Thursday, August 20, 2009


By Pauly
New York City

It's been a fun summer. I spent six weeks on the road traveling through 24 states while I followed around one of my favorite bands. I saw 23 concerts and gathered up enough material for a new book and even a screenplay.

Phish was a band that had broken up in 2004 and got back together in March 2009. During that stretch of time, I filled the music void with poker. By now, you've read extensively about my journey covering the poker scene in Las Vegas and all over the world. It's been one wild ride as I carved out a comfortable living grinding away as a poker writer and a whore to the online poker industry.

To try to put my summer experiences in poker lingo... Phish's reunion was sort of like that scene in Rounders when Worm gets out of jail and Mike McD is confronted with a fork in the road. Does he continue the straight and narrow path or does he follow his lifelong buddy and return to the underbelly of the beast? You know how the movie goes.

Much to the dismay of some of you, I skipped out on 20 days of the 2009 WSOP and embedded myself with hippies during the traveling carnival called Phish tour. I definitely made the right choice. Once the WSOP ended and the November Nine was set, I jumped back on tour and partied for a week straight in Colorado. We flew back to LA and loaded up Change100's car and drove up and down the west coast for a trio of shows including a camping trip to The Gorge. If you haven't figured out how much one band means to me, then you will after this next sentence... I drove from Seattle to L.A., then flew from Burbank to New York City, where I rented a car and drove to Hartford, CT to rejoin my friends on Phish tour and catch the last three concerts.

I can't emphasize enough how amazing the summer ended up on so many levels. The traffic on Coventry Music blog reached new heights. I got to hang out with friends I had not seen in years who knew me before I was corrupted by poker. I picked up a lot of douchebaggy habits after living in Las Vegas on and off the last five years. I was slowly evolving into an angle shooter in real life and luckily my friends pointed out all of those less-than-desirable habits that I had acquired. (Then again, these are people with hippie names like Tree and Saturn. Some of them have morbid addictions and even a few are prone to snort horse tranquilizers off of car keys before they get up in the morning.)

I desperately needed time away from this crazy poker machine. There's never any down time. There's two seasons in poker... the WSOP and not the WSOP. Right now, we're at the cusp of new seasons with the WPT, EPT, APPT, LAPT, et al. And online? FTOPS this month. WCOOP next month. Plus, the November Nine is inching closer and closer. Shit, it's almost September and I haven't spent more than a couple of days in a row in my apartment in LA since early May.

It was so hard to pull myself away from the poker scene with Lost Vegas due out in late October. It took the psychedelic circus to sweep me away and allow myself to gain perspective on the final edits of the book. That's the good news. I'm in NYC as we speak and in the middle of a series of editorial meetings and all the feedback has been promising. Aside from myself, only five people have read the most recent draft. My brother is a harsh critic and even he liked it. Although he did say, "How can you have a typo on the first page?"


But the summer was not a total loss. I played some of the best poker of my life and won something like $15K in a one week period including first place for Dream Team Poker. Most of that money will be used to fund future Phishy travels and used as seed money to publish a novel in 2010 and the Phish book in 2011. Yes, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog will finally be released on 10-10-10.

I also gambled heavily while on Phish tour. As one buddy said in his G-Vegas twang, "You boys been riding dirty?"

I have not heard that expression in a very long time. And it did not occur to me that I was, especially during a short stint through the South.

Besides testing the elasticity of illegal narcotic laws, there were plenty of opportunities to get gambling action considering I hung out with a couple of random poker friends along the way. Since Phish is a band that has a vast repertoire, they often play three or four concerts before they repeat a song. That's part of the reason I can see them 20+ times this summer. Every night is different which gives degenerate gamblers opportunities for action. Phish usually plays two sets of music and an encore (one or two songs) and we wager on what songs the band will open or close a particular set. There's also opportunity to bet on what cover songs the band will play or sometimes I give odds on rare songs they ave not played in years. Before the shows, we have a live draft and scribble down names of songs like we're filling a roster for a fantasy football team.

G-Rob took me for $20 at the Columbia, MD show when they opened up with Tweezer when I was damn sure they were going to play Stevie Wonder's Boogie On Reggae Woman. I ran good on the last night at the Gorge and collected a few bucks from my buddy Wildo.

In the world of illegal substances, I got my undergrad degree while following the Grateful Dead in college. During a stint in Seattle, I completed my masters in street drugs, but it wasn't until Phish tour in 1999-2000 until I finally achieved a doctorate in pharmocology. All of those skills came in handy this summer. At one point, I collected so many different pills in various parking lots around the country, that I forgot what each pill did. I took inventory and looked up pill descriptions on the intertubes. It's the dosages that I was most concerned about.

At Shoreline in Mountain View, CA, all I had to do was sit in a lawn chair in front of Change100's car in the parking lot and a swarm of dealers quickly interacted with me. I had a couple of extra tickets to sell and everyone was trying to unload molly (pure powder form of MDA or ecstasy) when I was seeking out cash or Adderall. I managed to score a fistfull of pain killers that afternoon. I scored one generic Adderall pill in the parking lot at Red Rocks from an ecstasy dealer with dreadlocks. Wish I had more then I can stay up for a week straight and write a screenplay and finish Lost Vegas.

I turned down more drugs than most of you have seen in your lifetime. I caught almost a dozen sober shows (mainly because I had a lot of long distance driving to do after the show) but definitely headed off the deep end a few times courtesy of a Colorado legend named Mushroom Dave and his infamous chocolates. I declined oxycontin at Red Rocks and turned down morphine pills in Hartford mainly because the kid was trying to rip me off at $20 a pill when the street value was $15.

When I was his age, I was slinging pharmies in the lot. Oh to be 26 again. These days, I sling online poker. Play PokerStars.

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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