Monday, September 21, 2009

Farewell to the Shrink

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

One of my friends has said good-bye. Please read this juicy post first... Exit Interview from the World of Poker.

I first met Tim Lavailli, aka The Poker Shrink, at the 2006 WSOP. I had read his articles and reports for a few months. Amy Calistri (then the editor of Poker Pages) had hired him as a staff reporter. During one of my initial conversation with the Poker Shrink he recommended a book called... The Devil's Picnic: Travels Through the Underworld of Food and Drink. We had been close ever since.

I had the opportunity to work with the Shrink when John Caldwell hired us to help launch Poker News' new tournament reporting site in early 2007. We both headed down to Australia to cover the Aussie Millions. If you have worked for Poker News as a reporter or simply followed along with their WSOP coverage, then a lot of what you see today (both good and bad) was spawned from trial and error experiments (on the initial release of out-dated software created by Lithuanians who never played poker) that Caldwell, Shrink, Jonno Pittock, and I performed during the 2007 Aussie Millions. So you have us to blame for any grievances.

The Shrink didn't last too long as the helm of TR at Poker News. I wish he elaborated more on the real story aside from "creative differences" but maybe some disputes are best kept behind closed doors.

Although the Shrink and I never worked together again at Poker News, there were plenty of chances to collaborate. He submitted a couple of entertaining stories for Truckin' and I got to glimpse into the non-poker mind of the Shrink. You should check out... Five Dollars for the Colonel and Three Strikes and You're In.

At the 2008 WSOP, the Shrink made a cameo on a Tao of Pokerati episode where he spoke about Adderall and Mike Matusow. It was one of my favorite pieces of reporting from 2008. You can listen to that episode here... Madderall.

At the 2009 WSOP, I took off 20 days to follow Phish and conduct research for a new literary project. During that time, I hired some friends to help me out with content on Tao of Poker. The Shrink stepped up and delivered with Ladies of the Night: WSOP Version and World Series of Penny. He more than earned his spot on the Tao of Poker All Stars.

The most significant contribution that the Poker Shrink made to the poker world was his stellar work with Amy Calistri in unearthing the "extra chips" scandal at the 2006 WSOP. They stepped up and wrote a real piece of journalism instead of the usual fluff pieces. Kudos to them. You can find links to those articles here.

Of course, the Shrink was also a part of the writing team who penned Mike Matusow's autobiography Check-Raising the Devil. After there horrible experiences with their publisher, their situation inspired me to seek self-publishing options for my future manuscripts.

The weeks leading up to the WSOP are exciting because we show up to Las Vegas and bump into people that we only see exclusively on the tournament trail or solely at the WSOP. After our initial greetings, the next question that inevitable comes up, "So, who you working for?"

The answer often contains the name to a different organization. Ah, the revolving door of poker media. Same reporters, different people signing the paychecks. Sometimes my colleagues are moving up the chain, sometimes, they're clutching at straws hoping to hold onto one more year in the poker world.

Sadly, the days following the WSOP are filled with swirling rumors about our futures. More musical chairs. More cutbacks. A handful of my peers who were "freelance" might have gotten lucky and landed full time jobs for the rest of the year based upon their performances from the summer. Others were given the boot based on their anemic performances during the summer due to too much booze, too much degening away their paychecks in the pits, too busy worrying about playing poker to focus on the task at hand.

Every once in a while, you hear an idle threat about a colleague leaving the poker world. Most of it is hot air and mere frustration because frankly, outside of Las Vegas, many of us are virtually unemployable. That's why we ended up in poker media in the first place -- me especially. Some people disappear for a bit, only to show up somewhere down the road working for some obscure Scandi site.

I was shocked two summers ago when Amy Calistri informed us that for the first time in a decade, she was not going to be in Las Vegas for the WSOP. She took a job in the financial sector and never looked back. Amy was part of an elite unit of poker scribes who had the ability to work outside of the gambling universe. She still hung around long enough to help co-pen the Mike Matusow autobiography, but that was part of a deal that she and the Poker Shrink has signed many many many many months before that got delayed by suits, lawyers, agents, and publishers.

At the 2009 WSOP, Oliver Tse mentioned to us many times that this would be his last WSOP as a poker agent. He said his goodbyes to the poker media a few years earlier and finally hung up his hat after a foray into the rigorous and cuthroat world of poker agents. I knew that Oliver's departure was imminent but never saw the Shrink's exit coming.

When the 2009 WSOP ended, I did not expect that would be the last time we would see the Poker Shrink. I knew that he was in the middle of a re-organization of his life... aren't we all? If you know the Shrink, you know that every few years he shakes things up and take a stab at a different profession. I figured that he was in the process of a "life shuffle" and I didn't really take his hints too seriously. After all, he just had a book come out, he was working on a screenplay, and his head shrinking services were still in high demand.

If there's one thing I learned about working in the poker industry -- there's a significant amount of individuals in poker who are completely fucked in the head.

The media room is riddled with debt, severe brain damage, Swine Flu, STDs, alcohol poisoning, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The Shrink's presence on the circuit was detrimental for the physical well being of my peers, but then again, he was tragically overwhelmed by psychologically-tormented reporters, players, and tournament staff. The Shrink's daunting task mirrored a medic on the beaches of Normandy a during the D-Day invasion in 1944. Under heavy fire, the Shrink had a little bit of gauze and a couple of syringes of morphine to try to heal an entire beachfront of GIs mangled and torn to shreds from Nazi gunners. He did what he could to stop the bleeding and I always asked him to hook me up with more morphine.

When the Shrink stopped by the press box at the 2009 WSOP, he was a doctor making morning rounds in a hospital, checking out charts, and chatting with patients. Sometimes we'd talk for ninety seconds. Sometimes we'd chat for ninety minutes. Most of the time I was trying to flush a Pink Floyd song soaking in my brain... "There's someone in my head, but it's not me" ...and the Shrink was often able to give me a kick in the right direction.

For that assistance, he will be dearly missed. Thanks for all the guidance, sir.

I got a chance to get to know the man behind the Poker Shrink, and I'm a better person for that. The Shrink is nowhere near the twilight of his existence, but he knows all too dearly how precious life can be and he didn't want to donk off another half of a decade in a transforming industry with a murky future. He's moving on and I wish him the best of luck.

By the way, did you leave any extra prescription pads lying around before your departure?

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

No comments:

Post a Comment