzz the moment before the river card was exposed. What you usually recall are the vexatious feelings of the suckout and forget about the burst of adrenaline that rocketed through your body as soon as you got all your money in ahead.

The most intoxicating hand that I had all week was Qh-Qd-7c-7s. It was three-handed. I raised pre-flop. The flop was 10s-6h-2s. Both players checked-called my pot-sized bet. The Qc fell on the turn. I felt much better with top set against whatever draws or two pairs out there. Both players check-called my pot-sized bet. The river was he Qs. Both players checked, I bet half of the pot. One player called and the other check-raised all in. I just called instead of raising. I was hoping to get the other player to call as well. He did just that. My runner-runner quads held up against a flush and a full house.

Here's the thing... there's a downside to the opiated feelings of PLO. Excess of anything is bad for you and moderation is the key to a fulfilling life. But discovering the perfect dosage is the most difficult part for people with addictive personalities. Too little and you don't get off. Too much? And you end up a whacked out cotton shooter jonesin' every hour of the day.

All I need is a little taste as I do backflips on the fine line between a hobby and an addiction.

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Daggers in Men's Smiles

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Oh my God. Iggy put aside Guinness and Politics for a moment and actually blogged about poker! Right now, on the other side of the world a butterfly just got smashed to death when its brains ended up splattered on a windshield of a truck. Coincidence or just another meaningless event in life?

Not to be outdone, I'm pressured to write actual poker content that's not drivel commentating on the dark side of humanity gambling and Las Vegas. I wish I could sit around and write about happy things like rainbows and bumblebees and pocket Aces holding up and a day without cheating in poker, but then again, I've always been one to speak what I feel instead of what I ought to say and that gets me into a lot of trouble.

I have been enjoying poker as it has taken on a different and a minor role in my life. I played almost every day in April (except when I was seeing Widespread Panic in New York). I have been on a nice run over the last two weeks, mostly because I have been in the same place and settled into a daily routine which gave me several hours every night to play poker.

And here's what's even more bizarre... I actually played a bunch of tournaments in the last ten days or more. I know, I know. I never play tournaments any more. They are a waste of time and I don't have large chunks of time to devote to playing a bunch to get back into peak form, if I was every in peak tournament form. Every few months I seems to migrate to a different area of poker... from PLO cash games to NL SNGS to Limit cash games to NL cash games to MTTs.

I usually switch things up when I get bored or slip into a losing streak. I used to be stubborn and plug away at losing streaks. Now I know it's best to take a few days away from the grind and get my mind off of losing and start thinking about more positive things. Most recently, I have been bored and it's been hard to find full ring mid-limit LHE games so I have been feasting off the cod and trout infesting the 1/2 and 2/4 NL tables.

* * * * *

I've also been passively trying to find a cheap seat into a WSOP event. I'm only going to play one event this year and I'd like to satellite in if possible. Tony G staked me last year in one of those Saturday $1,500 NL clusterfucks and to everyone's surprise... I cashed.

I played a couple of WSOP main event freerolls on Poker Stars for their latest promotion. You are eligible to play one per week, so why not? Those entry freerolls attract several thousand players. Talk about a tiresome journey! It's a pushfest early on in a sprint to see who can luck out the most and accumulate monster stacks since only the Top 50 get a ticket into the Saturday Weekly Finals where they're giving away seats.

The one that I played last week had 3,471 runners. The first 1K busted out in the first fifteen minutes. Over half the field was gone in 25 minutes. Those freerolls are always filled with lunatics and that's why I play like one. Only madness can succumb to utter madness. I doubled up a couple of times early with big dogs like... J-J and A-Q. I also sheepishly took down a pot with 9-3o.

I didn't last long and busted out in 1,229th place. Five players limped in a pot and I jammed with A-10 from big blind aka Stig Top-Rasmussen. A muppet with K-10 called. Bad beats against dominated hands are the worst of the worst, especially when you get outflopped by an eyeless villain from Scandinavia.

* * * * *

I made a rare appearance at MATH. There were 70 players and action was six-handed. My starting table included RaisingCayne, tilt away, ScottMc, katiemother, and mclarich. I played a lot of hands and raised RaisingCayne big blind a lot. I had a healthy stack when I doubled up short stack. I was ahead but lost to a treacherous four-flush. I never really recovered and got switched tables.

At my new table, I was way below average. The button raised and I went for a re-steal. He actually had a decent hand and called with A-Q. I missed and was out in an unimpressive 54th place.

I played the Mookie last week too. There were over 100 players and the final two tables got paid.

My starting table Donkette, millerd33, LJ, GCox25, pokerenthusiast, Julkeus, jeciimd, and rmbj494. I doubled up early when I flopped a set of 4s and then rivered a boat against Donkette. I built up a stack then lost the majority it when I jammed with a big draw. I had a gutshot straight flush draw against top pair. I missed and got crippled. I was shortstacked and tried to steal from the cutoff. My A-2 ran into Alceste's A-K. I couldn't suck out and got busted in 70th place.

* * * * *

Last Sunday was 4/20 Day which is a holiday for midnight tokers all over North America. I played in Uncle Chuck's Basement Game... a $4 NL rebuy. There were 28 herb-friendly players in the event. Top 4 got paid. There were 126 total rebuys. I was in for 11 including the add-on. My starting table included schlepp571, HighOnPoker, lucko21, BuddyDank, Derek, and Zeem.

Ks-10s lost in three-way pot. Reload.

8d-7d lost in three-way pot. Reload.

Q-Q lost to J-10. That one stung. My balls were numb for about twenty minutes after that miserable river. Reload.

6h-5h lost in three-way pot. Reload. Derek won the pot and jumped into the lead with 12K.

J-10 lost to K-K. Reload.

The poker gods finally shined their love light on me. I doubled up with a feeble K-9 and then doubled up again with A-K to go up to 10K.

A-K held against A-10. I jumped to second in chips.

A-Q held up in three-way pot. I was the chipleader with 23 players left.

At the break, I had 16.8K and was second in chips to Astin's 18K.

I had the munchies and ordered Thai food for dinner.... spicy beef waterfall and the yellow curry chicken.

I spewed chips and lost a lot of my stack to a river flush. Change100 and Daddy were moved to my table. Daddy was talking about smoking fingernails. I snorted them once in front of the monkey cages at the Playboy Mansion.

During my banter with Daddy, at some point the little censor guy inside my head let this line slip out... "snorted toenails off the tits of a 15-year old thai hooker." Or something similar to that phrase. I'm shocked that it got through the censors and I haven't had my chat banned.

The food arrived and I was starving. Chips were sparse and I busted out in 13th place. I pushed all in with a gutshot on the turn against Lucko's two pair. I missed on the river and was eliminated. At least I got to feast on delicious Thai food without any interruptions.

Change100 made the final table and the internet went spotty in her apartment just as it reached the bubble. But those problems cleared up and she came from behind to win the 4/20 Day tournament.

I was in the process of rolling a blunt when action was heads up between LJ and Change100. I completed my masterpiece just at the same time as the final hand completed.

"Let's make that a victory blunt!" said an excited Change100.

Fitting that the ganja queen took down Uncle Chuck's basement game on 4/20 of all days.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's AlCantHang

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It happened to Skippy. Then to Bobby Bracelet. Now to AlCantHang. Bastards!

Wait... who the hell is Skippy? Well, he's the guy who encouraged me to start my first blog in 2002 and in August of 2003, Tao of Poker became a spin off Tao of Pauly.

And what happened to AlCantHang, Skippy, and Bobby Bracelet? Their blogs were discovered by the people who sign their paychecks. They were forced underground.

In honor of my old and dear friend AlCantHang, here's a NSFW montage...

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

Monday, April 21, 2008

When the Circus Comes to Town

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

By now you have read the news that Brandi Hawbaker committed suicide last week. My traffic spiked to unusual numbers over the last few days as people frantically searched the intertubes for any information about the Brandi Hawbaker suicide, or the Brand Hawbaker obituary, or even the Brandi Hawbaker faked death.

I started getting cryptic emails and phone calls at the beginning of last week when rumors of Brandi's suicide where being whispered among poker industry insiders. I was already in Hollyweird when the first breaths of the story broke. Since I was in the same geographical area, I was asked to investigate the matter for various international media outlets (one offered triple my rate) to write the breaking story. I quietly declined the offer to dig deeper into Brandi Hawbaker's demise. I was in the middle of a rare creative burst of energy and rewriting my screenplay. Why drop everything in my life and pick apart Brandi's carcass like the rest of the bloodthirsty vultures?

Wicked Chops Poker was one of the first outlets to report the rumor. By Friday, more reports trickled in and we mentioned the news of Brandi Habaker's suicide over at LasVegasVegas. By the time the weekend ended, the rumor had become a fact when Brandi Hawbaker's death was eventually confirmed the L.A. County Coroners Office.

I didn't know Brandi but I could tell you one personal story and a few other stories that might entertain you or might help add to the myth and personae. Here's one quick one. At the World Series of Poker last year, I was walking through the roped off players area. As I passed one table, I heard a female voice say, "Aren't you that Dr. Pauly?"

I looked up and it was Brandi Hawbaker. I smiled and said, "Why yes. Yes I am."

She didn't say anything. I sort of stood there in an awkward silence for about ten seconds. I expected her to say something like, "Dude, I love your blog!" Because that's what people who I never met before and stop me in Las Vegas usually tell me. I waited for her to say something. Anything. She said nothing and just nodded her head sort of implying, "Ah, I've seen you wandering around and now I finally know who you are."

That's was my first and only Brandi encounter at the 2007 WSOP. I didn't write about it then and I think this will be the last time that I write about it. Period.

The bottom line is that Brandi Hawbaker (not her personally, but the Brandi Hawbaker effect) represented everything that is inherently demented about our celebrity-drive media culture, about the poker industry, and about living in Las Vegas.

It's distrubing that more people are talking about Brandi's death, than when Chip Reese died unexpectedly last December. I mean, Chip Reese was considered the greatest cash game player of all time. In an industry where all people do is badmouth and talk shit about each other, Chip Reese a saint among hell's worst sinners. You heard very few bad things about Chip. Why? Because he was a true gentleman and treated others around him with dignity and respect.

I kept hearing stories about Chip Reese loaning money to deadbeats and habitually losing poker players when he knew that he was going to get back nothing in return. His friends always got on his case for not calling in those markers or putting the pressure on the people who owed him money. But Chip was never willing to cause any drama. He was a true Buddhist among capitalists and thieves. He felt extremely fortunate in his life and he was willing to give people money who needed it more than himself, even though they almost always gambled the money away.

I guess that I'm not surprised that Brandi Hawbaker's death would get more attention that Chip Reese's death among the everyday poker players. I'm basing that on all of the emails and calls that I have gotten and the tremendous spike in traffic on Tao of Poker specifically searching for anything about Brandi Hawbaker. The traffic levels on Tao of Poker barely increased during the week that Chip Reese died.

That's not to say that Chip Reese was not appreciated and remembered among the poker media. He graced the cover of several magazines and there were dozens of touching stories published from various industry figures. Even the WSOP announced that the $50K HORSE Tournament would be renamed after Chip Reese.

I know that there will be no special tournaments named after Brandi Hawbaker. She had a career $40,389 in tournament winnings. On any given day, Chip Reese probably carried around three times as much in the form of Bellagio chips in his front pocket.

I think it's pretty obvious why the Brandi Hawbaker Effect has created such a buzz in cyberspace. When you have a saint versus a sinner... the sinner always gets attention, especially when it's a former stripper who supposedly traded tournament buy-ins for anal sex.

As Change100 said it best, "It's like if Al Pacino and Britney Spears happened to die on the same day. Who did you think will get more attention from the press and the fans?"

Sadly, it's that train wreck Britney Spears.

I've always secretly called Brandi Hawker the Lindsay Lohan of Poker but did my best to refrain from writing that in a public forum. God knows, the last thing we needed was more Lindsay Lohans out there drumming up the attention while the media machines hounded her every mood.

Do we care about these events because we sensationalize them so much? Or is it that the dramas are far more interesting that the banality of everyday life?

It's a combination of both. And I'm guilty on both sides. Heck, I love a good Lindsay Lohan wastoid story. I mean, Hollyweird is cluttered with them. Instead of those "George Washington slept here" signs that you'd see at colonial landmarks, bathrooms stalls all over Sunset Strip have "Lindsay snorted coke here" signs.

The poker culture is a male dominated much like many aspects of our society. When a vixen such as Brandi waltzes into a poker room, everything is going to stop. I have seen it happen. Poker is a murky universe and when pretty things magically appear, they stand out and become tractor beams of attention.

We live in a use and abuse society. If we're not using someone we're being abused by someone else. Nothing epitomizes that more than Las Vegas. And Brandi Hawbaker's problems were just magnified once she fell into the black hole of Vegas. Very few sane people survive the darkness that lurks in the shadows of Sin City. Just like the millions of other lost souls before her, when Brandi left Vegas, she also left with more problems than when she arrived.

I don't blame the media for trying to make a buck and riding a horse to death. I don't blame the readers who are actively seeking to be entertained. It's just the way our twisted minds have been conditioned to work these days. It's the same reason why there's rubbernecking and why we slow down when we see a car accident and peek into the twisted wreckage to see if there are any dead bodies.

A couple of months from now the circus will reappear when another Brandi-type character grasps our fickle attention and we'll be ensconced in another drama with more fury than Blanche Dubois on her period. We'll waste more time sifting through mountains of scandalous 2+2 threads, and we'll crack inside jokes on boring nights at the poker tables as catch phrases like will penis on back will become a part of everyday poker vernacular.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

4:20 Day

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Coventry is celebrating 4:20 Day with a bunch of different posts, pics, and videos. Check it out.

And, the boys over at Uncle Chuck and Friends are throwing a special tournament in honor of the herbal significance of April 20th. I should be able to make it... I just don't know if I'll be back in time from the Green Apple Festival to play. Anyway, hope to see you there...

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

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bayne Wins Staurdays with Dr. Pauly

By Pauly
Holyweird, CA

I almost missed the start of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. Change100 returned from Monte Carlo last night and we went to the diner for brunch, except that the diner is always swamped on the weekends and it took a while before we got our food. Anyway, we got back just in time for the start.

This week's tournament had 24 runners and the top 3 got paid. CJ made a rare appearance and his Luckbox powers were in full force.

My good friend Mad also made it and was playing from Spain. She was at my starting table which also included... BiskoKid106, Poker Shrink, AA_Matt_AA, CJ, boscodon, and Mean Gene.

Big Jer was this week's Gigli. Derek busted him with a full house.

I spewed chips early in a pot to Mad. Then I busted out when my Wheel was no match for CJ's boat. Nothing is worst that raising all in against the nuts when you are drawing dead. I was eliminated in 21st place.

At the first break, AA_matt_AA was the chipleader with 4.8K and 15 players were left.

The final table this week was jeciimd, Mean Gene, AA_Matt_AA, WAXMAN13, sunno5103, bayne_s, bettercheck4, CJ and I_CrackQuads. AA_Matt_AA had the chiplead with 8.3K.

Last week's winner I_CrackQuads busted out on a crazy three-way hand. There was a lot of action pre-flop and 90% of the money was in pre-flop between sunno5103, I_CrackQuads, and Bayne. The rest of the money went in on the flop. The board ran out... Qh-10c-10s-Qs-8s. Bayne won with Jd-Jc-10h-9h and a straight. I_CrackQuads's Ac-As-5h-5d lost and he was eliminated in 9th place. And with I_CrackQuads bust out, there would not be a repeat champion this week.

At the second break, there were four players remaining as action reached the money bubble. CJ was the chipleader with 14.2K.

After a tough battle on the bubble, jecciimd went out as the Bubble Boy and finished in 4th place.

Once it got three-handed, Bayne won a major hand and doubled through CJ to take the chiplead with 16K. CJ eventually busted out in third place.

When it was heads up Bayne had a 23K to 10K lead. On the 25th hand of heads up play, Bayne took it down. On the final hand, AA_Matt_AA raised 1,600 and Bayne called. The flop was 9c-8d-7s. Bayne checked. AA_Matt_AA bet 3,200. Bayne min-check-raised to 6,400. AA_Matt_AA said, Here we go." And he called. The turn was the As. Bet bet 800. AA_Matt_AA said, "gg you got it" before he called off his last 582.

AA_Matt_AA: Qh-7c-3c-2h
Bayne: 9h-7h-5h-3d

The river was the Ac. Bayne won the pot with a bigger two pair. AA_Matt_AA was eliminated in second place while Bayne won Satudays with Dr. Pauly.
Week 12 Money Winners:
1. Bayne - $120
2. AA_Matt_AA - $72
3. CJ - $48
After numerous cashes and final table performances, Bayne finally broke through and won his first Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. Congrats!

Thanks again to everyone who played and pimped the event. Hope to see everyone next week!

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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Charity Tournament for the Children's Tumor Foundation

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Time to do some good.
Name/Title: Children's Tumor Foundation
Password: charity
Date: April 23 Wednesday
Time: 20:00ET (8pm)
Where: Full Tilt Poker
Buy-in: $10 ($5 for the pot, $5 for CTF)

A reader of mine recently told me about a special charity tournament. I figured that I would let everyone know about the tournament. Here's the email...
As a fellow poker player, I would like to ask you a favor.

To make a long story short, both of my nephews have brain tumors. There names are Braeden (age 4) and Bronson (age 2). They both have neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1. It's pretty rare for people with NF to get brain tumors, especially 2 children from the same family.

Braeden has successfully completed 60 weeks of chemotherapy treatments and one day his tibia will likely be replaced with a steel rod. Bronson began chemotherapy treatment on February 27.

You can read more about it here: http://www.active.com/donate/nfFlyingPig2008/CSteine3

My brother (their dad) has asked me to run in a 10K race with him to raise $10,000 for the Children's Tumor Foundation. I gladly accept the challenge and decided that as a poker forum owner, the best way to raise money was by having a poker tournament!

Our tournament is a $10 buy in at Full Tilt. $5 goes to the pot and $5 goes to CTF.

I was wondering if you would be so kind as to make a post about our tournament and help get the word out about our game. If you have any other ideas or ways of helping us, we would be extremely grateful! With your help, we can make this huge!

And, if you ever need anything from me or TheRoundersRoom.com, just let me know.

Here are the details of the tournament:
Name/Title: Children's Tumor Foundation
Password: charity
Date: April 23
Time: 20:00(8 PM)ET
Where: Full Tilt Poker
Buyin: $10 ($5 for the pot, $5 for CTF)
We're going to have some Full Tilt pros playing with us. We also just had a gentleman donate 18 autographed copies of his new poker book and another gentleman donate a few copies of Rounders DVDs. (These will be given as prizes.)

Thanks for your help!

Chane Steiner
The charity tournament is next Wednesday. I dunno if I'll have the time to play, but I signed up anyway. I'll post my blinds and sit out if I can't make it. Spread the word and good karma will come your way.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday Pimps: Monte Carlo, WPT Bracelets, and Paul Phillips Interview

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Change100 is in Monte Carlo covering the PokerStars.com EPT Grand Finale. I covered that event last year and it's being held in an amazing venue. While she's gone, I get to live in her apartment and drive her car. I've also been writing a ton. I spent all weekend sitting around in my boxers smoking tough and watching the Masters, playoff hockey, and a mixture of Yankees and Dodgers games.

Anyway, Change100 is covering the PokerStars.com EPT Grand Finale for Poker News along with GG and Tassie Devil. There's other cool stuff as well like pics and videos from Amanda.

Otis is also in Monte Carlo doing his best to stay of Isabelle-tilt and not fall down and providing top notch coverage over at PokerStars Blog. Also on his team is Stephen Bartley, one of my favorite British writers. And don't forget about the other PokerStars blogs written in German by B@ndit and in Swedish by Lina.

And if haven't seen EPTLive.com, then what are you waiting for? Several friends of mine are doing the broadcast of the PokerStars.com EPT Grand Finale. And if you speak French, you can listen to Benjo's magnificent commentary en francais.

And don't forget about Blonde Poker. Snoopy, DanaFish, and Jen are hard at work covering the event for the Brits. Speaking of Jen... she made an appearance on Late Night Poker over in the UK. Here's a video when she snaps off Aces with the Hiltons.

And lastly, check out this witty video about my friend (Mad from PokerStars) and her morbid addiction to pie charts...

* * * * *

If you didn't know, the WPT recently announced that they were handing out bracelets to their event winners. Real original guys.

Pokerati had two posts about the topic... Bracelets for WPT Winners and a pic of the Tiffany-designed bracelet.

It's a bit dainty for guys to wear bracelets, however, since bracelets are a WSOP tradition... I accept it and honor that prestigious symbol of poker excellence. However, WPT had a chance to be original give out something cool to their champions such as a winner's watch. That's something that a poker player would actually wear and the WPT could have gotten a fat sponsorship from a watch company, just like the WSOP did. How cool would it be if WPT handed out a Rolex? Swanky and classy. Or how about ripping off the Masters and giving away a colored sports coat? Personally, they should go with cockrings. I wanna hear Mike Sexton say, "Here's Gus Hansen, the winner of four WPT cockrings."

The Poker Shrink recently handed out a report card for the WPT which included comments about the final table chip structure and the first season of the WPT on the GameShowNetwork.

The loco hombres at Wicked Chops Poker posted an interview with Paul Phillips, who always has some controversial things to say including on the topic as to why he quit poker...
I quit because I was starting a family and playing poker (especially tournament poker) is not conducive to having a happy family life. Had I not quit for that reason, I would have quit anyway because the juice had become too big, there was too much collusion, television was exerting a highly corruptive influence on what fairness remained, I was tired of having to fight through five hundred people on bathroom breaks, etc.... More
Lastly, Karol sent me this link... Second Life video in response to Massachusetts's Governor Duval Patrick's proposed prosecution of online poker players.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Met You in J.C. Penny...

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The Long Post is vintage Daddy. He answers the question everyone wanted to know... Were you really the Poker Champ? That's a must read. He also dragged my ass down memory lane. Thanks a bunch... and I had forgotten that Iggy hired a midget during the first blogger tournament. Great times. Original experiences.

Here's a bit of Daddy's post...
Do you remember your first post?

No clue.
In fact, I'm glad it's forever gone.
I wanted to play in the blogger tourney, so I emailed Pauly. He wasn't Dr. Pauly yet, and was still quite accessable. I think our email exchange can be best summed up as:
"Dude, I love your shit. I play poker and love Jerry too! I want to play in the blogger tourneys to improve my game. How much does a blog cost?"

To which he promptly replied: "Blogs are free, man. Phish rules. See you at the tables."

If you know your Tao of Poker and Snailtrax history, then you know that Daddy and I met for the first time at a Phish show. This show to be exact. Deer Creek, Indiana. We hung out on the lawn and got wasted during the set break.

We could have crossed paths a couple of months earlier (April of 2004... holy shit, in fact four years ago to this very day) in Las Vegas. We both were in town for three Phish shows. I was there with my brother and we were staying in the Excalibur. My brother was a poker novice at the time and we spent every waking moment in the Excalibur poker room when it was still a smoking room and they only spread 2-6 Spread Limit and 1-5 stud. I'd leave to go to the concerts and when I'd come back Derek would be in the same seat.

I had been relatively new to the blogging scene and still unfamiliar with trying to meet invisible internet friends for the first time.

Daddy emailed me and suggested we hang out in Vegas. He said that he'd be the fat kid with beard and a hat in the poker room at the Mirage. We never got to hang out and that was one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

On that same trip to Las Vegas, I also met Felicia and Glenn. Glenn had won a seat to a satellite to the 25K Bellagio WPT Championship. Felicia was on the rail sweating Glenn and told us to stop by. That's how we initially met. That was also the first WPT event I had ever seen and I was gawking at all the pros. They played the tournament out on the floor in front of the poker room since they were renovating the area into the room that exists today.

Spring 2004 was a watershed era in poker because it was just about the same time that poker exploded. Moneymaker had been the WSOP champion for less than a year. The accessibility of the internet fueled the popularity of online poker rooms while poker started seeping into every aspect of our society including television programs, chip set makers, websites, popular culture, and of course... books. It seemed like everyone was on the verge of a book deal in 2004.

After busting out of a WSOP satellite at Binion's, Derek and I took a cab to the Bellagio to check out the first day of the WPT Championship. Ben Affleck was playing and drew the most railbirds including several hotties. Derek sweated Scotty Nguyen's table. When Scotty won a hand, he stood up and gave Derek a high five. At the time, it was the coolest thing ever... watching a world champion shoot the shit with my brother.

Man, oh man... those were the halcyon days of poker when I used to get all fired up about little moments like that.

Here's what Derek wrote in his Day 5 trip report:
The WPT event was cool. I never get excited when I see famous people. Riding the subways in NYC gives me the opportunity to see some famous athletes and actors, as well as others. I never get excited or ask for an autograph because who cares. They are regular people. I don't need to inflate their egos more than it already is, right? Fuck them. So I usually ignore them and say, "Hi!" at best. But that's it. Nothing else. Paul and I walked over to the poker room and saw every poker pro you could think of. I've seen them on TV but in person was unbelievable. I was in awe for once. Doyle Brunson was there, so was Scotty Nguyen, Jen Harmon, Jesus, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Devilfish, Mel Judah, TJ Cloutier, Phil Laak (aka the Unabomber), Hoyt Corkins, Sam Grizzle, Ron Rose, Howard Lederer, Gus Hanson, Meng the Master, Clonie Gowan, Dan Harrington, and everyone else you've seen or heard of (I know I'm leaving out a ton of people). Hollywood notables were Gabe Kaplan, Ben Affleck, and James Woods. There were others but they are not worth mentioning. I was truly excited. I was waiting for Vince Van Patten to fall down drunk somewhere, anywhere, as long as Shana was nearby but no luck. Not even a Mike Sexton sighting. I guess they're just getting loaded somewhere waiting for the final table.

The highlight of the WPT event was getting to meet Scotty Nguyen. He was playing in the actual poker room because the tourney was over flowing so they had to use real game tables. I was leaning over the wall looking into the room and sitting a foot away from me was Scotty Nguyen. Someone asked him for a picture while he was playing a hand. He politely said one minute and folded his hand. He got up and looked at me and I said, "What's up Scotty?"

He gave me a hi five and said, "What's up guy?!"

He had a huge smile and then shook my hand and said, "How's it going big man!?"

I said, "Great! How bout you?"

"Awesome, baby!" he said and then he went over to the tourists and took a photo with them. How crappy is this? I lug my digital camcorder all the way out to Vegas and I leave it in my room. I could have close up footage of the pros and a Scotty Nguyen conversation. I blew it. Anyway, I run over and tell my brother what just happened. I was pumped. I've never been so excited to meet someone. I went back to the same area and was smoking a cigarette thinking about how I should have brought my camera to the Bellagio and then all of a sudden I get this slap on my shoulder and it's Scotty Nguyen again. He's got his cell phone in hand and says, "What's up?" to me again and gives me a thumbs up! Paul comes over shortly and Scotty Nguyen comes over again. I guess he was more interested in taking breaks than playing hands early on in day 1 of the tourney. He says hi to Paul. We formally introduce each other and he shakes both our hands with a huge smile. He says, "Just win baby!!"

We say the same thing back. It was all we could think of to say. How dorky? Oh well. He was genuinely excited to meet us. Scotty is a crazy man. I figured if Scotty touched me several times today . . . it's time to hit the tables. He had to bring some luck, right?
Yes, my brother calls me Paul and it's Men the Master, not Meng.

It was fun reading those trip reports and about all the hijinks that I had at the Phish shows. Little did I know that less than a year later, I would getting ready to move to Las Vegas to cover my first WSOP.

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nothing to Do and Nowhere to Go

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

One of my all time favorite flicks is Office Space. For the majority of my adult life, I did everything possible to avoid working in an office. Sure, I had two stints on Wall Street and we worked in a bullpen which we all called the trenches, where we sat behind multiple screens in a long row with other suits. But that hardly qualifies as a typical office environment.

During the majority of the last two decades on Earth, I held a variety of jobs for the sole purpose of paying my rent. I was content with living paycheck to paycheck and just getting by. For most of my angst-ridden 20s, I struggled to find my voice as a writer and could not support myself with the written word. I never allowed my occupation to define my existence. Rather, my party-fueled 1990s was peppered by a cornucopia of meaningless jobs. Heck, I never thought that I'd live to see 30 years old, so I never bothered to pursue a position where I couldn't walk out on the spot if the job sucked or if my boss was acting like a pea-brained twerp on a power trip.

The majority of those jobs didn't have a 401k or health insurance. I was mostly paid in cash and they were simple jobs which I often performed under some sort of inebriation either herbal or pharmaceutical. One of my college friends, Dutch, had a system where he arrived at every job interview stoned to the gourd. That way, if the off chance he was hired, he could get high before work everyday and his employers would think that he was... normal.

Some of the jobs I've had included being a bicycle messenger, runner on the floor of the Commodities Exchange, grave digger, ice cream man, museum security guard, process server, plumber's assistant, adult video store manager, adult film cameraman, telemarketer, art handler, janitor, bookie, bartender, barback, dish washer, roadie, receptionist, ticket scalper, used book seller, house painter, office temp, proofreader, sales clerk, and museum tour guide.

I even worked with the Census Bureau in 2000. I was hired because I lied on the application and said that I was fluent in Spanish. The result? I was assigned to count residents in Spanish speaking neighborhoods. No one answered their doors. They didn't want to speak to me because they all thought I was from the INS.

Most of those occupations are absent from my resume for obvious reasons. Although I'd really like to update my resume and somehow include "slinging pharmies on Phish tour." I could come up with something clever like "Pharmaceutical Saleperson and duties included distribution of Pfizer products throughout North America."

I also had a 72-hour stint where I managed an all-female punk rock band when I lived in Brooklyn. My career was over as quickly as it started when the drummer and bass player threw down during a huge cat fight an hour before a gig at CBGB's, because one of them slept with the other's boyfriend. The band broke up and all I got out of it was a lousy hand job from the perky diet pill-popping pixie of a lead singer with red-orange hair. A mutual friend told me that she's now a SUV-driving soccer mom in Connecticut with a morose addiction to Valium and Pinot, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. To this very day, I still think about her whenever I hear The Ramones song I Wanna Be Sedated.

Fortunate for me, I never worked in a gut-wrenching place like in The Office or Office Space. My brother has/does and he often recants weird and bizarre stories about mundane office life such as having to fill out TPS reports and being forced to sing Happy Birthday to his co-workers.

Anyway, in Office Space one of my favorite parts was the "What would you do if you had a million dollars?" scene.
Peter: What would you do if you had a million dollars?

Lawrence: I'll tell you what I'd do, man: two chicks at the same time, man.

Peter: That's it? If you had a million dollars, you'd do two chicks at the same time?

Lawrence: Damn straight. I always wanted to do that, man. And I think if I were a millionaire I could hook that up, too; 'cause chicks dig dudes with money.

Peter: Well, not all chicks.

Lawrence: Well, the type of chicks that'd double up on a dude like me do.

Peter: Good point.

Lawrence: Well, what about you now? What would you do?

Peter: Besides two chicks at the same time?

Lawrence: Well, yeah.

Peter: Nothing.

Lawrence: Nothing, huh?

Peter: I would relax... I would sit on my ass all day... I would do nothing.
Let me tell you, I've done two chicks at once and you don't need a million dollars... just some really good ecstasy. Anyway, I can definitely relate to the "I would relax and sit on my ass all day" quote.

Since 2003, I created something out of nothing since the inception of Tao of Poker. In the last five years, I carved out a successful writing career and branched off into several lucrative business ventures. Needless to say, the intense grind and blitzkrieg travel schedule over last few years both mentally drained and physically exhausted me. Burnt out is a fitting description.

The positive side of living out of a backpack was that all my possessions where with me. I had simplified my life and shed unnecessary material items. Without having to pay rent or other bills, I pulled myself out of debt, paid off my credit cards and school loan, and invested wisely. Then one day when I got a call from my broker and realized how much I was worth. The number blew me away. What was I doing fetching chip counts when I should have been relaxing on an exotic beach sipping rum-based cocktails with miniature bamboo umbrellas?

Around that time I read a book called The 4-Hour Workweek and the author suggested that the 'work for forty years then retire' model was outdated. He suggested mini-retirements where you take off a couple of months and then jump back into work for a a couple of years and repeat the process.

So instead of waiting until I turn 60 or 65 to see the world, I decided why the hell am I working my ass off now? Life is incredibly short and since the world is going to end on December 21, 2012 (the exact date that the Mayan calendar ends and the same year that the I-Ching ends), so what's the point of accumulating wealth and more stuff?

I eliminated tons of stress by shedding excess work from my daily consumption. I fired my annoying clients... such as the ones who paid me late or bitched and moaned about the littlest things or treated me with the least amount of respect. Then I figured out a formula how I could work as little as possible, but still generate enough income to be comfortable. It took me several months, but I finally arrived at the point where I could walk away from being a slave in poker and enjoy my life without having to immerse myself into the darkness of the scene and drive myself crazy.

The last ninety days have been a blur. A happy blur. Thank God I took pictures and notes, otherwise I'd totally forget them all. Time indeed flies when you're having fun. My last official assignment was covering the final table of the Aussie Millions... in January. I tried to relax, but I didn't exactly do nothing. I started working out again and shed 15 pounds. I visited four other countries including New Zealand, a place I always wanted to visit and never thought I'd get to see with my two eyes. The more I think about it, I only worked one assignment in the last six months.

One side trip that stood out was an excursion to Qeenstown on the south island of New Zealand with Change100. Jules' hubby, Graham, is a Kiwi and he told us about scenic flights to Milford Sound, which was supposedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Most of the Aussies we knew also insisted that we take a tour of Milford Sound. It was not a cheap flight, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I booked a flight and told Change100 that it was an early Valentine's Day present. Our initial flight was canceled due to bad weather but we caught a break and made it out a few hours later. Change100 couldn't handle the shakiness of the seven-seater Cessna and lost her cookies not once, but twice. And that's why we started calling her Puke Girl.

Here's some of the footage I took as I got to ride shotgun...

Anyway, we waited for our weather delayed flight with two other couples. They were all British retirees in their 60s. They asked what I did. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at the gentlemen who were almost twice my age and said, "I'm also retired."

So what have I been doing the last 180 days? A hell of a lot of partying. I'm shocked that I haven't been arrested or tossed into a rehab center. At least I had an excuse. Instead of self-medicating or escaping reality but numbing the senses to deal with the pressures of every day life... I was celebrating the good luck in my life because I know all to well, as Buddha has noted, that life is suffering. For a brief moment in time, my life is a peaceful oasis and wanted to enjoy it now instead of waiting another 25-30 years to see those misty mountain tops of New Zealand or to wander the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen or stand in a soggy field for four straight days while hearing the most succulent music my ears have devoured in a very long time.

My original intent over the last six months was to take time off and write. But, I was burned out on writing. I had soured on the poker scene and writing about poker was the last thing I wanted to do. I lost touch with the passionate side to both writing and poker and needed time away to rediscover both. I knew that when I eventually got excited to write again and found a way to enjoy poker again... it would be a matter of time before I started writing about poker again. And not just churning out words to make a buck... but to really write about poker.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm closer than I was a year ago when I was working my ass off.

I guess you can say that my time away was productive because I discovered a healthy balance as a well-rounded person. I spent a lot of my time with music and bringing the music blog up to speed. Instead of becoming a slave to poker and trying to fit my life around poker... I flipped it. Now I'm trying to squeeze poker into my life. I like it much better that way. Poker is back to being where it started... one of my many passions instead of the all-encompassing monster that ruled every second of my world.

Lucky for me, I have some amazing friends, a great brother, and a cool girlfriend. They all made sacrifices and gave up a lot of their time with me in order to allow me to flourish as a writer. Or as Change100 explained, "We all put up with your whole 'dark knight of the soul thing' and perpetual moodiness in exchange for free meals and being characters on the Tao of Poker."

I wanted to pay some of that back. Instead of spending the last three months in solitary confinement writing... I made a wiser choice and decided that my friends were more vital to me. It's hard because everyone is scattered all over the country. Change100 lives in Los Angeles. My brother is in NYC. Jerry is in Miami. The Joker is in Colorado. Senor is in Rhode Island and not to mention my other friends in Las Vegas and New York City and everywhere else.

I got to see some of the most influential people in my life over the last twenty years. We had a blast and joked about old times and made plans for future trips. They reminded me of where I came from and to never forget that. Sometimes that's hard to do when you live in luxury hotels, visit nine countries (and one principality) in eleven months, and get to haphazardly shower strippers with $20 bills.

I guess the whole point to this post is to say... I'm back. Today is like the first day of Spring Training. I'm gearing up to cover my fourth WSOP, which starts at the end of May.

Now all I have to do is figure out who to write for...?

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

$1 Million Worth of WSOP Seats on Poker Stars

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

If you don't know, PokerStars is running a WSOP Million Dollar Giveaway between now and June 28. PokerStars is handing out over $1 million (USD) in WSOP packages. They will be giving away 80 free seats in total.

Main Event packages include...
- $10K entry to the 2008 WSOP Main Event
- Accommodation at the Palms Casino across the street from the Rio
- $2,500 for travel expenses
The Million Dollar Giveaway freerolls run daily, with 24 hourly Round 1 tournaments every day... starting at :05 past the hour.

You are eligible to play in one Round 1 tournament per week. The top 50 players in each Round 1 tournament will be awarded a ticket to the Million Dollar Giveaway Weekly Final.

The Weekly Final tournaments are held every Saturday starting April 19 until June 28. Starting times are: 7:31AM ET, 1:30PM ET, and 8:00PM ET.

Seven total WSOP Main Event packagaes will be given away during these Weekly Final tournaments. One seat is given away at the 7:31AM tournament while three each are being given away at the 1:30 and 8:00 Weekly Final tournaments.

To be eligible, all you have to do is...
1. Download the free PokerStars software and register your account.

2. Enter the freeroll of your choice in the tournament lobby by clicking Tourney and Freeroll. (You can also check under the Events tab and then WSOP and All.
Shoot me an email if you have any questions.

Bottom line, PokerStars will be sending more players to the 2008 WSOP than any other site. And you have plenty of chances to win a seat between now and the end of June.

Best of luck!

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

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I_CrackQuads Wins Saturdays with Dr. Pauly

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It was another West Coast installment of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. We had 28 runners this week with the Top 3 getting paid. SirWaffles made a rare appearance.

My starting table included... BiskoKid106, filpac, staind1791, Ingoal, DrPauly, USC55ND24, and TequilaMom.

Tequila Mom who offered up a pair of her old panties as a bounty. "Haha. Yes, I wear panties," she said. "I don't want to leave a greasy snailtrack everywhere I sit."

That was just one of the many gems that we got to experience in the chat before Tequila Mom busted out three minutes into the tournament.

On a flop of Qc-Jd-10h, Tequila Mom and USC55ND24 got it all in. They both held A-K for a Broadway straight. However, USC55ND24 held Ad-Kd and caught running diamonds to win the pot with a flush. Tequila Mom was out and took down Gigli.

Nothing was going on for me until the deck hit me in the face. I jumped up to 5th in chips. I had A-A and Q-Q in consecutive hands and won both pots.

I slipped to 10th out of 16 with a 2K stack after I doubled up ResidentEvil.

At the first break, I_CrackQuads was the chipleader with 7K. Waffles sat second in chips. I was 8th out of 13 with 2.8K.

I bubbled off final table in 10th place. O-hole-ne limped from the small blind. I raised to 450 from the big blind with Jd-Jh-10s-5c. O-hole-ne called. The flop was 8s-6s-6d. He checked. I bet 900. He check-min-raised me. I called off my last 485 and was all in. He showed trip 6s and I could not improve. Busto in 10th.

The final table players included o-hole-ne, filpac, Bikom, on_thg, SirFWALGMan, Family Ice, I_CrackQuads, USC55ND24, and cosmicfred. I_CrackQuads was chipleader.

Waffles busted out in 5th place when he ran into USC55ND24's set of fives. With four to go, it was the money bubble. USC55ND24 was the chipleader. With both him and FamilyIce still left - there was a chance that one of them became the first repeat champion. O-hole-ne tried to prevent that when he went on a rush and jumped from last in chips to first.

Family Ice eventually bubbled out in 4th place. He got it all in with K-K against USC55ND24's K-K. But USC55ND24 free-rolled another flush draw and got there on the turn to bust Family Ice in 4th place. With three to go, USC55ND24 was the chipleader with 16K.

One of the most decisive hands of the tournament happened in the battle of the blinds between USC55ND24 and o-hole-ne. The flop was 10h-4h-3s. USC55ND24 bet 800. O-hole-ne raised to 3,200. USC55ND24 called. The turn was the 10c. USC55ND24 bet 1,750. o-hole-ne raised to 8,140 and was all in. USC55ND24 called. USC55ND24 was behind with trip tens. O-hole-ne was ahead with a full house. He flopped a set of fours and turned the boat. He won the largest pot of the tournament up until that point.

At the second break, o-hole-ne was the chipleader with 19K. Three to go.

Last week's champion USC55ND24 busted out in 3rd place. He was shortstacked and o-hole-ne took him out. Both players were almost even when heads up play began. O-hole-ne was ahead 20,371 to 20,129.

On the first hand of heads up play, both players got it all in pre-flop.

o-hole-ne: Qd-Qh-6h-3d
I_CrackQuads: Kc-Kd-10s-6s

The board ran out 9h-8s-7d-Jc-4c. I-CrackQuads won the pot with a straight. O-Hole-ne was crippled with just 242 remaining in chips. He was all in from the small blind on the very next hand. I_CrackQuads won the final hand with a pair of fives and o-hole-ne was eliminated in second place. I_CrackQuads took down Saturdays with Dr. Pauly.
Week 11 Money Winners:
1. I_CrackQuads - $135
2. o-hole-ne - $81
3. USC55ND24 - $54
Another great final table. Congrats again to I_CrackQuads for his victory. Thanks to everyone who played and pimped the event. Hope to see everyone next week at the same time for more PLO hijinks.

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bowling for Dollars Video

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Did you know that the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967?

I will never forget that date after I lost a prop bet to Change100 on Thursday morning. You should have seen her kaleidoscope eyes when I forked over $100. When it came down to gambling on the release date of that epic album and testing my knowledge of Beatles history... I whiffed.

Whenever I listen to the entire Sgt. Pepper's album in one sitting, all of a sudden I have this insatiable urge to drop acid.

Download link to Sgt. Peppers... courtesy of Coventry.

* * * * *

Derek finally posted his recap of our March Madness trip to Vegas. This one is titled What's your real name?

The following video might destroy Miami Don's career as a bowling hustler...

Click through to Tao of Poker to view the video via RSS....

Alas, that was a fun night in Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago, as we capped off a long day of drinking at the sports book with beer bowling and prop betting.

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Grouse14, The Rooster, Buddy Dank, DrPauly, StB, Bikom, Family Ice, Bettercheck4, 23skidoo, and USC55ND24 have all won Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. Will you be next?

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

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

WSOP Main Event Final Table 90-Day Delay: Guest Post by BJ Nemeth

Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome BJ Nemeth to Tao of Poker in his debut guest post (and I certainly hope that it won't be his last). BJ will be discussing the recent controversy surrounding the rumor that Harrah's and ESPN would delay the final table of the main event and play it 90 days later once the last nine are set. BJ has been a tournament reporter since 2004. His impressive resume includes stints at Card Player, Poker Pages, Poker Wire, and Poker News. He's currently the lead tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour.

Thanks to BJ for sharing this piece. Enjoy, Pauly...

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WSOP 90-Day Delay

By BJ Nemeth
Foxwoods, CT

If you haven't heard, the big news in the poker world right now is that Harrah's and ESPN are rumored to be considering a 90-day delay before the final table of the WSOP Main Event. The Main Event would play out as it always has until the field reached the final nine players. At that point, play would stop, and those players would take up to three months off. ESPN would edit and air the pre-final table episodes, building momentum for a "live" final table to be shown to a much larger television audience.

Obviously, this would be a drastic change to poker's premiere event, and there are a lot of players and fans debating whether this plan would lead to the apocalypse of poker or the spark of another poker boom.

Pauly knows that I'm a strong advocate for this rumored change -- I think it has the potential to make poker a true spectator sport, bringing more fans, money, and fish to the game. He asked me to write something for the Tao explaining why I think it's such a good idea. You'll have to wait a bit longer to read Pauly's opinion on the issue; he's listening to both sides and weighing all the pros and cons before going public, but you can expect his thoughts here at the Tao in a few days.

First, let's clarify a few things about the proposal:

1. Is This a Late April Fool's Joke?
While these are rumors, we know that this has been seriously discussed among the key decision makers at Harrah's and ESPN -- this isn't just an idea that sprang from a random post on 2+2. Harrah's has no official comment on the rumors at this time, but there is a very real possibility that this could happen by 2009.

2. When Do the Final Tablists Get Paid?
As soon as the tenth player is eliminated, the final nine players will immediately receive ninth place money. (Last year, ninth place was worth $525,934.) When they return for the final table up to 90 days later, they will play for the rest of the prizepool. (Last year, for example, it would have been $60K more for 8th, $1.3 million more for 4th, and $7.7 million more for 1st.)

3. How Live is "Live"?
The final table would *not* be shown live the way it was last year on pay-per-view, which would put most casual fans to sleep. It would be delayed a day or two to allow for a quick edit to get it down to a watchable duration (3-4 hours?), complete with holecams to see the players' cards. Reportedly, the phrase they're using is "plausibly live," and the results would be kept secret.

- - - - - - -

Most players can already envision the negatives of a 90-day delay. What if somebody is arrested or killed in that time? What if amateurs hire professional poker coaches to improve their game? While arguments like these are valid, I think they are overstated, and none of them outweigh the potentially huge benefits to the industry.

For the record, a death or an arrest would almost certainly be treated the same way it is now. Any player unable to return to action is simply blinded off, and any prize money earned is held until the player (or their estate) shows up to claim it. Remember Vinnie Vinh? He disappeared twice in last year's WSOP after finishing Day 1 of a prelim with a big stack — big enough to survive blinding off, and the stack finished in the money without him. The reason a player fails to return (drug use, arrest, or death) is irrelevant.

I find it interesting that some critics complain that this delay would compromise the "integrity" of the tournament, yet have no problem with card cams. Showing a player's cards is without question the biggest threat to the integrity of the game as it is traditionally played, and a lot of players (including Erik Seidel) argued strongly against them when they were first introduced. But card cams played a pivotal role in the recent poker boom, and most of those critics now admit that the upside was much bigger than the downside. I think that's the case with this new proposal as well.

Now for the good news.

1. The WSOP Becomes a Television "Event" Worth Watching
With this one change, the WSOP on TV becomes a live "event" that far more people will be excited to watch. Nobody will know the result, which is critical to the success of sports television. NBC ran into problems a decade ago when they broadcast the Nagano Olympics on an 18-hour delay, and it really affected the ratings because many people learned the results ahead of time from other media. (And that was when the internet was still relatively new.) If CBS rebroadcast the NCAA championship game between Kansas and Memphis tomorrow night, nobody would watch it, because anyone who cared would already know who won.

2. The Unknown Players Are No Longer Unknown
Equally as important, poker fans will have learned enough about the unknown players to develop a rooting interest, either for or against them. This is critical, because the past few years, we've only had one notable pro at the final table -- Mike Matusow in 2005, Allen Cunningham in 2006, and Lee Watkinson in 2007. (And Watkinson is considerably less notable than the other two.)

We'll see these players in ESPN's coverage leading up to the final table, but they'll also appear in other media. ESPN the magazine would certainly feature a story on the nine final tablists, and they'd probably also appear in publications like Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. We'll get a depth of information on these players that is impossible with the current one-day delay.

If an Australian makes the final table (or an Irishman or a Scandinavian), it won't take long for most of their countrymen to know his or her name and backstory. Even here in the States, players will likely receive plenty of coverage from their local news (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers) playing up the angle of "local player has a shot at the biggest cash prize in sports." A regional interest gives more fans something to root for.

Yes, you might still have one pro and eight amateurs. But those amateurs will now be a bit more fleshed out and relatable. It'll be the family man, the doctor, the young internet pro, the police officer, and so on. The police officer might be a serious player who has earned the respect of pros, while the doctor caught a lucky rush of cards and is just happy to be there. One thing that reality TV has taught us is that competitions between regular people can attract large audiences, provided the audience gets a chance to know them. (Most reality TV finales are live for a reason — the same reason that sports are broadcast live.)

3. Big Ratings Are Good For Everyone in Poker
All of this leads to a big increase in ratings. And let's face it, ratings matter.

The current ratings for poker on TV are pathetic by the standards of live sports, and the demographics have been dropping every year since 2004. By turning the WSOP final table into a live "event," it will attract a much, much larger audience. Everyone in poker will know the date and time that the WSOP final table airs on TV, and most of us will be watching it with far more excitement than we have in recent years. The contagious nature of excitement will trickle down to the casual fans and even attract some non-poker friends and family who are curious to see what the fuss is about.

In the short run, high ratings benefit Harrah's and ESPN the most. But in the long run, high ratings benefit everyone in poker, because it attracts more fans, more sponsors, more money, and best of all for the players, more fish thinking they can do what Jerry Yang did.

4. Better Opportunities for the Final Nine
Many people criticizing this plan say that it's unfair to those final nine players who have to wait 90 days. But there are some clear benefits to consider. Rather than agreeing to a late-night deal to wear a PokerStars or Full Tilt logo (signed under the duress of being both exhausted and euphoric), these players can take a few weeks to carefully negotiate sponsorship deals -- deals which should be worth more money with higher ratings and increased coverage. Also, under the current system, the random seventh-place finisher quickly fades into near obscurity, without so much as an article about him in Card Player. Under the new system, the player who is seventh on the leaderboard will be featured in articles and interviews for the weeks leading up to the final table.

5. Long-Term Benefits
Higher ratings than poker has ever seen can bring side benefits. A lot of mainstream companies leery of partnering with poker (or poker players) will overcome their objections if the ratings are high enough. The most marketable players (Negreanu, Hellmuth, Annie Duke) could increase their exposure (even if they don't reach the final table) by coaching one of the amateurs appearing at the live final table.

Finally, if poker's premiere event receives extensive coverage as a live "sporting event," that could really help our case here in the United States that poker is a skill game or a “sport.” In the long run, it could change the mainstream mindshare enough to provide poker the same exemptions that fantasy football and horseracing receive from legislation like the UIGEA.

- - - - - - -

Before you claim this final table delay is too radical, consider this:

In 1971, the WSOP Championship had a $5,000 buy in, included just six hard-core gamblers, and it was winner-take-all.

By 2007, it had grown to a 12-day marathon with three Day 1s and two Day 2s. More than 6,300 players paid $10,000 each, though thousands of amateurs got in at one-tenth the price (or less), and nearly 10% of the field finished in the money.

The WSOP is not nearly the same as it was, and a decade from now, it will have changed again. Change is inevitable, and Harrah's/ESPN is willing to try an experiment to take the WSOP to the next level. If it fails, they'll change it back. But I am confident that it will succeed and bring more growth, money, and positive exposure to our industry. I look forward to the day when the WSOP Final Table is a special event held at Caesars Palace (like a title fight in boxing), with thousands of fans buying tickets to be there in person while tens of millions fans watch it "live" around the world.

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Original content provided by Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.